Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thankful Thursday: 4/24/14

[Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

Today is my 25th birthday and I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. The day was a good one, too, and the longest birthday I'll have had to date. (From 12:01 in Korea to 23:59 in Madison, my birthday will span 38 hours!)

It started with a surprise-filled email from the boy, followed by all four of my regular morning classes being cancelled! I then had a delicious Korean school lunch, so wonderful that I photographed it:

A sixth grade boy wanted me to play biseokchigi, a Korean stone game, after lunch with two of his friends. Cool! Each player has a stone that stands in a line on the ground. When your stone gets knocked over, you're out of the game. So you try to knock over the other players' stones on your turn. When it's your turn, you put a stone (I'll call it the "shoe stone") on your shoe and carefully walk towards the line of stones. Then you try to knock over someone's stone with the shoe stone. Take a look:

I'm good at walking with the stone on my shoe, but when it comes time to lightly kick the shoe stone off, I always miss whatever stone I'm aiming for!

I had my second grade daycare class that afternoon, and had them sing happy birthday to me along with a youtube song. When I told them it was my birthday, they were surprised - I'd grabbed their attention. Really? Today? Your birthday? And then these smiles and impressed looks came across their faces, as if I'd just performed a magic trick. They started to clap. It was so funny - I was really entertained with their reaction to my birthday.

After class I had about 5 minutes before Teacher's English Club would start. I'd brought in two packs of dark chocolates I'd bought on iHerb to share today.

At 3:30 YH and I walked into the English room to set up the desks and this is what I saw:

My other co-teacher YJ was in there, setting that all up, but she looked just as surprised as me when we walked in.  "What are you doing here?" she asked my other co-teacher.  YH brought his hand to his head and said "Oh no, I forgot!" So I think they wanted to get all the teachers there, and then surprise me -- but I was still very much surprised with everything anyway!

Then the teachers started coming in quietly, one at a time, thinking they needed to hurry and get there before I did. 

There was a Frozen cake (from the movie, not a cold cake), juice, Korean treats, nuts - lots to much on! Balloons were hanging all over the classroom and blackboard, and they played "Happy Birthday" on youtube and sung it to me again when we lit candles. 

Some of the teachers even brought me a gift, which was so very kind of them. My heart was just flooded with gratitude.

It was the perfect way to celebrate for me, though, with a small gathering for about an hour at the end of the day and then the evening to myself.

It was a gorgeous day outside, but I was anxious to go home and open the pile of birthday snail mail I'd been saving up over the last two weeks:

So many wonderful surprises inside those cards, as evidenced above!  (Update 4/29/14: I got some more birthday snail mail today, too!)

A friend from Madrid made and sent me these heart-shaped earrings:

I read some awesome birthday emails while eating some of the leftover birthday cake my co-teachers had sent home with me.

The day was nearly complete, but I wanted to continue my two-year-old birthday "tradition" of giving back. It started on my 23rd birthday in Madrid when I donated $23 to two organizations I support.  I celebrated my 24th birthday by love lettering my community, and so in honor of my 25th I supported two projects of people I know.

Callahan Playground in Detroit

I met Kirke on a summer frisbee team over five years ago now, and while I haven't seen him since then, I've been following his blog. Kirke moved to Detroit in 2012 and has been bringing positive changes to his community ever since. One such endeavor is rebuilding the basketball court in Callahan Playground, a park whose better days were in the 1980s. Kirke has spearheaded this whole project, and I think his actions are so admirable. To get a taste of his efforts and a feel for the neighborhood, read about what happened the night that Kirke showed a friend the site where the basketball court will be built - it's a bit unsettling!

Callahan Playground Basketball Court from on Vimeo.

Local School Wall in Senegal

And the other project is run by Jordan Hatcher, who I met in a French class my senior year of college - her junior year. She had also studied abroad in Madrid like I had, we were both then studying French, and as I was applying for Peace Corps that spring I found out that it was her dream to serve in Peace Corps. Three years later and here I am in Korea while Jordan is serving her second year in the Peace Corps in Senegal! Right now she is raising funds to build a wall around the local school.

From her blog, Nomaddicted, she writes:
Presently, the Al Hadji Andala Wilane School is located in the center of the village with a major road running in between the school classrooms, leaving the school vulnerable to passing vehicles and livestock, and unfortunately, causing a series of serious accidents with students in the past. The community has identified the greatest need in the village as a wall that will enclose the school, protecting the students and teachers, and creating a greater sense of safety. This will be the largest fundraising project of my entire Peace Corps service, especially because I am working individually on the project. 
Photo by: Jordan Hatcher // Source:
 Here is the Peace Corps page where donations can be made for the Al Hadji Andala Wilane School wall project.

Like in years past, if anyone would like to help celebrate my birthday by supporting these causes, donation information is above.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped make my 25th birthday a very great day! I am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life - all over the globe!
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