I LOVE MY BIRTHDAY. And I get that not everyone loves that one day a year that serves as a reminder that they’re one year older, fatter, balder, etc. But a mon avis, birthdays rock. Especially my own. Having gone from 1999 (the Bat Mitzvah extravaganza that is, to this day, still agreed upon as the best of all of my Hebrew School classmates. OK, so there were only five of us. Whatever.) to last year without much birthday fanfare, I am now all about doing it up for this very special day.

I’ll be totally honest, when planning to move to Korea, I was a little bummed about my birthday. I was concerned that, since I would only have been here for eight-ish weeks, I wouldn’t have people close enough to celebrate with yet. I was also a little bummed about being away from my family and friends. Well, all my concerns were totally off-base. My birthday pretty much rocked.

Well, most of it did. This week, we’ve got about 150 kids from the same orphanage as last month. After one of my classes with them today, I cried. Actually cried. OK, that’s totally lame, I know. And I cried on my birthday. Who does that? I’ll talk about that later this week, though.

After work, eight of us went out to dinner at this great little restaurant in Suyu. The funny thing about restaurants in this country is that, unless a particular establishment is part of a chain, it doesn’t seem to have a name. So I don’t know the name, if there even is one, of the place we went to. My friends call it the chicken soup place, so let’s go with that. After you walk in, take your shoes off at the door and sit down on mats at low tables, the owner or his wife brings out a pot of water and a raw chicken. Then, right in front of you, they cut the chicken up into pieces using super sharp scissors and turn on the water, so the chicken actually cooks in front of your eyes. While it’s cooking, you have some veggies and spices to mix and eat. When the chicken is ready, you mix it with the spices. You can also mix it in with the water that the chicken was cooked in, which has by this point been turned into chicken broth. Every time we go, we always get noodles toward the end, to mix in with the chicken and broth. It’s a cure-all for the common cold, as well as anything else that might be ailing you.  I recorded a few videos at dinner, just to give you folks a taste of what I was tasting (ha, I’m so clever!).  And yes, I know that the video of Heather explaining how to mix the spices is sideways.  Sometimes (often) I forget that my camera should only be used to film things when held horizontally and not vertically.  My bad…

The owner cutting up AN ENTIRE RAW chicken

The owner cutting up AN ENTIRE RAW chicken

The pot after noodles were added

The pot after noodles were added

After dinner, we hit up Dr. Fish around the corner.  I’ve mentioned Dr. Fish here before, and have promised (threatened?) to take anyone who comes to visit (and will be making good on that promise when Simone comes from South Africa next week).  Turns out, Nick, Diana and Kate had never been to Dr. Fish before and were all down for a trip, so off we went!  I went a bit camera happy there, but if you saw Americans screaming and shrieking like my friends were, you would have done the exact same thing.

On the right, Diana is hesitant to stick her feet in.  Kate has already made the plunge.

On the right, Diana is hesitant to stick her feet in. Kate has already made the plunge.

Andddddd Kate starts laughing.  And by laughing, I mean squealing and squirming.  Welcome to Dr. Fish.

Andddddd Kate starts laughing. And by laughing, I mean squealing and squirming. Welcome to Dr. Fish.

I think the award for best reaction goes to James, who looks like he’s making fun of everyone in all of the Dr. Fish documentation, yet his frequent jolts, scrunched face and clenched jaw are all 100 percent real and unmocking.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get some of his initial reactions on video, but I got the second wave, which is almost as good.

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Yeah, in case you couldn’t hear my disgusted, “I’m not even laughing!” in that last video, just know that I was incredibly let down by the tub with the bigger fish.  More toe suction does not equal a more ticklish feeling.  However, bigger fish DO equal cool pictures.

I TOLD YOU MY PEDICURE IS KICKING ASS

I TOLD YOU MY PEDICURE IS KICKING ASS. I GOT IT MORE THAN TWO MONTHS AGO!!

Oh, bonus about Dr. Fish: They forgot about us (though I’m not quite sure how you can forget about seven loud white people in a quiet cafe) and we got an extra fifteen minutes tacked on to the 20 that we coughed up 2,000 won (less than two bucks) for.

Post-Dr. Fish, we swung by Baskin Robbins to get me a birthday cake.  After two longs months of no cake, some BR was totally the right choice.  I wanted to get a cat cake (because a. such things exist at Korean Baskin Robbins and b. CATS CATS CATS), but the ones they had weren’t big enough to feed all of us, so I settled for a chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake.  In America, I feel like I would have bought the cake and then scrambled to get home to eat what was left of a melty mess.  In Korea, totally different game plan.  They put the cake into a large styrofoam box, then packed the box with dry ice and tied a bow on top.

Birthday glee!

Birthday glee!

Once we got back to campus, we headed over to Heather and James’ apartment.  More friends showed up bearing gifts and we ate the cake and hung out for a few hours.  Here’s what the cake look like minutes before being devoured:

BR even gave us candles!

BR even gave us candles!

I just wanted to show off my gift from Jeanette.  She gift-wrapped a toothbrush, which will totally come in handy in another couple months when I need to toss out my current one.

I just wanted to show off my gift from Jeanette. She gift-wrapped a toothbrush, which will totally come in handy in another couple months when I need to toss out my current one. Oh, and I didn't even realize the incredibly attractive face Erin was making. Fantastic!

So that was my 22nd birthday.  Tears, peers and no beers.  Though in order to be a truly Melissa birthday, it would have to stretch over a period of several days.  Friday night I’m going to Penelope, the local pub I’ve mentioned before, for a few hours.  I received an invite yesterday to go out this weekend with one of the Korean staff, Beyonce (no joke, that’s her English name), who shares my birthday.  So plans abound for this 20something girl (woman?), fear not.  I want all of you to know that I really appreciate all the e-mails, Facebook messages, IMs and cards I’ve gotten this week.  If you’re lucky, maybe I’ll be spending my 23rd with you!

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