What did you do for your last birthday? Dinner with family or friends? A small family celebration with more cake and ice cream than you knew what to do with? A night out on the town? Those are the sorts of birthdays I’ve enjoyed for twenty-six years. My 27th, however, would prove to be quite different.
I don’t typically like calling attention to my birthdays. It’s certainly nice when people remember and reach out to me, but I’ll never be the one to broadcast that it’s my special day. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been like that. As such, I hadn’t really told many of my Bulgarian friends that my birthday was this past Saturday. Outside of expected calls from Lindsey, my family, and some close friends, it was a pretty quiet day. I spent the majority of it reading and indulging in a mini-marathon of The Office.
Thanks to Facebook though, a steady stream of messages also kept me entertained. In addition to hearing from a number of friends and family members back in the states (THANK YOU!), many of my students reached out to me too. I don’t know what it is, but Bulgarians take their birthday wishes very seriously, and it’s actually really nice. I keep a separate Facebook account for my students, and it was pinging me all day.
I don’t care what you say, but that’s going to make your birthday more than all the cake and ice cream in the world (except for maybe ice cream cake…YUM).
Otherwise though, my birthday was pretty quiet. At around 7:00 in the evening, I knocked at Krassy’s door and offered him a chocolate for my birthday. Now I know I said I don’t like calling attention to my birthdays, but in Bulgaria it’s customary to give chocolate to friends, family, and neighbors on your birthday. Ask any of my fellow ETA friends, and they’ll tell you that it’s rare to go even a week without a student offering you chocolate for their birthday or name day. My Grandpa Thomas would have loved this tradition; he never missed an opportunity to “pass the chocolates.”
After scolding me thoroughly for not telling him about my birthday in advance, Krassy insisted I speak with his wife Nadia on the phone as well. After a brief chat, Krassy, Peshoo, and I moved on to the main event of the night: watching “A Time to Kill” in Bulgarian. Initially, I felt pretty good about how much I was able to understand, but Krassy kept pushing wine on me, so the second half was a bit more confusing than the first. Fortunately, the fact that I was easily distracted allowed me to capture a sneak shot of Krassy in his normal spot on the couch.
I’ve grown quite accustomed to the flannel pajamas and vest, which are certainly the norm. However, he usually reserves “The Thinker” pose for programs he finds particularly interesting–namely shows about UFO conspiracy theories, interesting animals, and occasionally Като Две Капки Вода, a hilariously bizarre reality TV show in which Bulgarians artists aim to mimc famous music videos. I guess Krassy felt Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey did a nice job.
My only plan for the next day was an afternoon picnic with 10A, the class who successfully raised $28,000 to build a school in Ghana. I presumed they had planned the picnic to celebrate this great success (and rightly so), but started to get slightly suspicious that they were up to something when three different students reached out to confirm my attendance. I set out for the picnic and was enjoying a part of town I usually don’t walk through when a cab pulled up behind me. Two of my students (twins Denitsa and Raya) popped their head out the window and offered me a ride the rest of the way. Denitsa and Raya on time for something? Another red flag!
My suspicions were confirmed when the cab pulled up ten minutes before the agreed upon meeting time and the entire class was already there. If only I could get them to class with that sense of urgency!
10A surprised me with a shirt imprinted with our campaign logo, a pencil stamped with “Pencils of Promise,” and even a birthday banitsa! It was such a great surprise, and made my birthday weekend really special. We then spent all afternoon relaxing, playing games, and enjoying delicious food. My students took literally hundreds of pictures, but I pulled out some of my favorites to share!