Friday, January 23, 2015

Conversations over dinner at an ambassador's house, including the past of Pope Francis



I began yesterday in Tokyo very early in the morning to catch my 930 AM flight to Manila.

Luckily, I got a ride to the airport as someone was flying from Tokyo to London yesterday, and he very nicely took a car out to the airport two hours earlier than his own flight to bring me as well.

As we had time after I checked in, we had a cup of tea on the second floor of Tokyo's airport at a specialty tea shop that brewed a good pot of green tea.

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LATE AS USUAL

The result of this, however, was that I was late to board, and once again the very last person on the plane as usual -- in spite of my New Year's resolutions to try and get to airplanes earlier.

The flight itself was uneventful, although I have to say that I had a very good lunch onboard.


I chose the Western menu with a wagyu in a red wine sauce for a main course, simply because I'd been having way too much Japanese food the whole week.

RICE WITH MY BEEF STEW

Then I got the stewardess to give me some rice from the Japanese menu for my stew, and a glass of red wine.

Frankly, I wasn't expecting much either from the wagyu stew or the red wine, as I've rarely had stew or wine I can rave about with gusto on a short-haul flight, even in business class.


WHAT A SURPRISE

Well, well.

The stew was delicious, especially with the rice.

As for the wine, I didn't even bother to ask what the wine was, since the options from the stewardess -- even in business class -- were a small individual bottle of red wine or a glass, without any other explanations.

However, this too turned out surprisingly drinkable, and very nice with my meat dish. I think I had two glasses just because it was so enjoyable.


The appetizers onboard my flight yesterday

TWO PARTIES LAST NIGHT

And when I got to Manila, it was straight to work before two parties on the diplomatic circuit last night.

The first was a farewell cocktail party at the home of a European ambassador, and I came on the dot knowing I would have to do a French exit in exactly 50 minutes.

And then I got into my car and headed one block down to the home of another ambassador, who was hosting a formal sit-down dinner in honour of a visitor.



WHAT AN ENJOYABLE DINNER

That was really very enjoyable, especially as everyone at the table was such a good conversationalist, beginning with the good ambassador himself.

There were so many jokes and interesting stories in spite of the very eclectic crowd.



ONCE UPON A POPE

For example, did you know that Pope Francis once worked as a bouncer at a nightclub?

I fell off my seat when I heard this, but the gentleman who told the story swears it's true. In fact, he says this little-known fact is in the official Vatican biographical records of the pope.

There were dozens of other really funny or nice stories, and I hope to recount some of them over the next few days, in Manila, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

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