Birthdays in Kenya (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)   2 comments

Sunday, April 12, 2009
River House, Eldoret, Kenya

Word had gotten around the IU House that two of our friends (Colin and Francesca) had birthdays coming up, so a party was planned for Sunday, April 12.  I enlisted the help of Simon and Benson to help plan an event down at River House.  They informed me that there are two birthday traditions here in Kenya; 1) Pour as much water and/or beer on the birthday boy/girl and 2) Prepare a goat or sheep for the celebration.  After clearing the birthday animal sacrifice with Colin and Francesca, I gave Benson the go ahead to start searching the local villages for a good candidate for dinner.

In the meantime, Bethany and I decided it would be fun to make a piñata for a little entertainment during the party.  Neither of us having made a piñata before, we googled the directions and modified them to fit our resources in Kenya.  We tied a balloon and a surgical glove together and realized that we were going to be making a rooster.  Our plaster consisted of flour and water which was remarkably similar to the ugali mentioned in a previous post.  After several rounds of plaster and yarn for structural support, we hung our creation out to dry in the back of house 5.


Next, we went on a bit of a nature walk to find local plants and flowers to decorate our creation.  We found a cluster of spiral seed pods for the tail, pink and orange flower petals for the crest and beak, palm fronds for the feathers, and yellow bush tomatoes for the eyes.  We even fashioned an official whacking stick from a bamboo pole.  The final decoration happened while I was in Nakuru.  With the help of Allison and Greg, the results were fairly spectacular.


The day of the party came and Benson and I went to pick up the goat he had purchased for 3,500 shillings (about $40).  Naomi, a long term resident of the IU house, volunteered to drive us to the village where our dinner was waiting.  Our purchase was tied to a bush on the side of the hill.  I noticed that the ‘goat’ looked awfully wooly.  “Benson”, I said, “is that goat a goat or a sheep?”.  “A ram”, he replied.  Apparently, for birthday celebrations, either will do.  You can’t be too choosy during the rainy season because farmers need to breed the next generation.  We drove back to the IU House with the ram quietly sleeping in the back.

CAUTION: Continue reading only if you are comfortable reading and seeing the ram being prepared for dinner.


At around 2:30, we gathered at the River House to start preparing the ram for dinner.  Colin, as the birthday, boy was offered the job of killing the ram, but he asked me to do the job for him.  I had never slaughtered a large animal before (just lots of lab mice), but felt comfortable giving it a try.  Benson held the ram with feet tied and head laid over a metal basin and I was handed a newly sharpened blade.  I took hold of the ram’s head and with a quick series of forceful cuts, the job was done.  Some people in the crowd could not watch.  One person became momentarily angry at the site of dying animal.  Most just watched and seemed glad not to be me.  Benson and his friend Nicholas continued to prepare the ram for cooking.  The muscle, we would keep for our dinner.  The head and limbs went to the guards to make soup.  The viscera went to the cooks who cook them for their families as a delicacy.  There was little or no waste.  I think it was a good experience for us to see where our food comes from.

While the meat was being prepared, we gathered to break the piñata.  It was stronger than we anticipated and it took seven people hitting it to finally break it open.  The contents of our rooster were all local items; packets of roasted peanuts from Mary (a woman who sells them on the side of the road on the way to the hospital), some local candies called ‘happy sweets’, several Safaricom top-up cards (cell phone minutes), and a hand full of government issued condoms (maybe you have to be here to find that funny).  We played volleyball, drank tuskers and coke, ate our roasted ram and had a fun birthday party for Colin and Francesca.



Posted April 21, 2009 by chrislux in Travel

2 responses to “Birthdays in Kenya (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

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  1. Wow! that pinata is really amazing! We are moving to Eldoret with our four little ones in 5 weeks (my husband will be team leading and doing onc). Our second daughter Ava will be celebrating her 7th birthday less than a month after we arrive. She was feeling a bit blue about having a birthday without family or friends and asked if she might have a party or a pinata. I said I did not think they had pinatas in Kenya – but of course you proved me wrong by creating the most amazing pinata I have ever seen. I might just try to duplicate your success – without the condoms of course (she is only 7 after all ). Great images. love seeing a bit of our future home.

  2. You are having way too much fun over there. Wish it was me! Love the updates. Keep them coming.

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