09 October 2011

Party Planning on African Time

Drove back to Galmi today.  It was a trip that warrants it's own post.

But not tonight.

You see, I unexpectedly hosted a party this evening.  Fifteen guests.  Three languages.  And many, many speeches.


Let me back up a bit.  On Friday night, while I was still in Niamey, I received a text message from one of the girls with whom I've been having I-Teach-You-To-Make-Cake-You-Teach-Me-To-Make-Sauce lessons.  She mentioned a wahala she and our colleagues were having with their first solo cake-baking-endeavor, then asked when I'd be home on Sunday and if I'd have time to make a cake for the party at 6pm.

'What party?' You ask . . . well, that was my first question too.  Turns out, I was the last to know that the head nurse of our surgical ward is leaving to start nursing school . . . yes, you read that right.  So they wanted to throw him a going away party.

We've had many, many nurses leave to take jobs elsewhere since I started 8 months ago, but never once has there been a party, so I felt the efforts they were making to put this together warranted a cake.  And I was happy to help.  And planned to make a cake and bring it home with me.

But, as you'll remember, I was in Niamey, with no running water.

Plan B: outsource.

I wrote an email to Black-Market M. and recruited some help.  She graciously obliged.

Thinking I was doing my part with the cake, I felt good about doing what I could to help solidify the new friendships I've been forming.

But then, within a few hours, I received another text.  This time I was on my out the door to have dinner at a friend's house and was scheduled to leave the city at 7 the next morning.  They wanted three bottles of peanuts and some cookies.

My friend, B., graciously took me to a store so that I could get the goods for the party.

I had done my part . . . even gone a little above-and-beyond from my point of view.  We left Niamey this morning, making our way to Galmi.  A little over half-way there, I received another text.

This time, they were asking if they could have the party at my house.

I started singing my mantra in my head: Boundries, Deb., boundries!

Having been gone a week, and driving 7 hours home, I was tired and needed to unpack and take care of all the wonderful veggies I brought home with me.  No, even if I wanted to, I couldn't host a party tonight.

I sent a text back with a creative-enough I'm-saying-'no'-without-actually-saying-'no'.

When it was time to get the cake and other goodies to my friends, I received a call informing me that the initial request to use the compound tennis courts for the party was never answered.  They had nowhere to go.

And that's how I ended up hosting a party.

But you know, it was good.  Great actually.

We set up on my back porch . . . I prepared everything as I would if I were throwing the party.  The girls arrived and changed everything . . . right down to the serving plates.  It was fascinating!

Our colleagues started arriving, and eventually we joined them, all sitting together on my back porch.  No one saying a word.  I didn't understand.  They all came to be together, but no one spoke (except, of course, when they all made fun of me for pulling out my bug spray to keep the mosquitos away).

We sat and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  There was plenty of food out, but no one touched a thing.  And still no one spoke a word . . . that is of course, until the three of us westerners forced the silence to break with conversation.

We waited until the Chief of Surgery arrived, and then the ceremony started.  My friend covered her head with a scarf and prayed that God would bless our friend and brother as he begins his studies.  Then a nurse stood and read a prepared speech thanking God for this man's work and leadership.  En suite was the administrator who oversees all of inpatient nursing.  Then the surgeons were each invited to speak.

What stood out, nothing was said to him except for a quick 'all the best' at the end.  Everything was about him.  There were no 'you's and only 'him's.  He did this, and he did that.  Even those speaking didn't look at him, rather at everyone else.  All of the complements and praise were stated in an indirect manner.

It was fascinating.

He even stood and thanked everyone, then asked the surgeons to forgive the nurses for anything they may have done wrong, reminding that none of us are perfect.  He then asked the nursing staff to forgive him of offense he may have done that caused harm to them.

My inner anthropologist was fidgety with glee.

When all was said, we ate.  Despite all the separate bowls on the table, dishes were made up of popcorn, peanuts, and cookies and were handed to every other person, starting with the most important man in the group.  We shared our snacks and munched away.

It was only after everyone had eaten his or her fair share that the laughter and chatter began.  But I learned that one last week.

Despite being exhausted and propping my eyelids open in order to finish this post, I can't express how thankful I am that I decided to say 'yes'.  This 'interruption' tonight taught me a lot about this new world I live in.  But more than that it built bridges and community and friendships.

5 comments:

Bobnrobn said...

Hope you slept well......xoxoxxo

Bethany Reamer said...

oh my word.  your last few blog posts are totally challenging me.  i had a "grumpy" weekend and definitely barked at a few people who "unexpectedly" got in my way.  i am reminded of what's important... and what's not.  thanks for sharing your life and your journey... your story is impacting mine!

Kari said...

"My inner anthropologist was fidgety with glee." :) Amen. :)

Deb. said...

I'm ready for a very long nap!! :)

Deb. said...

Thanks Bethany!! (and word on the street is that the coffee will finally be here by mid November . . . we've had a few problems with duane and what not.)