I just turned 24… in Africa. Crazy.
This was my first birthday away from home, and to be honest I was anxious about it. A few weeks earlier, the first major pangs of homesickness started to hit. I was sitting on a friend’s porch when I called my sister to wish her a happy 30th birthday. She answered and I could hear the lively cacophony of a busy restaurant in the background; laughter, music, the clink of dishes and silverware. Then I heard several variations of “Bess?”, “Is that her?”, “In Africa?!” “Hi Bess!!”… my parents and all of her friends shouted their hellos from the table. It was a quick sweet call. A few days afterward I opened my inbox and found photos from my mom from their trip to see Hannah and celebrate her birthday.
It was so good to see, but I also felt really far away. I felt like I missed out.
We always celebrate my birthday with a party at my folks house in Montana. I like parties, the bigger the better. And I really like people, the more the merrier. I’ve been called a “Birthday Diva”, and that’s ok because it’s true… I LOVE birthdays, especially my own. March 21st is the first day of spring, the official turn of bitter winter to the season of new life. This date can be tricky in Montana though, winter can still be holding on, or the snow may have yielded to sunshine and new buds. We always pray for sun. My dad lights the charcoal grill, and we pack the house with friends. Everyone talks, eats, and laughs into the night. Sometimes a friend will bring an instrument and bless us with music as the light fades. It’s my kind of celebration.
But what would that look like here in Kenya?! I’ve only been here for six months, I don’t have a grill, and I don’t have my family or any of my old friends from home here with me. I found myself longing for home, for my familiar, for my birthday tradition.
Cue the family of God. I woke up on the morning of the 21st to an invitation to coffee from my sweet friend Sharday. Upon opening my front door, I found streamers and signs from my incredible neighbors!
They snuck over and put them on without me noticing! Such a great surprise. After coffee I walked into the office to even more streamers, treats and love from more neighbors!
After a great skype call (and dance) with my best friend Mo in Seattle, my co-workers and neighbors then took me out to lunch (Chinese, yep they have Chinese food here!). Afterwards my friend Jenny called and asked me to dessert!
After a food-coma induced nap, I walked over to my neighbors (The wonderful Levander family) for dinner! They went all out with deep dish pizza and boston creme pie with sprinkles!
Heart, and stomach full, I logged onto skype and chatted with my brother Sam in Chile, my sister in Oregon, and my parents in Montana. Hearing those familiar dear voices from home was just what I needed to cap off a very good day. I felt so much love, even from across the world. But the fun was far from over. On weekend, a few friends and I went to the elephant orphange just outside of Nairobi and got to see those pachyderms up close and personal… so wrinkly!
Afterwards it was time for a… BBQ! My favorite! A bunch of friends came over with, an old-school grill showed up, and we started cooking, eating and enjoying the evening.
The night concluded with a fair bit of mischief, in-which I was pelted with water-balloons to honor my “bath-day”. Apparently it is a Kenyan tradition to throw water onto the b-day person to “wash” them for their new year. If you look close you can see a little yellow piece of water balloon stuck to my shirt… I’ll get you guys back!
A fun, soggy time was had by all. Thanks friends, new and old, state-side and Africa-side, for making my birthday really really great!