We were invited to Kadija’s birthday party. Kadija, who just turned 7, is the daughter of Gladys Conteh, the woman who works for us. We were a little worried about Kadija because she had just had a bad bout of malaria the week before. But, on the day of her party, she was fine and very excited about her party. She had a lot new dresses to wear for the party. So every so often Kadija would appear in a new outfit. Maybe you can count all the different ones. Tailoring is very cheap here and they do amazing work.
When we arrived at 4pm, the scheduled time, everyone in the compound was still getting ready. Gladys lives in one of the old wooden Creole cottages that were built in the early 1900’s and gives Freetown its distinctive historic feel. Her father was given this house by his employer, a Krio woman, also named Gladys. Her picture, an old framed b&W photograph, hangs prominently in the living room.
Meanwhile in the small compound chairs had been set out. Another room had a sound system operated by a DJ and this was where the main party was held. It turned out to be way too small for all the people who came. As Gladys said more people came then she expected. She lives in a very crowded area and when there is a party in the neighborhood lots of people just show up. She also said that when they see white people coming they know it is going to be a good party with lots to eat, etc. So we added to her party in unexpected ways.
The party room, which was quite small, was festively decorated with balloons. Fortunately the DJ adjusted the speakers so the sound system didn’t blow us away. The party was officially started by Gladys’ minister who blessed Kadija and her mother and her father. Kadija’s father is from a very strict Muslim family. He and Gladys were never able to get together due to religious differences. There are other families who do work out these problems but it is more difficult when the families are more conservative.
After the blessing the children played musical chairs which they had great fun with. But it was sort of expected that Kadija would win and she did!