The first birthday present I received this year was two cucumbers, presented to me by a small woman with a large plastic bag full of them.
Actually, I’m not even sure they were related to my birthday at all, but I wasn’t going to say no.
My second gift was a note from Ben addressed to “smelly” and boasting a sticker commending me for good behavior.
And really, my birthday only got better from there.
I had had my doubts about how good my birthday was going to be. Waking up alone in my apartment, working at a school where I don’t know anyone, and no fairy bread to be had sounded like a recipe for a vaguely depressing celebration.
Turns out, waking up alone was kinda fun because I could crank the Lady Gaga and dance around the apartment naked.
Due to a scheduling “error”, my exchange week has coincided with Ben being at the school so I spent the day with him (and 700 Japanese children singing Happy Birthday to me and asking me my favourite food).
And, to be honest, fairy bread pales in comparison to the profiterole cake Akane made for me!
At the end of the school day, Ben and I were sitting in the office “studying” when one of the teachers ran in, gasping “pan ya san kimasu!” or “the bread man is coming!”
Ben and I followed the rush of teachers to the little bread cart stuffed full of delicious breads and sweets, driven by the smiley little pan ya san. I restrained myself a little, but bought myself a birthday cheesecake, which was melt-in-your mouth delicious.
After school, we went back to Ben’s place where he gave me some lovely and ridiculous birthday gifts including a giant lollipop with a monkey on it. He also made me a birthday pineapple smoothie and let me drink it out of the pineapple while sitting in the sun. Joy.
When we got back to my place I was surprised and delighted to find that the lovely Leandi had graffitied my door with some large paper balloons and stuffed a little parcel in my letterbox!
I have left the balloons on my door because they make me smile and they probably freak out my neighbours.
Dinner was at our favourite izakaya; delicious food, beers the size of my head and table-side karaoke for the win!
I had a lovely evening, but it was the cherry on the proverbial top when Akane walked in with a tower of profiteroles, covered in white chocolate and blazing with candles.
Everyone sang happy birthday, but when I blew out the candles (all in one go!) I genuinely couldn’t think of a single thing to wish for.
There are people I would have loved to have there, of course, but I heard from or spoke to just about all the important people, and when my only complaint in life is that I have friends all over the world, I think life is pretty sweet.
My birthday ended, as all good birthdays should, in Amazon, with Stevie Wonder’s “Birthday Song” playing, and everyone at the bar doing free vodka shots while poppers were shot at me.
Happy birthday to me; bring on the next 365 and ¼ days of awesomeness!