Jen and I decided that since we had been spending so much time soaking up the Sri Lankan culture over the last few months, that it was only fair to share some American Culture with our Sri Lankan staff. What we found, however, is that it is relatively difficult to come up with an "American Cultural Experience" that people aren't somewhat familiar with, given the ubiquitousness of American TV, food, etc. Nevertheless, we thought that since both Americans and Sri Lankans had tossed the British out of their countries, there was no better cultural event to share than Independence Day! And there is no better way to celebrate Independence Day than having a good old fashioned BBQ!
The first step in any good BBQ is getting the meat together, which in Pottuvil, Sri Lanka, is easier said than done. Since we live in a Muslim community, beef is rather easy to come by but it is not particularly tender, nor does it come in neatly wrapped packages. The only way to get meat is to find the person who slaughtered a cow that morning and literally go buy a 'chunk o' meat'. No tri-tips or rib eye steaks here. So, we decided that instead of steak we would settle for hamburgers. Unfortunately, the only way to get ground beef is the grind it yourself. Ugh.
Luckily, being the boss means that I can quickly rally the staff to get to work to help us with all of the party planning (something that I have some familiarity with). So the morning of the 4th, I sent out all of our drivers to gather the requisite party materials while I busted out the meat grinder and went to work on the 6 kg (~13lbs) of beef. I hadn't finished by the time they all got back, but I was plenty happy to turn over the arm workout and get started on the rest of the meal. I cooked up a tasty tri-bean chili, Jen made some potato salad, and the drivers put together a beautiful fruit salad. Add several cases of beer and a bottle of rum and we were set. I rewarded all of the drivers who helped cook with shots of my Patron Tequila - to which they all took an immediate liking too. Go figure. Jen got rewarded by Razak, our driver, with a new Sri Lankan outfit that his wife had made. It was a little strange at first to see her wearing Sri Lankan clothes on the 4th of July, but it was also oddly appropriate.
As we were just finishing up the food, the rest of the staff came by and we started up a game of volleyball. Usually, we can't get them to play anything but cricket, but since it was a special day I think they humored me. Actually, we all had a great time - even though Jen and my team ended up losing after being ahead the entire game. Grrr.
After volleyball, we got the grill going and cooked up all of the burgers just as it was getting dark. Everyone helped themselves to the food, but I think we got some mixed reviews. Everyone seem to like the burgers and the fruit salad, but were a little iffy about the potato salad and especially the chili. I was a little surprised about the chili since it was the most like "curry" that they eat here - but what to do? Instead Jen and I ended up eating chili for almost a week.
Finally we finished up the evening with some more drinking and playing with fireworks (Safety First!). One of our drivers refused to light the fireworks on the ground and instead would light them in his hand and throw them in the air. Meanwhile, I kept trying to figure out whether this was going to be considered a workplace injury or not. After a few errant bottle rockets, he was voted out of fireworks duty by the entire party.
In the end, I think everyone had a good time and we all learned a little bit about each others culture and found a few similarities between them. Getting drunk and blowing stuff up seems to be a universal cultural activity (at least for men), chili is NOT the same as curry, and everybody loves hamburgers (even when you have to grind it yourself). My next challenge is figuring out how to explain what Labor Day means to America and why it is that we pretty much do the same thing as we do for Independence Day. Or maybe I'll just buy an extra case of beer and several bottles of tequila and forget all the technicalities....