Monday, November 2, 2009

Turning Sixty in Kigali

On October 30, I turned the big six-oh. That is a pretty big number and I had some feelings about not wanting it to go unnoticed, even so far from home. And it was noticed, for sure!

When I got up, Simone prepared me a delicious omelet and toast for breakfast. Plus my morning latte! I was banished from pretty much everywhere in the centre for much of the day so I amused myself in my room, having occasional wafts of deliciousness intrude from time to time. I did know that Friday was the day for the students to reveal their secret friends, which they call ‘cacahu├Ętes,’ a game of stealth present-giving that had been going on for over a week. Simone and I had agreed that this would also be a celebration with cake and ice cream. Thus, I had already laid in two tubs of chocolate ripple ice cream and the supplies for Simone to make cake. Simone and Valentin, Jeanne’s son, had also worked hard to finish a solar oven in the hopes of using it to bake the cake. But it rained all morning so toaster oven it was.

Around three o’clock, I was told to get ready for the sewing class party, so I put on a skirt and blouse and walked into the main room, which was decorated with streamers and signs. To my astonishment, everyone stood and sang happy birthday in English, French and Kinyarwanda. Then I got to wear a birthday crown. Everyone was all dressed up and seemed just delighted with their surprise. There were gifts, cards, applause, tears (mine) and great joy all around.

Secret friends were all revealed as well, and there were many more hugs. After that, we enjoyed cake and ice cream, which was utterly delicious to the last lick! For our finale, we danced and sang Rwandan songs with great gusto. At 5:30, Simone declared that everyone had to go.

I was again banished to my room but invited out again when guests started to arrive for the next party. Another kind of surprise, as I had asked for a party but had no idea what it would be like. Lots of people came to wish me well, people I had met maybe once or twice before. Adrienne, from Oregon, and her husband and children, whom we had spent a few hours with one day, came. English Sarah came from Ruhengere as did Jeannette, our Rwandan host from last weekend. There was a feast of food. Then cake and ice cream. Again! Conversation, dancing. More cards and small gifts. The whole event was truly lovely.

I was truly blessed to be among all these people on my birthday. I felt truly loved, honoured and special. Who could ask for more?

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