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The boy is 11.

Every year, I get super sentimental and this year was no different.

I often stay awake preparing to wake him up in a special way or with a surprise and this year he was in for the greatest surprise of his young life.

The night before his party, I was up late making preparations. I worked all night making emoji themed party favors and the cakes. (Which were pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.) I bought 25 kg of candy from the commissary at the Embassy to make a candy bar for the kids. It was a lot of work, but I had fun doing it. The most fun was trying to make black frosting for the emoji. There isn’t really any black food coloring, so I made chocolate icing and then put activated charcoal in it to give it a blacker appearance. It worked out okay, I think.

I’m legit a Pinterest mom.

But this post isn’t about the cakes (although they were pretty dope!)

On the morning of his party, I also planned an amazing surprise for him. I woke him up at 5am, got him dressed and we walked to the main road where we stood waiting for a van to pick us up with others inside. Surprisingly, he went with it without asking too many questions.

The van drove for nearly an hour, eventually letting us out to walk to down an alley to a field. Still dark outside, we turned on our flashlights to illuminate the way to our destination.

Once we reached the open field, the boy lit up with excitement once he saw where we were and what adventure we would be embarking on this early morning.


I was super excited to see his face and he was equally excited (and nervous) to go on the ride.

Now, going in a hot air balloon was on the boy’s birthday wish list since we were in Japan, so I was so elated to be able to do this for him.

They got the balloon inflated and we all got in and we were on our way before we knew it.

It was pretty amazing to get up into the air before the sunrise and see the sun peek over the horizon. We were in the air for a while and were able to view Ethiopia and it’s inhabitants from above.

On our journey, the boy was given a birthday surprise! I told Bram, the guy I worked with to arrange the trip, that we were celebrating the boy’s birthday and he came with a treat (with a candle!) and we even sang to him and another passenger during the flight. It was an amazing beginning to his birthday celebration and to his 11th year.

After we landed we had a champagne celebration, complete with pouring it on your head for some reason. We were then chauffeured to have breakfast and were given our flight certificates.

For anyone visiting Addis, I HIGHLY recommend Bram and Abyssinia Ballooning. This was actually the second time I flew with them. The first time was during my quick trip to Addis when I caught a flight deal to Kenya back in 2014. Bram is not only a great flight captain…conductor…pilot? I’m not quite sure what someone who flies a hot air balloon is called.

Wait…does he actually fly the balloon? Or just navigate it so it doesn’t crash?

Anyway, Bram is great. If you can get over some strange Dutch guy picking you up from the side of the road like a hooker, you’ll be fine. He’s super helpful also in suggesting things to do in and around Addis. If you can make it work during your trip, it’s a great way to see the area.

Now, back to the birthday!

After the trip, were rushed back home to prepare for his birthday party, which was happening in the next few hours.

I had the boy’s party at the Regina Family Center, a place where I took a monthly meditation and yoga class. There, they have a child care center, they hold classes for the community, and they have a stable where they give horseback rides and instruction. It was a nice place where the kids could run around and just have a ball. Plus, it was the first time the boy had ever had an outdoor birthday party. We were both happy about that.

The party was a bit stressful. I actually don’t like planning parties for fear that no one will show up or things will go terribly wrong. I guess overall everything was okay, but I got the directions from the website of the center, however, I didn’t realize they weren’t correct. They were from the center’s previous location. And since I don’t drive, I didn’t know that this was not the place I had been visiting. *Kanye shrug*

But the people got lost and eventually didn’t show up because they couldn’t find the place, or I couldn’t speak Amharic to the driver, or give directions because my driver wasn’t there anymore. But those who showed up, showed up and they seemed to have fun. The kids played outside. They rode horses. They ate all my delicious emoji cake. And I sent them home with enormous bags of candy to eat and be super hyper in their own homes.

All in all, it was a great party for the boy and I was exhausted but full of joy that he was able to share his day with his friends.

This kid is amazing and I get excited every year I get to celebrate him. I am amazed at the wonderful human he is growing into. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for him!

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