We've had fun celebrating a spate of birthdays together recently -- starting with Nan's and Gerry's in October, and "finishing" soon (only because most of us will depart in December) with Jessie's and Charlotte's. Along the way, we've shared a few Kenyan birthday balloons, too. I'm afraid our neighbors are beginning to adopt some of our decadent western ways...
It was Carolyn from the Comprehensive Care Center who first shyly hinted, "I'll be 22 next week, and I've never had a birthday cake." Then Jessie had a small party for Ruth, who cooks at St. Philip's, after which Doracas -- who teaches at the college -- had a party for her own two children. (It was actually Christian's 8th birthday, but 4-year-old Nema needed a celebration, too!)
Emmah explained to me a few years ago, "We don't celebrate birthdays here." Many Kenyans don't know when they were born. Dates of all kinds weren't especially important until NGO funding and computerized forms arrived on the continent. Until recently, most people simply had to invent their birth dates, as I learned firsthand when I tried to document children's heights and weights for a USAID supplemental food program.
A new law in Kenya this year makes birth registration a requirement. The legislation created a real problem for folks born before 2010 who now need birth certificates to enter secondary schools, universities, etc. Implementation of any new law is a challenge, at best, here -- especially in a rural hospital with only three functioning (but as yet un-networked) computers.