As the cherry blossoms paint Wakayama in shades of pink and white, I find myself immersed in a world filled with unexpected encounters and joyful experiences. From chance meetings in local restaurants to exploring the wonders of nature, this year has been nothing short of exciting and fulfilling.

One late night at my favourite yakitori spot when I crossed paths with an intriguing ophthalmologist and his assistant. As the last customers in the restaurant, we struck up a conversation, and to add a little twist, I jokingly claimed to be from Nagano. Their surprise was evident as I didn't fit the typical profile of a Japanese local but spoke the language well and knew about the landscape of the country. However, as we continued talking and I revealed my South African origins, a genuine connection sparked between us.

This chance encounter led to more than just casual conversations. I found myself diving into the world of ophthalmology, learning about cataracts and the intricate workings of the human eye. Although I'm uncertain of how this newfound knowledge will manifest in my life, the journey of learning is enriching. His love for good food resonates well with me. As a fellow foodie, he has been introducing me to some of the best Japanese dishes.

To celebrate our connection, we embarked on a memorable picnic adventure to a sacred waterfall nestled deep within the woods. As we hiked up a small hill, we stumbled upon deer skulls, creating an eerie yet captivating atmosphere. Little did we know that our escapade would attract the attention of an old man and his search dog. Concerned about our presence in this known suicide spot, he was relieved to catch us in time as we got back to our car. After reassuring him of our harmless intentions, we were on our way back home. I definitely wasn't crazy... the place really is eerie.

Since it is cherry blossom season, nature treated us to breathtaking vistas of delicate blooms, splashing the mountains with pockets of pink and white. Dr Akura, my ophthalmologist friend, decided to unveil a hidden gem—a special Sakura species that reaches its peak beauty at a specific time in the morning. We witnessed the dreamy sunrise, enveloped in the embrace of the Sakura blooms while sipping on the smoothies I had prepared. It was a Wednesday morning like no other, reminding me of the value of spending time with those wiser and more experienced, who generously share their wisdom and stories.

Beyond the realm of ophthalmology, creative opportunities beckoned, as my friend discovered my talent for art and graphic design. Impressed by my portfolio, he expressed a desire to collaborate, allowing me to infuse my unique vision into his groundbreaking projects. As an inventor of the Kitaro Simulation Kit, his trust in my creative abilities filled me with a sense of pride and excitement for what lies ahead.

Life is not just about work and professional connections—it's about cherishing friendships and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Recently, my friend Rico and his girlfriend, Mia, graced my home for a delightful braai session. With the charcoal sparking, we indulged in mouth-watering food, engaged in friendly gaming battles on my Xbox, and even had a round of Jenga, a game that holds a special place in my heart from my high school days. Rico, a master of card tricks, entertained us with his skills, bringing laughter and amazement to the gathering.

In the company of an elderly lady who has become a dear friend, I embarked on culinary adventures and cultural excursions. We savoured the delights of a French restaurant after exploring Sakura-filled landscapes following a refreshing rain shower. The idyllic setting provided the perfect backdrop for a memorable picnic experience. On another occasion, she invited me to a captivating Chopin piano recital, knowing my deep appreciation for the beautiful instrument. The enchanting melodies transported us to a world of emotions and serenity.

Creating a warm and inviting space is essential, and recently I took the time to hang up a mini artwork I acquired during my time in Kyoto. Positioned below an artwork purchased for my 21st birthday, it breathes life into my kitchen, adding a touch of colour and inspiration to my daily routines.

Nurturing both physical and mental well-being has become a priority in 2021. I've dedicated myself to fitness goals, including swimming 100 laps (2.5km) twice a week, followed by a relaxing jacuzzi session. Morning stretches and biweekly skipping rope sessions further contribute to my overall vitality. However, my biggest commitment to date has been acquiring a new yellow bicycle—a cross bike that will help me improve my cycling skills and prepare for future biking adventures. The picturesque scenery of the Pacific Ocean against the backdrop of majestic mountains fuels my determination, even during the toughest uphill climbs. I also joined an informal futsal club! On Friday evenings from 19h00, the indoor gymnasium of a local junior high school becomes our battleground.

As I reflect on the buzzing year that has unfolded thus far, I can't help but feel immense gratitude for the connections I continue to forge with incredible individuals. Each encounter has brought laughter, wisdom, and a deeper appreciation for the beauty of nature. Let's embrace the upcoming sunsets, cherish the wonders of our world, and continue to create unforgettable memories.

On a side note, I am making much progress with my African drawing. I can't wait to share it with you all once it's done.

Wishing you all growth, and countless opportunities for new connections.