Monday, May 26, 2014

Birthdays Abroad

As of last week, I've had 25 birthdays! All but 2 of those birthdays have been celebrated in good old Wisconsin. Last year was one of those unique birthdays- I turned 24 in Turkey! And a few years ago, I turned 21 in Barcelona.

I've been reminiscing about the interesting birthday that I had last May, so I thought I would do some reminiscing about my two international birthdays here on my blog.

On my 21st birthday, I was about halfway through my study abroad in Paris. The weekend of my birthday just happened to be our one free travel weekend when we were allowed to leave France. So before we left Provo, a small group of us had already booked a trip to Spain for that weekend. The day before my birthday, I flew to Barcelona with 4 other BYU students!

Right away when we got to Spain, it was a nice change of pace from Paris. Barcelona and Paris are night and day different from each other. Barcelona is cool and modern, and it's on the Mediterranean...and Paris is beautiful and full of history, but the people are not the nicest haha. In Spain people were very nice and helpful, and no one cared that we didn't speak Spanish.

On the lovely day of May 21st, 2010, we started off our day by getting distracted by a park that was near our hostel (Oh yeah, that was the bad part about this trip...I stayed in a hostel. And it was gross and I won't do that again).

Yep, looks like all the way back in 2010 I was taking my 'travel dance' pictures. The main thing we did that day was visit Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece...the Sagrada Familia.

Even though it's still under construction, it's one of the most amazing places I've ever been. And that still holds true after all of my recent travels.

For a lot of the day, we rode around in a double decker tour bus to see more of the city.

We also did a little Spanish shopping. My favorite store- ZARA- happens to be Spanish, and if I remember right we went to two different Zaras on this day because we kept seeing them all over.

For dinner, the people in my group were nice enough to find an Italian restaurant! Because that's probably the safest bet for me as a picky eater to find something I like :) For dessert we went back to the restaurant we'd been to the night before because we were obsessed with their chocolate truffle dessert called 'El Pecado'- 'sin'. Because it was that good.

As you can tell, it was a pretty amazing birthday! It was a little weird to be away from home, but I was completely having the time of my life in Paris, and this little getaway weekend made it even better. Also, I really liked joking that Paris was too mundane for my birthday which is why I had to fly to Spain for a few days haha.

Annnnnnnd just last year I got to make that same joke! Jerusalem was getting too boring, so I had to spend the week in Turkey to celebrate my birthday.

I already wrote about my Turkish birthday here. But if you want to know my true feelings about this birthday, then keep reading this. Now that some time has passed I can share how I really felt about this day...maybe this will be cathartic and I can let go of the bitterness haha.

So. Here's what we did on May 21st, 2013.
1. Visited a WWI battle memorial site (Gallipoli) on the Aegean Sea.

2. Visited the ruins of Troy.

And here's the reality.
1. After several hours on a bus (where 40 people were kind enough to loudly sing me 'Happy Birthday' not once, but twice), we sat outside in the hot sun for over an hour while our Turkish guide talked about a WWI battle that I don't care about. There isn't actually anything to see at the battle site. My shoes become full of sand for the rest of the day.
2. We have a strange lunch and I don't eat anything except for a piece of bread. I am handed an envelope full of 'nice notes' from everyone on the study abroad. Most people's say something like "You're the sweetest person I've ever met. I'm so blessed to know you." Have these people met me? Oh, and then all 80+ people in our group decide to sing to me yet again at the restaurant. In public. Although I begged them not to.
3. We spend approximately 6 more hours on the bus together. Most of these people think it's fun to have sing-a-longs during this time.
4. We arrive in Troy. It sounds cool, but there's actually NOTHING there except for a handful of rocks and a Trojan horse replica for children (and BYU students) to play in. Our tour guide has plenty to say however. We stand around for a few hours in the heat and I think I eventually just take out my headphones and give up listening.
5. I am so relieved to finally get to the hotel and chill out by myself, because if you can't tell...I am NOT feeling like a little ray of sunshine by this point. Unfortunately, I happened to be rooming with my least favorite person on the study abroad. We didn't get to choose our roommates.... She screams at me for a while and badgers me to come to dinner immediately because everyone is waiting to sing to me again. 
6. After getting to video chat with my mom (that was needed!), I eventually come to dinner, where I thankfully avoided being sung to in public yet again. Oh, they still sang, though. My friend just convinced them that they could sing without me there*. I eat another piece of bread for dinner (weird Turkish food again!) and shut myself up in the hotel room.

So that was the drama queen version :)  You know, every day of this Turkey trip was absolutely incredible except for this day. I loved Turkey, but this just happened to be the day when we didn't do anything cool and almost everyone was annoying. Of course, my attitude didn't help either. And the fact that all I ate that day was 2 pieces of bread. If you can't tell, this was NOT my best birthday*.

Here's a birthday picture of me in 2010 and 2013. Do I look older?? And can you tell that's totally a fake smile in the 2013 picture?  ;)

This year, I had a great birthday!! I went with my mom to the Pleasant Prairie outlet mall in Kenosha. I had a wonderful shopping day, lunch at Culver's, my favorite dinner and birthday cake made by my mom, video chat with Dad and Jenna who weren't home, and great presents. A simple Wisconsin birthday turned out to be a million times better than an exotic Turkish birthday.

I'm loving being home! I'll celebrate my birthday next year in Israel, so we'll see if that ends up being a Barcelona kind of birthday or a Turkey kind of birthday. :)  I should be getting old enough to stop caring about birthdays soon too, so maybe that will help.

And I already posted this on Facebook, but here's the album I made (in collage form) with one picture from every year. It's fun to see them all next to each other.

*Don't worry, I didn't miss out too much! A few days later when we were back at the Jerusalem Center, I was forced out of my bedroom to be sung to yet again :) Don't ask me why.
*I can't write this post without mentioning my friend Lauren's birthday that was a little later in the summer because it was totally worse than mine. She had to take a final exam, and by the time we got out to the city everything was closing for Shabbat. She bought a nightgown at one of the stores that wasn't closed. And then we went back to the JC. Poor Lauren.

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