Today was my birthday! And what a glorious one it was! Thanks to all for the warm Birthday wishes!!! Sometimes it’s better not to expect much with things because, whatever happens, it will succeed them! On the way to school, the guys selling the phone cards who I now know fairly, well each greeted me with a “Happy Birthday” and awesome handshake. They had obviously been warned ahead of time to this occasion…by me. Haha.
Once at school, lounging around for 2 hours before class started, class mates promptly wished me “Happy Birthday” but I couldn’t have been more overjoyed until Kevin, my fellow Oregonian, threw a box of my favorite “Pims” cookies in my face as a birthday present! Oh love! My reason for also getting to school early-other than the delicious cookies I was unaware about, was to inform everyone about the birthday celebration Soiree happening that evening at a neighborhood bar in Mermoz called Hotel Epicea.
The day before on my way home from school, I had stopped by the bar to warn the owner, Jed and the bartenders, Didi (we bonded over our names) and Therese, that there might be a lot of people coming the following night for my birthday. Not only did they not feel put out by this idea (most likely due to the fact that they would be able to sell their alcohol) they demanded what I wanted for the evening. Now that’s service! I just mentioned maybe a little karaoke and D.J. music and Jed also insisted he would surprise me with something else, potentially a cake. How exciting!!!
More and more people were confirming their attendance except those that were still trying to “feel” their relationship with new host parents- especially mothers who had set rules about going out and using a key. (Note that Soso handed me a key the first day and said that I should be able to go out when I wanted to because that is what you’re supposed to do in a foreign country! Love that woman!)
In French class, for an hour, a phonetics professor with the voice of UA’s own Professor James Mitchell (don’t know who that is, think movie/radio deep chocolaty voice) exercised our pronunciation of French words by each introducing ourselves including ages. When it came to my turn, the class yippee-d and hollered when I said “I have 20 years.” From that, the French version of Happy Birthday was serenaded to me by Prof. Chocolate voice with the class as back-up singers.
For lunch, I skipped home to a large plate of fish with fragrant red sauce but no Soso. L I had barely seen her today and wondered if she had remembered my occasion. No worries-belly full of fish, I skipped back to school to lounge in the courtyard sunshine (am I actually in school?) and Skype my parents for a “Birthday Hello!” Skype pulled through for me on this occasion and I clearly could see my parent’s faces: one of which was awake and alert ready for the day, the other ready to fall back on the pillow-I’ll let you guess who was who.
When I emerged later that night from my nap, Soso sat at the table along with her other sister (a new one) singing “Happy Birthday” and pouring me, not alcohol, but Coca-cola! She broke out the hazelnuts and chocolate covered sunflower seeds I had given her as a present but what truly won me over that night was the giant bowl full of green beans and sliced tomatoes. Side note: the Senegalese eat bread, rice, pasta, meat, and fish. Rarely do vegetables make it into their diet so this meal was a big deal!
I visited with them for a while before reluctantly departing for the bar. When I arrived, I was met with giant hugs from all three waitresses and Jed himself. Karaoke music was blasting and a long table sat reserved for me and my party. Once people started coming, I began passing around the Karoke list, signing myself up multiple times (never by myself) and also throwing a couple unsuspecting friends to the mercy of me. I will not lie, I quickly became addicted to karaoke, using dance moves to compliment the music and outshine my counterpart duet. Performances included: “Mamma Mia”and “Fever” but by far my favorite duets were Jens and I singing Sunni and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” while harmonizing (yeah, we’re choir geeks) and also Kristen and my rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” where the music accidentally cut out and we continued singing because, hey we are obsessed with Gaga and would never let her down.
Cake picked up at a local Patisserrie and shared by all complimented the evening as well as not one but two renditions of “Happy Birthday”. Being realistic, I parted the bar at midnight due to early morning classes the next day but felt wonderful at a successful birthday soiree.
So yes, if you are wondering, the Senegalese do celebrate birthdays and to be honest, it will be hard for future ones to live up to this.