It’s my golden birthday year! I’m far from home, friends and family, but I have the privilege of spending my golden day in N’djamena, Chad with the Darfur United team and Gabriel Stauring!

It was another day of stress for our team, but today, since its my birthday, I’m focusing on the people I’m celebrating with. Among them, is Darfur United player, Ismail “the comedian.” New to the DU squad this year, Ismail is so easy to be around. He is starting to feel like a brother, teasing me and cracking jokes at any opportunity. He’ll put up his fists and asks me to box with him. He’ll give me a hard handshake, trying to show me his strength, I’ll match his, not backing down, and he just laughs and lets it go. He definitely keeps smiles on the faces of his teammates, and mine.

Then there’s Oumda. Our team translator and Cultural Ambassador for our trip to Sweden. Oumda is unassuming but carries such a presence. Conversations with Oumda are always insightful and humbling. The man is wise, and he’ll leave you speechless. One day, while we were sitting quietly killing time, I asked Oumda about his favorite animal. This might seem an elementary question to ask such a man, but I didn’t think so. Animals are important to Darfuri culture, to their way of life and I was curious which he favored. His response was sincere and thoughtful – the cow. Unlike the donkey and the camel he went on to say, the cow is gentle. The cow provides you with good substance, and they are easy, calm, and peaceful animals. It was a fitting response, since Oumda himself is such a peaceful and calm man.

Today might not have been the way I would have imagined spending my birthday. Running about the city. Applying for visas. Frantically emailing and calling people. But 10, 20, 30 years from now, it will certainly be a memorable day. Ismail and Oumda will be memorable. And I will certainly look back on this day and I will be awe. This day where I sat outside by the river Chari in Ndjamena, Chad, sharing a semi-cold Coca with an inspiring football team called Darfur United.

I’m leaving you with some things I’ve learned so far, at 27:

Live simply.
Laugh. A lot.
Check your ego, you’ll be more happy and content without it.
Have fun every day!
To make a difference in this world, start by outwardly loving, supporting and building up the people around you.
Do random acts of kindness.
Seek adventure.
Patience, patience, patience.
Be present.
Tell those you love, that you love them, all the time.
Never stop learning.
Be genuinely inquisitive of others.


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