Thursday, 12 February 2009

Burns Supper

It has been nearly two weeks now since we held the Burns Supper at the Intercontinental Hotel in Almaty. What started as a quick suggestion by husband, “I’m going to organize the Burns Supper here. Will you help me?” turned into a marathon effort of organization which stretched us both to the limit, but which was a good evening, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and we raised a good amount of money for charity. It is not that we consider ourselves duty bound or self-appointed Scotlandizers of the world. In fact, I am not sure how husband came to the decision to take on the mantel of organizer of the Burns Supper, but take it on he did with gusto and I helped.

Last year, there was no Supper, since the person who had planned to organize it was busy with his wife having a baby overseas and when he reaslised he wouldn’t be able to do it, he couldn’t find anyone else to take on the task. A shame, but just goes to show that if you don’t do things yourself, sometimes they just don’t happen at all. When you live in a place like Almaty, it is nice to have things organized so that you have some nice evenings, the expat community gets a chance to mingle a bit, groups mix up and you can have a bit of hassle-free fun. But it relies on there being a number of people willing to help put these things together. Arranging a black tie evening for 225 people at a five star hotel, with a five-piece band and a piper flying in from Scotland, sit down dinner, speeches and haggis being smuggled into the country by the suitcase takes more than an afternoon to organize.

Actually, the event took off steam and especially once our initially-reluctant dance instructor got enthused, and paying punters started coming to the dance practices we had organized then we all got quite excited about everything and things really got going.  Once the band arrived (they are called The Infamous Grouse (great name, great band I think their website is or maybe face book, not sure and cant check on the internet at the moment)) we all had a blast of music-filled evenings, nights at the pub and the evening itself, which ran until nearly 3am, and was brilliant.

Highlights for me were the pre-party to welcome the band, thank the people who had helped us to organize everything, and have a good knees up at our house the night before the Burns Night, when Hugh Donald gave us a virtuoso accordion performance sitting in our living room. Our kids, and our friends kids who were staying the night, were all sitting listening on the stairs in their pyjamas and I loved that.

And taking the band hiking two days after the Burns, watching as my gutsy friend L showed her mettle once again, helped me to carry the baby in the back pack and then literally crawled up such a steep slope of ice and snow with Connie on her back. And good for the band for sticking with us, even when we had obviously taken the wrong route and ended up hacking our way through huge pampas grasses, climbing through barbed wire fences (disappointing on that walk as they were the first bits of barbed wire we have ever seen in Kazakhstan!) but finally getting a fabulous view of the Tien Shan mountain range. 

I also enjoyed the very cool sound technician guy on the night, complete with permanent sun glasses, skinny jeans, studded belt and afghan head wrap. Despite having zero verbal communication, through a series of thumbs up, thumbs down and other gesticulating, he did exactly what I wanted with the music all the way through the evening. And if I looked at him after a long break and gave him a “turn it up slowly” kind of sign, he immediately spotted that I was looking at him, and did exactly what I asked. Brilliant.

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