A couple of days ago I started a new year of life. My friend emailed me, said she was excited to be celebrating my 30th birthday with me. Had I known she was joking, I’m not sure it would have made a difference in my flipping out on her. Turns out that I’ve been around long enough that my proximity to 30 bothers me. Or perhaps the idea that my twenties are progessively slipping away is just giving me the willies. But many people have sad many more interesting things about growing older, and to be honest, barring catastrophe I’ll have many more years to consider them. Moving on.
I started celebrating last Friday, making my way by N’Sync blaring taxi-van to Yerevan in hopes of a festive dinner with PCV friends. The friends delivered on joy and celebratory atmosphere, filling a room at our favorite Indian food place, Karma, and toasting me to my hearts content. The birthday wishes kept coming all weekend while we walked around in the sun through the Vernisagge, ate ice cream in the park, and attended some not very impressive IIHF hockey games between N.Korea and South Africa and then Mongolia and Armenia. I compared experiences with some new friends volunteering in Peace Corps Georgia. I shared hookah and cinnamon tea with more new friends, these from Iran, and made a lot of jokes about my Taco Maco induced food baby and the differences between conservative and liberal approaches to spin-the-bottle (they were quite interested that while in their version the spinner delivers dares to the pointed, we don’t waste time and get people lip-smacking ASAP).
Monday, back in my little town, I got some major loving from my Armenian friends.
The clooker, I should say, was the number one celebrator of my birthday. She burst into the office, set down the cake she’d made me, and grabbed me in a big ol’ hug and with a kiss on the cheek wished all the best things for my life. Her cake was an Ant House cake; she knew it’s one of my favorite Armenian foods. She called me her third son.
I was kissed by everyone in the office. Some friends from a neighboring NGO came in singing and waving balloons and bearing gifts!
In Armenia, on your birthday, you make dinner for all your friends. The clooker made me write down a shopping list and took me around town gathering things for tacos. We chopped and diced. A couple of the guys came in and wanted to hear “Texas music”, so I put on Dixie Chicks. I taught the clooker the Two Step in between stirring the simmering ground beef.
15 or so Armenians gathered to celebrate me and eat my tacos. They swigged vodka in my honor, toasting me, my family, my friends, and my journey to Armenia. They presented me with a beautiful (if slightly off) crucifix that I’m now scrounging a necklace for. And they presented me with what you see pictured here, a card from each person from the office with their birthday wishes and thoughts about how awesome I am (their words, not mine). They strung them up on a ribbon and made me wear them throughout the party.
Serine brought out the she’d made me and I blew out the candle. Liana then asked, “What did you wish for?”, but as cheesy as it sounds, I was so much enjoying the singing voices and the smiles from everyone and the overwhelming feeling of making such unlikely friends, I forgot to wish for something.
But really, after love pouring in from around the globe via emails and Facebook wall posts and phone calls and texts and 3 cakes and a million toasts and hugs and kisses and so many tables shared by so many souls, what more could I wish for, really?