The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

his much larger apartment. The second obstacle: despite hav- ing consistently attended public affairs events, my post has not needed me to personally sponsor one. I there- fore did not have enough table set- tings for more than eight guests. I considered shopping, but a Protestant colleague offered his utensils, plates, pots, etc. I hired two cooks who happened to be atheists, and began the complex ordeal of designing a format that would be fun, informative and stimu- lating for a guest list that included mostly agnostic Buddhists who had never heard of the Ten Command- ments and a sea split in two, let alone food like vivacious charoset and bland matzah. I had to supervise my cooks, who kept offering caring but unwel- come advice and suggestions to improvise or make things more com- plex. “No, I really do just want a small bowl with salt and water and, yes, the other bowl should have nothing but parsley.” I considered conducting the cere- mony in my primitive Mandarin. A friend offered useful translations, such as how to convey the term chutzpah; but in the end, I went with English. While I still kick myself for not finding the time to translate everything, I did not want the cere- mony to be so simple that the detailed essence of the moment was lost, and I knew my Mandarin was still too unso- phisticated to accomplish such a goal. Maybe during my next China tour … The third problem was shopping. Matzah and horseradish are not easi- ly found at the local Guangzhou mar- ket — but colleagues traveling to Hong Kong found those items for me. Piece by piece, everything fell into place. At previous ceremonies in my home, I had opened the door for each guest. This time, I would have to take the elevator to find my guests, deliver them to security guards and hope they had all remembered their identi- fication. After the late arrival of a few 62 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6 The guest list included mostly agnostic Buddhists who had never heard of the Ten Commandments, let alone charoset and bland matzah. Jason Seymour is a first-tour FSO serving a two-year consular tour in Guangzhou, China. Charoset, shown here, is the traditional meal for the Seder ceremony. It is made of apples or other fruit, nuts, spices and wine. The author, with a young American guest at his side, leads the ceremony. Chinese guests are in the background.