On Thursday, September 1st, 2016, I turned 26.
I know, time flies since the last time I wrote about my birthday. However, within that time which flew oh-so fast, a lot has happened. I left my job in Denver and traveled to a few countries until I found one that I fell in love with; Colombia.
I wanted to stay in Medellín so bad that I found a teaching job. Now I am here, celebrating my 26th vuelta del sol. My birthday was on a Thursday, so yes, that means I had work, which was a blessing. I decided to sleep in a little bit that day (until 5:30 anyway) and take an Uber to work. I made a tinto (black coffee) and enjoyed it while looking at the view from my apartment.
When I arrived at the school, my desk had been decorated by my co-workers. They gifted me a basket with chocolates, snacks, and even Heineken. Other students brought me similar baskets, chocolates, and cookies.
My first class sang Happy Birthday for me, which I found out would be the first of many songs that day.
For my third class, I had to accompany a vocational test for the eleventh graders. They sang for me as well, and then got right back to their test. Good work kids.
Afterwards I had the break, in which one of my co-workers Claudia told me to go to the teacher’s break room for breakfast (usually I eat in the cafeteria). Several other teachers had breakfast delivered for me. They gifted me a new coffee mug and tons of treats.
After that delicious breakfast, my other co-worker Claudia (I know, so many Claudias) told me to relax and not worry about coming to class on time. At the moment we are finishing up the term so we aren’t doing much in each class. I finished my coffee and then a student came in and told me “I was needed.”
I walked in the door, and my tenth graders had a cake with a lit candle, balloons, and then they started singing Feliz Cumpleaños. I couldn’t help but get a little choked up over this. It is just too damn thoughtful of them it is one of the sweetest things I have ever had done for my birthday.
My final hours of the day were free hours, and some students from the eleventh grade group invited me to their classroom. They had decorated it and had a cake with a sparkler, and the candle numbers said “2?”. After they asked me to bite into the cake, I should have known…
I cannot really express into words how much this all means to me. Last year, if you had told me that I would celebrate my 26th birthday by being gifted 4 cakes and sang to five times at a Colombian high school, I wouldn’t have believed a word. But here I am, one year later, experiencing exactly that, and loving every second of it.
My students were sincere in their appreciation for my presence here, and it makes me love being here more and being a part of this community all the more special.
The day didn’t end there. My co-workers Claudia, Marleny, and Ramiro took me out to eat at a steak restaurant near my house. We ate delicious steak, some proper spicy foods, and I had another little cake with my lunch.
Just when I thought my birthday couldn’t get any better, my best friend Lyda took me out to my preferred chorizo spot. This chorizo is a hidden gem. The grill is on the street, so are most of the tables and chairs, and it is always busy. Lyda and I have been going here since we both lived in the apartments above, nearly six months ago. There hasn’t been a single day in which we came here and the chorizo there wasn’t the best chorizo I have ever eaten.
Lyda then gifted me a tres leches cake after the chorizo, securing the fact that this was not only one of the best birthdays I have ever had, but easily one of the fattest.
Birthdays usually have great food, drinks, cakes, and songs. However, no matter how good those things are, nothing makes it as special as the people with whom you celebrate it. It’s cliché but it is true; the people in your life are what matter.
I received plenty of messages of love and celebration from my friends and family back home and my friends abroad. I have never felt so at home at a place so far away, and I owe it to all of those people celebrating it with me.
To all of you, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I can only hope that 26 brings as much joy, excitement, love, and adventure as 25 did. I will continue to do the best I can at living the life I want to live and pursuing my dreams. I will continue to practice gratitude for all of the wonderful experiences I have had and for all of the great people who are such an integral part of my life.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. – Marcus Aurelius