Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Foreign Birthday

Today I experienced my very first birthday away from the comforts of my home country - a foreign birthday. I must premise this blog with the caveat that it is only 2.15pm, and that much might remainin store for me, whereby this becomes the best/worst birthday ever but that, should it occur, will legitimise the existence of a different blogpost.

In typical rule-breaking form, my birthday began yesterday, as I had the dual pleasure of opening a package from home and Skyping with two best friends in Wellington. In my family we have a very strict rule in which no presents are to be opened - indeed, not even vague allusions towards said presents are permitted - before the day in question ('What will you have to look forward to??') so there was a certain naughty joy in opening my package on Birthday Eve. Coming from so far away, both weight and size was restricted, so this package, by dint of necessity, contained only the bare essentials for a happy existence (make-up, hair-dye, candy, a Lady Gaga poster). Further delight was granted in the form of a Tinker Bell card, which sings when opened. Angelic. I hope they experienced this at Customs, I sincerely do. It would bring joy to the most stoic of Japanese hearts. And, it would be just like them to take issue with my birthday pineapple lumps, when they have already let a consignment of illegal drugs (contraception) slip through their security. This was in fact that first piece of mail which reached me from home - a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope containing naught but a month free of fertilization. It having been some months since I compiled these envelopes, I experienced some confusion in coming across, amongst myriads of incomprehensible advertisements for pizza (although, comprehended that they were about pizza, didn't I?) not only mail in English, but mail in my own handwriting. Had I sent myself a congratulatory message? Was I posessed of a second personality, whose sole function was to ensure continued foetus-foiling? But no - simply the efforts of a more sensible past self bearing fruit (or not, as it were). Pregnancy in Japan (shudder) - not to be contemplated, as am currently living off Frosties and JellyBelly's which perhaps does not comprise sufficient nutrition for infant (other reasons include; utter fear and revulsion at prospect, genuine lack of impetus or desire, and probable alcohol-induced infertility). But I digress. A long way. I have digressed so far that have forgotten original thread. Must revise.

Ah. Yes. Package: thank you, family, for that small (though it cost $40 to post) piece of home on the anniversary of my existence. Appreciation all round. The second pre-birthday delight came in the form of the digital appearance of one Ally Garrett and one Diane White in my living room in Japan. People have told me before but I never really acknowledged the truth of it: Skype is genius. It is free! It has video! You can see, real-time, the expressions of derision that form on your best friends' faces when it becomes apparent that a month of dictating to Japanese children has left one with a distinct American twang (apparently I roll my 'r's now. When I say my name it sounds like Zac Efron(m?) is saying it)! You can also see yourself, so can observe own emotions when describing life in Japan. Most revealing. Perhaps overly so. But it really was indescribably wonderful to chat with friends from afar as if they were in the same room, to feel no fear that the conversation would be equal in price to that of a small car, and to be able to observe, with own two eyes, that they are not doing homework/watching re-runs of Shortland Street/inspecting breasts for lumps and/or lopsidedness, whilst doing so. One of the best birthday presents I could have received. Those who have not invested in the necessary software and teachnology - do so. It is one tehcnological advance for which I can express unadulterated approval. (Most amusing, too, was my ignorant insistence that, every time the camera froze, some energetic action from the subject would stimulate the camera back into action. Resultant shaking of head/hands/entire body followed by dizziness and anger pure entertainment. Highly recommend).

Anahwah, that was last night. After Skyping, I ate a Big Mac, read Harry Potter and fell asleep, all sources of great pleasure to me (I am a simple soul). This morning, felt somewhat disillusioned by Japanese birthday, a sensation which is bound to ensue from the combination of lack of edible foods for breakfast/dire hair day/having to get up at 6am. But, boyfriend had supplied me with no less than four different types of chocolate, no doubt anticipating my mood, and so I was thusly sweetened. Bike ride, train ride, bus ride, all uneventful, though felt like demanding subway seat from old woman on account of birthday. Refrained. Actually am realsing that henceforth, there is little to tell about this 23rd life anniversary of mine - the simple fact being that Japanese people don't give a damn about the occasion. Here, everyone's birthday, regardless of actual birth date, is celebrated in unison on January 1. A typically Japanese initiative - respecting the collective over the individual, refusing to make oneself stand out, 'The nail that sticks out is hammered down' type-logic. When I told the teacher I work with that it was my birthday the next day, she simply nodded and carried on somewhat awkwardly, as if this was akin to declaring the next day to be the commencement of one's menstruation. When I unabashedly made 'It's My Birthday Tomorrow' the subjest of a game of Hangman, the puzzle was solved with absolutely zero fanfare, as if I had written 'I have an umbrella'. All my efforts to be lauded for the admirable acheivement of being alive were thwarted.

And so, the end of the post. In summation, only people who are not Japanese care that is my birthday. And only I care with any particular enthusiasim (yay ME). But, boyfriend is wining (beering?) and dining me tonight, and tomorrow night plans are afoot for drunken revelry with gaijin who, like myself, consider any occasion ripe for unadulterated imbibing. Happy Birthday to me, I say. I'm determined that my 24th year will be greeted with some fanfare, at least. In a country where 'Respect for the Aged Day' is a legitimate national holiday, I'm sure I'll be able to find some reason for which September 15th should inspire similar veneration. 'Respect for Scarlett Day'? I think so.


  1. Although I am touched that the virtual presence of Ally and I was one of your favourite gifts, material goods packaged with love will be soon coming your way. I really wish you hadn't revealed the cost of postage though. That's a scary amount of stamps.

  2. Emphasis on the "small" size of the package from home stimulates father to note in reply that "good things come in small parcels" and that the enclosed cheque - while light in weight was no lightweight - and that it was your mother's irrational desire to send you a taste of NZ that resulted in the parcel also including a heap of pineapple chunks without which rather fewer stamps would have been required.... xxx