A Travellerspoint blog

Forget the cupcakes...

A local birthday bash

semi-overcast 27 °C

Forget cupcakes, bunting and musical bumps

… replace with hired pews, speeches, and a mountain of thick brown millet, and you have a local 1st birthday bash.

Lilian has helped us in various ways (from watching the kids, to having far more success with a charcoal stove than I could ever dream…) for the last 2 and half years and has a baby boy exactly the same age as our Scamp. Lilian has been planning her baby’s party for weeks and was clearly excited about the event.

Lilian teaching Am and Ash how to harvest bananas

Lilian teaching Am and Ash how to harvest bananas

We had been looking forward to the party as we might finally get to meet the father of the baby, who Lilian assured we would know immediately as he is a ‘photocopy’ of the baby.

We arrived fashionably late and were ushered to seats of honour, (a row of hired plastic seats rather than the hired rows of wooden pews) which is always a bit awkward. David arrived even more fashionably late on his bike, sweating, frizzy-haired and carrying a water bottle which had a hole and was spilling water, cue a chorus from the crowd of guests: ==‘sorry, sorry, sorry…’== and helpfully pointing out ‘your water is spilling…’ -no chance of a quiet entry as David was led to his seat.

To be fair to my squirming children, it wasn’t their best time of day, 5pm is usually the start of meltdown hour, but their wriggling and giggling seemed very obvious amongst all the other kids sitting still as though they were playing musical statues.. .(without the music). We are always amazed at how local kids can keep so quiet as to render them almost invisible, a direct contrast to ex-pat kids who are obviously allowed to express themselves more noisily…

Then came the official opening! From the few kids’ birthday parties here it seems speeches and having a ‘programme’ is very important. And so it began… ‘I am here to represent the biological father at this programme, as the biological father is not able to be here at this very moment, so I am standing in as the representative to the Boy …’ Everyone around us nods earnestly. I was thinking how fuming I’d be if Hairycraig sent a representative Ash the Bash’s birthdays, but here it doesn’t seem to matter. The ‘representative’ didn’t know the baby’s name and kept calling him ‘boy’.

Then the speeches and the cake. And then the 1- year old was given a big, sharp knife to cut the cake which Lilian had proudly baked using our oven. His birthday gift from the parents was a super smart black suit and gold tie, so he looked like a mini-adult all suited and booted and walking around solemnly. He suddenly seemed years older than our Scamp, who still can’t walk and was crawling around in a grubby vest.

cutting the cake

cutting the cake



age-mates a few months ago

age-mates a few months ago

Meanwhile, Am and Ash are bored, loud, and hungry and resort to chasing mangy looking ducklings, and I’m not feeling like the best mum in the world with the disapproving glances.
Quite honestly, cross-cultural parenting is often a challenge, and events like this highlight such differences in expectations and worldviews.

The ‘biological father’ turned up just in time for food (served after cake) and gave his apologies. Next item on the all important ‘agenda’ was ‘the Happy Birthday Song’ and Sunday School choir to close. By this point it’s nearly dark and our kids really need to have a bath and get to bed, so we give our gifts and head home.

[lilian and her boys

[lilian and her boys

Think we will forgo the millet and speeches for Amelie’s upcoming birthday and enjoy a round of cupcakes and home-made lemonade...

Posted by africraigs 10:30 Archived in Uganda

Table of contents


Most interesting and you make it a vivid picture! I don't believe I ever attended a child's birthday party in Africa, possibly because I'm single but more likely because you are mover involved in local life than I was.

by John Hosie

I thoroughly enjoyed your description. It's as David says, it's bonkers! How do you manage to keep from becoming hysterical (either with laughter or insanity)? I can picture the scene. Love your pictures David.

Love to all xx

by Auntie B

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.