I could not have asked for a more memorable Ecua-birthday! The celebration started on Friday night by celebrating one of my student's and her brother's birthday at their house - their mom works at the center and invited 7 of us to join them for the party. After a long week, none of us really felt like doing anything but going home, however, it ended up being a really fun night of eating delicious chicken curry and cake, dancing up a storm, and meeting lots of cool people.
Saturday morning, Emily and I went to the salon below our house (literally - it's part of the center, and run by students who have graduated) to get pedicures - $3 for an hour and a half of scrubbing, massaging, scraping, and polishing...I could get used to this! It was wonderful! Saturday night, we all headed out to Secret Garden, a restaurant set on a garden terrace overlooking the city. It could have been the breathtaking view, or maybe the fact that I was on the verge of turning a year older, or it very possibly could have just been the wine, but I was overcome with emotion for the majority of the evening. It was an odd feeling...to have such an intense longing to be at home, with my friends and family, celebrating the way I've always celebrated...but, at the same time, to feel an overwhelming sense of contentment and joy to be where I was...and to realize that this place now feels like home, and these people are my family.
We were walking to our favorite dance club in gringoland, when everyone suddenly stopped, started singing happy birthday, corked a bottle of champagne, and showered me with chocolates and cigars...I realized, after a few minutes, that it was midnight - officially the day of my birth! It was a pretty special moment - one that I won't soon forget! We proceeded to consume more than enough tequila (my liquor of choice) and dance the night away. Sunday included all of my favorite things - soccer, thanksgiving dinner, football, good company, naps, and lots of laughing.
And the birthday celebration didn't even end there! (As Aaron put it, "apparently you need to clear your schedule for 4 days to appropriately celebrate Keely's birthday."). The birthday tradition in the house is that you get to pick dinner and dessert on your birthday, and since thanksgiving dinner fell on my day, I got to pick dinner for Monday (although, I would have been completely content with considering thanksgiving my birthday meal as well). So, Monday night included fajitas, chocolate cake, and another round of singing and celebrating.
It was a pretty special birhtday indeed, but I owe most of that to my friends and family in Chaska who organized and attended the "Keely's not so in America birthday party." When everyone here found out that my birthday was being celebrated at home, despite my absense, they knew they had A LOT to live up to! Thanks again for all the b-day wishes, cards, and packages! Love you all.