My Nineteenth Birthday

Emma Peterson - Senegal


March 4, 2020

This past month I celebrated my nineteenth birthday in a very different way than usual. This time last year, I could never have imagined what this birthday would entail. 


My host family was very excited to have me spend my birthday with them. For weeks leading up to my birthday, my siblings were busy anticipating the party, counting down the days until the day of, and inviting everyone they could think of, including my family in the US, to the party.


My whole family worked to throw me a party with cake, juice, and fattaya (little pastries with fish inside and spicy onion sauce). 


It turns out that my youngest host brother Mouhamed shares my birthday so we got to hold a party for the both of us. He was very proud to get to share the day with me!


On the day of, the festivities started after lunch. As my sisters and I sat and made dozens of fattaya (it takes a lot to feed my whole family!), we discussed the best way to celebrate a birthday; we all agreed, a cake was essential! When my host father came home with the cake he had gotten from the bakery in the city, my siblings were ecstatic. They barely survived the next three hours of waiting until it was time to eat the cake, and opened the fridge to look at it at least once every ten minutes. After dinner was eaten and cleaned up, my sisters prepared the living room for the celebration with our best cups and plates. When they had decided the table was decorated to their satisfaction, we sat down and started the party. After everyone sang “Happy Birthday” in both French and English, we cut the much anticipated chocolate cake with whipped cream frosting. It took a matter of minutes for the entire cake to be gone, and it was delicious!

Even though I wasn’t able to spend the day with my family and friends in the United States, I was able to spend the day with my new found friends and my host family who will forever be my second home.

It was definitely a birthday I will never forget!

Emma Peterson