Yesterday we celebrated the birthdays of two of our closest work colleagues. On this special day, the birthday boys are called "Babies". Birthdays are often recognized in Uganda (especially if the D.O.B. is known), but seldom is a birthday an occasion for a party. Imagine the drain on resources if you had a party for all 15 of your children...
(Tonny "Warming Up" for the competition)
Godfrey, CPA's program manager, celebrated his first b-day party at the age of 35, and Tonny, the District Coordinator, had celebrated once before. We had an afternoon of games and competitions, an evening meal, and two cakes for the group of about 25 close friends and colleagues. Godfrey's cake read "Mzee (elder) Okello". He then turned to the oldest man in the room and sincerely asked, "May I be received into Mzee-hood?"
(Godfrey showing us his strokes in the dance competition)
Godfrey and Tonny were touched by the outpouring of affection and gifts given to them on their day. After presenting the gifts, all spoke aloud "what we liked best about the birthday boys". Godfrey's son (age 5) came up to him after the gifts were given and said with surprise, "Why is everyone giving you free things? I'm little, why don't I get something?" As it turns out, Tonny's team won the dance competition and won.... A NEW CAR!!!...as a prize. Because it was a toy car, Tonny was generous enough to give Godfrey's son something after all.
(Godfrey's children, Dan and Rachel also wanted to show us how to dance)
There is something bonding about celebrating a common tradition with our friends here. Sharing this experience made me feel closer to my culture and to theirs.