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Monday, November 20

Add Muslim Model To The Long List Of Jobs I’ve Held

Our Ikebana International Ensemble was invited to the Algerian Embassy last week for a bit of Muslim culture, food and tea ceremony. Everything seemed to be going according to plan when the day took a quick digression... and then this…

Once lunch was served (with Algerian wine which may be a factor in my agreement to this) and we had filled ourselves from a spread of 15 or so dishes, including a dessert table and treats that left our fingers smothered in sticky goodness, the Algerian Ambassador’s wife asked us if she could get a few volunteers for the fashion show that was to take place next. With my lovely model friend at my side, almost waving my hand into the air for me, I found myself in a situation where a man was trying to pry my dessert plate out of my fingers while another pushed me towards a back door leading deeper into the Embassy. I managed to shove one more large, gooey piece of pastry into my mouth before they got me into the elevator.

Ten had volunteered with about half being Japanese and the other half American, or in my friend’s case, Russian. We were ushered into a bedroom on an upper floor where a rolling bar held many glittering costumes. Some dripped with beading and gold threading and some were adorned with bright colors from all over the spectrum. We were told to choose and quickly change. My first concern was fitting into anything which need not have been a worry. There were several costumes with a flowing style to them. As women were grabbing for the glittering gowns, I said… Humph. I like orange. Perhaps next time I will be slightly more concerned with my style of dress? Then again… probably not. Two layers later and I am wearing an orange burka that would even have made Claudia Schiffer look like the Great Pumpkin. It took my friend three different outfits before she settled on a cream colored silk pants set with an embroidered top. Sometimes it pays to be choosier.

Then the orange sash-y piece that I am swirling into the air… just what does one do with it? An Algerian girl approaches me and starts tying it around my head pulling little wisps of my hair out to frame my face. I am a full two feet taller than this girl and she has to wrap and rewrap it, with me finally getting down on my knees so she can wrap it properly.

So there I was in all my orange-y glory. An overripe piece of fruit in a room with women dressed in the queen’s clothes. And I’m their maid.

I do kid. The outfit I wore was a very traditional style of dress perhaps not for the rich of Muslim society but many women have worn and do currently wear. And I wore it well. Back downstairs and one by one we entered the room and did some twirls down the little pathway. I twirled only to make myself look wider in pictures, because isn’t that what every girl wants? To look as big as possible in a picture that will last and last and be out there for the entire world to see because she placed it on the internet? I totally wish somebody would have taken a shot of my butt.

My dear friend was the very first and we all sadly paled in comparison after her expert poses and catwalk stances. She used to do this stuff for a living! I call a foal! One my trip down the aisle, I didn’t understand it as it was said in Japanese and only later revealed by the Ambassador’s wife that the description of me was… that I looked like an angel. Oh, that’s what everyone tells me, I quipped back! I received many praises though after the show, when we were asked to sit and have tea in a traditional setting which reminded me much of a harem.

I can tell you one thing about a burka. It’s hot. Seriously… how do women in the desert wear this? While the fabric is quite breathable, multiple layers of it do nothing for a breeze. And then wrap my head and neck tightly and yet more fabric? At least you are allowed to have your face uncovered. Just imagine that catwalk if I had been wearing the sheet in front of my face.

Here I came the whole way to Japan only to learn more about Muslim culture, religion and life than I have ever known before. This country… these experiences… it all just keeps surprising me.


Anonymous said...

Did you wear your pink croc loafers with the faux fur leopard across the toes with the burka?

Anonymous said...

Did you wear your pink croc loafers with the faux fur leopard across the toes with the burka?

Mike S said...

Seems you're starting to get a taste of why Nippon is a favorite of ex-patriots. The Japanese thirst for knowledge of the rest of the world is unquenchable, and now you're there to enjoy the discoveries with them. It's all yours just for the asking. You looked really nice by the way. Well done.