>There are basically two ways a Chicorker (a Chicagoan-New Yorker) with a decent income can celebrate her 30th birthday. Option 1 is to have some sort of day of luxury, surrounded by friends, food, and drink. Many female New Yorkers take option 1, gather their posses, and check in for a day of pampering and girl talk at a spa. This makes a normal 30 year old feel relaxed, cared for, and glamorous. Birthday girl and posse then head out for a night on the town, hitting trendy restaurants and the coolest bars and clubs. The next day is spent recovering and hopefully remembering a night of crazy fun.

Obviously, I am not an Option 1 kind of gal, which leads me to Option 2. Option 2 also entails crazy fun, but with emphasis on the crazy. In selecting option 2, I decided to use my frequent flyer miles and go visit my oldest friend (since 4th grade – that’s almost 21 years of friendship by now, not counting the year J. decided that she would not speak to me for a variety of reasons) in the Dominican Republic, a developing country in the Caribbean where things are cheap. Since the emphasis in option 2 is on crazy, it does not mean that the birthday girl and her spouse and friends go to an all-inclusive resort, take advantage of the weather, and lie around on a white sand beach. That would be more like option 1, with an emphasis on luxurious fun. Option 2 is to fly into Santo Domingo, have Christmas Eve dinner with J. and her family, wander around the Colonial Zone on Christmas Day sweating through everything I am wearing, and then rent a car on the 26th for a two day expedition into the impoverished but beautiful countryside with J., my incredibly adaptable husband, and J.’s unbelievably patient, non-English speaking boyfriend.

My birthday fell on the second day of our journey, Dec. 27. I woke up in a clean hotel in the tiny picturesque town of Paraíso with no water. While my husband and I waited for the water to go on, J. and her boyfriend burst into my room singing a local happy birthday song (not Feliz Cumpleaños) and bearing the best imitation of cake and a candle they could scrounge up: a roll with a tampon stuck in it. (Fortunately, they did not light the tampon.) I was delighted. Really, who wouldn’t be? That was creativity at its finest.

Then the water came on, everyone got to take a cold shower in the tub where there was no shower head, just a pipe coming out of the wall, and with lots of ants, who seem to live in the bathtub. I was 30 and the adventure was just beginning.