A call came in on Thursday, I think, before the races, requesting a meeting at my home or in a restaurant for coffee on Friday night, the evening before the first day of racing to “discuss any matters that will be beneficial to both our organizations in the future.”
The president of our association and his wife, and another well-travelled couple were happy to help me welcome our guests. I needed support because in my drugged stupor, I couldn’t always hold two thoughts together much less carry on a good conversation, and I was very tired – weary to the bone tired.
We and our friends met at the restaurant and waited for our guests. After a day of preparation, someone said they could really use a glass of wine. Well all agreed, but out of courtesy to our guests would abstain. Eventually, we received a call that the Omani contingency was in town and needed directions to the restaurant. Several of us went out into the parking lot to wait for and to greet them after they had parked.
All exited the car, and I walked forward to meet BG Alshahwarzi, greeting him with As-salaamu Aleikum. Much to my surprise (and forever-after-secret delight) he dropped into a full bow – not a stiff little half bow like the Koreans make, but a fluid, graceful full bow straight out of Tales of Arabian Nights. Our friends from Churchill Downs did not tell me what to do in this situation! It made an awesome first impression and I was thoroughly charmed. A display of honor, humility, and respect was the last thing I expected from our distinguished guest. With that one act, he opened my mind and heart to his world.
Now, several months later, I know much more just who the General is, and I am truly humbled to have been honored by the person I have discovered him to be. Had I known more about him then, I would have been too intimidated and shy to enjoy our meeting. As it was, his show of respect was totally disarming and very charming.
As we ate and talked throughout the evening, he showed little courtesies and kindnesses that made us feel more at ease.
During dinner he suggest that December would be a good time for us to visit Oman, and that we would have plenty of time to arrange the visit. While my initial thought was that we could never afford a trip like that, the seed was planted. Before breaking up for the evening – they still had to drive back to Tucson – the General gave Tom and I each a bag of gifts. So generous of them again.
I had enjoyed the evening and was ever thankful for our friends that came to welcome out guests with a show of Arizona hospitality. Tomorrow our races would begin.