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Though this may differ for some, what I have experienced is that many “important” dates take on much less significance when I am away from home. Holidays like the Fourth of July for example or Labor Day seem to lose their meaning when stripped of cultural context.

Similarly, my birthday does as well. I feel like it needs the context of my family after-all,  birthdays are really celebrations for families to remember your joining the family.
for me though, recently they have been a way to mark time and travel. In the the first part of this post i talked about my relatively new birthday tradition and what I have done each birthday for the last few years and how this one differed from those.

Since my family was not here and I was not there it was a low key birthday with my girlfriend. We went to Itaewon, a neighborhood of Seoul known for its international flair. If I couldn’t travel I figured at least international food would suffice.

We weren’t really drawn to many places and in the end, even though I have been to Turkey we decided on a Turkish restaurant called Kervan.  There were several people in the restaurant who wearing traditional head-coverings and a few groups were there talking, waiting for the sun to set so that they could break the Ramadan fast. By the they were served their meals we had nearly finished our grilled beef skewers, humus and ekmek.

The couple sat beside us was a sort of cultural surprise though it shouldn’t have been really. I know that religion isn’t confined by political borders but seeing the Korean girl with her turquoise hijab was a surprise; the sort of small detail that you notice when traveling that helps you understand the world a tiny bit more.

On the way home Ji and I bought a slice of cheesecake because she insisted that I had to blow out “birthday candles”. Really, we didn’t have any birthday candles so I blew out one of the sparklers from our meager fourth of July celebration and a tea candle.

29th Birthday Cake

The next day when I got to school I mentioned the Turkish restaurant and my birthday dinner to my co-worker. She looked turned a little red and apologized for not remembering. She mentioned before that my birthday was coming up soon. She told me that after filling out so many papers for my renewal in Korea that she had memorized my birthday.  I told her not to worry and went back to work.

Later after lunch I head someone bang on my classroom door and saw my coworker struggling to open the door so I went to help and sat back down. Behind her my other co-worker walked in with a cake. This might have been the biggest surprise birthday “gift” I have had since living abroad.

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The three of us ate as much of the Ice cream cake as we possibly could. even with the small dry ice cubes it was getting melty and we didn’t want to throw it away so we went out to the hallway and brought in 5 kids to finish the job.

They seemed pretty entertained by the fog coming off of the dry ice so we put it in a bottle with water to really ramp up the effect. The kids played around pouring the fog onto the desk and squeezing the bottle making it billow out until the dry ice finally ran out.

Did you know that in Korea you are born already one year old?

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