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CHINA: The joys of diplomatic life in Chengdu

Paul Simon reports from Chengdu, China:

"Marine contingents at US Embassies and Consulates around the world host "Marine Balls" on Nov. 10. IT's the high point of the social year for the MArines and many diplomats. All year long the Marines run chili cook-offs, happy hours, etc. to raise funds for the event, which is usually quite splendid. Always eager to help, one sizzling summer day in Seoul some years ago, I cooked at the Marine Block Party to help raise money. If you've never been at a hot grill in 100 degree heat cooking for 150, you dont know how weary you can get! Sadly, we have no Marine contingent here in Chengdu, despite our Consul General's residence being burned out and our office building and apartments badly damaged by rioting mobs in May 1999 (as was the fate of our Embassy in Beijing and Consulate in Shenyang). In past years, many of the staff here would bite the bullet for $100/night hotels and a couple hundred bucks airfare apiece and fly to Beijing for the Marine Ball. Unfortunately, we weren't invited this year as there was no space. So my Tux and medals continue gathering dust, alas. But the good news is that we will FINALLY get an Marine contingent of our own this spring--hurrah!!!!!! So next 11/10, I look forward to puffing a cigar by the ice carving of the Iwo Jima memorial!"

Ronald Hilton - 11/18/01