Thursday, March 15, 2007

Happy Anniversaire!

We celebrated our first year in Malaysia at the beginning of April. It was stormy every afternoon and torrential rain poured down as we tried to drive to Megamall to eat in our favourite fish restaurant there. Along Jalan Bangsar cars with no visibility (or working windscreen wipers) crashed and slipped on the wet road. Motorcyclists sheltered under the narrow bridge, risking life and limb to avoid being soaked in water from passing cars. April, it turned out was often stormy and it was the rainy or monsoon season. I missed the fresh spring air of Europe, Easter eggs and daffodils and I had to occupy myself organsing Nina’s 5th birthday party.

Nina, like Marc at age five, had never really had a real birthday party. Unlike Marc she had Ideas and Plans. She had been plotting since January and had decided we would host a Fancy-Dress party with everyone we knew. Feeling guilty for having done hardly anything for her fourth birthday I mistakenly agreed. I was thinking of a simple pool party with condo families and a few friends from school. Nina was thinking of a catwalk fashion show with music and had already invited half her class.

In the end the weather was the real dampener and the pool party idea was out the window. The guest list was over thirty, never mind all the extra brothers and sisters, maids and drop-in guests would might come along too. So we strictly sorted the guests into two groups. We decided to invite all the mainly English-speaking condo families to our apartment on the real day of her birthday, a Monday, for a dress-up tea-party. I guessed that not many would turn-up on a Monday school night anyway. We also hired the ibu house, where we held our French language Mercredi group. For that day we would invite about twenty French-speaking friends and classmates. They all said they would come too - either Nina was a really popular girl, or it was a dead time for other parties. I booked a last-minute clown in case it was stormy and the kids ran riot inside the small house.

Nina and I ran around in mild panic, buying Indian knick-knacks from Little India to fill over 50 party-bags, party-hats and balloons. We ordered two giant 2kg chocolate cakes from Secret Recipe, one for Monday with the inscription in pink icing saying Happy Birthday, Nina! and one for Wednesday with Bonne Anniversaire Nina! The girl rang later from the shop to ask if I had made a spelling mistake…should it not be Happy Anniversary, Nina? She was rather bemused about our bilingual cake-order but promised it would be correct.

I was wrong about the Monday afternoon party; nearly 20 children came with their mothers, maids and even a few cousins who were over for the day. The rain was heavy and the mothers and kids were happy to get out of their apartments. Thank god we had enough cake. Nina was dressed as Snow White and our maid, Aimee, ran up a pink Princess Throne for her to sit on. Around twenty dressed-up kids played together and we did a catwalk fashion show to the tune of Abba’s song 'Nina Ballerina'. It was a huge success. Two days later we did the same, Nina welcomed her French guests sweetly and they watched the clown show, gobbled all the cake and had a great time too. The sun shone on the Wednesday and the children were delighted. “Next year a small party with four friends!” I said to Nina as we tidied away all the mess. ‘But it was just perfect!’ she said dreamily and I had to agree with her…

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