Ei. It turns out that I’m getting old.
As strange as it seems to me, last week I celebrated my third birthday in Africa. And this year, I decided to celebrate Rebecca-style. My sweet friend Rebecca began a tradition a few years ago of celebrating her birthday by having a party–for all the neighborhood kids. The first year was a party at CiCi’s pizza, when Tay-tay was only a baby, and the last one was a sleepover, complete with a dance party, pillow-fight and movies.
So on my birthday, my friend Eunice and I woke at 5:00 a.m., sleepwalked our way to a matatu, and bought a soccer ball at the 24-hour supermarket downtown. When we arrived at Riverside, the boys had already had one round of chai with Fred. They saw the soccer ball and freaked out a small bit, screaming and dancing in the streets. But I told them first, we (I) needed chai: so we all went in the hoteli for a second round with mandazi. After a second breakfast (hobbits, perhaps?), we began walking to the nearest field. But, it turned out there was a girls’ tournament that day. So, we decided to go to city park–ten kilometers away.
I’m assuming we were quite a sight: sixteen dirty rambunctious street boys, Eunice and I traipsing across Nairobi town–chasing a ball across busy roundabouts, dancing and chasing and shouting and laughing all the way. As we passed, people would stare, occasionally stopping whatever they were doing to turn their heads as we went.
We took a shortcut through the back of city park, and as we are entering, Kevin (whose nickname is “black cat”) turns to me and says in an ominous growl, “Are you ready to meet the monkeys?”
He wasn’t kidding. We entered a dense forest in the middle of the city to find hundred of monkeys. Monkeys chasing one another, monkeys jumping from tree to tree, monkeys terrifying me, the muzungu. I used the smallest child, Freddie, to shield myself. The rest of the day, I was threatened by the boys, “If you don’t listen to me, I’ll call the monkeys!”
We arrived at the field, picked teams, and played soccer for a couple of hours glorious hours. It was good, genuinely good, just to see the boys running and laughing and just being children for a few hours.
I have to say, the last twenty-six years have been pretty good.