Capoeira Academy

Tonight was liberating, truly.

Stepping out of my comfort zone is difficult – I try to do it, but every once in a while there is something I’m almost too timid to even attempt. Tonight that “something” was kickboxing.

I’d somehow stumbled across Capoeira Academy Ladies Kickboxing during one of my marathon research days while living in Albuquerque. I’ve always been intrigued by kickboxing, but too intimidated to try. The idea of stepping into a kickboxing gym with zero experience felt unsettling. This gym sounded different. They advertised a ladies only class and mentioned that beginners were always welcome. It was advertised as being a good mix of actual kickboxing/defense and a cardio workout. It didn’t sound easy, per say…but it certainly sounded easier.

After several shoves out the door from Hoban, I showed up for my free introductory class tonight a bit nervous but excited. Sitting down with several other girls who were stretching, I introduced myself and began to chat. As it turned out, two of the girls were complete beginners like myself. The other two had been attending classes for only three weeks.

“Do you enjoy it?” I asked

“No.” Replied girl #1.

That should have been my first clue. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

By the end of our warm-up I was out of breath. By the end of our circuit training I was seeing stars. By the end of our roundhouse kicks I felt like I was going to hurl. Then, I did hurl. 

While emptying the contents of my stomach in the lavatory, I felt mortified. Why was nobody else having such a hard time? I could barely keep up with the exercises. I had trouble rotating my body while following through with my kicks. I was dizzy. I felt nauseated. I could not stop throwing up. 

After class, as I (very shakily) walked down the stairs and toward the parking lot a block away, I was talking with the other girls and we all agreed that we just got our butts kicked. I certainly didn’t feel as B.A. as I thought I would, and I know I didn’t look like I’d done anything other than barely survive.

“Does it get any easier?” I asked Girl #2.

She responded with a small laugh, “There’s a girl who wasn’t here tonight, but she’s been coming for a year. She said it never gets easy‘, but that each time you come it feels like you’re dying a little less.” We all laughed at that, but I loved how she put it.

I could use any number of life metaphors with this one, but what struck me most tonight while I was driving home and blasting Demi Lovato – (don’t judge) – was that what this mystery girl said applies specifically to me right now. Each time I put myself out there and try something new it gets easier. Each time I force myself to smile and talk and I lock up the almost-introvert within me, I feel less like I’m drowning. Each time I leave my comfort zone and do something new, I feel just a little bit more alive and at home.

Tonight was exhausting, painful, and slightly humiliating.

I’m going back tomorrow night.

Crazy difficult workout + no AC + Summer in Okinawa = this. ↓

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The Cube

Our house is mostly unpacked and all there really seems to be left to do is laundry, laundry, and (did I mention?) more laundry! I realized our clothes wouldn’t smell fresh-from-the-dryer when we unpacked them (after all, they were in storage for about eight months before we got them!) but I had no idea the stuffy smell would permeate the whole house! Now, therefore, I have to clean every. single. stinking. piece. of. clothing. OHMYGOODNESS. I have probably never done this much laundry in a single week. I have never done this much laundry in my LIFE. There are sheets, comforters, bath towels, kitchen towels, mats, blankets…and the list goes on. Let’s not even get me started on the number of loads I’ve done with just clothes alone. (The count is currently at 21…and I’m not yet finished.) Needless to say, the past 48 hours has consisted of me staying in the vicinity of the washing machine! Thank goodness we aren’t living off base…off base housing (while greatly envied for many reasons) has ridiculous utility bills. I’ve heard of people paying in excess of $700 a month – for electricity alone! At least I can wash everything without cringing in anticipation of the next bill each time I turn on the machines! Thank the Lord for small graces.

Anyway. Now that my laundry rant is over…on to cute Okinawan things – like cars!

