I have now celebrated three birthdays in Africa. I know 3 out of 30+ isn't that many. But at the same time it feels special to this girl who never dreamed of traveling so far from home.
My first African birthday was my 21st, celebrated during my study abroad semester in Tanzania. It was a strange day and I remember feeling conflicted: thankful that my boyfriend at the time had organized a bunch of birthday cards to be sent to me but also sad to be with people I didn't know very well and far from those I loved.
I had decided early on in my college career that I wanted to study abroad. I chose Tanzania because I thought that, for me who had never left the country, Tanzania would be the most stretching. I figured if I was going to leave the country I might as well learn a lot. And I thought I would learn the most in Africa. I did learn a lot, especially on my birthday that year. I learned there are ups and downs to being in a different culture -- it doesn't always feel fun and happy. And I discovered that as much as you might love a place and it's people, sometimes it's still hard to be far away from loved ones.
Fast forward a few years and I spent my 28th birthday rafting the Nile with my sister and a good friend. That African birthday brought fear and exhilaration -- I had never rafter before and am admittedly not a good swimmer. But I survived and had a blast. And was reminded that scary things are always worth doing.
Fast forward a few more years and here I am, just spent a third birthday in East Africa. I don't know what the lesson is this year, except maybe a reminder that you never know what doors will open in life. When I left Uganda three years ago I never pictured I would be spending another birthday in this beautiful country so soon.
And yet, here I am. So grateful. So very blessed to be here. So excited to see how Africa continues to weave itself into my future story.