Birthday #23!

If today is at all indicative of the joy, community, laughs, love, and surprises that are in store for me as a 23 year old, then I can already consider this year a success :)

I hadn't anticipated that my birthday would be very festive. Though I love parties and celebrating other people's birthdays, I rarely get around to organizing anything for my own, and don't often draw much attention to its approach. So when I woke up, very early and very sweaty (the AC stopped working right before we went to bed!), I imagined that the day would be pretty standard.

I should really know better by now than to think my friends (particularly Ivoirians!) won't celebrate if they have the chance.

I arrived at school and every teacher had their class sing "Happy Birthday" to me! In Mr. Bolo's class, it turned out that another student was also celebrating her birthday, so she and I actually sang to each other. By the time I went back to the teachers' lounge for lunch, I was already on cloud 9. Little did I know, the teachers were just getting started! Ouattara had purchased me my favorite meal: poulet braissé, attiéké, and alloco. On top of that, he bought me three big bottles of degue, a delicious custard dessert made of millet that I always buy on Wednesdays. Before I could dig into my meal, let alone one of the bottles of degue, the teacher's lounge door opened. I looked up to find Jeanine walking in with a huge white baker's box. That's right - CAKE! The entire teachers' lounge erupted in happy birthday songs (in French, English, and Baoulé). I was so, so touched and overwhelmed with love!

Check out the videos below to share in some of my birthday joy :)

Students singing Happy Birthday

The surprise cake!

I've basically accepted that, no matter where in the world I go, no one will spell my last name correctly. It didn't matter anyways, because this cake was DELICIOUS!

Nothing but smiles in the Collège Moderne de Cocody teachers' lounge! So, so lucky to know and love these amazing people who have quickly become family.

To finish off the day, Debbie and Nathalie took me out for a rooftop dinner where we drank, mused about life, looked out over the city, and considered how amazing our time has been so far.

I don't know what 23 will look like, but I comforted knowing that my passions, principles, and positivity haven't failed me so far. So incredibly grateful for the here and now, and optimistic about what's next.

Until Next Time,

an older and wiser (?) Akissi