A very happy Independence Day to all of our fellow Americans! We'll definitely miss the company of friends and family today as we imagine you boating, barbecuing, parade-watching and ooohing and aaaahing over fireworks this evening. I find myself considering these kinds of holidays quite differently while living abroad. Something like "independence" is quite easy to take for granted when I am living my day-to-day American life, but takes on more meaning when thinking of it from afar. Our neighborhood here just happens to be having a festival and parade this weekend, but it won't be nearly the same as a good old-fashioned hometown celebration. And even more importantly, ENORMOUS birthday wishes to my sister, Julie, and our cousin Beth who share a birthday today and were even born in the same year. We love and miss you both!