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Birthday Fun

March 6, 2011

It’s been years since I cared much about my birthdays. I think I was twelve the last time I had an actual party… half my life ago. Since then, the most I’ve done was invite one single friend, but many years, I didn’t even do that, I just ‘celebrated’ with my family, which consisted of gorging on cake, ripping open a few presents, and then getting on with our everyday life.

This year’s birthday, however, was as different as can be. Frantic house-cleaning and plant-watering, followed by drivingย  to the airport to pick up four friends from the Netherlands.

It’s been almost exactly five years now since I joined the message board I met them on. I still remember the day I first discovered the place that was to become my online home – one of my last days at university, a Friday afternoon in early February. I had decided to drop out after the first term, and only had to stay a few more days to take one more exam on Monday. Just one more weekend to spend in Vienna, but I was miserable – as long as I kept busy, it wasn’t too bad, but on weekends, I was lonely and had nothing to do.

Unhappy and homesick, I left the cafeteria where I had just forced down my lunch and climbed the stairs to one of the computer labs. I spent some time looking for jobs I could apply to, for the first time in my life using the internet voluntarily. I knew little about computers then, and even less about the internet – the only times I’d used it were once at school, with a teacher’s help, and a few times at university to sign up for exams or check my grades. And then I decided to check out this website I had read about…

One of the turning points of my life.

Mostly unrelated picture: birthday present from my mother - I finally own a 'Riki'! I've been eyeing them greedily since they started to appear in stores, but first I never had room, and now, no money (which is not stopping me from buying plants entirely, but at least from the ones that cost โ‚ฌ 35.)

All misery and homesickness were forgotten as I poked around the message board, laughing at the sheer silliness of some of the posts, warmed by how well they seemed to know each other, by the in-jokes they shared.

When did I decide I wanted to be one of them? Right then and there? Later that night, the next day? All I know is that by the time I left Vienna, I knew what my name and my signature would be.

Several more weeks and a birthday had passed by the time I actually registered and tentatively joined the book discussions, and another few weeks until I joined the larger silliness of the rest of the board, truly becoming ‘one of them’.

I slowly learned my way around the Internet, but also around the real world. By the time I’d been a member for one and a half years, I first met some of them in real life, which required me to travel by myself for the first time, to a country I’d never been to before.

Since then, I’ve made it to at least one such meeting a year. They continue to make me do things I wouldn’t otherwise do – learn new games, try to dance, drive to the airport (driving is still terrifying), invite friends for my birthday*, they continue to make me laugh louder and talk even more nonsense than I usually do. Their sheer presence causes mushroom explosions and the creations of turtles out of dishes and cutlery. They make me go to places I haven’t been in years even here in my own town, have way too much fun in the grocery store, and end up with a monkey on my shoulder. They make me have birthday cake at midnight, sing me a Dutch birthday song and give me an awesome game (and threaten to take it away again because apparently I’m too good at it).

They also make my plants hate me, because I couldn’t be bothered to water for days after they’d left (but they’ve all survived and mostly recovered). Some of them have asked me for seeds, so I’ve been able to get rid of some of them, and I need to find some large glass thingy and plant another terrarium to show one of them how it’s done… it’s clearly impossible to do anything at my place without plants getting involved.

And most of all, I need to save up some money again so I can make a trip to meet them again soon.

Mostly unrelated picture: another present from my mother. I'm trying to overcome my Saintpaulia phobia, which is actually mostly a mite phobia.

You’ll have to forgive me for not mentioning the name of the message board here – I prefer to keep the name I use there and the things I’ve posted there separate from this blog (I guess if someone really wanted to find it, they could, but I’m not going to make it too easy. ๐Ÿ™‚ )


* although to be honest, it was more that they invited themselves. The conversation went something like, ‘I have an apartment! I have space now!’ – ‘Excellent! When can we visit?’ Not that I’m complaining – I would have invited them anyway!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2011 19:02

    Happy Birthday!

    I know how refreshing and funny and wonderful it is to have a community, a place where you belong on the internet. The only difference is that you should be glad that your online friends live in Europe. Mine are scattered all over the entire world (England, USA, but also the Philippines, Australia, China). I hope to meet one who lives in Italy very soon, and others maybe later when I earn my own money. ๐Ÿ™‚

    See, that’s what birthdays are for! To reflect and be happy. I hope they will force more birthday parties upon you in the future, haha.

    – Vanessa

    • March 6, 2011 19:25

      Heh, there are plenty of people overseas that I’d love to meet – I’ve met two so far when they came to Europe, but there are so many more… and travelling to another continent is entirely out of the question now that I have my own flat (and while I don’t mind travelling on my own so much any more, I’ve never flown anywhere by myself, so that’s a rather scary prospect, too). I just have to hope that more of them will come to Europe…

      • March 7, 2011 21:19

        True, that’s quite scary. I’ve wanted to do it for a while, but I think I’ll wait some more time …

        You should probably persuade them all to visit you and stay for a few days. And you should go skiing and do what sightseeing you can do in Austria, so they like it and come back too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • March 8, 2011 20:07

          I’ve found that putting scary things off just makes them even scarier – but that doesn’t stop me from putting them off, of course. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          They actually spent 3 nights at my place. Didn’t do much sightseeing, thanks to the not-so-great weather (this was actually a few weekends ago now, before this contant sunshine started), but we’re definitely planning more meetings in Austria, and in warmer months – for some reasons, the Netherlands always get the summer meetings, and Austria got February twice now. Very unfair. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Ginny Burton permalink
    March 7, 2011 00:53

    Happy, plant-filled birthday wishes to you! And what a charming story about meeting your friends.

  3. March 7, 2011 01:14

    Happy Birthday! I don’t think I’ve seen a Riki in years…I got one of the last ones my store ever had about 7 years ago. That violet is adorable, I was sorely tempted to buy a very similar one today until I decided that I’d rather give Achimenes a try instead. Again, happy birthday and it looks like you got some lovely plants!

  4. March 7, 2011 07:08

    Thanks, everyone!

    Ginny, it’s one of my favourite stories to tell, one of my favourite days to remember. It’s so rare that you can actually point to a single moment and say, ‘That’s when my life changed.’

    Tom: I don’t remember seeing ‘Riki’s that long ago, but they’ve had them occasionally over the last four years. Only ever such large plants, though, which I couldn’t afford. But now I needed something big for next to the couch (I guess I could’ve moved the Hoya, but, you know… why turn down the opportunity to get a new plant?)

    • March 8, 2011 23:25

      I always really liked mine, I never could figure out why they went away. I just figured they were an old variety that people were sick of but reading up on it now they’re relatively new still so perhaps people just didn’t know what to think of it yet. Either way I’ve never seen one that large and I’m kind of jealous.

      • March 9, 2011 07:13

        Hah – and I always wished they’d sell smaller ones, which I’d have been able to afford more easily. But they only seem to sell them in this size here. Weird!


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