This morning, I woke up at 7:30 after sleeping through my alarm for nearly an hour. This has been an odd common occurrence for me here in Ukraine. At home, while I don't love to wake up in the morning, I rarely sleep through my alarm but here, it has happened multiple times...making my morning routine a little crazy.
This particular morning, I was due to be at school at 8:00 and it takes me a good 12 minutes to get from my apartment door to the door of my office...so I was a little rushed, to say the least.
After scarfing some oatmeal down, brushing on a quick layer of mascara, and running a brush through my staticky hair, I rushed out of my apartment and began my BRISK walk to the University.
A very normal day was about to become extraordinary.
When I arrived at school, I was in a rush to put my things down, grab my class materials and get to the classroom. The first person to greet me said, "I heard it is your birthday? I wish you a good day!" And with a confused but polite smile I said "Umm, no. Not that I know of! But thank you for the kind greeting" as I ran out the door to my classroom.
Then the day continued to get weird.
My cooperating teacher, Tania walked in and announced to the class, "I think I have heard that it is a special person's birthday today!" I looked around the class at my students, looking to see which one would betray the secret that they were celebrating their birthday. When no one claimed the title I realized that Tania was staring expectantly at me. "Wait, is it me?" I said. Tania exclaimed "of course!" I then had to (in my perspective) awkwardly explain that I didn't quite understand where people were getting this idea but that it wasn't my birthday. But, Tania who had prepared a small gift for me decided that I should receive my 'birthday gift' and I was beyond grateful to receive a beautiful little handmade embroidered pin cushion. We as a class laughed off the mixup and began the lesson.
But as promised, the surprises kept coming.
After my first class, I exited with my students chatting about what their next class was when I was bombarded by a group of the Lyceum (high school) students singing Happy Birthday. The small
class of 10 or 12 of them were armed with balloons, flowers, and chocolate!
At the end of their song, they all looked at me so happily and excited that they had succeeded at surprising me when their teacher, Julia looked at me and said "Oh tell us that your birthday is not in March!" and we began to laugh. We realized that in a slight mixup/miscommunication about the way that dates should be written (in Europe they write dates: month/day and at home we write them day/month) the whole department thought my birthday was TODAY: October 3rd.
This slight mix up turned my ordinary day into a day full of surprises and love and greetings from nearly all of my students. Many of whom took time out of their days and studying to stop and buy me flowers, or a box of chocolates, or a book of Russian fairytales (for me to practice my Russian with), or cake! It was amazing. I kept saying all day, that this was potentially the best I have been treated on a birthday in a VERY long time!
So, I am hereby announcing that forever and always I will celebrate two birthdays. One on March 10th and one on October 3rd to remember the love and the kindness I received today. I am seriously overcome with this hilarious story that I think also perfectly illustrates how amazing these people have welcomed me into their community. I love you all!