18 March 2008

Birthday Celebration

They told us that we had to come out to the training center on the 29th. I mean, his birthday does only come once every 4 years. We figured they were planning for us to share lunch with them or something so we packed up the baby and drove the distance to meet with our co-workers. We arrived, and I wondered if my husband had misunderstood the phone call and we weren't really supposed to be out here. Or that instead of stressing out about being an hour late, we should have taken it easy and just been two hours late instead. The tables were empty and the students were still in class. We sat in the shade and occupied ourselves by trying to get our son to laugh. Soon after, the activity slowly started.

Five long plastic tables were placed end to end under the shade covering. One lady broke off a piece of the tree in the courtyard and stuck it in the center of the middle plastic table. (Instant centerpiece.) Two clean glasses were set by a shiny metal tray and wide knife. Gifts were placed by the tree branch. And a box from the bakery was placed on the table as well. We were invited to sit in these 'seats of honor.' Class let out and everyone came to greet us and pinch the baby's cheeks. Everyone was wishing M a "Happy New Year."

In typical African fashion... it wasn't just going to be a meal, but they had planned a full 'program' to commemorate the occasion. So, to start off, we all sang a few songs together. Then a prayer and a student shared a message from the Bible. Then the MC nodded at a young man who had prepared a 'special song.' He began singing and I slowly realized that the tune was Feliz Navidad. Our friends confirmed later that it was a Christmas song, but with a few words changed to fit the day. Nonetheless, I sang along in Spanish with a grin on my face that refused to go away. Then a few friends had gifts, and those were presented in a very formal fashion and a personal speech came along with each presentation. Everyone even insisted that M pose for a picture with the giver as the gift was passed from one set of hands to another. Others shared words of appreciation and love for M and for our family. They spoke from their hearts.

The bakery box was opened and a fancy cake was placed on the metal tray. We were instructed to cut it together using the wide knife and then feed each other a bite. Once again posing for the cameras! Uh, flashback to wedding day!! And then we each had to 'say a few words' to commemorate the day. M shared about his joy in celebrating this day with so many friends, and I too expressed thanks. We both used the sort of formal language that we have learned is appropriate in this situation.

Finally the cake was shared, the tops were popped off of the coke bottles and the meal was served. It was a fabulous time. It was so totally 'African' from beginning to end and such a wonderful celebration of their love and appreciation for my husband.

We are truly blessed and honored to be working here amongst these friends.

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