November 28, 2008 was two things. The day I turned 25 as well as one of the best days of my life.
I made it a point to promote my birthday this year. Last year was somewhat of a disappointment. None of my co-workers or students knew it was my birthday last year and it fell on a Wednesday.
This year my birthday fell on the Friday after American Thanksgiving. I was sure to mention this date to my adult conversation classes, which mets on Fridays, as well as my favorite elementary school that I also visit that day of the week.
I woke up Friday morning at Leah's. We skyped our family who were just getting ready to sit down and eat turkey.
My niece Caroline joined the conversation and we spent time virtually kissing each other.
I walked into my beginner conversation class to see a table with pastries and coffee. One member of the class played Happy Birthday on her flute like instrument and I was truly shocked.
Japanese people do not treat birthdays the same way Americans do. Americans seem to place much more emphasis on individuals. Whether that be with hopes that one person can save a country or that a birthday is a day when one person should be given an obscene amount of attention.
When these ten Japanese people heard my subtle requests to have a birthday celebration I felt appreciated, among other things.
The following hour my intermediate class also brought sweets and tea.
The man to my right celebrated his 78th birthday on November 28th. He told me that being old is a struggle. I talked about how excited I am to someday be retired.
That afternoon a group of 5th grade girls stopped me, before I could walk inside the elementary school, to wish me happy birthday. And a steady stream of students followed this pattern giving me more hugs than I have ever received in one day.
The 3rd grade students would not let me into their class room for the first 15 minutes of class because they were busy preparing my gifts. They drew pictures of me and one girl gave me a four leaf clover. My favorite picture is of me (looking very Japanese, so maybe it is not me) in front of a mountain, captioned "Let's climb the mountain. It looks interesting" (in Japanese). Whoever it is supposed to be in the picture I love that that is something my students think of when they think of me.
I drove to Brad's that evening. Dianne provided the drinks.
Last year I ate Mexican food on my birthday. This year we did the same, but Dave (the cook and owner from California) brought out a brownie with a candle.
The party continued at karaoke.
And when we got back to Brad's out came the cake.
And the first day of my 25th year began with my favorite hangover meal of all time.
I could not have created a better day in my imagination.
Old friends and family took a moment to stay in touch. And relatively new friends gave me plenty of deserved birthday attention.
I constantly struggle with what it is I will walk away with after living in Ikeda for two years. Perhaps valued personal relationships is an obvious answer to that question.