Embassy Row in the snow, fine Italian wine and the Cold War thawed with vodka
BY GAIL SCOTT
Keeping Warm on Embassy Row
Despite heavy rain, over 14,000 participants showed up for the event, which coursed from the Bayside through Miami Beach and back. After the race, Espinal was on the run again: "I spent five to ten minutes with my legs in ice, showered, had a quick lunch and hurried to the airport to catch a plane to the Dominican Republic since I had a meeting I couldn't miss the following morning at 8."
Slovenia's Samuel Zbogar always has two extraordinary reasons to attend the International Red Cross Ball each winter. His host, Palm Beach's Robert Tomsic, is one of Slovenia's most successful businessmen - he has 40 companies worldwide. "He's a wonderful man and a great role model for all Slovenians," said Zbogar, "And, Donald Trump, who flies all of the diplomats back and forth on his jet, has a Slovenian wife, Melania," whose parents also attended the ball this year.
Many Washington envoys are credentialed to Latin American or Caribbean countries as well as the United States and plan their visits to these hot lands in the winter. "My husband is credentialed to Jamaica," says hard-working Rima Al-Sabah about their recent trip south, "So we were working most of our trip."
Some flew south for good in late January, leaving cold, blustery Washington for hot, sunny climes. Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Abdenur, 64, retired from diplomacy after a distinguished career in protest to Brazil's current foreign policies. As he and wife Maria-Izabel were packing their bags for Rio, they promised news soon of their new careers.
Why Not be Your Own Sommelier?
A wine-tasting reception sponsored by Virginia's Barboursville Vineyards followed. Barboursville, started by the Italian Zonin family 30 years ago, is their only American vineyard. This Northern Italian family has 12 vineyards in Italy and has been making wine since 1821.
Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta, who "used to stomp grapes with my feet in our family's vineyard," gladly handed over sommelier duties to his wife. "With global warming, Leila might consider starting her own vineyard at Villa Firenze.... That would give me a nice retirement in Washington."
Finnish Female Folk Music
Värttinä warmed up the night recently at the Finnish Embassy at the invitation of Finnish Ambassador Pekka Lintu and his wife Laurel Colless. "Värttinä is an example of feminine power and intensity," said the ambassador, obviously a Värttinä fan himself. Finland's female president, Tarja Halonen, is another testament to the Finnish idea of "feminine power."
Värttinä's U.S. tour celebrates the release of their 11th album, Miero. The group's roots are in Finland's Karelia region and are specifically based on local women's vocal traditions and the ancient poems known as "runos."
Together with the Indian composer A.R. Rahman, Värttinä created the music for the musical The Lord of the Rings, which premiered in Toronto in March 2006 and is set to open in London's West End this coming May.
Washington Ballet Turns Up the Heat
To make this evening a true Latin experience, four talented Latin musical groups spiced up the night, playing on stage and in the lobby. For Balletomane Society members, the festivities continued across the street in Katherine and David Bradley's Atlantic Media offices at the Watergate. Keeping the Latin tone, the Women's Committee of the Washington Ballet held Una Noche de Vino (their third annual wine tasting) at the colombian residence with Ambassador Carolina Barco as their host in early February.
Russians Commemorate Bicentennial
"Many of our guests today have personally contributed to building and advancing our relationship," said the Ambassador in gratitude, suggesting that many had contracted "'Russian fever', falling in love with our history, culture, literature and traditions."
"Our countries have gone through it all - ups and downs, triumphs and crises, brotherhoodin- arms and confrontation, detente and nuclear arms race, rapprochement and Cold War and even the Alaska purchase ... We have endured everything short of a hot war."
"Today, our cooperation is carried on in a completely different environment," the sevenyear Washington veteran continued. "We are partners and true allies in a whole range of areas. This new stage is symbolized by the phone call which President Putin made to the White House right after the horrific tragedy of 9/11, extending his hand of assistance to the Americans. There is a sea of change between being Russian ambassador in 1999 and now. The level of openness is much higher and the playing field substantially wider."