After a few tear-jerkin’ Skype sessions with my loved ones back home, the birthday that had slowly crept up on me wasn’t necessarily something I was looking forward to. I was homesick, bordering on broke, in the middle of the term and had a pile of unfinished papers and presentations demanding my attention (as did the many friends I had hoped to celebrate with.) It wasn’t lookin’ good.
That said, this ended up being one of the best birthdays to date (running neck-and-neck for #1 with my 23rd, which was spent accidentally chipping my best friend’s tooth with our 3rd? 4th? 5th? bottle of wine under the Eiffel Tower at midnight.) And here’s why:
Five reasons celebrating your birthday abroad is quite possibly the best ever:
1. Hearing “Happy Birthday” in several different languages:
The night the clock struck 12 on the eve of my birth over 2 1/2 decades ago, my flatmates surprised me not only with cake, decorations, and warm wishes for a happy birthday, but with a heart-warming gift and a card I will forever keep that was signed by each of them in their languages. Super kind words in Greek, Arabic, Malaysian, and Kazak were translated to me ’round the table, one by one. The next night, around the same table, several classmates, flatmates, choir mates, and just general mates showed up to eat food, drink and be merry as they each sang happy birthday in their home languages- German, Spanish, Punjab, Bulgarian, Italian, Finnish, Arabic, Greek, and more. It was quite the cross-cultural celebration!
2. Getting cards, gifts, pictures, videos, and keepsakes that last a lifetime:
While the multilingual birthday wishes and the super touching gifts I received this birthday were overwhelmingly kind and definitely will to be kept for years to come, the greatest gift of all- get ready for this Grade A Mature Cheddar Cheese- were the memories made. There are few things that compare to celebrating your life surrounding by people you might never have met had you not taken a leap of faith into unknown territory, for these are the people who will remain integral pieces of some of the dearest memories you will ever make. These are the people who, in the absence of your own, truly become your family abroad. Celebrating life just doesn’t get much sweeter than sharing it with loved ones this unique (until you add that friggen strawberry cake- it was DELICIOUS.)
3. Celebrating with friends you couldn’t celebrate with otherwise:
For those of you fortunate enough to already have friends abroad, there’s no greater excuse for a reunion than a birthday! Two of my dearest friends this side of the pond- Ivet and Teri- flew in from the Czech Republic for the occasion. These lovely ladies (Ivet above, Teri below) were my flatmates and closest friends during my time abroad and Dublin, and it’s been since I left Dublin three years ago that I last saw them. Needless to say there were a few bender-brought-on tears shed over reuniting, and it was glorious.
4. Traveling to make the day after the most fun hangover imaginable:
Though I have to admit this morning was the least gnarly of my exhaustive set, it was during the midst of my birthday bash and was an incredible way to start my day in Central London with the girls post-aging! We parted ways as I headed off with the LUIP ambassador group for a 75 minute tour of Parliament. Unfortunately, rules state you can’t photodocument the majestic confines of Parliament, but I can attest to the fact that the incredibly detailed gothic interiors and both House of Lords and House of Parliament are worth touring. The history behind the building, including its many monarchs and the damage affecting it through the Great Fire and World War II, gives great insight to both British Politics and culture. Definitely a stop worth making, regardless of whether or not politics is your thang!
The rest of the day was spent with my lovely Czech guests touring the London Tower Bridge (for those of you who know me, you will commend me for surviving the 42 meter elevator ride to the top- no tears, no screams, no bruises!) Another interesting tour, though less inundated with history it did give some background to the creation of the bridge and some information about nearby historical landmarks. Above all, it was an incredible view from the top:
I’d even say worth the 42 meter heart attack.
5. Ending your birthday weekend by introducing your multicultural flatmates to the American concept of “Brunch”:
Inspired by My Drunk Kitchen’s infamous Brunch episode, George the Greek and I decided a nice way to wrap up this 5-day birthday bash would be to taste a bit of champagne and attempt our own version. Two bags of flour and four hours later, we’d successfully created our own personal winter wonderland in the kitchen and practiced our fancy football footwork, but somehow hadn’t managed to successfully cook any pancakes. But in the end, with the help of our fabulous flatmates, the pancakes were made and a delicious Brunch was had. Even if it was dark outside by the time we’d finished eating…
So by the end of it all, despite the inevitable onset of birthday-induced homesickness, it was a memorable long weekend. And hey, the upside is that thanks to modern technology you can always Skype with all of your beloved friends and family back home to catch them up on your mayhem. My suggestion would be that pre-Brunch cocktail hour is a good time for this.