Last month I celebrated my birthday and it was a great reminder of how far we have come over the last year.
In Indonesia, as in many other countries, the birthday tradition is that the honored person must buy food/snacks for everyone around them on their day of celebration. Over the last year, however, I’ve been taking my friends out to eat for their birthdays in a demonstration of cross-culture exchange. So this year, instead of being asked where the food was, I was treated to my favorite lunch by some of my favorite teachers.
Later that week, a few of our Peace Corps friends came to celebrate with me at our house where we cooked and ate the Peace Corps Volunteer equivalent of champagne and escargot—Mexican food.
The celebrating rolled into the following week when Amy’s counterpart, Bu Kis, decided to host a joint-birthday celebration for me and her daughter who had recently turned four. Similar to Amy and Cya’s joint-birthday back in March, Zalfa and I celebrated with 25 of our Monday night English students. Following the cutting of the cake and singing, we all piled into three cars—yes, that’s about thirty people in three cars—and headed to a local swimming pool.
At times I had to revert back to my lifeguarding days as some of our four and five-year-olds ventured into the deeper waters; but mostly it was just a really fun time. The kids were lining up for me to shove them and their inner-tubes across the water. At one point, I looked up and realized that half the kids in the line weren’t with us, they just didn’t want to miss out on the fun with the bule.
After leaving the pool, we returned to Bu Kis’ house to play birthday games and open presents. Since introducing Duck-Duck-Goose to the kids during Amy and Cya’s birthday last year, our kids have been begging us to play every week. So that made a reappearance before getting down to the business of opening our presents. Most of the kids brought something for me as well as Zalfa. I can’t imagine what their parents were thinking, “we have to buy a gift for your 32-year-old teacher too?!”
I had quite the haul:
-a pair of flip-flops
-a local version of potato chips
There were also some other gifts, but I think a few may have been appropriated by Zalfa before I had a chance to open them.
My favorite gift of all, though, was from some of the kids who live in our village. On my birthday they came over after school and brought me a ring that had “LOVE” spelled out on top. They explained that they had pooled their money and bought it for me at the local store. It was adorable.
A great end to a great birthday. I have a feeling next year’s won’t be quite so unique.