And in Mwanza tonight it’s nearly over after two days of parties, decorations and food. Muppet Christmas Carol has just finished and we are now moving onto an episode of Sex and the City as the rain and thunder starts to roll towards us and the night draws on.
Usually I don’t really approve of Christmas starting before December. Each year it does seem to creep forward, earlier and earlier in the year and I get sick of listening to Christmas tunes every time I enter a shop, or listen to the radio or watch TV. But living somewhere that isn’t going to get colder, where Mariah isn’t blaring from every doorway (I love it, but have recently discovered the Lady Antebellum version) means I really don’t mind having a full Christmas weekend over the 24th and 25th of November. Chloe, the PE teacher, suggested having a Christmas meal at our flats as many of us will be heading back to the UK (I might be going to Kenya, I can’t afford to head back again, but that’s for another time) so why not have an early celebration together? It would also serve to spur us on for the last two weeks at school. So we set about planning.
The flats Christmas committee (Chloe and Kerstin) gave out jobs and responsibility – I would host the Christmas Eve party as I have the roof access and biggest sitting room area, make spiced chocolate orange brownies and the sausages wrapped in bacon for Christmas dinner. We would have dinner at mine (space reasons again) and I would play the Queen for an alternative Christmas speech.
So we planned, we plotted, we arranged a secret santa, we made decorations (blue snowflakes, laminated and hung onto the Wilkos fairy lights. Some of the kids in my class made Christmas posters and cards to stick on the wall.
Christmas eve came quicker than anticipated. I strung fairy lights on the stairs up to roof, paper chains were brought in, a party playlist was created and furniture was re-arranged. Balloons with santas and snowmen were strategically placed and straws with paper fruit on were put out waiting for the fresh fruit punch being made in the ground floor flat. Fresh guacamole and houmous was made to be paired with the carrot and cucumber sticks, crisps and tortillas.
The guests began to trickle in and drinking, laughing and childish pranking began. Highlights included ‘pegging’ unsuspecting victims, singing along with some questionable guitar playing, trying to drink a drink from the floor without using hands or sitting down and the invention of swim drinking. A selection of early 90’s pop, recent classics and Christmas tunes filled the soundtrack for the evening, and as the guests drifted away from midnight, the inevitable drunk dancing in the kitchen began. I finally managed to close the door on the last of the party core at 3am and settled into bed, fighting off mosquitos single-handed.
Christmas day began with the cooking of the brownies and clearing away the washing up from the night before. We doubted that some fo the boys would come up with the good for the meal, as they were heading out to a local club, but 3 chickens were cooked, roasties, mash, veg, christmas cake, mango crumble and a spectacular, if slightly sunken, giant yorkshire pudding. The three o’clock deadline came… and went… so we didn’t start eating until about half three, but the logistics of moving various hot plates of food from different flats to feed 14, allows for a bit of flexibility. And if Christmas dinner can’t drag on a little bit then what’s happened to the world?
We ate well, with the ceiling fan off to try to cool down the room whilst a roaring fire was burning on the TV with my stocking (home-made) hanging next to it. In hindsight, three chickens was a bit much, even with Phil in attendance, so the spare chicken and most of the leftovers were donated to our Askaris, whilst Ed, the dog, got the bones. All were happy, full and contented.
A short break to rest our stomachs and open the presents followed, before cracking on with the puddings and a premier screening of the recording of ‘The Locomotion’ dance that had been performed for the Maths teacher’s 63rd birthday. Everyone drifted away taking with them their plates, bowls, tables and chairs, so that when I came back in from messing with my playlist in the kitchen, my flat was almost back to normal.
By rights, tomorrow should be Boxing Day and so we shouldn’t need to go into school, but we must, so we will. In a few days it will be all but forgotten, the only reminders being the Christmas decorations that I’d brought over from England and we will be on a countdown for the real thing. My Christmas plans are not fully established yet, the only firm one is that I’ll not be with my family, which will no doubt be difficult given recent events. But I’m lucky to have people here to share things with and to be entertained by. And I now can’t complain about Christmas starting in November again.
For alternative recounts (eventually) of our Christmas weekend, or other stories of Tanzania, please have a look over the following blogs from my Mwanza chums: