Thursday, July 15, 2010

my first African birthday

Wednesday, July 7 marked my 47th birthday, the first day of my 48th year, and my first birthday in Africa.

I hadn’t any big plans, other than wanting to sleep in and take it easy, and was eager only to just watch the day unfold. The Higher Power had other plans in store for me, however, with this sleeping in part. I woke just before dawn and had time to get my tea and blanket ready to cozy up on my “stoop” to watch the sun rise. It was the most beautiful sunrise, with the sky breaking open in pinks tinged with orange and the violet of the night fading away.  I loved seeing the silhouette of the thorn trees, they black against changing colors of the brightening new day.  And God graced me with the waves of cattle egrets and their fly-bys, as they headed out for a new day of foraging.  The bulbuls fussed at me for breakfast and I readied their fresh water and crumbs.

We were still out of school for the term break so I had no commitments..  I did a bit of laundry as I've found it easiest to do a bit every day rather than wait for it to pile up on me.  I would smile at the scent of hot-sudsy bleach water as I swished my clothes about in my tub, smiling at my need to "agitate" my clothes every few minutes with an old broom handle I found for the purpose.  After a rinsing, I hung them to dry outside in the sunshine, and laughed at my silly fondness for laundry and line-drying my clothes.  I'm not sure why such a simple little thing makes me so happy; I'm just glad it does. 

Emily, my nearest Peace Corps Volunteer was coming later in the day and we were to visit the post office; we share a PO box and often go together.  I spent the later part of the morning catching up on my letter-writing so I would have letters to carry to post.   It's a year since I've left home, and I'm feeling the need to touch base with some of the people that came to my farewell party.  There were a lot of people at my party, so it's no small task!

Emily came with my favorite gift: notecards! She knows I'm a big letter writer!  At the post office, in her perfect Setswana and without my knowing (because my Setswana is not so perfect!), she mentioned to the postal clerks that it was my birthday.

I'll never forget the look of joy on Mma Rachel's, the postmistress's,  face and she clasped her hands to her heart and began an earnest "Happy Birthday."  Everyone in the post office joined in, and I had my very own "Happy Birthday" concert.  It was very sweet.  Thank you Emily.

Another reason I was excited to have Emily along for the trip was that I was planning to purchase my "birthday shovel."  I've had my eye on a shovel for quite some time, but was afraid to try to get it home by myself.  In Emily's company, I happily carried home my birthday shovel.  I'm hoping to find some orphans and crippled old women to dig a garden for, in my remaining year in Africa.

In the photos, Emily is graciously patient with my trying to get a shot of us and my shovel.  She stayed with me until almost dark, shared some of my birthday cornbread, and then it was time to see her off.

After I put her on her taxi back to her village, I walked to the campus pay-phone to call everyone I loved on my birthday. Don't worry about my love for you if I didn't talk to you that day, the chances are I tried!  And there is not enough money in the world for me to call everyone I love on my birthday.  I am a rich and blessed girl.

Later that night, I had dinner again on my "stoop," and watched the same day fade that I had watched dawn that morning.  I was eating one of my favorite dishes: green beans sauteed w/ garlic and tomato, eating them with my chopsticks, thinking of home...  A neighbor came by and smilingly asked, "Are you Chinese?"  :-)

It was a wonderful, perfect birthday, my first in Africa.  God willing, I'll have at least one more.


Ps. If you've noticed the burned areas of my home, you're right.  The campus groundskeepers have thoroughly burned every living thing around my home and school.  All of my potential-mulch, up in smoke.  It is fun to watch the crowned plovers run about in the singed areas though: their bright red legs set off nicely from the black of the burn.  It must be easier for them to eat bugs and such. Ah, when one door closes, another opens!

1 comment:

  1. More on my birthday:

    I don't believe this was my first "birthday" on Facebook, but it was great fun to get all of the birthday greetings in this fashion.

    In church on Sunday, I received a "birthday blessing." Once a month, the congregation calls forth all those having a birthday to come forward for a blessing and to have the congregation sing "happy birthday." It was nice.

    My South African counterparts are very impressed that I share a birthday month with their (and my!) hero: Nelson Mandela.