(Today's guest blog is from Serena Zhou, MPIE's tri-lingual, pre-med rockstar. Enjoy!)

This is my lucky year: the year of the Ox (牛), my birth year.
一九八六年, 一月十九日.
I am lucky to have three homes: one in Ecuador, another in the United States, and the last in China. No matter which home I'm in, the other two eventually venture their way to my front door.

I am lucky to have my beloved Manna family along with a handful of chevere ("cool", "sweet") Ecuadorian friends celebrate my 23rd birthday with me, and to have a successful joint bbq birthday bash with Mark, packing the Manna house with colorful bilingual nationalities, sinfully delicious pork loin, carrot cake, chocolate cookie cake, and Mississippi mud cake (thanks girls).

I am lucky to receive presents that every kid dreams about: A KIDDIE POOL + sour patched kids (thanks Holly) + a stuffed duckling named "Patita" as in "little foot" (thanks Seth). (Given the fact that I accidentally failed to properly care for the real duckling(s) we had for less than 24 hours). Monday morning meetings have now been officially moved up to the roof, rain or shine.

I am lucky to have Andres ("the only male belly-dancer in Ecuador") perform for me and the girls plus Dunquito a jaw-dropping private show. And, might I add, I am lucky to have gone on a heavenly trip to Maui, my birthday present from mi amor Ryan, which I still daydream about and wonder if it really did happen...

I am lucky to have a local Chinese family take me in on New Years day, invite me to their home in Caracunga, personally expense my trip, and feed me the most amazing home-made, authentic Chinese food I've craved ever since landing in Ecuador. I am lucky to witness a modest Ecuadorian apartment miraculously transform into the hottest Asian techno nightclub in town, forgetting for a moment that I was actually in a Latin American country.

I am lucky to be accepted into my respective communities, and to not only having three homes, but also three inter-being families as well.

2009 Year of the Ox. It's going to be a lucky year...