Friday evening was my church's International Outreach ministry's picnic. I'm not tremendously involved with the Internationals program, since it involves socializing with people and I get nervous in situations where I'm expected to socialize with people I don't know, but the program director, Jean-Rene, asked if I could help set up for it, and I could, so I did, and since I was already there I stayed for the food.
To be honest, I don't feel like I contributed too much to the setup. I made ice tea and filled the cooler with water, and a few other little things, but mostly what I ended up doing was keeping an eye on Jean-Rene's son, who's almost two and is a real cutie. We spent a lot of time out on East Campus Mall and the 800 block of State Street, he wandering around and pointing at things and chattering incessantly and I following him and identifying what he was pointing at and wondering what the heck he was saying. Almost-two-year-olds are not necessarily the easiest people to understand under any circumstance, plus I think he was probably speaking French, because that's what his parents mostly speak at home.
Eventually we wandered inside and he was scooped up by one of the other people at the picnic, and I joined my friend Max at a table with some international students. There was a copy of the board game Risk at the table, and one of the students asked about it. I explained it briefly and added that it often took an inordinately long time to play, mentioning a game I'd played in college that took so long we had to finish it on the following day. For some reason, that seemed to convince the students they wanted to play it, so Max and I sat down with the rule book and tried to refresh ourselves on the rules. Man, what a complicated game! We never did get to play, because first it was time to eat and then the complexity of the gameplay turned us off the idea.
Picnic number two was this morning at the church after worship. The church is undergoing a building project, and while the construction is underway we've gone from having two Sunday worship services to just one. Since the first service and second service people tend not to know each other that well -- one's a traditional service, the other contemporary, so they attract almost entirely different people -- we've tried to encourage as much socializing after the unified service as possible. Hence, a picnic after worship.
Normally we hold our picnics in front of the church, because that's where the kitchen is, but right now we don't have a kitchen due to the construction, and besides that the bulk of the construction is happening in front, so this picnic was held in the back of the church. Which, honestly, is a much better place for a picnic. The church is adjacent to a small Madison park on the shore of Lake Mendota, so in back we have a nice sward and a great view and occasional lake breezes, whereas in the front we have a parking lot and a view of Gorham Street. We may need to rethink future picnics.
Anyway, since we don't have a kitchen right now nor anywhere else to serve as a staging area/drop-off point for the kind of potluck picnic we usually do, we had a couple of food carts on hand from which people could buy food if they didn't feel like preparing and bringing their own food. One served up Asian-style dumplings; the other served gourmet sliders. I'd had food from the slider cart before, so I tried the dumplings. And they were yummy!
In addition to the food and the socializing, we also had entertainment in the form of a local Dixieland combo called the Dixie Sizzlers. They'd also provided the music during the subject, which was a fun change of pace, and they were kind enough to stick around and play outside after the service. They were very good and very well received. I particularly enjoyed having them there, because the clarinetist is a good friend of mine. He's a fellow election official, and we haven't seen as much of each other this year as last, when we had six elections. When we talked after they finished their picnic set, we commiserated with one another over election withdrawal. February 2014 seems so far away! But hey, plenty of time for more picnics between now and then.