I have officially changed my birthday slide on my “Who Am I?” powerpoint because I am no longer 22! Leading up to my birthday, I tried to mentally prepare myself for the fact that French people do birthdays differently. I reminded myself that birthdays are only really celebrated for children and adults generally say “Joyeux anniversaire” then move on. The people in my life here aren’t the same as my over-the-top thoughtful friends at Harding. They don’t share our affinity for streamers and cupcakes and birthday signs. I had also talked to my Ukrainian roommate about it ahead of time and she warned me that she cried through her first birthday in France. So with all this cheery preparation, I woke up yesterday morning and thought, “Hmmm. November 3rd. Here we go.”
I spent most of the day at school introducing myself to more English classes (When you work with SIX teachers and only have half of each class at a time… it never ends). It was fun to get to my birthday slide and say, “Today’s my birthday!” A group of (otherwise really frustrating) eighth graders serenaded me in English and I loved it.
After school, I biked across town all the way to my favorite pâtisserie (passing 3 others… but I’m loyal to my favorite) to get bread and a pastry. I had been expecting a package that should’ve already arrived by this point from my parents, so as I unlocked the front door, I was chanting to myself “Please be a package… please be a package…” And sitting in the spot where my landlord leaves my mail was a box so big I almost couldn’t carry it! On top of it were two birthday cards! I brought them upstairs and had a cup of tea and my pastry while reading the cards from Grammie & Grandpa and my Natick church family. I felt so so loved. I texted my mom to see if she happened to be free and she was! So I got to Facetime her as I opened my awesome birthday package! That was so fun. The majority were my favorite American treats (pretzels, trail mix, Razzles, etc.)… She even threw in Biscoff cookies because she knows I love them, but I looked at her in confusion at why she’d send me European cookies when I live in Europe. She shrugged and we both laughed. I kept opening the box and found an Advent calendar, slippers, and a homemade blanket! I couldn’t be happier. How did she know my apartment feels like Antarctica at night?? The whole package was just perfect.
After I got off Facetime with my Mom, I got to Facetime one of my most precious friends! Sarah is just one of my favorite people ever. We caught up on life and had so much fun. As soon as we finished chatting, I headed off to meet up with the other assistants. They invited me over for cake and then we went to a really cool local wine bar. The cake was delicious and one of the five candles was a trick candle! We were so afraid of setting off the fire alarm in their internat (all of the other local assistants live in the dorm at a high school here) that I desperately tried to blow it out quickly all five time it relit itself. We ate cake then went to drink wine. We told stories about silly things our students say and lamented about how the phone companies are all conspiring against us (that warrants its own post).
I came home to a barrage of texts, video, and Facebook messages from people I love so much. It turned out not to be a sad or dull day at all. Even without the cupcakes and signs and streamers, it ended up being a wonderful reminder of how many great people I have in my life on both sides of the Atlantic.