Halloween In Mombasa

Do Kenyans celebrate Halloween?  For the most part, no.  I did see some halloween party tips in a recent issue of The Daily Nation, but I think there are probably few enough Kenyans who know and actively, “celebrate,” the holiday to be considered a statistical anomally against the entire population.  However, this does not stop a bunch of crafty peace corps volunteers from trying as hard as possible to host a party.  Besides, we all know that technically halloween parties only need three things to survive and be considered halloween parties: costumes, pumpkins and candy (I bet you thought I was going to say some other things…).

The party was going to be at my house ever since our last get together, which was a going away party for one of the pre-evac volunteers who was part of this final pre-evac COSing group, finished and we could start thinking about the next.  If those words and acronyms confuse you, I am simply referring to the group of volutneers who were here before the evacuation of the program in 2008, and decided to rejoin the program later.  COS simply referes to Close Of Service, which is the status you get after attending your official COS conference a few weeks before your actual official COS date. For example, my COS date is currently set for something like the 9th of January, 2011.  This means I will most like have a COS conference at the end of November or early December 2010 depending on the whim of my Country Director and training staff.

All of the party plans however were throw into haywire after my little spinal-snafu.  Nobody knew what would happen, and I kept communication to a minimum because some volunteers have limited access to email and I did not want to cause even more confusion by saying the party was on, then off, then on, then off due to the unpredictability of my schedule.  When I finally knew it was on, I gave everyone the go ahead, and rushed home to have Friday and Saturday morning to plan.

I would like to thank Paul for introducing me to the Secondhand Supermarket in Mombasa.  It was a lifesaver for this party.  Of course, by the time something is considered secondhand in Kenya, it’s most likely fourth or fifth hand from OEM, but that’s ok.  The store was littered with heaps of halloween stuff.  Plastic jack-o-lantern buckets, stickers, cups, window-stickies, and even a very tempting (but left unpurchased) fall/halloween tea-light table candle holder.  The best part, I got to explain to the store owners that all of it was for an American holiday.  They had no idea what all of this Halloween stuff was for, but I did and for roughly 20 bucks, walked away a very happy party-host.

What did it all turn into?  Well, the first thing we (I had a wonderful team of friends helping me the entire time 🙂 had to do was convince the guests they were not just at a regular house.  I wanted at least atmosphere.  So we rigged up some coat-hanger and tissue paper lanterns (for the equivalent of about nickel apiece… if that) to cover my lights.  This darkened, and colorized all the main rooms.  There was even a classic, “spooky sounds,” CD at the store I picked up.  Mom you would have loved it.  Finally, I bought a bunch of slightly-larger-than-tea-candle candles, which we placed in cut-open water bottle holders, to add strategic candle flickers around the house, and the mood was set. Throw some orange and black kangaas (Kenyan lasos) on the table and desk, couple of candlellt jack-o-lanters on the front step, plastic fall leaves (courtesy Mom) on the water filter and finally some static clings on the refrigerator, and all was done.

The party goers also went above and beyond their duty in costumes.  I was a classic pirate.  We also had Superman, a Viking, a samosa seller, Joeseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (played by a girl), a Queen of the Jungle, mad scientist, and my three favorites coming together: a matatu driver, conductor and an actual matatu van, each person playing their part the entire night, quite hilariously.  On top of that, it was a good mix of Peace Corps and non Peace Corps.  And Superman brought candy.  The party was complete.

There you have it.  Kenyans do not celebrate halloween, but who says we need to acculturate completely.  And with a little creativity, and a coincidentally located secondhand supermarket sitting on a goldmine of halloween accessories, a great halloween party can be had anywhere!  Pictures may or may not make it up, depending on what i can steal from Facebook.

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One response to “Halloween In Mombasa

  1. kim

    Sounds great Jon. Hope to see the pictures!