20

So I am now officially 20 and enjoying my first couple hours as an official non-teenager. To be honest, I was really dreading my birthday. This was the first birthday not celebrating with my family. It would be really different without all of our traditions and the normalcy of birthday routines. I am not always the best with change.

I had mentioned my birthday to my host family when I arrived in Spain, but I had not mentioned it since. I knew they both had a lot on their mind and did not want them to go out of their way for me. Honestly, I would not have been surprised if they had forgotten my birthday.

My birthday was April 19, Tuesday. All weekend, my host family did not say a word about Tuesday. On Sunday, as we sat down to lunch, they threw a sly smile at one another and casually asked me about my plans for Tuesday. Of course they had remembered and wanted me to have the best birthday possible! They knew my birthday would be very different and perhaps even a little difficult for me.

My host dad explained about birthdays in Spain. They really are not a big deal. For example, on my host mom’s birthday last month, we had dinner with a couple of their friends at our house, but she did not tell them it was her birthday. It was low-key, modest, and wonderful. In Spain, adult birthdays are not celebrated in a grand fashion. If you go out to dinner on your birthday, you pick up the check for everyone, but that is normally it.

They asked me to invite some friends over for a big birthday dinner. Maybe it was good to be a little excited! What if this turns out to be one of the best birthdays yet? AND I get to celebrate more times when I get home with my parents, friends, and extended family. Who knows? This could be the best yet!

At midnight on Tuesday morning, my host family sent me a WhatsApp message wishing me a happy birthday, followed 30 seconds later from WhatsApp messages from my parents and several friends.

I woke up early to get ready and actually have enough time to eat breakfast. My host mom popped out of the kitchen where she was cooking some of my favorite things and have me a huge hug. Over an omelet, salad, apples, and tea, she went over the menu for tonight. They go above and beyond every time!

Tuesdays are my busiest days, but even with all of the many classes, all of the birthday wishes made me smile continuously. AND the exam on my birthday was rescheduled to the next week. It’s the little victories, right?

As the end of the school day drew near, I became more excited. I left my last class early and met a couple friends to head back home.

When I walked in the door of our apartment, I was shocked! A big sign, balloons, candles, and a elaborately set table! Quiche, guacamole and hummus with vegetables, salmon and broccoli, a double decker cream cake with strawberries and blueberries, and more were on the menu! My American friends agreed this was the best meal we had eaten in Spain thus far.

My favorite moment of the night was when the lights were turned down and the cake was brought out with the huge “20” candle bouncing light around the room. As everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” I knew I was the most fortunate girl in the world.

After dinner, I talked to my parents and opened cards and gifts from other family members. It was my favorite day so far during my time abroad. Thank you to everyone who made me feel special and important. I only hope I can be the same blessing to you as you all have been to me!

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