O tanjōbi omedetō gozaimasu!

To the rest of the world December 31st is New Year’s Eve. In the Blume household it’s Hoban’s birthday! I wanted this year to be extra special since it’s easy to lose his birthday in the excitement of the new year.

The day was full of presents, family, friends (some of our island family), spear fishing, and surprises (such as Hoban’s new PS4 and the surprise party hosted by our friends the Chauvins!). Needless to say, the bar has been set pretty high for next year! Check out some photos of Hoban’s big day.  🙂  (Thanks to Courtney Chauvin for the beach and party photos!)

Hoban’s breakfast in bed choice – an omelette ↓

Skyping Hoban’s parents in New Hampshire ↓

I guess I’m a better actress than I thought because Hoban had no idea I’d bought him a PS4 ↓

Time for spear fishing! This beach is a two minute walk from the Chauvin’s flat (amazing). Due to the freezing cold weather on the island in December (65 degrees!) I needed three layers to go swimming. Still, it was a gorgeous day. ↓

Courtney and Swagger (Thanks Courtney for all the photos from the shore!) ↓

Swagger (the Chauvin’s dog) wanted to join in on the fun. We had quite the time convincing him to get out of the ocean. ↓

Hoban imitating a Star Wars sand raider ↓

Heading off to find fish! ↓

Hoban was a natural – in fact, this happened accidentally. While posing for a pre-fishing shot, he stuck his spear into the sandbar. He pulled up dinner. ↓

Hunting ↓

Stephen Chauvin! ↓

Hoban’s second catch of the day was this Parrot fish ↓

A successful first day of spear fishing! ↓

My photo with the birthday boy at his party! ↓

My photo with the birthday boy!

Eight years after competing against each other in Belgium and Germany, two former DoDDS athletes met on the tiny island of Okinawa……and the rest is history. This world keeps getting smaller and smaller! ↓

I LOVE this girl. Courtney and I figured out that we played against each other in sports during our high school years in Europe! Small world!

The obligatory Japanese peace sign photo ↓

The obligatory Japanese peace sign photo.

Triple fudge cake with raspberry ganache and milk chocolate shavings. I think I outdid myself this year. ↓

Every year Hoban requests something with raspberry for his cake. This year it was a triple fudge cake with a raspberry ganache and milk chocolate shavings. Definitely a repeat!

Toasting ↓

Every hour until midnight we had a confetti bomb. There were multiple strings but only one would set off the bomb. We turned it into a game!

All of us (except for the beautiful Courtney Chauvin, who took this photo!). (From left to right: Adam and Rhonda, Hoban and me, Stephen, Lawrence, Shannon and Craig) ↓

All of us (minus Courtney, who took the photo!)!

Happy New Year! ↓

Happy New Year!

Adam and Rhonda know Hoban loves games and horrible movies. So, as they said, “we found the worst game and movie we could find.” Hoban loved it. ↓

Our neighbours Adam and Rhonda know we love games and that Hoban loves horrible movies. So they gave us, and I quote, "the worst game and movie we could find." They were a hit!

Shannon, Rhonda, and me ↓

Shannon, Rhonda, and I

The morning after – Hoban enjoying the ocean breeze from the Chauvin’s deck. It doesn’t get much prettier than that! ↓

Hoban enjoying the morning view. Courtney and Stephen have an amazing apartment. The view doesn't get much better than that!

I can’t imagine a better way to start off 2015 than playing Mario Kart 64 and going to Mass.  ↓

What better way to start 2015 than with Mario Kart N64 followed by mass?

Ikei Island

While going through the gazillion photos I finally uploaded of the past 3 months, I stumbled across a few from our camping trip the beginning of November. We’d grabbed our packs, thrown our snorkel gear in the car, and driven an hour northeast to Ikei – a tiny place connected to Okinawa by a series of bridges and other islands.

The drive was beautifulbut it was nothing compared to sunrise the next morning. The only person on the beach, I stood by the water and felt completely in awe.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

Ikei Island Sunrise ↓

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Have you ever experienced time standing still? I’ve got that a lot since moving to Okinawa only 6 months ago. Being so close to beauty of this magnitude really has a way of taking my breath away. Each moment serves as one more reminder of how blessed we are. We get to live on this gorgeous island, with fantastic friends and surrogate family (framily), and we get to use it as a home base for seeing the rest of the Pacific. Is this really my life?

