Saturday, October 6, 2007

STO LAT! (Well, actually, 29 lat!)

Roksana surprises me with a gift and card.

October 5. My birthday.

The weather today was not birthday worthy: It was dark, dreary and rainy. All I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and stay in bed, but I couldn't. You only turn 29 once.

And I am glad that I got up. My birthday was filled with surprises.

The first surprise actually came last night. Dan had insisted on speaking on Skype at 11:30 pm my time, so we could be on the phone as it became my birthday. I had a feeling he had something up his sleeve. I was thinking maybe he would hold a birthday poster, wear a cone hat and sing to me or something. But it turned out to be even better. He made me close my eyes (which I did, even though he would never know) and when I opened them, I saw that Dan was not alone: Dani and Megan, two of my favorite people and former co-workers, were standing in my New York City apartment, yelling Happy Birthday!

I have to say: The special Skype appearance of Dani and Megan was so much fun. First of all, they were so excited to watch themselves on the computer screen, so I got to watch them pose and pout. Then they had so much to say that I could barely get a word in edgewise. But it didn't matter. I was laughing so hard and was so happy to hear news from home. Then, along with Dan, they sang "Happy Birthday" to me and ate a cupcake on my behalf. It was an excellent birthday surprise indeed. Much love and thanks to Dan for arranging that.

My second surprise happened in Krakow. After our last class, we had our farewell party where we ate and received our diplomas. Then all of a sudden, I was surrounded by my classmates and members of the Prolog administration. Roksana, who was our guide for the entire trip and a great person (she is actually taking a year off from her stressful university studies to live in England and concentrate on her painting and herself for a while--sound familiar?), offered a few words in Polish, wishing me all the best. She gave me a little gift, which included Polish candies and a card, and then everyone joined together to sing a rousing rendition of "Sto Lat." It had been my secret fantasy that I would hear the Polish birthday song today, and it happened and not in a way that I ever expected.

Other than that, it didn't feel like my birthday. I got a few emails and phone calls from family and friends (thank you!) but it was rather quiet. I spent the evening at Café Camelot (where else?) with Steffi and Juliana, drinking wine and ordering a big cheese platter, which was just too much cheese for me, and then stupidly ordering a cheese cake for dessert. Sometimes wisdom doesn't come with age. Then, we joined British Jill and her roommate Kate for some more drinks at Buddha.

Yesterday, Juliana had asked if I felt sad being away from my family and friends on my birthday. I admit that I was a little melancholy from time to time. But at the same time, one year ago today, I remember that I was also away from my family and friends. I was away on a business trip. My co-workers managed to make the day memorable, taking me out to dinner and buying me a gift, but I remember feeling sad back then, stuck in my workaholic way of life, that even my birthday couldn't escape.

"Last year, I had to work on my birthday," I answered her. "This year, I am in Poland. I may be alone, but this is so much better."

I have come a long way, baby.

Birthday surprise! Megan and Dani give some birthday love.

Polish 1B classmates: Andreas, Tobias, Jill and me.

Too much cheese: At Cafe Camelot with Steffi and Juliana.


Peter said...

Sto lat!!! I'm glad you enjoyed your b-day and congratulations on completing your class. We're so proud of you.

Kasia said...

Sto lat!!!, have a drink and
Na zdrowie !!!