In a previous blog I had admitted how obsessed I am about birthdays and how since Arnav’s 4th birthday we have been throwing theme parties. This year Arnav turned 10. But unlike the last few years when we started choosing a theme from December (2 months before the birthday), this year we didn’t plan on anything. Why? Well because this year was different. Arnav and I had moved to Almaty a few months ago and frankly I wasn’t sure how I would be able to organize a theme party in an unfamiliar city, where most people don’t understand the language I speak, and I don’t understand theirs. On top of it, my partner in crime – the creative director of all the parties, my husband, wasn’t here with us. How, oh how could we hope to do a theme party this year?!
Anyway, I decided to do what I don’t like. Go to one of the malls and book a fun park or party place. But that was easier said than done. Arnav and I went to one of the bigger malls in the city and checked out what they had to offer. They had a large kids centre that offered big computers and a room and party food. But the thought of kids bunched around large screens glued to their games made me want to cry. So sorry but no.
Then I visited another one – this one had a lot of video games and rides and bumper cars etc. and both Arnav and I liked it. Having the conversation wasn’t easy – because a) their brochures were in Russian and b) even more importantly, their people only spoke Russian! With the help of Google Translate I somehow communicated what we wanted, and they explained what was on offer. (it was quite a funny exchange with me writing out my questions and their salesperson speaking into my phone in Russian) We decided to finalise this place and I told them we will come back to pay the deposit. But when we did go back and started to work on the final details, I realised that probably I had not understood some of their key terms! Now very worried about not knowing what I was getting into, I told them I need time to think.
Arnav and I put our minds together. Both of us at the back of our minds wanted a theme party. And this seemed like a good excuse! And Kapil also told us to take courage and go ahead with a party at home! So with two weeks to go, Arnav and I chose a theme – not surprisingly Minecraft as he has been obsessing about it all this year! Okayyyyy…… time was short but we still had two weeks, maybe we could scrape together a decent party in that time. But no, complications hadn’t ended for us. I fell sick that weekend! For most of that week I ended up working from home – and couldn’t go out. Time to panic was here! The countdown had begun!
10 days to D DAY!
The first thing we needed was birthday supplies – Minecraft themed. I had no clue where to go! I turned to my expat group. They suggested a few places and I immediately went to the nearest, having no energy to go traipsing around town after the viral. Thankfully, I found some themed paper plates and cups and napkins! Also decided to choose rubik’s cubes as one of the party favours – since Minecraft is all about blocks. Okay that was not an exact fit – but right then we didn’t have the luxury of time.
9 days to D DAY!
With a few things in place, we turned our attention to food. That was comparatively easy. Minecraft has a number of food items in the game and it was fun collecting them! They have chicken so we got chicken nuggets. Then they have cookies and we got those too. For watermelon, we got watermelon candies. Green chips to make for grass and finally pizza which is an all time favourite with the kids! Cold drinks such as apple juice, coke etc. were renamed creeper cola, enderman juice etc.!
The cake was not so easy though. In India it was easy to get the design one wanted, and we usually just got it printed. Never really liked the fondue cakes. But I didn’t know where to go in Almaty. And then I remembered! My landlady’s niece bakes cakes. I reached out to her. It took a bit of convincing, but she agreed in the end! A regular cake with a Minecraft design on top!
7 days to D Day!
I was really keen to do a photo booth and find some Minecraft related props but hadn’t been so successful yet. I was also keen to find Arnav a Minecraft T- shirt. I turned to my expat group again and they didn’t fail me! It is one of the most helpful group of people I have come across. I was guided to an Instagram account that could help. And they did! I managed to find not only a good T-shirt for Arnav but also a lovely pickaxe as a prop!
6 days to D DAY!
It was high time we invited people. We had planned for Arnav to distribute the invites in school. But as luck would have it, Arnav fell sick a week before the party! (probably caught it from me :-/) Now who will go and give the invites? I had messaged some mums already but remember we are in a new city and I barely had a few contacts. They were kind enough to share a few other numbers, so I managed to reach out to some more. Then Arnav’s class teacher helped send an e-vite to all the parents – and I was a bit relieved. But what about those that weren’t in his class? Well, early one morning, in the freezing cold, I went down to Arnav’s school bus and handed some of the invites to his friend on the bus. He was kind enough to have them distributed! Phew! Finally, we did manage to get the invites out to everyone on our list! But by this time, it was 4 days to D Day!
