Friday is Elliot’s first birthday and I’m feeling a bit sad. In my mind, a first birthday party has several components:
- presents (and wrapping paper!)
- family and godparents
- a cake, in the shape of a number 1, covered with Smarties or M&Ms.
- a candle to blow out
Elliot’s first birthday will have only 1 of the four.
Presents have been generously sent from Australia, despite the exorbitant cost of postage to Tanzania. But his extended family and godparents are in Australia. We’ve been praying for Tanzanian friends who become like family but we don’t have them yet. There’s Skype, but the ‘party’ will be just us. The cake‘s easy enough to make but there’s very little chocolate in Dodoma (and what there is is so old it’s turned white and crumbly.) However, in some wild fit of optimism I went shopping for Smarties. There were none to be found anywhere. The cruel irony is, the lady at one shop was wearing a promotional Smarties T-shirt while she told me they didn’t have any. I bought a tiny packet of 100s and 1000s instead, so faded they’re all the one white-ish colour, paying the equivalent of 2 days wages for it. I managed to learn the word for ‘candle‘ by explaining ‘the thing with fire you put on top of the birthday cake that you blow out’. Everyone knew what I was talking about but all the recommendations about where to buy them fell through. One shop looked promising but ended up only having the numbers 3, 5 and 6, with no small plain candles. In the end, the western supermarket came through with a blocky ‘birthday boy’ candle, again, it cost the equivalent of 2 days wages for it. On one hand, Elliot won’t care. This sort of birthday will probably be all he’ll ever know. Perhaps there are great things about Tanzanian birthday parties that we’ll learn and adopt over time. But in my head, for the moment anyway, he’s missing out. And that makes me miss ‘home’.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.