Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tanzania: Thirty Five down

I'm officially smack dab in my mid-thirties, and I must say that this was one of the more memorable birthdays I've ever had. Not only that, it was a two cake birthday---doesn't get much better than that!

Back in Arusha, we were hobbling around with thighs that burned, knees that ached, and toes that pained. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally catch up on our blog and let people know we were still alive and kicking. Or perhaps a bit too sore to kick, but alive and shuffling. Finding an internet connection where pages loaded more quickly than every 10 minutes was quite a challenge. So on my birthday, we settled in at the Patisserie, a French bakery run by an Indian family that serves African food and baked goods. Perfect. I enjoyed a cup of coffee (yeah, yeah, so maybe I'm drinking it again sometimes) and a slice of apple cake that seemed to be unrelated to both apples and cake. But it was tasty.

We had made plans to catch up with our Kilimanjaro guide, Nico, before he headed off to lead another trip. We had mentioned wanting to meet his wife and 5-month old son, Frances, and he asked if we would would like to come to his house. We were thrilled, of course, to have the opportunity to be welcomed into someone's home and to feel like friends instead of simply passing travelers.

The whole experience was fabulous and funny. We crammed onto a dala-dala (a shared mini-bus taxi that we wish existed in San Francisco), squeezing in among 20 other people, to head to the outskirts of town. We then walked to Nico's apartment that shares a common pathway with several other neighbors. We sat on his couch with his brother and watched Mr. Nice videos and drank beer until the power went out, a fairly common occurence (the power outtage, but probably Mr. Nice videos, too!) . So Nico whipped out a photo album of his wedding. It was so fun to see the differences and similarities between our ceremonies. The largest being that Eric's family didn't have to bring 2 cows, 2 bull goats, and 1 sheep to my family before sealing the deal.

Eric had sweetly ordered a birthday cake that he brought to share, and Nico asked if he could invite the neighbors to join, as this was common courtesy. The more the merrier! At this point, Nico's lovely wife Adele came out with baby Frances---so fat and cute and smiley and good. Oh, but it made me miss little Ellie Adams, and we showed Nico's family pictures of Ellie to share. Nico later explained that Adele was nervous about having muzungu over, as she doesn't speak English and doesn't know very many foreigners. We felt very honored to be included. And after we'd been there awhile, everyone was laughing and smiling.

When all the neighbors piled in (all women and children), I was treated to a Happy Birthday chorus in both English and Swahili. Eric and I laughed later at how funny it was to be feted by people who had never met me, nor who could speak the same language as us. But somehow it was delightfully fun. I cut the cake and passed it around on the toothpicks provided. I didn't realize it was common custom to actually feed the cake to each person, so I frightened the first poor little girl by offering her a piece that was nearly as big as her head. Luckily, Nico intervened and all was well. All in all, it was a fabulously warm and touching experience that I felt incredibly lucky to have.

We ended the night going out to dinner and catching a live band at the cultural center. We were too sore to actually dance, but we grooved in our seats as best we could. So far, thelathini na tano (thirty-five) is just fine by me.


gk said...

happy birthday kathleen!!
i can't believe how many places you two have been already. how do you even keep up? whew!
lots of love to both of you.
muchos besos,
(p.s. i started school yesterday! i love it. mmm, architecture.)

Richard said...

What an inspiration you both are! I leave for China so I thought I should check in and see what you are both up to!

Beth said...

Hey Kathleen and Eric - Dad just sent me the link to your blog, and I have enjoyed seeing what you guys are up to. K- I talked to your mom today - she always calls me on my birthday and our aniversary. Thad, Robert and Jack send their best - I will share your posts with them!! Lots of love, Beth

nathan said...

Slow down, Dodger! I can't keep up with the furious pace of your blog posts!

OH! And we finally made it to the Toronado, thanks to Eric's recommendation. Hot damn. Christine and I were in beer nerd heaven.

Hope all is well!

Kathleen and Eric said...

Beth, so great to hear from you! And glad to know you´re enjoying the blog. Please give my best to Thad and your boys----we look forward to seeing them soon! Love, K and E

Kathleen and Eric said...

Sir Nathan,
Bring on the snark! Yeah, yeah, who has time to hole up in an internet cafe, when we have drinking and sleeping and cavorting to take care of. Hmmm?

Ha! But we did just do an update of sorts. So glad you and Christine finally made it to the Toronado. We´ll look forward to raising a barley wine toast together when we return.