Mallory Primm
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The New Ambassador

November 25, 2009 @ 9:43 AM | Permalink

Recently a new US Ambassador arrived in Swaziland. The State Department held a reception for him at the Royal Villas, an extravagant housing complex officially owned by the King which as previously hosted the recently ousted President of Madagascar as well as Robert Mugabe. The dress code was “business casual” so I threw a dress I’d bought five years ago at a thrift store in LA on over my jeans and put on some earrings. I arrived late and underdressed.

Once at the site of the reception, I had to present my invitation, a gold embossed and calligraphied piece of card stock that granted my entrance. They offered us pens with “US Embassy Mbabane” written on the side. I took two. Then my bag was searched and I passed through the metal detector without it going off. After the metal detector welcome arches, a line had formed to shake the new Ambassador’s hand. I was waiting in line with my fellow Fulbrighter, Sarah, when our pseudo-supervisor at the Embassy found us and declared that she would introduce us to the Ambassador.

I’m not sure if this happened to everyone, but it certainly made me feel important. We approached the Ambassador, Sarah looking poised and professional, and me terribly underdressed. Our supervisor introduced us and our research projects and then, as a way to make a lasting first impression, I interrupted the Ambassador, mid sentence, to exclaim, “I heard you’re also a Cal grad; right on!”

The Ambassador laughed awkwardly. I stood there awkwardly. A terrible silence descended. Our supervisor finally took pity on my social inappropriateness and shuffled us along. I was oblivious to my misstep and headed to the open bar in the reception room. 

Once inside, I bumped into a group of Embassy staff members I had just met the previous weekend. I had spent the weekend in Ponta do Oro in southern Mozambique surfing, building sand castles and barbecuing prawns. A few Embassy staff members were part of our colossal twenty-five person caravan and I had enjoyed drinking beers around the fire and jumping into the blown out Indian Ocean waves with them. But here they were, not in their red and white striped beach trunks but in crisp white shirts and suit jackets and stripped ties. 

Its weird how when you meet someone for the first time you associate so much about where you met them, or how you met them, with who they are. I met my friend Michelle at a costume party seven months ago and to this day she calls me Wonder Woman.


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A good lesson for us all

Nicolle OConnor on Country Western and other Music in Swaziland 2009-06-11

just wondering if you have published any results?

David Broska on Into the Field 2010-06-19

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