Well, I’m there. I’m finally over the hill. Furrowed wrinkles crease and crawl across my face. Meager gray hairs sprout sporadically atop my bald head. What’s worse, my vision, now so dramatically impaired, caused my driver’s license to be revoked. Huh, what’s that? Speak up! I can’t hear you. My hearing isn’t what it used to be. Oh, “What am I talking about?” I just turned twenty-one. I am officially old.
As you may know, the lawful age to imbibe in France is three years younger than it is in the United States. Thus, since my arrival I have been able to order a glass of wine without any validation of my age (of course, when you’re bald and wrinkled, you don’t get carded often anyway). So, what is it like to pass such an important milestone in a place where said milestone lacks its import? One might think it would be anticlimactic. He or she would be right. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t wonderful.
So then, how did I spend my birthday? Well, unbeknownst to me, my fellow Crusaders had planned a surprise party in honor of the day I was born. And they got me! I’m almost never actually surprised by things like that. Held at the home of last year’s French FLA Stéphanie, the girls prepared burritos, as they are well aware of my affection for Chipotle and the desperate withdrawal I am currently experiencing. (My mother has already looked into airmailing me my usual vegetarian burrito, but it wouldn’t be warm by the time it got here. You think I’m kidding? That’s funny.) The party was incredibly sweet, and it lifted my rather somber spirits. The fête turned out to be the perfect beginning to my birthday week, as it was held a few days prior to the actual date.
When that particular Tuesday arrived, my friends and I kicked it off with a magical three-hour French lesson, followed by a substantial lunch of sandwiches, soft pretzels (a regional specialty), and eclairs. I then returned home, where my family greeted me with a card, a cake, and a plaid bowtie (c’était très chic!). After opening all the birthday cards my family sent along with me the day I left, I Skyped with my mom and the family cat until I left for dinner at a restaurant called HK. (If you think there seems to be a lot of eating in this story, you would be correct). Then it was time for after dinner drinks including Long Island Iced Teas with glow-stick straws. (NB: It’s fun to hear French people say Long Island Iced Tea; you should try it some time.) The following day when I returned to my room, I discovered a large package containing all the goodies one could ever ask for. Thanks mom and dad! Clearly, I need to go to other continents for extended periods of time more often.
Apologies for the prolific use of parenthetical expressions in this blog entry.