So, I’m nervous, but still pretty excited for my birthday on Saturday. I have been incredibly lucky to have a bunch of my friends come out to celebrate every year. No matter where I am. August 25th always falls around the start of school (my 21st birthday was the first day of school, and that was NOT an ideal way to make first impressions) and it’s always been a good time for me to really get the school year started right. Before college it was a great way for my parents to meet some of my friends, and since then it has been an opportunity for my college friends to meet one another, my sister, and for the past two years, more of my family. I’m always humbled by who shows up, and by how many people take time out of their day to say something nice. Every year the event has served as a confidence boost for me to enter the school year, and I’m incredibly grateful to have so many supportive friends and family.
So, it is fitting that my first year as a self-sufficient adult, without the start of school to think about, that I will spend my birthday away from everything familiar. I’m transitioning to life post school, and that means I’m going to have to get used to spending birthdays without all of my friends and family around. I’m nervous because not only will I miss the people I have left at home, but also the realization that my opportunities to see those people are decreasing as we all move apart.
That said, I have made some very good friends here, and this blog will go over most of them, with pictures, so you may all know who I am making this transition with. I will let you know what I end up doing for my birthday this weekend, because it is still up in the air, but know that I will have a good time no matter what. People here have been incredibly nice, and I think between them remembering their first birthday away from home, and then considering how young I am, has caused them to be even more hospitable than maybe otherwise.
First up is Riaan, We started hanging out because I found out at dinner one night that he is engaged to a Swede. He introduced me to the South African and Kenyan groups of guys, and he has quickly become one of my best friends here. He’s always picking me up and making me do something fun, he’s trying to plan something for my birthday, and he has been pretty terrible for my liver. He’s been at Kibali for years, (which says a lot, because a year ago, there were only like 10-20 expats here) and has been instrumental in getting me acclimated. I can always count on having him to talk to in a public setting, and it’s nice to have a sort of home base.
Muhammed is the guy who I went on a few trips with my first 2-3 weeks here. We started hanging out because we both were tired of sitting around on Sundays doing nothing, and he had been stationed in Mali, where I was originally supposed to go. Muhammed is the guy I hang out with when I want some time to just relax.
Willy was my first friend at Kibali. He’s a camp coordinator and gives everyone their meal tickets, gets them in their rooms if they get locked out (yup, that was me), and is always running around fixing stuff. He’s been nice enough to invite me to a few events, and introduced me to a group of guys who are all from the Congo. Unsurprisingly, they’re the ones in the pictures where I stand out the most (soccer game, and the bar).
Carlos is my Western Hemisphere friend. He’s from Costa Rica, and went to school in New Mexico, which is very similar to the U.S. (except Taos, that may as well be another planet). It’s nice to be able to talk to him in English without worrying about anything getting lost in translation, and while no one on this list speaks English as their first language, he has no one to speak Spanish to, so he’s the one I consistently understand most.
Jean Batiste was the first guy I hung out with here. He went on leave for a month after my first week to finish up some things back in Uganda, but he should be back soon, but thankfully I have made plenty of friends in the meantime.
Silver (pronounced SIL-VAH) is someone I work with on a regular basis. He’s kind of like my go-to translator in the office. The guy always has a smile on his face (as pictured). He and his wife just celebrated their first child and he reminds me a lot of Mat and Stephanie when they had Maddie two years ago.
This is not everyone, but these are definitely my closest friends here. I miss all of you and while I am nervous about spending a birthday away, I don’t regret my decision to come out here one bit. I’ve realized that these years of confidence building and support that you all have given me, is what has enabled me to be here. My education got me here, and has allowed me to know what I am doing, but it is you all that have given me what I needed to stay.
Thanks for reading,