Childhood Friends in High up Places

The bond between many third culture kids is like family. Sometimes a dysfunctional family, but family nevertheless. At Murree Christian School, regardless of generational gaps, there is a sense of community.

It was this sense of family and community that made all of us proud when we saw our childhood friend, Jonathan Addleton, now Ambassador to Mongolia, in a photo blog on MSNBC. He was pictured front and center with a Mongolian wrestler and none other than Vice President Joe Biden. Jonathan’s mom and dad had arrived in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, just three days before the arrival of Biden. Bettie gave a detailed description through an email update:

The officials were due at 4 and finally arrived just a little past 4:30. The prime minister arrived first and then Biden and Jonathan came in to a special tent erected for the officials. The Mongolians are beautiful people. Their ceremonial attire is absolutely beautiful. The musicians were dressed in colorful clothes. I liked the music.  I do not know the instruments, some string, something like a flute. Wrestlers came and they were in spectacular outer robes and the Mongolia hat, and when they removed them the trunks and top were scanty. I cannot explain the wrestling but there were 2 teams and 2 men in robes were on each side of the grassy “ring.”  One by one a wrestler was taken down and as they left, they waved to the crowd, first to the VP and then the rest of us. The winner paraded around and gave some sweets to the VIP tent. They came on several times.  There were parades of horses, ridden by young boys and it was a beautiful sight to see them march in from the distance, with the lead horse carrying the banner. After the parades they went off in the distance to race and came around again.  Even the Bactrian camels (2 humps) entered the celebration.  I noted that some of the American men rode the camels a short distance.  There were archers to show off their skill with bows and arrows.  Prizes were awarded to the winners in the various categories; wrestling, horse races, archery.  I cannot leave out the dance performed by 3 young men, dressed colorfully in ancient costume. A young girl, perched on a special made table, gave us a show plus in the contortions she executed. Everyone was astounded by her skill in manipulating her body into intricate and unbelievable  shapes –  like a pretzel!  The unique throat singer performed and a female vocalist.

As is the custom in this country, the Vice President was presented a horse and he got to name the horse. Because of his Irish heritage he called it Celtic. The horse is then returned to the herd and because of serving in this ancient ritual, will probably be given preference in food and care! When Jonathan was here a few years back, he received, I think, 2 horses! A blue shawl was given to VP Biden to tie around the horse’s neck. Both Jonathan and the VP tied a knot which is part of the ritual of the horse giving/receiving.  These ceremonies lasted about an hour.

The VP proceeded to visit among the guests, press, etc. First he greeted the performers and thanked them. Then he came to our tent and Jonathan introduced him to us. He gave us warm handshakes, we exchanged a few words (I can’t remember what I said), and he went among the Embassy personnel, greeting them. After that he came back to me and listen up folks: HE KISSED ME ON BOTH CHEEKS. Now, what do you think of that.  The crowd was pleased when he did that and I was speechless!!!

U.S Ambassador to Mongolia, Jonathan Addleton and Vice President Joe Biden. Jonathan is in the middle

Jonathan was a student at Murree and my brother Tom’s best friend all through elementary and highschool until their senior year. At this point Tom left for the U.S. to finish high school in a small town in Massachusetts and Jonathan remained, finishing at Murree. He was also brother to my best friend, Nancy. The Addletons served with my parents for years in the Sindh area of Pakistan and the number of holidays and dinners spent together cannot be counted. They are like family. It took me a long time to move from the “Aunt Bettie and Uncle Hu” names to dropping the aunt and uncle and calling them “Bettie and Hu”

As third culture kids, there weren’t many of us who were impressed with pop culture and we were somewhat illiterate about Hollywood and it’s ilk. But an ambassador? That we understood, so there is a collective pride those of us who attended MCS feel about our friend being Ambassador to Mongolia.   He is not Ambassador Jonathan Addleton. He is “our” Ambassador Jonathan Addleton. When Tufts University‘s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Jonathan’s alma mater, published an article called “Our man in Mongolia” I remember feeling offended, thinking “Jonathan isn’t “their” man! He’s “our” man.” In our world-wide extended family with relatives in too many nations to count, he is our cousin, our second cousin, or our brother. He is family and we are proud.

We are aware that Jonathan now holds dinner parties with the likes of Madeleine Albright, well-known senators, and Richard Gere – but we still feel like we know him and he knows us, that we care about him, and the care is reciprocated. So we raise a glass in honor of this man, our childhood friend and family member who has risen to a high up place and but still cares enough to comment on posts and pictures on our Facebook pages!

Bloggers note: Many thanks to Bettie Addleton for her descriptive email updates! Read more about her in this article from the Macon Telegraph: 

11 thoughts on “Childhood Friends in High up Places

  1. I would like to add that this MCS staff member of yesteryear would like to add that he also holds the ambassador in the same honor and feeling of fellowship as you do.
    He would also add that he thinks in the same way of all his old students and their efforts during MCS and in their ongoing life.
    Regarding your other blog on the difficulties of living in MCS as a non-sport achiever I would like to apologise if I made your life more difficult. It was not intentional and us coaches tried so hard only to ask you all to do your best.


    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Your apology is very kind! One of my memories is of you kindly staying behind and coaching me up a big hill while cross-country running in preparation for a soccer tournament. I look back with great fondness of my time at Murree, the way it shaped me and the people who were a part of that, and you were a part. You and Isabel were and are gifted at moving past highschool and accepting all of us as adults. Not always an easy thing to do.


  2. Have to add an Ambassador story of my own here: Just before Amb. Addleton took up his post, he was invited to the University of Wisconsin Madison to give the keynote address at the opening of the new Mongolian Studies Institute here. As our daughter Katrina was on the planning committee, we knew he was coming and invited him to stay with us. Our present “guest room” was our youngest daughter Amy’s room, and is still painted the bright orange/deep blue middle school color scheme she had wanted. Some of our friends: “You’re not going to put the Ambassador in the Orange room, are you???” But of course we were – and we did. (He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way…)

    [So if you come to Madison, you can now sleep in the Orange Ambassador room… !]


  3. What a beautiful way of expressing it Marilyn! I’ve never met Jonathan but I know exactly what you mean about the collective pride of having a ‘distant cousin’ do well. How exciting and how amazing the journey life takes each of us on in wildly different directions coming out from the same root!


  4. Well done, Marilyn. Had I known that my letter to family would end up on your BLOG, I might have given more attention to my writing!

    You must know that the Brown family IS our family. We’ve shared so many wonderful times together and keeping in touch has never been easier. Love you guys.

    And, we’re having a lot of fun.


  5. Marilyn — Many thanks; I appreciate your reflections a lot! Of course, I also deeply admire you and the rest of the Brown family at so many levels
    ! Best regards, Jonathan


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