Like I said – blessed. Incredibly blessed.

Even though I didn’t take many photos from our overnight adventure, I had to share the sunrise with you. I had to, and I hope you see why! Here are two more from our camping trip. ↓

Beach camping = Hawaiian shirt ↓

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The obligatory campfire photo ↓

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Check out my next (real!) post to see some more pictures from Thailand! Now that I have access to my photos, you can expect more updates. (It’s about time, too!)

 

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!

On-Base Housing

I normally won’t post multiple blogs in a day, but you’ll have to cut me some slack for the time being – I have so much to share and if I don’t post now I’ll constantly be playing catch-up!

As I mentioned in my previous post, the ball got rolling a lot quicker than we expected once we arrived! Most everything on the island is done only on certain days…and much of that is done on Wednesdays. As we arrived late Wednesday night and therefore couldn’t do anything else (and as this was on the forefront on my mind after living out of suitcases for eight months) we went to the housing office first thing on Thursday to figure out where we’ll be living.

The last time I lived on base I was five years old…so you can imagine that I had no idea what to expect when we walked in the door. At best we hoped to be allowed off base. At worst we imagined another month or two in temporary lodging. Neither happened. An incredibly helpful woman explained to us that since the Air Force is trying to save money, we have to live on base. It wasn’t what we were hoping for (let’s be real – I was researching off-base housing since I discovered we were moving to Okinawa!) but we at least like one of the houses offered to us.

For those of you who don’t understand how on-base housing works, I’ll let you know. Essentially, you’re told what kind of housing you’re allowed to have. (As a married Captain with no children, Hoban rates a 2-bedroom townhouse or single family house) Once they figure out what you rate, you’re given the keys to two units – only TWO. And then you have to pick one within 24 hours. If you say you don’t want either, your name is moved from the top of the housing list to the bottom and you aren’t offered another house until your name comes up again (so you pay – out of pocket – for your continued stay in a hotel)…which is why I’d never decline both options unless they were complete pits.

Thankfully we won’t have to worry about that. We were surprisingly offered two houses our first day on the island which is almost unheard of here – our own sponsors stayed in temporary lodging for more than a month before they got a house! The first home we looked at was a bit dingy – outdated, dark grey carpeting, bleak – it didn’t inspire much excitement. It was 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, with a large laundry room, an L-shaped kitchen, and living room. I’d say the only great things about the house were the size and the location – easy walking distance to the gym and across the street from the baseball fields. Still, I was praying for something better with house #2.

House #2 delivered. It still might not be what I would choose back in the States, but it is a thousand times less gloomy than house #1! It also is a 3 bed, 2.5 bath house. In fact, the house is almost identical to house #1 save for a few differences.

  1. The floor/carpeting/finishes look much more recently updated (thank goodness)!
  2. There is no large laundry room. The laundry is essentially in a closet behind a pair of doors……
  3. ……but instead of a laundry room there is another decent sized room off the front of the kitchen! (Which I forgot to take a picture of – oops!)

Seeing as I don’t spend much time in the laundry room anyway, I’d much rather have the extra living space. We aren’t sure what we want to do with it yet but I guess we’ll have to think it over soon as we’re moving in this Saturday! I am SO excited to sleep in my own bed! Here is a view from the master bedroom.

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Master Bedroom ↓

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Master Bath ↓

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Upstairs Bathroom #2 ↓

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Bedroom #2 ↓

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Bedroom #3 ↓

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View of our Street (Aspen Court) from Bedroom #3 ↓

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Upstairs Hallway ↓

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Stairs ↓

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View from front door/staircase to the Living Room & Bathroom #3 ↓

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View from the front door/staircase into the laundry/kitchen ↓

(The extra room off the kitchen is to the left of this picture – but I forgot to get a snapshot!)

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View #2 of the Kitchen from the Living Room (the cut-out over the sink looks into the extra room)↓

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Living Room  (as seen from the kitchen) ↓

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Backyard/Patio ↓

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We will be living in a townhouse and we have an end unit. That means much more grass to mow, but it also means that we have some walls that aren’t shared with the neighbors – which makes me more than willing to mow a bit more! The house is still very close to the gym and is only about five minutes from the BX and commissary – and less than ten minutes for Hoban’s commute to work! I’ll post more pictures once we are all moved in!