Okinawa has the cutest (and some of the ugliest!) cars I have ever seen. For starters, there are more pink and lavender cars than I have ever seen anywhere. My first two days on the island I counted 57 pink cars…once I started counting, about halfway through my first day. That’s a lot of pink. There are dark magentas and very light pinks though most are this color shown below. ↓

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Here’s the back of a purple car I spotted on one of our explorations through town. ↓

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Now, to clarify, both of the cars I just showed you are a decent size for Okinawa – another thing here that is unusual is the general size of vehicles. To give you an idea…a Toyota Prius is huge. A Dodge Caravan would be monstrous (though I’ve yet to see one here). Most cars are two or four seaters and very boxy – though there are lots of cute old cars and many hatchbacks as well. If I see someone in a sedan the only thing I can think is that I would never EVER want a car that long here! The streets are tiny, and the parking spaces take me back to high school when I lived in Belgium – and when I first decided that a Smart car was very practical (and for good reason!). There are, as far as I know, only two Smart cars on the island. I have no idea why they aren’t more popular here, but I’m going to take a guess and assume it’s because they’re more expensive – why pay $12,000 for a car when you can buy a nice, albiet used car, for $4,000? (Or, if you really want a lemon, for $800?)

Initially, I wanted the smallest and cutest (most “island-y”) car I could find! My heart was set on the Nissan March Bolero.

Check it out. 

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Isn’t it the cutest!? Hoban and I decided that if a Mini Cooper and a Rolls Royce had a baby, this would be it. Adorable. I found someone selling theirs for only $2,700 and almost bought it – but due to the awkward JCI (Japan Compulsory Insurance) date I’d have to get it redone TWICE. (Which would be quite expensive and a pain in the butt.)

(If you’re interested in learning more about the JCI, check out this article shared on Okinawa Hai! For those of you who don’t care to read the article, I’ll give you the rundown. The JCI must be redone every two years and can cost anywhere from $400 to $1400 (or more, depending on the condition of your car). Basically, someone official checks out your car and must “pass” it in order for you to be able to legally drive the vehicle. They will get you for anything large that’s wrong (such as an old timing belt) as well as anything small and stupid (such as having no windshield wiper fluid.) If your car doesn’t pass, you have to pay the place to get your car fixed. It’s a little insane.) 

Anyway, the Nissan March Bolero. The cutest car in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up buying one. By the time my happy bubble was popped and I realized the one I found wouldn’t work out, the practical side of me was leaning toward a different car. The  March Bolero, while undeniably adorable, just didn’t have the space I’d probably need. The trunk was tiny (almost non-existent) and driving with more than four people would be impossible. Should Hoban and I have kids in the next three years, we would have practically no space left once a car seat was installed. The real issue, however, was that if Hoban and I wanted to scuba dive, we couldn’t fit more than two people and our dive equipment. That was the final nail in the coffin. Bye bye, Bolero.   😦

We looked around and eventually settled on B.C. Used Cars right outside base. It was reputable, almost everyone we spoke to recommended them, came with a new 2 year JCI (and all road/weight taxes pad for one year!), and had a one year warranty on the car – so I could take my car to their garage whenever there’s an issue and they’ll fix it for free (and will give me a loaner car in the time being!)

B.C. Used Cars (Outside Kadena Gate 2) ↓

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Now, B.C. Used Cars was a bit more expensive than getting a car from the lemon lot on base – but we personally felt that the peace of mind (and having the JCI/taxes paid for already!) were worth the extra money. That being said, while negotiating we decided to pay in cash as it significantly reduced the price of the car – but we had no idea that paying “cash” literally meant with cold hard money! Checks and debit cards weren’t accepted…nor was any dollar bill larger than a $50! We cashed a check at the Officer’s Club and returned to B.C. the next day with our wad of bills. It was pretty ridiculous! I felt like I needed a briefcase to make the transaction. (A very very small briefcase 🙂 )

Our small pile of car money ↓

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While I’d decided not to buy the tiniest car available, I still wanted a fun color – one I wouldn’t have in the States.  I saw a car while perusing at B.C. that fit the bill. It was baby blue and it was one of those super boxy cars Hoban and I make fun of in the States – a Nissan Cube Cubic! Here’s a link to a youtube video showing the inside of the car. Ours is slightly different (Yes, we ended up buying it!), but it’s pretty much the same except for the color. Our interior is grey/black, and our dashboard has a GPS navigational system (all in Japanese though so we can’t figure out how to use it). The two seats in the very back fold down to create trunk space. I doubt we’ll have the two extra seats up often (unless we have several visitors at one time) but we love that we have the flexibility of more seats.

