World-wide web.

I don't know why they're being so good. I really don't. It's kind of freaking me out. I had nothing but angelic dream classes all day. Bright, attentive, cheerfully chirping out answers -- complying with the no-speaking-Korean-for-the-next-twenty-minutes condition. I think a huge part of it is that I've started demanding that they "give me [their] eyes" before moving on to one thing or the other, meaning I won't continue with what I'm saying or doing until I make eye contact with every last one of them. I've never seen them so focused. It's incredible. Please, God, let it continue.

It was especially nice considering today is the ol' birthday. Which leaked somehow, which means I got five choruses of literally the most rowdy, ear-piercing version of the birthday song ever -- a mumbled combination of "Liz"/"Elizabeth"/"Sem"/"Weoneomin"/"Seonsaengnim" where the name ought to have been. Those boys love to sing -- I think it's in the Korean blood. They kill the school song, literally shaking the rafters of the building every time they're meant to sing it, taking particular delight in the new sounds they can make while their voices are changing -- falling out of their seats straining their bodies with the effort, faces turning all manners of red and purple.

There's a lot of energy being cooped up in those growing bodies that are expected to sit quietly for most of the day, I suppose.

Stopped on the way home to buy myself a birthday cake, which I'm always hesitant to do in this country, given the (at times unpleasant) surprises that are inevitably housed within the beautiful exteriors. This time, I hit the jackpot with chocolate cake on the bottom, cheesecake on top stuck together with raspberry jam, all covered in a thin layer of white cream topped with a smearing of chocolate syrup. Lush. The entirety of the neighborhood's ajumma population came to a full standstill to watch me trying to discuss the makeup of the cake with the girl behind the counter in Korean. I mean a literal standstill -- casually holding their pastry trays to the side, faces strained with concentration and varying levels of amusement. Embarrassing.

Came home to find a single beautiful little letter setting in my mailbox. Timed perfectly. Jostling up the four flights of stairs cradling the cake box with the letter setting on top. It's the kind of letter that you want to stop in the middle of reading to start writing a reply to, mostly because this person is so dear to you that you really wish it was just a conversation.

25. Halfway through the 20s to thirty. And I'm trying to be more grown up these days, whatever that means. Or mostly, I'm just growing up. It really has nothing to do with what I want. All those changes you thought you'd be the exception for, that you always heard about and never understood. We always used to say we felt stuck at 17, but these days that just isn't the truth anymore. I feel 25. Which is to say, I feel stuck exactly in the middle of the kids I left behind in my hometown, all married with two or three kids now, and the ones back in New York still sharing flats with two or three other people and painting their faces on the weekends to take grainy, blurry photographs of their wicked house parties full of cheap forties purchased with allowances from growingly reluctant parents.

On days like this one, messages pour in from all over the world, and I'm forced to stop and think about all those precious people I've collected. They're so spread out that, at times, I can forget how lucky I have been (and am). And how lucky we all are that, although we're spread out so far from each other, we've all made it out to form a world-wide web of happy little successes we could have never imagined actually achieving back in high school.

Good for us.


saharial said...

Hey! Happy Birthday!
That sounds like an awesome cake you manged to buy! Its making me hungry!

I do read your blog every post, but i don't always comment and I think you write your experiences so well. (^_^)=b

I'll do my best to butt in more often ;)

Tuttle said...

Happy, happy birthday! Is that 25 Korean, or what?

The cake sounds golden, did you take pictures before you (I assume) devoured it? The cakes here are so pretty, I invariably feel obliged to take a photo.

Burndog said...

Happy Birthday! I remember 25...it was a lot like 24. Enjoy every minute of it.

Helena said...

생일 축하해요!

Diana E.S. said...

You have the same birthday as my husband. That is scary. (Except, he celebrates on the Lunar calendar, so he will never celebrate it on the same day as you).

Happy (belated) birthday!

I'm no Picasso said...

Diana -- That's weird. A little bird named Facebook told me you've got a birthday this week, so consider this my early well-wishes.

And to everyone else, so sorry not to have responded to this earlier -- thank you all.