I am fortunate to have a birthday that always falls during Thanksgiving weekend as it tends to be relaxing and friends are back in town for the short holiday. Though I wasn’t able to be home for Thanksgiving this year, my family still celebrated my birthday as we usually do (please see cake picture above).
I’ve spent my last few birthdays in NYC so to spend my 24th in Osaka, Japan this year, as you can imagine, was a huge privilege.
My day started with a below freezing chill biting at my face as I set out for a warm pancake breakfast. As I walked past all the high end shops, I slowly encountered more and more people lining the streets for what I learned was the annual Osaka Marathon. What a treat. As I sat down to enjoy my breakfast, the crowd of people started to grow rapidly outside, and I finished just in time to see the first cyclists ride by.
After about 30 minutes, runners started trickling through before eventually turning into a multi-colored sea of outfits including costumes, spandex, and quirky hats. When they rounded the corner, they all waved at the TV cameras and the people on the sidelines cheering them along. As I watched, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw people wearing Nemo and Pikachu hats, a ballet boy, a monkey costume, the blues brothers, and a man in a grape costume (he was my favorite) among many others.
I found it quite fitting to wake up to a city marathon on my birthday. It paralleled my decision to take my first RTW trip, in many ways, and was a reminder to work hard and hustle through any kind of circumstances for what is important to you. Never in my craziest dreams did I imagine I’d get to spend a birthday abroad let alone travel the world for 6 months. For that and so many other things, I am grateful, not just during Thanksgiving but every day. To name a few:
- My friends and family
- My health and SO MANY DELICIOUS FOODS
- My passport aka gateway to the world
- The freedom to do, say, and wear what I please (Thanks, USA)
- In the absence of old company, new friends and even complete strangers going the extra mile to make me feel right at home
The remainder of the day was spent wandering around the Namba neighborhood, roaming through the free Sunday markets, and pondering why people find such enjoyment in Pachinko and gambling in general.
As the outpouring of love from friends new and old from around the world came through via social networks, I couldn’t help but smile the entire day. Even though I can’t speak Japanese, and everyone around me barely spoke English, simply to be with them in silence was the greatest gift I could ask for this year. The staff at the Osaka hostel even made me a birthday card which is perhaps my most treasured memento from my entire trip.
The strong spirit and will of Osaka is truly something to be witnessed through an event like a marathon. Japan has really given a new meaning to the term Souldier for me. The people work very hard despite what little reward may be on the receiving end yet they remain as peaceful and happy as ever.
A few weeks ago, I learned a new word that instantly became my favorite, and I feel it accurately encompasses the last 6 months as well as everything that 24 has in store for me:
Beatitude: supreme blessedness; exalted happiness