Happy Kanreki Shelley

We had so many surprises that we kept quiet all in preparation for the big birthday today. Today is Shelley’s “kanreki” which is a really big birthday in Japan. She is 60years old and this special age marks the cycle of the 12 animals represented in the Chinese zodiacs. Shelley was born in the year of the monkey and this year is the year of the monkey. The 60th birthday is one of the biggest birthdays in Japan and is called “Kanreki” (還暦) in Japanese. This kanji, (kan) means circulate and (reki) is a calendar. So “kanreki” literally means that the years of your life have completed a circle, and you have come back to the same year as when you were born.

Shelley’s desk had a beautiful arrangement of flowers on it and when she arrived at school this morning, some of the teachers were in her classroom. She didn’t know why they were there but thought that maybe they wanted to be with her on her birthday. Then Maryna said to her: “Did you see the emails yet?” and Shelley said: “No!” Maryna then said: “I think that you should read them”. Shelley felt a bit worried as she thought that there was a problem. Well she opened up her computer and there was a video that Toshiki, Maryna’s son had made with the staff at Ohana, singing to her. It was filled with many photos of past experiences at Ohana and with Moko and their travels and life together.

Shelley was not in the classroom early in the morning because she was talking to some parents in the office about school options for families when they leave Ohana. Well, this was perfect timing, because we could arrange her surprise party without her being here. What a lucky set of circumstances. Some of our mums came and set up a special party for her with Hisami and Liezel. During the morning we practiced holding up the letters for “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. Each of us held up a

letter and shouted “Happy birthday”. We also laid the table and washed our hands so that we could go and have snack straight away.

When she walked in the room and saw so many mums, her mouth was wide open. She was so surprised. We invited her to come and sit on the birthday persons chair and be the “birthday girl”. She noticed that almost all of us had something similar about our clothes. She was curious. We all had something purple on and then she realized; purple is her favourite colour so we all chose something to wear that had purple in it. We all stood up and held up our letters. We shouted “Happy Birthday” and sang “Happy Birthday to you and then “Otanjobi omedetou”. Chevorne, Rupert’s mum made an amazing “vegan” chocolate birthday cake with happybirthday candles and the number 60. Some of us said that Shelley was six, some even said that she was zero and then some of us said that she was 60. We also gave her a card and a present, which she loved. It is a beautiful purple scarf and the colour looks so beautiful on her. She was sooooo moved by all the kindness from us, our mums, the whole Ohana community and all her family and friends here and all over the world. There were some times during the day when we saw her crying. We were surprised and realized that she was happy and she was also thinking about what it felt like to be celebrating this special age. Her tears were mixed with feelings and thoughts of her life and that she has a long story that she can tell; from Cape Town, South Africa all the way to Sydney, Australia and then Tokyo, Japan. We loved being able to celebrate Shelley today and know that it has been a truly wonderful day for her.

During the morning, we had some visitors from Sydney, Australia. Her mum and her sister, Glynne came to visit. They stayed for a long time and had fun with us. They saw us doing many things in our class and enjoyed seeing Ohana International School.

Shelley thanked us all and loved her birthday at school toda