Sunday, May 28, 2006

Maguette's Birthday Party

Wednesday was my host-sister, Maguette's birthday. In honor of the occasion and the occasion of mother's day I took my host mother and host sister out to dinner at a local restaurant. Neither of them had ever been to eat at a restaurant even though there are several in Kaolack, so it was a special occasion. They both got dressed up and Awa put on the perfume I had gotten her for her birthday in April. Maguette has never had pizza so I was sure she'd order it but she played it safe and got the chicken dinner instead, Awa got the steak dinner. It was a little scandalous when they saw some young Senegalese men at another table drinking beer, alcohol is forbidden by Islam, and they seemed a little awkward with eating from plates with a fork and knife on a table but they did much better than I did my first experience at the lunch bowl.

Yesterday was Maguette's birthday party that she's been planning for about a month. On Wednesday she had gotten the ingredients for a birthday cake and frosting, something very unusual here since almost no one has an oven. I got the recipes from my cookbook(also very uncommon here since people just have the senegalese dishes memorized) it was very tricky converting cups to kilos of everything but it worked out, Maguette and her friend helped me make a chocolate cake with butter-creme frosting and while it was baking we watched 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' in French, I think they really enjoyed it.

I arrived home yesterday afternoon to blaring Senegalese pop music and a bunch of people; neighbors, relatives and teenaged girls, all dressed up, sitting in a circle around our courtyard, staring at eachother, not appearing to be having a great time. After about 30 minutes a song came on that the girls liked so some of them got up and danced, and after a few songs most of the kids were dancing and it seemed like they were having fun. Eventually I heard an American pop song and got really excited and got up and danced but I soon realized that the song had just been played to clear the floor so the birthday girl could be presented with her presents.

The presentation of gifts was quite strange, each gift giver or group went up to the head table and gave Maguette her gift, Maguette kissed each of them on each cheek a couple time, French style, I then took a photo of them, not smiling of course (they almost never smile for photos), and the next people would come up. A similar little ceremony type thing was done for the birthday candles/singing happy birthday.

After this ther was more dancing (much of it very risque by American standards) and some boys even showed up. Snacks of chips, popcorn with sugar on it and beignets were served and we continued to dance. I was mostly dancing with the little kids from the neighborhood. At 8:45 the music was cut, quite abruptly and everyone cleared out of the courtyard, it was sort of a 'that's it?' moment. The family and close friends that stuck around were offered cake that was a big hit. Saturday night most people with a tv like to watch 'Passions' the really stupid American soap opera, so that's what we did while Maguette opened her gifts. She got 11 pairs of underware - some pretty racy, soap, perfume, candy, cookies and some money, the equivalent of 4 dollars was the most anyone gave, and that was kinda stunning.

After that I wondering what they'll want to do for my birthday, whatever happens, there won't be quite as much Senegalese pop music.

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