Happy Birthday in India

So as you have most likely gathered, it was my birthday on Friday. I don’t usually get super excited over it, but I couldn’t help myself here in India. The children LOVE birthdays. Even before the day arrived, I was at the girl’s hostel and when I walked in one of them yelled…”She’s here!!!!” and all of them promptly began wishing me a happy birthday. They wanted to make sure they told me in advance. In India, or at least the school, it is traditional to dress up in your own nice clothes (not school uniform) and pass out candy on your birthday. I did not want to cause a frenzy so I saved the candy for the end of the day. However, after some morning training with Sara, I decided to go for a sari and head to lunch to see everyone. It was also my last school day, so I wanted to bid farewell to all the teachers too. I am glad I am not a super self-conscious teenager anymore because the second I was within sight of the students in the dining hall Sara pointed out the whispers and stares over my sari (or birthday-it is hard to say which). I started to say hello to a couple of people and all of a sudden the whole dining hall was singing Happy Birthday. Already being a little sad and seeing all these joyful faces singing, I thought I was going to have a meltdown (in a happy, good, but still embarrassing way). I luckily made it through but I forgot about the second half “May God Bless Your Year.” I made it through to the 3rd line out of 4 and then it was all over. It could have been worse, but I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Apparently, volunteers always cry when that happens though so I felt mildly better about the whole ordeal. I spent the rest of the day getting my hand rapidly shaken by enthusiastic well wishers saying the token “Many happy returns of the day.” I think that is such a nice sentiment. Life Dance was extra great in general and it really felt like we were all just having an amazing time dancing. It finished with them singing to me at the end of class and presenting me with a card that Sara had organized for ALL of the students to sign. She thinks she missed a few, but I was so touched and impressed simply at the thought of her trying to get all the students to sign one card! No small feat at all. Some of the other students gave me some handmade cards as well that I will treasure. They are so adorable and heart felt – it was all those little things that made it a special day.

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The candy hand out went super well actually because I went at dinner and gave the exact amount per house to each house mother while the children were eating (meaning they were not allowed to run up to me and ask for candy). So after dinner everyone got their jolly rancher. The kids were so excited and each had their own ways of enjoying. Lots couldn’t wait, others were laughing at their tongue colors, I received several responses of “super candy, Auntie” and later in the evening I saw some of them still savoring the candy little by little and then placing it back in the wrapper to enjoy over time.

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The highlight at the end of the night was that Callie had been in Chennai and on her way home fared the junction in the dark by herself to buy ice cream for the coordinators (and dance teacher) to celebrate. It was really funny to see us all clustered in a room with our ice cream instantly silent and savoring every lick and bite. mmmmm.

A satisfying and happy birthday indeed. I felt very blessed (literally) and so grateful to be here in India to share it with everyone. To all of you, many happy returns of today and everyday.

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