Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Was this nun being mean to me? I would swear she was being mean.

“It is not possible. We serve lunch until 3:30. Then we rest. Then we clean up and set up the tables at 6pm.” That was her story and she was sticking to it, but it meant bad news for me.

“But Mass starts at six, Sister R. That means I won’t be able to see the ceremony. I’ll have to be here arranging things”. This was the third time I’d said it - don’t know why I bothered.

It was Thursday night and we were ironing out the final details of the post-communion dinner to be held at the locally famous Eau Vive restaurant. It’s run by a small group of nuns and is famous for its good food and the “Ave Maria” sung at 9pm every night in the dining room. It’s the prime venue for a nice party after a Catholic event and through clever planning ( being organized months ahead of time, anyway-which is pretty clever, IMHO) I managed to reserve the main dining room for our big event.

It was going to be a big, formal dinner for about 60 people and there would be a lot to organize. I had been hoping to be able to come help set up the tables at 3pm on Saturday, but Sister R, the woman in charge, was having none of it. If I missed my twin daughters’ First Communion ceremony, it was strictly NOT her problem.

A mean nun. Who knew? I’m not Catholic and only started hanging around nuns since I moved to Africa. Most of them have fulfilled every stereotype I had in my head concerning them. (Hey-I’ve seen The Sound of Music approximately one billion times. I know from nuns). Invariably, the nuns I’ve met and worked with here are so darn kind, nice and spiritual that it doesn’t seem possible. But Sister R was a different matter.

“Well, could I at least drop a few things off in the afternoon?” I ventured, trying for a compromise position.

Well- ok. As long as I didn’t disturb the other clients.
Well, normally I go around with a tame ocelot on a leash, singing songs from Okalahoma! at the top of my lungs. But I'd make and effort and leave my pet at home on Saturday. Also, I would try only humming the showtunes under my breath.

See? I can do non-disturbing.

In the end , I got her to agree that I could not only come at 3:30 and drop things off (in a non-disturbing way), but I could ALSO have a small table so that I could set up the cake! This would be quite a process, as the cake would be transported unassembled and then the four layers would have to be put back up with their pillars and the decorations re-attached. Maybe this is no big deal for a caterer, but I’m strictly amateur and this was my biggest cake ever. Over five pounds of frosting and five boxes of cake mix.

I would still have to leave the ceremony to set up place cards, flowers, etc, but it wouldn’t take more than an hour at most. At least I’d be able to see the beginning and end of the big event at the church.

So, at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, Mallory and Valentine helped me load up the car and just before 3:30 we arrived at the restaurant. I carried the bottom two tiers of the cake like they were highly explosive, sure that I was going to drop the whole thing. I had vivid visions of the dramatic fall, the shattered cake and fondant roses rolling around in the dirt like tiny albino severed heads.

And I almost did drop the thing out of sheer shock as I entered the dining room. There was no sign of Sister R. Instead, there was a very energetic Vietnamese sister bustling about the deserted room, removing plates and linens from the tables - tables that were ALREADY set in position for our party! She told me that Sister R was off-duty until 6 and that she herself was in charge of the afternoon shift. And she preferred to Get Things Done, rather than wait around. I imagine she had a lot of other stuff she could have been doing, like resting or praying, for example, but she chose to start getting our party venue organised! This woman was my new best friend! And it turned out to be fun working with her. Valentuine, Mallory and I helped put away clean dishes and cutlery, take dirty linens to the laundry and put away clean ones. We got to see the inside of their kitchen, which is one of the largest, best-equipped and certainly cleanest in the whole country. My girls and I marvelled at the big walk-in refrigerator rooms- one for meat, one for drinks, one for fruit and veg! It was fun getting an insiders view of the place.

Soon, another sister came to help and the five of us quickly had everything done. White linens on the tables, place settings for 60, place cards arranged, flowers in place, cake set up and positioned near and air-conditioner and everything was finished. I wouldn’t need to come back during the ceremony! Everything was ready for the guests to arrive and all I had to do was get home and get the girls dressed. They needed to be at the church by 5pm and it was already past 4:00!

More tomorrow, if the internet isn't down again. It's off and on, depending on the day, as is the electricity. I am SO ready to live in France again!

1 comment:

babzee said...

As long as it's a TAME ocelot. I mean, c'mon.