save the rhinos: a kenyan safari

I went to two functions last week all by myself. I thought I might bump into friends at one of them, a reception at the Embassy of Ireland, only it turned out I didn't know a soul there. And not only did I not know a soul there, but my name was not on the guest list, and the woman doing the check-in was less than gracious, even though I gave her the name of the woman who sent the email invitation -- her last name was Doyle, which is my mother's maiden name, and I even told this woman that, thinking I'd get a little mileage out of the Irish heritage. She looked at me unmoved. (Me thinks she was not Irish.) Then I explained that I'd responded by email and then again over the phone to a man who'd called from New York. To which she responded: "We didn't have any men working on this party." And that is when I almost walked out the door. But I pressed on, in part because I'd rearranged my schedule to attend this event and also because I thought I might run into friends there and also because the focus was Ireland as a culinary destination, and I thought I might get to sample to some savory Gaelic fare. So I told her that I know that the original time of the party was seven and that it had been switched to 7:30. She still looked at me like she thought I was a crasher. I mean who would know all these details but a legitimate invitee? Then I offered to show her the email invitation. It took me awhile to find it on my cell phone, because I had to search for it, first on my New Mail and then my Old Mail. These things take time. Right before I found it, she asked if I had a business card, and started to wave me in. Well, I hadn't brought my cards, even though I'd thought about it. And after all this back and forth, I felt I had to show me the email invitation. So I did. I was cleared. She pointed to the coat check. Of course she never, not once, apologized for the inconvenience. I mean, this happens. People who are invited to an event and R.S.V.P. do not always find their way onto the guest list.

I don't know why this rankled me so, I don't know why I was so humorless about it. Perhaps because the hosts were the ambassador and Tourism Island? Call me crazy, but I was expecting a modicum of hospitality and graciousness instead of airport-like security measures.

Upstairs was crowded. The people reminded me of the Irish people who go to my mother's parish. White skin, gray hair, yellow teeth. To my relief, they were casually dressed. The lines for the beer were too long, so I stood in line for some food. I got some wonderful cheese at one table, and then I sampled smoked fish from a man who lives west of Galway, and more smoked fish from a woman whose place is I'm not sure where, I have the materials over on a table and I am too lazy to get up and look. But the point of this post is to convey how awkward I felt being by myself. I stood against a wall and listened to a singer and saw a man I recognized but who did not recognize me. Knowing someone is a special state. The next evening, I went to another event by myself, a dinner at the Mexican Cultural Institute. This one was smaller, so my singleton status was more obvious, everyone arrived with someone or met someone there. The ambassador, a charming man, was there with his wife, and I spoke a bit with the chef -- this was a cooking demonstration and dinner -- and that was it. I decided if I ended up talking at length with anyone that I could create an imaginary friend, someone who was going to come with me but who at the least minute was not able to attend. That's how alone I felt during the cocktail portion of the evening. Then I sat down. At my table were two couples and two women friends. One of the women was very friendly. So I felt less self-conscious during the sit-down part of the evening. And I never had to invoke my imaginary friend. When I went home, I vowed never to go out on my own like that again. Only if I keep this vow, I will not go out as much as I should. This morning I signed up for another cooking demonstration. At least I will know what to expect.

I found an amazing sweeps this morning for a safari in Kenya. One of the most amazing sweeps I've ever seen, because the sponsor, Zicam, which apparently is flu medication, is donating $1 for every entry, up to $20,000, to help support Jack Hanna's rhino work. Now that is inspiring, considering the source. This prize, a 10-day safari, starts with one night at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, followed by visits to the Lewa Downs' Wild Life sanctuary and Maasai Mara Game Reserve (where 'Out of Africa' was filmed). Ah, what a dream trip!

To enter, click HERE. This sweeps closes March 23, 2009.