Soon after arriving back in Ternate, Bu Esty invited me to go with the family to a birthday party. Knowing this would be another opportunity too good to miss, I readily accepted.
While I had a quick shower and changed my shirt, Bu Esty ensured the 6 of her 7 children coming to the party also had a quick shower and then the boys were all dressed alike as usual when they go out as a family however her 2 daughters each chose what they wanted to wear. The boys were dressed in long red shorts with a purple checked shirt and looked very smart. Inten, their oldest daughter who is home briefly from Jakarta due to illness, wore red jeans and a floral shirt while Berlian, their youngest daughter wore denim shorts together with a floral shirt and wedges. The family all looked so smart, unlike me, whose choice of clothing was limited; the priority being firstly clean and secondly cool.
Bapak drove us all to the party which was held in an area quite a long way from Mangga Dua where Bu Esty and her family live. Because of the distance, Bapak stayed, rather than going home and he joined all the other fathers in the same boat. They all sat together in the front garden chatting. We, however, joined the huge throng of people in the house. The first clue that there would be many many people in the house was the sheer number of shoes on the steps leading up to the front door.
Both the steps and the small verandah in front of the main door, were totally covered in shoes! We took off our shoes and placed them to the side so that they wouldn’t get trampled by the constant stream of people going in and out of the front door. We then entered the front door and immersed ourselves in the throng of guests.
and then to our left were green plastic chairs in rows facing the food. We headed past the food and seats, making our way to the birthday girl who was seated in front of a hugeTV screen playing a birthday VCD on repeat so loudly that it was impossible to have a conversation. The birthday girl wore a cute pink dress and in front of her on a coffee table were a few presents and a huge chocolate birthday cake which had been cut but was still largely intact. I followed Bu Esty and her children who each greeted the birthday girl and then wished her happy birthday. On top of the TV cabinet behind her was a tall glass container full of envelopes to which Bu Esty added hers. Guests either choose to give a present or put some money in an envelope. I followed behind them and handed her a kangaroo keyring which she seemed to really love as she held onto it and played with it for quite a while.
We were all then encouraged to have something to eat but as I had just eaten, I photographed Bu Esty and Berlian getting something to eat.
The food on the table included bowls of ketupat (rice cooked in woven coconut leaves), quartered boiled eggs, vermicelli noodles and bowls of hot chicken stock; all the ingredients to make soto ayam. It looked absolutely delicious and had I not been so full nor so hot, I would have definintely been tempted to have some. There were also bowls of salak fruit (snake skin fruit), mandarins and chocolate agar agar desserts which is what I enjoyed snacking on.
Apparently we had arrived a little late and so missed the blowing out of the candles and the cutting of the cake, however we must have only just missed it because soon after we sat down, the girl’s mother started handing out goody bags and balloons to all the children. These party bags were enormous compared to ones handed out at the birthday parties I have been to. Inside Berlian’s was a sealed cup of cordial, several mini packets of biscuits, many lollies, chocolate bars etc; all totally unhealthy yet adored by the children! While the mothers ate the soto ayam, the children worked their way through their goody bags and by the time we got in the car to go home, the bags were almost empty!
Once everyone had finished their meal, the house began to suddenly empty as everyone seemed to leave at the same time. It was quite funny. One minute mothers and children were sitting everywhere chatting and eating and then almost as one they all stood up to say their goodbyes. Bu Esty alsos then stood up and ushered us all back to the where the birthday girl was seated to thank her and say goodbye. Once we were all there, it provided another opportunity to take more photos!
Finding our shoes turned out to be easier than I expected as most people had left by this time. I couldn’t believe just how quickly the house emptied of people; they said their goodbyes very quickly and then vanished. When I went to say goodbye to the mother of the birthday girl, I was given a very warm cheek to cheek hug so obviously me turning up uninvited hadn’t been a problem. If anything I think she was delighted. It isn’t very often that a westerner turns up to a 4th birthday party and there were were many photos to show as evidence!