A birthday so good we forgot the cake...
This weekend was birthday weekend for FIVE children in the orphanage. I am not sure if it is their real birthday dates in fact for most of them we will never know their date of birth, but I let them choose and if your best friend chooses October then so do you. So we have five October birthdays - Gabriel, Maria, Ansila, Victoria and Rehema.
To execute any kind of birthday fun, or any plans at all for that matter smoothly here it takes a lot of forward thinking. We are fortunate enough to have two cinemas here in Arusha city and the children have been once before and loved it, so I knew for the combined celebration the cinema was the place to be! However, its nearly Halloween so all the current films are scary and/ or halloween related which was not the birthday vibe I had in mind! There is also a big difference between the cinema locations. One in my opinion the only highlight is the cinema, there are some places to eat around it but these are very Western places and not much else. The second is in a newly built shopping mall which has escalators, a child play equipment area, a great selection of food, supermarket and some shops! You can of course guess which one I wanted our party to be held at.
I was so convinced that I would be able to arrange a private booking for one screen that I proceeded to order five cakes from the supermarket at the mall. It was Thursday and the party was Saturday so I had time, I got the number for the cinema manager and sent my request through. I was pleased with my planning - cakes ordered, cinema nearly organised, presents bought and dala dala (public bus) driver informed of private rental plan! BUT with it being a busy Saturday my cinema request was not possible and the manager advised that we could watch Boss Baby 2 but at the other cinema screen.
I was a little defeated that my plan had not worked however after living here for over a year now and knowing this culture really quite well I know that more often than not - things do not go to plan. But I was determined to make it work. These children do not get to leave the orphanage facility often so it would be even more fun for them to drive around town a little and visit two places! I arrived on Saturday afternoon after telling everyone we would leave at 1pm for the film starting at 2pm. I got to the orphanage at 1:20pm and only half of the children were dressed and no one had yet had lunch. This 'Tanzanian Time' is the thing I struggle with the most here and is extremely hard to work with. Rehema and Vicky were not even back from school and the dala dala was still 'on his way' (another Tanzanian term that can mean anything). I did think I might cry but I managed to distract myself with ironing shirts and dresses.
Somehow we made it out of the door at 1:50pm but knowing it would take at least 25 minutes to reach the cinema and that did not include the broken down car that added another 10 minutes to the journey was stressful to say the least. But the children's excited faces meant that I had given up caring about being late, the film had started but it was still going to be the best birthday party in their eyes. The film was fun and entertaining and the cinema gave each child a box of popcorn and a drink! I also invited the dala dala drivers in with us, grown men who have never been to the cinema, who also loved it although I had to tell Ally he couldn't use his phone at the top of his voice during the film!
After the film was finished we piled into the dala dala again and off we went to the mall. Just as I thought, the children were so excited that the trip was not yet over! We bought ice cream from the supermarket and then ordered some chips, of course it didn't matter to eat them in that order when its for a birthday! I can not forget the multiple rounds on the escalator that they absolutely loved and would have probably spent all afternoon on. I love their innocence and unworldly little hearts that have never experienced things that we just take for granted growing up with.
There was a point when I did remember the cakes. The whole reason we had travelled over to the opposite side of town was because of this supermarket where I had confidently ordered cakes from on Thursday and without a car there was no way I was easily getting them anywhere. I went into the supermarket to check everything was ready while the children were on the escalator (supervised) and the cakes looked beautiful! I decided that I would give the children their cakes and they could decide what they wanted to do with it and who they wanted to share with. That is one of the greatest heartbreaks I have for these children is that their lives are completely controlled and they do not get to have their own things or make their own decisions. They are no longer little children, half of them are in secondary school and so giving them a choice like this and a gift that was freely their own is a big thing.
But, then I got distracted. Johnny was watching some other children play on the bicycles and they did not know it was my plan to let them play but he explained to me perfectly in English that he would like to go and play with an extra 'please Auntie'. Luca and Jacksoni also at the same English medium school and all doing very well then told me the dangers of riding a bicycle and how they would be very careful. So while the younger children went to play on the bikes and scooters I took the five birthday children into the little shops to buy a special birthday gift of their choosing. Gabriel got a memory card for his radio that he can put music on, Rehema got a school bag, Maria a watch, Victoria a pair of shoes and Ansila a handbag.
Basically as the title of the story title suggests, we had such a great time that after finishing shopping and bike riding we left on the dala dala playing the best local music and contently returned to the orphanage where I got a huge hug and big thank you from everyone. And the cakes, well the following morning when I was asked if the children enjoyed the cakes was the first time I remembered! Feeling so content myself about how the day went! I picked them up on Sunday afternoon and with the use of a kind friends car took them to the orphanage.
These children are just so wonderful, their gratitude, quiet nature, kind and respectful ways meant that there was no expectation of cake or anything more than the afternoon of fun that we had. A birthday so good we forgot the cake..