An Entire Day of Gifts for Alissa’s Golden Birthday

One of the biggest reasons for coming to Australia is Alissa’s Golden Birthday: March 29. There were many surprises throughout the day, from break of day to the last minute before midnight. Some were straight from heaven!

Happy birthday Alissa

Like the first: timing. We hadn’t planned our trip around Alissa’s birthday, but it just happened to work out that way. What a blessing! And right now in Australia, it is March 30, the morning after the entire day of celebrating. In other words, when I post this blog post, back in the US it will still be Alissa’s birthday. How cool is that?

The morning’s gifts were so much fun. Wendy and I gave Alissa and Assad Colorado hoodies and a bag of Herchey’s chocolates. And since Alissa had made us breakfast every morning since we arrived, for her birthday morning we went to her favorite cafe in the city. The walk was a joy on a most perfect crisp morning. French toast, coffee, and sandwiches were wonderful!

Next gift: manicures. Wendy and Alissa took the tram to town for R&R to get their nails done. Assad and I shot to the market and enjoyed some coconut drinks ourselves. What a joy for all of us! We returned home and got ready to go to the party.

Consisting of approximately 25 guests, Alissa’s 29th birthday party was the most multicultural experience of my life. We were the only ones from America and there were only a few native Australians. Friends from Syria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and (of course) us from America gathered to celebrate Alissa’s golden birthday.

The party was hosted by Alissa and Assad’s dear friends, Lauren and Isabelle. Alissa and Assad met through them, and many of the people who attended were friends through Lauren and Isabelle. Their courtyard was large enough for a wonderful table of burgers (made by Wendy) and delicacies. Alissa brought her Hershey’s chocolates to share and they were a huge hit (they aren’t easily available here in Australia). Gift opening brought Alissa many surprises, but the dearest was a collection to help Alissa replace her bike that was stolen a few weeks ago. I think she has enough to buy a much nicer bike than what she started with!

Later we escaped the cool evening into Lauren and Isabelle’s modest home, and what an incredible experience this was. They have lived in many parts of the world, but they admit to love Syria the most. All over their home were paintings, cloths, rugs, and furniture from their years teaching English as a foreign language in Syria. Isabelle handed a book to Assad, a National Geographic-type book filled with pictures of Syria. Assad paged through it with Wendy and me and–from memory without reading any of its text–told us of the people and sights of his home country. We learned so much about Syria, as well as caught a glimpse of the heartbreak of its civil war. Thirty-four million Syrians filled the country before the war, now only 11 million, half of whom are displaced inside their own country. It was somewhat of a somber journey through the pages of this book, though Wendy and I found it fascinating.

This is yet another example of our visit being far too short. We would have loved to get to know Lauren and Isabelle better, explored so much more of their world travels and experiences. We can tell that Assad and Alissa have a unique relationship with them.

God had the final gift, one that he was probably up in heaven grinning the entire day over. I suppose when you’re God you can crack a good one ahead of April 1. For our entire stay, we had known that we would be back in America on April 1, but we assumed we would go home March 31. “Tuesday” was in our heads, and last night when we returned to the apartment, we were lamenting the short stay in Australia. I’m not sure why–perhaps an angel nudged me in the head–I looked up our tickets back to America. We leave April 1, the same day we arrive in the US. We are traveling back in time on our flight back, so though we spent nearly the entire day in the air, we will land on the same day.

What a surprise: We leave on Wednesday, not Tuesday! It was like we gained an extra day to our visit. God is the ultimate gift-giver. A true blessing and most excellent way to conclude Alissa’s awesome birthday celebration.