Saturday, July 19, 2014


Birthday celebrations are not very common in Uganda.  Most Ugandans don’t know the exact day of their birth.  These boys aren’t any different.  Some of them know, some guess and some choose a day. 

For us, birthdays are a big deal.  It is a day to honor and celebrate a life that had never been appreciated before joining the home.  None of the boys had ever celebrated a birthday.  Fifteen, sixteen, even 17 years of never being celebrated.  Can you imagine?

A part of our tradition celebrating is making everyone tell the birthday person why they love them.  For these boys, no one has ever appreciated them in that way.  For years, they never heard the reasons why they are good and lovable.  They have heard a million reasons why they are trash and unworthy of anyone’s time, but rarely had they heard how great they are.  So on birthdays, we bombard them with good things.  The smiles on their faces, the joy in their laughter and I am sure there is blushing, makes me know our compliments are rooting themselves in their hearts. 

It wouldn’t be a good Ugandan celebration without dancing.  These boys are dancing machines.  They love dancing so much.  On a normal day, they will break out in dance in random times at the first note of a song.  They could dance all day, every day.  So we dance and dance and dance.  By we, I mean them.  They try to get me to dance and sometimes I join in the fun, but usually I am too busy laughing at their craziness.

We also have cake.  What would a party be without cake?  Sometimes we buy a decorated cake and sometimes we buy pound cake and I make a frosting.  The boy gets to choose which one he likes better.  Of course there is soda.  It is a rare treat for the boys and they usually only get it on special occasions.  And don’t forget the pineapple or other fruit.  Pineapples are beyond delicious here, so if I am doing the shopping, it is almost always pineapple for the fruit.  But there are also bananas or papaya, oranges or watermelon.

 Sometimes the night ends with the birthday boy getting drenched with a basin full of water.  Not sure where that tradition came from, but it is hysterical nonetheless.  It usually turns into huge water fight with everyone running from cover.  Even the dogs aren’t safe.  It is a blast and the boys’ shouts and screams of joy, give us a rare chance to see them as kids again.  Even in the messiness of the water fight, it is difficult to get angry that the house is practically flooded because of the fun everyone is having.  The porch becomes a slip and slide, and everyone is laughing.

We have a ton of fun on birthdays.  They are some of our best days.  The happiest days.  The days where the boys are finally kids again.  The days where we celebrate new lives, changing lives, actually making it another year to reach an age they never thought they would make.  Celebrating the chance at a future.  Celebrating life like it should have been celebrated all along.

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