I come bearing gifts of equatorial Christmas cheer a day later than planned as our internet bailed on us last night and WordPress kept acting up (hence the messy formatting of this post). Although I feel a million miles away from the wintery vibes back home and even more distant from the mulled-wine-by-candle-light Christmas mood, Saturday was the annual ‘Kristmasi’ party for the Amani kids and neighborhood tots, complete with a borderline inappropriate Santa who was grinding his way through the audience, ‘giftis’ for each kid and mountains of local delicacies, washed down with liters of Coca Cola beverages.
The day was hot, action packed, fun and totally and utterly exhausting. (At one point I thought I was going to spontaneously combust, having run around in the blistering heat taking photos of hundreds of over-excited kids for hours.) All staff arrived at 8am to prepare the day all the kids had been given a new set of clothes the night before. Beaming with pride over their new outfits and fresh kicks they all had this amazing, confident swagger about them as they ran out to greet us.
With the tents and seats set around the basketball court, the festivities kicked off – as always – with some hilarious/amazing dancing by the kids (the pictures speak for themselves), followed by insane acrobatics, a traditional dance performance, a massive lunch and the piece de resistance of any self-respecting Christmas party: Father Christmas himself. This one came with a distinctly African twist though as he started grinding his way through the audience, at one point picking up the winner of the dancing competition on his lap and gyrating like a madman with a 12-year old boy. Wildly inappropriate, you ask? Well, it would be if it weren’t in Africa where sexually provocative dancing is just the genderless, ageless norm, and where a 2-year old can move her hips in a way that us Caucasian folk can only dream of. In all its manic weirdness it was still hilarious and the kids had a great time chasing him around until he was probably close to total meltdown.
Further highlights of the day included a donut-eating competition (you can imagine how many kids volunteered for that), a crazy obstacle course organized by Boogie and Jay for a hundred sugared-up kids (thank God no one got hurt), as well as a gift-giving session in which each kid got a box with little toys, pens and stickers. A sweet and very welcome treat for some, a bitter disappointment for others who had hoped Santa would bring them a radio. Sorry, boys, maybe next year.
The music still blaring in my dangerously over-heated head, we headed home at 5pm, only to leave the house again at seven for the annual staff party which, despite following the classic Tanzanian party formula of long speeches, random skits (AIDS joke, anyone?) and dancing, turned out to be an unexpectedly subdued and low-key affair (cue collective sigh of relief).
With lots of love from the land of a very different Christmas.
I miss snow.