On Saturday, Stefan and I went to Cite du Dragon in Uccle. A friend of ours is in town for training on a new job and offered to stay with the girls (in exchange for staying in our guest room). I am pretty tired of the standard Belgian menu-- moules, frites, steak tartare, waterzooi, etc.-- and we'd passed this wild looking place before and had read it was good. So, date night took us to a giant, traditional, Belgian mansion turned Chinese banquet hall.
It was incredible-- like nothing I have ever actually seen in real life before. There must have been 300 people eating in the mansion's many dining rooms. There were traditional Chinese sculptures everywhere and loads of pink and blue florescent lights. The floor in the main dining room was clear and underneath it, swam giant, over-fed Coi of all shapes and colors. There were fountains spouting recirculated water into ponds covered in footbridges. It was ostentatious, gaudy and decadent, all the while having a certain self-effacing charm.
It is not a stretch to suggest that Cite du Dragon is a perfect metaphor for our Foreign Service life-- it was once a perfectly proportioned, Belgian mansion, snuggled into the charming Flemish commune of Uccle and now, it's a huge, outrageous Chinese banquet hall where families come to mange on endless buffets of dim sum, sweet and sour chicken, fried rice, lychees and tapioca.
You're probably scratching your head and wondering what the hell I am talking about. Well, on Friday night, I returned home from an evening walk through the park with the dogs and Stefan handed me his blackberry and told me to read the message entitled, "Assignment Notification: Whitney, Stefan." My jaw dropped. We had only sent in our bid list on January 27th. How could we possibly have been assigned already? But sure enough, I opened the message and it read, "Congratulations, we have carefully reviewed all bidders... and we have selected you for the following position: SHANGHAI, CHINA 10/2013."
So, we are going to Shanghai next! For those who don't know, Stefan had CNL (Critical Needs Language) points for Mandarin, Chinese when he joined the Foreign Service and we are therefore obligated to serve in a Mandarin designated post on one of our first two tours. Knowing this, we strategically bid on Western European and South American posts the first time around. Shanghai, while not a total shock, is still incredibly exciting because we easily could have been going to a more remote, industrial Chinese city instead. We have dodged yet another bullet and we are going to another beautiful, exciting and relatively easy to acclimate to city. Yippppppeeeee! The super-lucky Whitneys strike again.
Little House in the Big Tokyo
1 week ago