We decided we needed to have a party and invited our teammates, Iddy’s family, the family we stayed with a few weeks back, and then some of our neighbors. Of course we really had no idea who would come as our verbal invites were usually in broken Kiswahili but we tried to explain that we were having cakes, coffee, and tea to celebrate Annikah’s big day and they were welcome to come celebrate with us. I spent all day Saturday (about 6 hours) baking various treats. I wanted to make sure we had enough cakes and cookies in case everyone we invited came and Annikah has been saying for weeks “two cakes” when we talk about her birthday ( I guess she thinks how old you are corresponds to how many cakes you get and I am willing to maybe indulge that for one more year tops). It is always a bit stressful hosting a party but I think there was an added element of living in a different culture; What are birthday parties like here? Do they celebrate them at all? What would people expect when they come? Would anyone come? How would we communicate? We did our best to prepare and knew God would have to take care of the rest. I mean, it is not that deep right; just a kid’s birthday party.
During my baking escapades I was frustrated that because of our oven’s uneven heat I ruined two of the cakes I had made; completely charred the top while the bottom was still goo. This would not have been so terrible if it was a matter of buying a quick bagged mix but I shredded the carrots, mixed all the ingredients and made the frosting. Argh! I pressed on but I must say I was not joyful about it. In the end it was worth it as we had a nice spread; carrot and pineapple cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, gluten-free chocolate cake with cherry icing (one of the kids coming is allergic to gluten), lemon bars, sugar cookies, mandazis (bought from a woman on our street), and tons of fruit. On Sunday morning I finished the frosting and we cleaned and decorated a bit while Anni took her nap. We found some balloons and a Happy Birthday banner in town for a couple dollars and hung them along with a few homemade signs. Then it was 4pm and we waited to see who would come. Despite the difference in this culture as to the value of time the first guest to arrive was actually an African; our house helper Martha. Soon after that some of our teammates arrived and Iddy came by bike (his Mother came by Dala-Dala later and brought Annikah some homemade peanuts and chips). Then we waited for about a half an hour wondering if anyone else would show. We had given Annikah two presents that morning and she LOVED the stroller from Aislin (thanks Beck!) and happily pushed her baby around in it while we waited. I had also made some baby’s clothes to match the adorable dresses Grandma Rhoda had made her. She loved that her baby and her had matching outfits and would tell everyone that would listen that “Anni baby dress.” About an hour after the party really started as the guests rolled in. It was crazy! Probably about 20 more people came; our other team mates, a friend Jason had met down the street, his wife and their adorable 3 month old son, Baba’s family (he even brought the twins!), the Duka owner and her family from our street, and about 20 kids from the neighborhood accompanied by their older siblings and some of their mothers and fathers. Our Mlinzi and his family were here and also joined in on the festivities. It really was amazing how many people came, we have only been here a few weeks and yet we felt so blessed to know this many people. The kids were all decked out; the girls all had party dresses. With everyone in our front room it was packed so many of the men were outside with Jason. After a while we asked everyone to come in and after Jason prayed for Annikah and thanked God for all these new friends we sang and Anni blew out her candles (actually Jason did as she just wanted to “eat cake papa” and had no interest in our silly tradition). We then cut into the treats and began to pass out cake and ice cream to everyone. The amazing thing to me was how well behaved the kids were, they all sat and waited until we had passed out everything and although there was definitely a mess left in their wake it was not nearly as bad as I would have thought (I have plenty of experience in cleaning up kid’s messes back stateside). They helped the younger kids and waited until the adults had cakes as well before digging in. I am so thankful I had planned a few activities to keep kids busy as we then moved everything outside and I showed the kids how to make a bubble machine with a paper cup, straws, and a solution of dish washing liquid and water. They laughed at my acting out “do not drink, only blow” but seemed to understand and quickly were blowing bubble everywhere! The only kid that drank the bubbles was an American (one of our team mate’s daughter- sorry!)
In the midst of all the excitement poor Anni threw up. The culprit was a combination of a nasty cough she developed the night before and her over indulgence in ice cream and sugar. It was so sad but obviously caused by her cough so we quickly took her in and cleaned her up and she was ready to party hard again. I also brought out some colored pasta I had bought in town and some laundry line to make necklaces (so old school I know!) but the kids seemed to like it. Many of the kids also brought Anni small gifts. The gifts were mostly sweets, pencils, packaged cookies, baby powder, and some local snacks wrapped in newspaper. She even got a few Mars bars: I doubt Anni will ever taste those by Papa’s reaction to seeing them opened. I must say it was a completely exhilarating and overwhelming experience. In the craziness of everything I forgot to hand out the favors I had made (pieces of candy wrapped in newspaper and tied with pink and purple ribbon I brought from home) but we learned how to say “thank you for coming to Annikah’s party” and are going to walk around and hand them out later today. Annikah really enjoyed having so many people around, although occasionally she was clinging to our legs, she seemed to have a blast! I wonder what the heck was going on in her little brain as she watched all the action. I hope she felt loved and cherished and celebrated as that was the spirit of the day.
We asked some of the Africans how the party compared to a local party and we were told twice that it was very similar except that apparently we were supposed to have loud music so the kids could dance, opps! no radio and Jason’s Zune has been busted since the flight over, a real tragedy as Annikah could have busted out her moves. The party could only be summed up by blessed chaos! We were overwhelmed with how many of our neighbors and friends came to celebrate Annikah’s big day.