Always the Guests of Honor


A couple of weeks ago we attended our first High School graduation in Tanzania. We had been invited several weeks before and several girls had stopped by our house to ask if I could make them a cake for graduation. I don’t know why they all believe I can make cakes, but I attempted it and they didn’t turn out too badly. I think the girls were disappointed that I hadn’t used food coloring though.

Anyway, knowing the Tanzanian culture as we do, we were told it would start at 9am so we showed up around 10:30am. We ate breakfast with the teachers, wandered around the school, and went to lood at lots of different science experiments that the students had been working on. Then around 1pm, the graduation actually got started. Yes, 5 hours after the purported start time. And, of course, we were forced against our will to sit on the stage along with the staff and guests of honor, even though we are not teachers there. I suppose we should have expected that.

Then began the speeches, the dances, the songs, the skits, the handing out of gifts and certificates. I tried to look alert throughout the whole ordeal since I was front and center on the stage, but 4 hours of these shenanigans eventually took a toll on my attention span. At about 5:30pm they finally ended and we were fed a nice dinner and sent home exhausted.

But wait, the day wasn’t over yet. After resting and recovering at home for about 30 minutes, we went to a graduation party at one of our neighbor’s house. We were taken into a small room that had about 20 or so people packed in and fed again. They had obviously went to some trouble to make the party special for their daughter because they had a music system with a person who was sort of a DJ, and they had bought a cake (that had food coloring in it). There is an odd tradition of feeding cake to people in Tanzania. It is sort of like we do at weddings, except that the person being honored (whether at a wedding, birthday, or in this case a graduation), feeds a piece of cake to every guest and has their picture taken while doing it. This was our first time to be fed cake in Tanzania, so I suppose that is special.

All of the young girls in the room danced throughout the whole party, and of course made me join them. Really, it was a lot of fun, and several lessons learned. Always arrive late, always expect to be considered a guest of honor, and be ready to be fed cake by someone you don’t really know.