A week after my birthday, a coworker placed a plastic bag in front of me in the teacher’s room. It was a bag of lettuce and onions; a belated gift.
I was pretty pumped. (Veggie birthday gifts? That’s so adult.)
I love birthdays. Not just mine, but birthdays in general. They mean baked goods and hugs; both things I love. I wish I was tallying the number of baked goods I have transported across the country in the last year and a half. The ladies at the bus station just smile and ask what the event is this time when I come in holding baking pans.
I don’t love Mondays, and this year the big 2-9 fell on a Monday, so I did some early celebrating. (The lettuce and onions, I suppose, also count as late celebrating.)
My sitemate Rachel has a birthday a few days before mine, so we had a weekend of all birthday everything. Her favorite animals are turtles, so naturally I created one out of chocolate cake and peanut butter, butter cream.
And then we realized that there was an American DJ coming to the local disco, so that had to happen. We were compelled by our patriot duty to dance. I mean, what are the chances, for real?
The guy’s DJ handle was Latin Prince and he was great. Iris and I introduced ourselves, because America. He was really nice. He complimented our work, explained that he comes to Macedonia at least once a year for a few shows, and then said he’d play Beyonce for us. It doesn’t get better than that.
The next day, we hiked to some beautiful waterfalls with our Turkish and Macedonian friends. (There are Turkish Volunteers living in Kocani.) We sat in the grass, played Cards Against Humanity, laughed, and just had a really chill day.
It was kind of neat to compare to my birthday last year, when I wasn’t in a great place in my service, and I wanted to insulate myself with American friends and just hibernate. This year, it didn’t even occur to me to drag in friends from other parts of the country. (Even though I love them!) I was content to spend time with my host family and local friends. That felt pretty good.
On my fo real birthday on Monday I made breakfast for dinner for two Macedonian friends, Iris and Rachel, and my host family. (American pancakes are an important cultural contribution.)
I made peanut butter and jelly cupcakes to bring to work that day and I’m pretty sure my host nephew ate every single one of the extras. I didn’t even get a picture of them, but all of my coworkers want the recipe now, so that’s a good sign.
My students were all sweet too. They made cards and some of them had little gifts and flowers. I had several classes sing to me and they just made me feel really loved. Even days later, students I hadn’t seen on my birthday were running up to wish me happy birthday and give me hugs. The cutest.
One of my favorite moments was later in the afternoon. My doorbell rang. I very rarely have people stop by and the ones who do know they can just come in the house.
Outside the door was a group of my sixth and seventh grade students who brought me a card they made because I didn’t have classes with them that day. It was so kind and thoughtful. It really made my day.
There were just lots of really sweet moments in the days leading up to and following it. Sweet moments, and of course, lettuce and onions.