I'm somewhere in between the two, so I guess that means there's three kinds.
BEHOLD THE STORY OF MY TWENTY FIRST BIRTHDAY
I awoke at the sunny hour of Five AM, and by that I do mean I accidentally woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so I spent the next fifty minutes looking at discount wedding dresses online and smacking my face against the keyboard (an attempt to lull myself back to sleep, not an expression of my relationship status). Alas, by six I gave up and put some clothes to go to the Embassy.
I had a nine o clock appointment at the embassy health unit (for the usual complaints: "I think I have cancer/aids/sleep apnea, may I please be med evac'ed to Germany?" and "CAN I STOP USING THE CRUTCHES NOW?") but since the embassy is so far from our house- half an hour- I went with my mother and father at the same time he goes in for work (seven fifteen sharp, or God help you).
In our family, on your birthday it is tradition that you may pick any breakfast your heart desires, usually of the pastry variety. I wanted pain au chocolat from the fancy downtown bakery, which my mother went and bought. They were delicious. She also got some kind of savory croissant that was markedly less delicious. Oh, Senegalese bakeries, you're so weird.
The doctor's appointment basically went like this:
Me: PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD CAN I STOP USING CRUTCHES?!
Dr: Let me see your foot.
Me: [shows foot. foot looks kind of corpsey and gross, it is still covered in bruises. I have tried to mask this by painting the nails a charming shade of mango, ended up looking like the decomposing hooker foot they find on CSI, or something]
Dr: [dying on the inside]
Me: So....no more crutches, then?
Dr: I don't know. Let me poke your foot in a manner that would be painful on even non-broken toes.
Me: [biting back screams in the hope my hardcoreness will result in the loss of crutches] So...good?
Dr: Actually, I think your foot is EVEN MORE BROKEN THAN IT WAS BEFORE!
Me: So..crutches. Yes? No?
Dr: Have you been putting weight on your foot?
Me: Not really...except for when I fall on it.
Dr: [audible gasp] WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?
Me: What part of "I have the upper body strength of a squirrel and I keep falling over because of these crutches" did you you miss before?
Dr: Well, you need more X-rays. And more crutches. Probably for the rest of eternity.
Me: WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO
Dr: But here's a nice Ace bandage for you! Also you don't have cancer, stop asking.
So. No trip to germany or regular mobility for me. Alas, Alas, Alas.
After we got home we had lunch- I wanted to go out for sushi, but I'm po, so we had grilled cheese instead. Grilled cheese is amazing.
The main activity of the afternoon was shopping for my birthday presents. But first, a few words about birthday presents.
Of their own accord, no one in my family would remember to buy anyone presents ever. Those family members who are reading this and protesting, hush your collective mouths, you've only gotten that way after YEARS AND YEARS OF CAREFUL TRAINING. Basically, any time anyone in my family has a birthday, I compile a list of things I think they would like and send them out to the rest of the family several weeks in advance. I then spend the remaining weeks hounding them to make sure they actually get something.
And that is how the members of my family have presents on their birthday.
Of course, to repeat this process for presents for my own self would be tacky, so instead I compile a thoughtful pinterest board of items I would not mind possessing, and distribute it about six weeks before my birthday.
And yet, at least half the family came up to me yesterday morning and asked what I would like for my birthday.
And that is why we went shopping.
(also because shopping brings me insane amounts of joy)
Obviously, shopping in Senegal is not quite the same process as shopping in the states. There is no walmart here, friends. Instead, most of the shopping takes place in markets or "boutiques". The contents of the tiny, un air-conditioned boutiques are the same as those of the market, just better organized and more expensive. So we went to the HLM market, instead.
There are three main markets in Dakar, each specializing in different things, so far I have been to two of them. This market- the HLM- is mostly fabric, but also has a lot of jewelry, shoes, and bags. The siblings were looking for pillowcase fabric (homeschooling a sweatshop, remember) Lark was looking for more dress fabric, and I wanted a bag- so HLM made the most sense.
HLM- pronounced "aschelem"- is a catacomb of narrow dirty streets and poorly lit warehouses. I'm all over that as a general rule, but it's CRAZY hard to navigate with crutches. We also had our guest missionary in tow- in the country to get his visa straightened out, didn't speak a word of english- who, in addition to a crutch, also had a false leg, which made me feel like a total pansy.
We walked all over HLM for about two hours, found a lot of fabric, but no bags that I liked, so we started heading back to the car when TADA I FOUND ALL THE BAGS I COULD EVER WANT.
I got this one- the tag on the inside claims it's a Fabrizio Poker, which, I'm sorry, sounds like an Italian sex toy to me.
Whatever, it's fabulous leatherrrrr.
I like it because it looks like a tiiiiiny doctor bag.
After the great HLM adventures, I went upstairs and took a tiny baby nap- which is what grown up ladies do when they've had four hours of sleep and can't feel their arms anymore after walking on crutches for so long.
For birthday dinner we had steak, potatoes and broccoli. Food of the Gods! Also the first time I've had red meat since I've been here. Or broccoli.
The broccoli cost more than the steak. TIA.
However, the best part of the meal was cake and ice cream.
If you've never lived in Dakar, you do not understand the value of good cake and ice cream.
Seriously, you don't.
I've mentioned this on facebook several times- ice cream here is expensive. Obscenely expensive. We've found a brand of chocolate ice cream we can occasionally afford- I think we've had it three times in the three months I've been here- the name is "super budget chocolate!" and the first ingredient is water, which I think paints a pretty accurate picture right there. But for my birthday we splurged at the French grocery for a tiny container of amazing mint chocolate chip.
I've also never had a decent cake here- though admittedly I've only tried maybe three before giving up. Besides, I don't have regular cake on my birthday- I have cheesecake. Have for the past five years, at least.
But there is no cheesecake to be had in Dakar. There is not even cream cheese with which one can make her own cheesecake.
I'm going to go ahead and say this is the new qualifier for third world countries- if you have no cheesecakes, you are a third world country. The end.
HOWEVER- after a recent trip to Italy by a member of our family, a glorious cheesecake may or may not have made it's way into our freezer. Suffice it to say there are better uses for diplomatic passports than smuggling drugs, my friends.
Hello, they say, Hello I love you.
I almost cried.
The original plan for after dinner was to put the little kids to bed and watch Drop Dead Gorgeous (one of the funniest movies OF ALL TIMESSSSS) but I'm not embarrassed to admit I was way too tired for that. I'm a grown up lady with possible cancer/sleep apnea, remember? So instead I painted Celia and Riah's toes to match mine (I'm calling the color "dead hooker mango" now) and the three of us watched an episode of My Fair Wedding, then retired for the evening.
Cilia, Myself, RiahHappy Birthday to me.
(more thought provoking birthday post in the works)