This Saturday was the big day that much preparation, time, energy, worry, money and space has been put forth over the past few weeks. Let me introduce the cast of characters (a.k.a. family): Conn's sister, Laae; her husband, Toamwane; their daughter and star of the show, Melesiata. Melesiata turned one last Wednesday, August 5. Here in Kiribati, the first birthday is a huge deal. I think historically because it marks a turning point when the survival rate for a child greatly increases. This has led to tradition that cannot be broken in this culture. The weekend began Friday night with the arrival of Conn's family #2 from Temwaiku. They camped out on the living room floor and watched movies all night (there's no electricity at their house). There was some minor preparations that night, mostly preparing bread dough for baking early Saturday. The real festivities began Saturday morning. Family began arriving around 8. We ate hot African bread with butter for breakfast then began preparing the food for the evening party which would include dinner. The "head chef" was their Muslim missionary's wife from Ghana, Africa. This added some variety from the standard Kiribati "botaki fare." (A botaki is a party in Kiribati.) Soon after breakfast and long from a shower, I found myself with 3 other girls gathered around a bag of onions, a box of garlic cloves, then a huge basin of chicken legs. We peeled the onions (I showed them the quick way of cutting down one side to make the peels come off easier), peeled the garlic (I also showed them to chop off the bottom part so the peels come off easier), and finally "peeled" the chicken. That's right, under direction of our African cook, we removed the skins from more chicken than I could count. It took us until early afternoon to complete the task. At that point, we were at a pause in our work as the meat left our hands and went outside to the men who were bar-be-queing. This allowed me an opportunity to make sure the kids were getting fed and I gave Parker and Tanielu a bath, hoping this would make them want to sleep. We had no such luck for a couple more hours. I am still far off from my own shower at this point. Later in the afternoon, Tanielu came and showed me how big his finger was getting after smacking it on the door while he was running around. It was so swollen in his finger and into his hand, and it hurt for him to move it or for anyone to touch it, I really thought it was broken. I think I worried Conn to death over it and he finally agreed to take him to the hospital for an x-ray. We didn't see any break on the x-ray so we're just taking it easy and trying to let him put cold water bottles on it whenever we can. At this point, the swelling hasn't gone down much and it still hurts him. The doctor said we can go back and get his x-ray in a couple of weeks if he's better. Anyway, after our trip to the hospital, we made our way back home and got the kids' bathed and dressed for the party, then ourselves. It turned out that Conn was the MC, which means that he kind of leads the party and tells us what's happening next and who should do what. So, that was kind of good because the party couldn't start without him. You really gotta love Kiribati time and that's something that you just have to get over while you're here. The party was supposed to start at 6:00 pm. There was still cooking going on at 7:30, the birthday girl and her parents didn't leave the house until after 7, the MC and his family didn't leave the house until after 8. Luckily, Parker did have a nice long nap just before he had to start getting ready for the party. Melesiata, I'm not so sure about, but they took her pillow and blanket for when she fell asleep at the party. The maneaba (building where meetings and parties take place) was decorated nicely, with two tables of food of what seemed like equal amount (one from Laae's family and one from Toamwane's family). There was a couch for Melesiata and her parents with balloons all around. Some girls danced to present the cake to Melesiata, everyone sang Happy Birthday, then she cut the cake with her mother's help. Then there was some dancing, a band, everyone ate dinner, the kids got to play, and the transport started taking people home around 10. We got going home around 12. On the way home, James said he wished we could repeat that day because it was so fun. Tanielu fell asleep on the short ride home. We got lots of pictures and video of the festivities. We can only hope our pictures turn out ok because we found that morning that the display screen is broken. The camera seems to be fine otherwise and it seems to still take pictures, but we can't tell if they're any good until we put them on disc later. LOL. Such is life. Well, Sunday the girls set to work cleaning up around the house and family #2 set off back to Temwaiku. They left us the promise of just as much fun next weekend at their house for the next botaki.
Now, we've recovered, and life goes on.