Last night, we had a special Friday meal at my NGO office to participate in Global Hunger Shabbat, an AJWS initiative to raise awareness about hunger around the world. Back when we were at orientation in Chiang Mai we received a booklet with articles and pictures for discussion, and they asked us to organize a local observance for our friends or co-workers once we arrived on site.
We decided that the event would be a fun opportunity to introduce my co-workers to challah, and to the classic Shabbat rituals of wine, candles, and family. Kenny and Daniel spent much of the day baking challahs in P Nik’s kitchen. P Nik has a big propane-powered oven, so to maximize their propane utilization they made triple the normal recipe – 11 in all! They left three loaves for P Nik to sell, and brought the remaining eight over to my office. They also picked up a huge bottle of white Italian table wine and a bottle of red Chilean wine (the best we could do in these parts), a whiskey bottle full of local honey for challah-dipping, a couple of candles, and a few Asian desserts that offered pretty good approximations of hamentaschen and rugelach!
It didn’t surprise me that the challahs were a big hit – we were a group of almost 15 people, and had no problem finishing all of them. We also polished off all of the wine, which was a bit more treacherous than we had anticipated, as a few of my NGO’s members are a hair under 18 and are still learning how to moderate their alcohol consumption. ;) The best discovery we made was how well the challah paired with the spicy mango salad that a few staff members had taught me how to make earlier in the day – yum! We made our way through some of the Hunger Shabbat content as we ate, although much of it was quite difficult for non-native English speakers to read. The photos at the back of the booklet were the most accessible tidbits for this audience, and made for some good discussion.
After we ate, one of our joint secretaries and her friend pulled out their guitars, and they started a group sing-along session featuring many of the Burmese pop songs I’ve been hearing around the office for the past few weeks. It actually reminded me of many guitar-led song sessions from Jewish camp back in the day. It was a fun celebration and the food and music were fabulous!