I want to start off by saying thank you so much to all of you for all of the birthday wishes. It was so fun to have so many people remember and send me a note and make me feel special. My birthday was on a Sunday and I have decided that from now on, all my birthdays will happen on the weekend because this way, the celebration happens for three days instead of just one.
The festivities were kicked off with a bang on Friday afternoon when my students strolled into class bearing two scrumptious birthday cakes complete with candles and the Happy Birthday song. I am delighted to report that both cakes were delicious and red bean paste and pork-free. You really can’t ask for much more.
On Saturday morning, I got to sleep in (something I definitely don’t take for granted after marathon training) and my friend Rachel took me out for a leisurely breakfast of bagels and coffee. When we got back home, it was time to get ready for the next event on the agenda – high tea with some of our friends at the Grand Hotel here in Taipei. The Grand Hotel is kind of a cultural icon here in Taiwan and is a must-see while you are here. Since we hadn’t been, we decided that this would be a great opportunity.
We didn’t really know what to expect for high tea in Asia, so we dressed business casual and put our game faces on. When we arrived, we checked in (since Chris also planned for us to stay the night at the hotel). They politely wished me “sheng ri kuai le” and handed me a small birthday gift – a refrigerator magnet of the hotel. Since this was the best birthday gift any hotel had ever given me, I was very surprised and grateful. We then were shown our table for tea time. I have to admit, high tea was not what I expected. Instead of tiered trays of crustless cucumber sandwiches and dainty petits fours, a vast bounty of food was spread out before us. Everything from lamb to tempura to sushi to ice cream called to us to join in the feast. Part of me was hoping to be snubbed just a little bit to make it feel like a true tea-time experience. No snubbing occurred, however, and after an afternoon filled with good food and good conversation we waddled out of the dining room much fuller than we ever expected to be.
Chris and I said goodbye to our friends and located the elevator to find our room. This next detail that I will share with you may not sound like a big deal, but I assure you that it is. Our hotel room was equipped not only with a thermostat, but also with heating! Now, you may think that we live in a tropical climate and that we don’t need heaters. But, with the humidity and nighttime temperatures dipping into the 30’s, it gets downright chilly. Despite these facts, very few structures are outfitted with heating mechanisms and shoddy window seals are accepted practice. So, it is quite a treat not to be forced to sleep curled tightly in the fetal position with two pairs of socks, gloves, and a hat. To keep the birthday fun going, I opened Chris’ gift which was a beautiful new coat. After basking in this warmth for some time, I donned my new coat and we ventured out of our sauna and wandered around the hotel. We happened upon a dim sum restaurant and decided to return later, no matter how full we still were, since we have been hooked on this Cantonese specialty since we visited Hong Kong and have had a remarkably difficult time locating good dim sum in Taipei. So, after a few dumplings, we went to bed sans ski gear.
Sunday morning we woke up to an unseasonably warm and sunny day. We enjoyed a huge buffet breakfast and left for church. After church, we came home and celebrated my birthday one more time. My parents gave me a gift when we saw them in Mexico and I pulled that out to open. So, Chris sang to me for the umpteenth time and I tore off the paper to reveal a Wii game system. As I inserted the batteries to the controllers, Chris made sure that our friends were on their way over to break it in. So, as I type this, I am simultaneously doing a Google search for “wii elbow” remedies.
In conclusion, please accept my advice to always have birthdays on the weekend, or at the very least, in two vastly different time zones.