Way (way) back when I was in college I moved into a new apartment complex and ward mid-year. I knew none of my roommates and only one girl in the ward, having spent the previous semester studying abroad in Vienna. The ward had no activities on Sunday evenings, so I decided to start something of my own. Every Sunday evening I baked a bunch of cakes and invited everyone over to eat them. Because there's no better way to make friends than offering them food and a place to meet new people.
Unsurprisingly, it became very popular. At times it was stressful - hosting is always stressful - but I enjoyed creating a place for friends and soon-to-be-friends to mingle and enjoy themselves. Brandon even came one Sunday evening, but I didn't remember it at all when he mentioned it during our second (and more memorable) meeting.
After we got married my hosting days came to an end. Having lots of children close together tends to take up most of your time and energy, leaving very little for throwing parties that take up even more time and energy. And joining the Foreign Service didn't help, either. It's hard to invite all your friends over when you just don't have that many. And when you spend all your time chasing around those bunches of small children it's hard to make friends.
But when we moved to Dushanbe, I finally felt like I could begin hosting again. The children were old enough to not need me every second of the day, the community was small enough that it was pretty easy to get to know everyone, and we had a house that worked well for hosting.
So I started out with the same formula that worked so well in college: doughnuts. A good friend in Baku had hosted a monthly ladies' craft night and I made some of my closest friends from the group that would show up on the first Thursday of every month. So I took craft night and added doughnuts. Pretty soon we dropped the 'craft' part (I'm not one for crafts anyway) and just sat around and ate doughnuts. Bribery is always a great way to make friends.
Ladies' night has now being happening for over a year now and I've found another strong group of friends to enjoy here in Dushanbe. Brandon hates ladies' night (the kitchen is usually a mess and he has to hide upstairs with the children), but he puts up with it because he's a wonderfully nice husband who puts up with a lot of nonsense from me. He even helps wash the dishes.
Occasionally we invite some friends over for pizza and a movie and last year we hosted a caroling party which featured doughnuts. Once you've found a formula that works, there's no point in deviating from it. But mostly it's been ladies' night.
That is, until recently. First we had a visit from our mission president and a member of the area presidency. As part of the visit we had a group pot luck for all the members of our group. This added up to almost thirty people. Thankfully, our house is well suited to feeding lots of people and we were able to seat everyone at a table, even if it used all of the six tables and thirty chairs in our house.
Then we started having church at our house again. The family that was hosting church leaves this week so it's back to moving chairs, tables and lamps again every Sunday.
And this past week we not only hosted ladies' night, but also a goodbye party for the family was leaving. Everyone was invited, so we ended up feeding dinner to sixty-five or so guests. This time we brought in some outside tables and chairs and were, again, able to seat everyone for dinner. It's a good thing we have such a large house.
This week we are hosting Thanksgiving, but only for ourselves and two other families - six adults and eleven children. And I don't even have to make the turkey. Making stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie for seventeen people is almost not even worth starting early for.
And then we'll wrap up our year with another caroling party. Because caroling! After feeding sixty-five people dinner, making six or seven dozen doughnuts is a walk in the park.
By the time we leave the day after Christmas, I'm pretty sure that everyone in the embassy community will be happy to see us go, if only to have a reprieve from the constant invitations to come over to our house.
But I will have lots and lots of time with friends to keep me through the long three months of medevac in North Carolina where it will be lots of family time and not so much friend time. Enough that I'll be more than ready to have another party when we get back.