My host sister, Keitumetse (it means “I am happy”), turned 21 last week, and to celebrate, she decided to throw a huge party. Months of preparation and stress boiled down to one hectic but enjoyable day. In the village, if you have a party you don’t just invite close family and friends; the whole village is invited, so enough food must be cooked in advance.
The real party started the day before on Friday. People came to slaughter, sent up the tent, and start cooking. I peeled all sorts of vegetables and didn’t get (visibly) angry when women laughed at me for not knowing how to shave a cow’s head with a razor. Believe me, it took a lot of effort.
The next morning, it was a 5am wake up call. Men from the village were supposed to arrive at 3am to start cooking the meat, but didn’t arrive until 7am. I think that’s pushing it, even for African time, but finally men and women arrived and got to work.
Speaking of African time, we were supposed to begin at 10, but didn’t get started until 1:30, all because of the party planner, responsible for the tent, tables and chairs, and DJ. If a party planner was 20 seconds late for set-up in America his head would be on a platter. While my family and the guests were clearly frustrated, I seemed to be the only one voicing an opinion. People prefer to be less direct here in their communication so I’m sure my pestering was new for him.
Finally, the party began. Parties here aren’t a free-for-all like back home. There’s a program, with a list of speakers talking about the birthday girls. Friends and family took turns to say how wonderful she is (she really is wonderful) and thanking God for her. I didn’t speak, but worked with her to make a Powerpoint presentation of pictures and quotes about her life. It was a little hard to see because it was shown on a projector and it was bright out, but I think it turned out well. After the speeches, the food was served and the DJ quickly switched from gospel music to house music. After sundown there was a braai (BBQ) from the remaining meat and the music continued to play way passed my bedtime.
I found myself thinking a couple of times why anyone would go through so much trouble to have a party. In the States, you can outsource all the work and just worry about your outfit. But seeing people of all ages from the village work together to make it a success was really touching, and shows you who you can truly depend on. I think I sat for a total of 20 minutes during these past two days, but my host sister looked happy and that’s all that matters.