3 days to D DAY!
Good! Things were falling in place! But we still needed to figure out the décor, the party favours as well as the games. What we needed for décor was a loooooot of green paper and I couldn’t find any at my nearest stationery shop. I asked a colleague, but she didn’t know either. I was a bit stumped. Another thing that stumped me was brown paper bags – for the party favours. All I could find were decorated ones – but that’s not what I wanted. My landlady helped do some search and found someone who was willing to deliver – but they felt our quantity was low. Anyhow, I turned to my savior Shatorupa who has helped me find stuff in this city when no one else has been able to. She is from India – but probably knows some places even locals don’t know! She took it on her to find me what I needed! We went to the Green Bazaar, an awesome local market and she found me everything I needed! I found some great green crepe paper. The exact colour I needed. I found the brown paper bags and some of the other party favours!
A day before D Day!
The party was on Sunday and Arnav and I spent Friday evening and all of Saturday working on the décor, party favours and other things. It was fun but also hardwork. Unexpected issues came up. The crepe paper I so loved would just not stick to anything – glue, scotch tape – everything failed! This paper was key to our décor! Finally, we used a stapler. Thankfully that worked!
D Day is here!
Well finally, it was the day of the party. I was very worried about how many of Arnav’s friends would turn up. After all he was the new kid in his class and I was worried he would be disappointed if his friends didn’t come.
Anyway, in the morning we were busy finishing the decorations and barely had time to eat lunch. And at 4 p.m. the doorbell rang! Our first guest had arrived! Welcome! Creep on in!
The party is on!
Soon enough we had a roomful of little guests. They started with posing with the Creeper Arnav had made and the pickaxe we had bought. Once we had about 10-15 kids, we started with the first game. Minecraft Bingo! The kids had good time yelling out Bingo and the energy in the room was high!
We then moved onto Passing the Parcel. In this game, kids sit around in a circle and pass a parcel as music plays in the background. As soon as the music stops, the child whose hand the parcel is in has to open the top layer of the parcel. There is a task to do and a little treat at every layer. I had some good fun thinking through the tasks for kids. Given this was a multicultural, multilingual group of kids, I put in questions like – “how many languages do you know? Say a sentence in each language” or “Which country are you from? Tell us something about your country” and so on. I think the kids had a great time passing the parcel around and opening their little chits.
After this Arnav cut the cake and the hungry kids finally got some grub! All that running around had sure made them hungry. (the pickaxe was by now broken into two parts but still managed to keep the kids’ attention!)
We had our third game after food. This one was musical blocks – customized to Minecraft. We had 5-6 blocks of paper. Each named after a particular ore. (this is Minecraft lingo – I also learnt it during my research for the party!) There was redstone, gold ore, emerald etc. etc. You get the idea. I put a chair in the middle of the room with the ore blocks spread around it. Put on some music and the kids ran around the chair. When the music stopped, they had to go to the nearest block and stand on it. I would call out one of the blocks and the kids on that block would be out of the game. So on and so forth till only kid remained! Pretty brainless right? But it was good especially for me as I was exhausted by then!!! (wink, wink) but also the kids enjoyed running around!
We did the pinata after this. It was meant to be a Ghast but turned out quite ghastly because remember, crepe paper wouldn’t stick properly! After this it was a free for all, and everyone had a great time running around, playing with the props and by the end of the party the poor creeper was no more. It was broken and mutilated and what not!!
All in all, it was a fun party and I think everyone had good fun. I was touched that so many of Arnav’s friends had turned up. I need not have worried. Two of his friends had tickets to the ballet that day but they came. One friend’s mum cancelled the ticket and brought her daughter to the party! Another mum who couldn’t cancel brought her daughter anyway, even if it was for just 20 minutes! Another mum sent her son even though it was her own birthday that day! I was really moved by this generosity!
At the end of the day, the house was empty but the sounds of laughter rang in our ears as Arnav opened his presents and I sat down to have some pizza! And yay! I am confident we can start planning the next theme party in December this year!
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed celebrating. Would love to hear from you. I also want to recognise the many websites that helped us immensely in planning this party: