May 09, 2011

25th Birthday

Epic. There is no other way to describe the events that manifested themselves on April 2nd 2011. Epic.

I had originally planned to spend my 25th birthday in the same fashion I celebrated Christmas, alone in my hut with a bottle of vodka and some lukewarm soda. Birthdays are no big deal here, most people have no idea how old they are. So, throwing myself a village birthday party didn't seem appealing. Also, we had just gotten back from an amazing, but rather expensive, birthday blowout in Dakar for one of my volunteer friends. So, I was content to embrase my quarter of a century with a night cap or two.

I went to the health post the morning the day of to help with the vaccination campaign. You better believe it was a stroke to my ego, my narcissistic brain was running with thoughts like 'what an amazing person to give their birthday to vaccinating babies against polio' etc. After sitting around at the health post for an hour or so the doctor announces that we don't have any of the vaccinations to do the scheduled tourney. Typical. When planning a vaccination campaign I could see how ensuring that the vaccinations are available could easily be overlooked.

So, rather than heading to the bush to help babies, the car heads to the regional capital to pick up the vaccinations. The ride to Linguere is just long enough for my altruistic, but rather self-serving, mindset to change into 'eff this, I want a cold beer on my birthday'. So I get out of the car and head to our regional house.

I walk in the door and my friend Abby slaps we with a sashet of wine and yells 'you got sacked'. It's 10am. So, begins the day that can never be adequately described or ever surpassed.

I head to the closed post office and sweet talk my way into picking up an amazing birthday package courtesy of Mike and Robin. After I squealed at it contents and blew up the balloons, I thought the day couldn't get any better.

Friendship test: What would be my favorite birthday gift?
Answer: a CAMEL.
I walk outside to find my friend Justin sitting proudly atop an ugly, snorting camel. BirFday Camel! My friends had walked into a shop in Linguere owned by people from Mauritania, Nars, and said 'got any camels for riding?'

I excitedly scurry up the snorting camel to sit atop, happily waving my limp birthday balloon. Now, we, the volunteers in the region, are natural spectacles. We can't go to the market without making a baby cry or cause old women to gather round in awe of the pale face speaking their native tongue. So, please just imagine the jaw dropping, head turning scene that results when a toubap, word for white person, is riding a camel down the city's main drag. epic.

The tale gets spicier. As the Nar guides the camel back towards our house, my friend goes to pay him their previously agreed upon price. He freaks out and demands an outlandish fee for having let extra people ride the camel. He yanks the mouth foaming camel by the nose ring and starts sprinting away declaring that he will not let me down until he is paid in full.

Again please take a moment to fully appreciate this scene:
An angry Nar is yelling that he got ripped off while he is dragging his snorting camel down the streets of Linguere. A group of concerned white people are chasing after him making justifications and pleas in a slew of local languages. And as always in Senegal, there is a pack of children following, chanting their newly learned phrase 'BirFday Camel'. All the while, I sit atop the camel swinging my birthday balloon at the end of a loose string, giggling and leading the chorus of chanting children. Epic.

We pass what would be the equivalent of a local police station and my friend threatens the Nar with going inside and getting the authorities involved. He calls her bluff and she is forced to go into the police station. She goes inside and announces 'my friend is stuck on a camel'. Epic.

After a long, very theatrical debate involving fake tears and a mix of English, French, Pulaar, and Wolof we leave the station with one angry Nar and one hell of a story. Epic.

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