Here’s a picture of my new car outside our house (It was rainy which is why the picture is so dark.) ↓Image

What do you think? So far we love driving this around – it’s spacious though still small enough to explore the island – and small enough to fit in the teeny tiny parking spaces!

Here are some more cars commonly found on Okinawa! ↓

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Memorial Day

As promised, I’m going to post pictures from our day at the beach! Our new friends from the squadron (and from our neighborhood!) called us up to see if we would join them for a day of snorkeling last Monday! That definitely sounded like a good idea so we jumped at the opportunity. What a perfect beach day. The sun was shining, the water felt as warm as bath water (until the colder currents came in around 4pm!), and the company was superb. Check out our photos from the day!

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Just another wonderful day in paradise!

 

Scuba

Not much has happened in the last few days since I’ve mainly been cooped up inside our house unpacking boxes and organizing. It’s so exciting to finally have our things and so crazy that we’re finally in our home for the next three years! Still, I can’t wait to be done sorting and cleaning so that I can get out and explore even more.

The ocean is mere miles from our house and it kills me that I’m not out snorkeling and diving on a beautiful day like today! We did both last week and had a blast.

Two days after arriving we met up with other people in our squadron for a couple dives. We parked along the road, put on our gear, and trudged through lots of nastiness to get to the ocean. I couldn’t stop laughing as I tried to remain balanced, but by the time we reached the water I was covered waist down in mud! That being said, the dive spot was well worth the trek. Once in the water, it wasn’t a far walk until we reached the drop off point by the reef, but it took me quite a while- I spent so much time trying to avoid all the sea urchins! I have never seen so many in my life! There were probably ten per square foot. At least. We wore felt-bottomed booties for protection, but I was scared of slipping and knocking into one from the side. That would definitely hurt! Along with sea urchins there were gigantic sea cucumbers, and hermit crabs – and that was just in knee-deep water.

Once along the ocean floor we swam through tall (and narrow) canyons, through a cave, and among the reef. WOW. That’s all I really know how to say! The water was clear, the coral was bright, and the ocean life was plentiful. On one dive alone we saw a couple of lion fish (and what I’m convinced is the largest lion fish in existence), a banded sea snake (which is about 16 times more deadly than a cobra!), and more fish than I can count. I kept hoping to see a reef shark which is rumored to hang around that area, but no such luck. (Normally I would never ‘hope’ to see a shark…but if I’m going to I’d like to in a group of at least five people!)

Not my photography as I just google searched for this photo – but here’s a sea snake if you don’t know what they look like! We were about this close to one.  ↓

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We walked back to the car for lunch in-between dives and enjoyed some things I picked up at a local convenience store along the way to our dive spot. In the states you can find any number of things to eat somewhere such as a 7-Eleven. At Lawsons, CoCo, and Family Mart (Okinawan convenience stores), you can have a bunch of neat food! They sell the japanese version of a sandwich – a triangular seaweed wrap containing rice and something else inside like tuna, salmon, or pork. There also were long and uncut sushi rolls, ramen bowls (which is a popular food here), noodle/tuna/veggie salads, various sushi, and taco rolls. Yes, I said taco rolls. Imagine a long piece of seaweed wrapped around white rice with a center of cheese and taco meet. Uhm, yes please! I bought that as well as a variety of everything else to try. It all was delicious! We were later told (and have seen for ourselves around town) that taco rolls – and especially taco rice – are a hot commodity on the island. (Which is amazing for a non-fish-lover such as myself!) Here are some shots taken by our friend Sarah while on the dive.

Just fyi – We didn’t have nearly enough weights and so had to weigh ourselves down with small boulders…thus the large rock Hoban is holding in this photo! ↓ Mine were mostly shoved into my BCD pockets, haha. It made our dive a bit more difficult since we had trouble with finding neutral buoyancy, but it was worth it!

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Hoban ↓

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One of  the lion fish we saw! ↓

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Diving was amazing, and so was snorkeling! Check out my next post to see some photos from our Memorial Day at the beach!