Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Birthday Party


Last Saturday was my host brother’s 8th birthday party. He had been looking forward to it and my family had been planning it for a while. My host mom had asked me 2 weeks prior if I would make guacamole and mashed potatoes and gravy. Those were the American (and Mexican) foods we made a while ago for one of my fellow trainee’s birthday party. I was under the impression that she really liked them, so I was a little surprised that on the day of the party, her response to how much guacamole I should make was “enough for the Americans that will be coming.” Maybe Africans are better than us at pretending to like exotic foods that don’t end up tasting so great, I remember thinking to myself. Then I thought, Ca va aller (It’ll be okay). It was the time for a birthday party, not for worrying about whether my African family likes American food.

It was quite literally, the time for the party, 3 o’clock, but no one was there save the people doing the preparations. It was something to remind me that I’m not completely integrated yet. Their sense of time here is completely different. My friend that helped me make the American food and I decided to sit and wait. An hour and a half later, people started to pile in. That’s where, as an American, things felt socially awkward. At Cameroonian parties, you put all the chairs against the walls so that everyone can sit in a big circle. The circle’s too big to have one conversation with everyone, but you can’t really mingle either. The other thing that’s awkward – the word awkward doesn’t exist in French, so you can’t explain how awkward you feel.

Once the festivities actually began, though, it was quite fun. My host dad’s sister acted as master of ceremonies using a remote control as a microphone. It started by my host brother offering some words of welcome to his guests and was followed by a karaoke performance by his younger cousin (the MCs daughter). Apparently she had been preparing all week. After she finished, having danced but not sung, her mom made her start over from the beginning. I was shocked and kind of wanted to rescue her, but she actually gave a much better performance the second time around. Next there were competitions. Some were dancing competitions; there was arm wrestling, and musical chairs, too. After that there was more dancing. They start ‘em young here.

By 8 or 9 o’clock, the party had changed from being mostly kids to mostly adults. It was a lot more like parties in the states – essentially eating, drinking, and talking. Overall, I had a great day, I learned a little about the culture, and even the Africans ate the guacamole.

(sorry...I had some pictures I was going to post, but the internet cafe is having problems)


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