“Happy b-day Ms. Marshin. Thanks for everything u did for me at Ctown. U shudda took me wit you on this world wide trip. But it’s all good– u still my Home Dogg. – Terrence”
I laughed uproariously, then wrote back with love from Vietnam. Thank the heavens and earth for technology so I don’t have to part from the wit of adolescents after leaving the high school!
So my birthday evening plan was this: Get a little more dressed up than usual (ooo, a necklace!), then head seven buildings down the beach to Sankara, the amazing new restaurant that I am profiling for an upcoming article. My deep dark hope was that, since I had been getting to know the staff this week through our interviews, a few of them might remember my name, and perhaps one might softly say: “Happy Birthday” and thus make my special day a little less lonesome.
A shock: upon entering the billowing white curtains, a whole clan of ten travelers I’d met the day before on the beach began belting out “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthdaaaay to you!” I squealed with delight and took a seat with the group.
Then, Sankara’s chef came over, along with the owner and three other waiters I’d befriended over the week. They boomed out: “Happy Birthday!” then laid out an absolutely scrumptious meal: pork shoulder, rice and beans, and roasted vegetables. I scarfed it down (though it was hard to eat through the massive smile), but when I went to pay, the staff shook their heads and chided, “Nono– it’s your birthday!” I gasped with the sweetness of it. Amazing!
The rainbow lights slid softly through the dark along the palm trees and white drapery. The surf slurped happily at the shell-filled sand at the end of the restaurant, and the entire horizon glowed with hundreds of tiny lights of night fisherman. “The fishing is best at night,” a waiter explained. “The fish rise up toward the light.”
The whole restaurant is open-air, and all night long, lightning flashed dramatically, but never brought rain. We leaned against the golden-lit counter and laughed and talked.
A final joy: Just before midnight, a collective gasp of excitement filled the restaurant. I lifted my head to see fire, and then: a succulent hunk of tiramisu with a jolly, fat birthday candle! The restaurant all sang, I grinned, blushed, and sighed with amazement and happiness, and we cut the tiramisu into small pieces and ate it with our hands. Mmm… creamy, fluffy, cinnamonny bliss!
And then we went swimming in the warm pool, watching the lights change from glowing blue, to green, to red and back again. Warm air, warm water, sea breeze, deep contentment.
I went home feeling over the moon with delight, and so deeply, deeply moved at the thoughtfulness of these people who I’d only just met.
I also found a fantastic and touching array of birthday wishes from around the globe. Takia, a wonderful student of three years, sent a note that really hit the nail on the head, in her trademark awesome insult-plus-insight way:
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MS. MARSHALL!!!! Best wishes, and luv ya. You’re getting older, but I’m glad you’re doing something you always really wanted to do!”
Amen, Takia, amen. And thank you!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!