For the Senegalese, birthdays are seen as ‘not a big deal.’ Since I’ve been here both my mom and my sister’s birthdays have passed, and they treated them just as another day going by.
For example, when it came to my 7-year-old sisters birthday. In the morning I had jumped on her bed and yelled “Joey Anniversaire” all she said was “merci” and went back to sleep. When it came to my mom’s birthday, I had given her a cloth towel as her birthday present. I was questioned as to why I was giving it to her and I told her it was her birthday. She had totally forgotten what day it was, took the cloth and went back to what she was doing. So when it was my turn, I wasn’t really expecting that much. Boy was I wrong…
My dad had asked me what I was planning on doing for my birthday; I told him that all I wanted was a small hang out with a group of my friends and we could play cards games and just chill. That idea was shot right down. My dad then started telling me how I was going to have a big party, with a lot of food, drinks and dancing. He said that we could have it right at the house. He also seemed really excited seeing that they hadn’t had a party in our house for the past 10 years. So I obviously wasn’t going to let his idea down.
My mom and I were basically the planning committee. One of the main things that I wanted was to eat chicken and rice. After having fish and rice for a month, I wanted to mix up the taste buds in my mouth. Other than that nothing else was really planned.
The day of my birthday took some work. In the morning I had work at school till 1pm. After that I came home, had lunch, and then it was preparing non-stop. As we were cooking, things just kept on coming in. In would come the drinks, the chicken, the rice, the onions, the burner, we had to make all the juice, organize the house etc.
Luckily I had Global Citizen Year fellows Madeline Ripa and Lucias Potter. Even the fellows from Joal came for my birthday, which included: Brian Baylor, Alexis Adams, and Stephanie Zambrano. By 9 o’clock we were still cooking, and people started coming in.
By 10pm we had dinner. Four large bowls of chicken and rice came into our living room. If anything, my mom really knows how to cook.
After dinner, it was just chill time, everyone was doing their own thing, talking, watching the Celine Dion concert on TV, playing chess on someone’s laptop, chatting, etc.
Suddenly, a group of women came into my house with bowls. My mom seemed really excited to see them. She gave them the food that we had left. I remember my mom had told me that she was going to get drummers for dancing. So I assumed it was them. After they were done eating, the music started. The ladies made a circle outside my house and everyone was given a turn to dance in the middle of their circle. Even my mom busted a move with my 3-month-old sister on her back. By the time the drummer’s left, the party was over.
All in all it was a pretty fantastic birthday.
Below is a video of what went down…enjoy!