At 5:30 pm, one hour before the Garden Party began, I came home to a row of valet attendants standing outside the House, waiting for guests to arrive. Inside, the ISH staff had gathered, name tags had been lined up neatly, and for once there was not a student in sight (although they would soon join). The invitation said “Garden Party”, so most of us assumed that the bulk of the evening would have taken place in the Garden. But besides the garden, all of the interior common areas had been transformed. There were beautiful floral arrangements on every side table, cream colored cloths draped over most empty surfaces, and everywhere, service staff waiting for guests to arrive.
It is easy to forget, amidst the everyday hustle and bustle, the work and the worry, the kind of place that ISH is. Most days, as I rush to and from work, I barely notice the wood paneled walls, the delicate molding on the ceilings, the ornate lamps and carved furniture. But at the Garden Party, I think we all received a reminder of how grand a place it really is.
Residents were decked out in “business casual”, which really ran the gamut from tuxedos to sharp shirts, elegant cocktail gowns to flowy summer dresses. It was almost strange to see fellow residents in the selves that many of us wear to work or school everyday – serious, composed, put together. But then people would say hi, and joke, and laugh, and the spell would be broken. Because it is May, because it is a transitional period, it was also a good opportunity to get to know some of the newer residents in the House, and celebrate our many graduates!
At the beginning of the night, most residents gathered in the transformed dining hall (obviously, because the first hors d’œurves were there). This was followed by a slow dispersal of people throughout the rest of the spaces as the night wore on. Tight knit circles of students gave way to easy conversations with Board members and ISH alumni alike. Weaving through the different rooms and the many conversations, I felt like I was exploring a foreign wonderland altogether.
Amongst the distinguished guests who attended were Ambassadors, representatives from embassies, and other important people. It still feels quite amazing that such accomplished folks would take an interest in our lives, would give up time to be at ISH and get to know students, and would throw in their support to a group of young people trying to find their way in the big city. All this to say, a very big thank you to everyone who attended, who has supported us, and who have allowed us to stay in such an amazing residence for our time in DC. But also, a very big thank you to the amazing people who run ISH everyday, who oversee the logistics and accounting of the House, who cook for us, who make sure that our rooms and facilities are clean. I am fairly sure I speak for all of us when I say that we are all grateful for your efforts.
And to new residents – welcome. Your first few weeks will be a whirlwind of activity and trying to get to know people, of learning faces and forgetting names. It will be disorienting, to say the least. But don’t worry, because it will also be great. Just smile, and say hi (and ask for their name again).