Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kasem's birthday, Lebanese style...not.

Kasem turned 5 this week and I ducked into party planner mode if only briefly between writing a paper on the global response to transnational organized crime, addressing a few consultancy issues left over from Libya and trying to sort out my desk which has fallen into a chaotic state of layered anarchy...
Birthdays parties and what they say about societies leaves much space for cross-cultural commentary. We find, at times, this dimension of our global gadabout lives puts stress into the expat parental party planning process. The experience here is for parties to be rather grandotta, loud....and stylish following the cultural need for things to appear to be grand and lavish; we're doing well...just come and see!

As a result you can: hire an entire team of animators...from a party planning company of which there are very many, to include: a magician, clown, dj, mc, helpers, speaker system enorme (so loud music throughout), cake, activities, balloons...did i forget something? oh yes, the food. never has the mini-burger and mini-pizza seen so much exposure...and never has so much junk food been wasted as you sell your kids to junk food culture. Venue-wise you could have your party in a gzillion places that cater to such things, every weekend there are kids parties in restaurants, resorts, beaches, sports if you had planned a nice quiet lunch with friends at a popular spot with families.... be prepared for a mini-rave.

The boys this year are in a football club called Sportsville. It is an indoor facility with astro turf (since there is nearly no natural green space in all of Beirut) and they are coached by professional players 3X/week. Kasem is particularly mad for it and so we thought, lets have his party there. Excellent. Go and see the facility coordinators to learn it will be $35/kid and there is only 1 package and it includes all of the above except the animators will be the coaches and the activities  centered around football (add magician and clown for ++$). Local tradition requires you invite all the kids in the school class, all the ones in the football team and lets not forget the capoeira class kids too. Allowing for some overlap in numbers that would = $1750....holy crap. my poor old Mum would be doing back-flips in her grave (had she not been cremated).

Fear and a clear yogic mind saved us and we didn't go this route (relax Mum) although it was only a week before b-day that we reverted back to our more sane 'small is beautiful' approach and canceled Sportsville. Instead we invited only the kids Kasem wanted to come (and a few he didn't like girls for example!)...and perhaps because it wasn't the normal lash-out few of his Lebanese friends came so we had only 12 nice little boys and girls. We went to the nearest forest reserve called Baabda Forest ( situated in a small valley surrounded by urban development on the ridges around but that is in a pine forest up above the city with a climbing wall and zip-line, nature walk and err....donkey ride.

The price tag needless to say was lower, as were our stress-levels without the blaring music, and instead of being surrounded by the masses of overwhelmed psyches (which to me must be part of what makes these events hard for adults and kids alike to handle), he was surrounded by pine trees.
I hope that Kasem had a more memorable time of it....last year was the beach, the year before an eco-resort....and to the credit of the Lebanese there was another kids party there and apparently the place is busy with such events so clearly catering to 'appearances' isn't an all encompassing ethos, just the annoyingly pervasive one.

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