Monday, December 1, 2014

Je ne regrette rien.

Nightmares every night for a week.  Re-living awful memories from my 20's.  Every psycho person, every fight with asshole ex boyfriends,  foot-in-my-mouth moments, my kidney failing--everything that has shaped me into a cynical, traumatized adult has been replaying in my head over and over as I attempt to sleep.  Waking up, as early and dark as it is outside of my head, has become a huge relief.

I have realized today, as I'm mulling over the decisions I've made over the past ten years that I've taken a lot of insignificant things too seriously.  Freaking out or suffering over trivial matters that at the time seemed like the end of the world.  Putting everything into perspective, looking at the good and the bad, side by side, the bad in my life has become a drop of water in the Pacific Fucking Ocean.

I went through old pictures and remembered all those fun, meaningful moments staring at me through my computer screen.  I did all these things, I LIVED THIS.  And all I can do is smile. And feel grateful.  And continue on seeing memories as either happy, or leaving them in the past.

I can now safely laugh at all those "traumatizing moments" and finally give myself credit for the things I had the courage to do.  Even if a lot of things may be seen as irresponsible mistakes to others, I see them as incredible experiences that have made me who I am today.  And as I look back towards what I thought were mistakes, I realize that after every one of them, something much better happened in my life: it was like I was opening up a new door, making space for a new adventure.

Especially when I look at the present outcome.

I no longer want to be famous or be cellulite free or "the most ___" at something.  Fuck making comparisons.  Fuck competition.  Don't get me wrong, I'm an ambitious person, but somethings are starting to sound trivial and childish at my almost 31 years of age. I just want happiness, and growth, learning and adventure.  I pinpointed it, finally.

I also realized today how I've always had very good friends throughout these situations, and how truly priceless that has been. Through relationships, travel, work, school--EVERYTHING--I have managed to develop and maintain some really strong friendships.

Life's warning label should mention how important it is to not leave true friends behind for anything and how to leave behind those friends that come with an expiration date.

This week I turn 31.  A week later I start a brand new job.  An adult job with business attire, 8 hours in an office, a boss, a salary--a routine!  I've never had this, believe it or not.  I would have run towards the nearest exit in the past but not now.  I took the time to find something that I will truly enjoy and that I will be good at.  Choosing a job like this is part of knowing who you are and what you want in life.  I feel confident that I will make the best of it, and remember-- there is always something better to come.  ALWAYS.

I'm hoping after writing this I will sleep like a baby tonight and dream of my next adventure.  All I know is that if I wake up tomorrow having dreamt of another traumatizing mistake, I will do my best to laugh about it, brew some strong coffee, and move forward.

Here's my dramatic ending to this blog post:

Saturday, November 29, 2014


I can't believe we waited so long to come to the Churaumi Aquarium.  It's part of the Ocean Expo Park near Nago, which is a huge complex full of playgrounds, waterfalls, ponds, beaches, museums, restaurants, natural wildlife exhibits and tropical gardens.  We wandered in during a lazy afternoon, and were quickly overwhelmed by the amount of activities and natural wonders waiting for us.  We mainly covered the aquarium (which we got annual passes for), and I can't wait to go back and see everything else!
Spiny Lobster
My interest in aquatic life in Okinawa was definitely sparked by the fact that we were both Officially SCUBA certified this week.  I wanted to get a feel for what we're soon to be seeing underwater, and I have to say I'm very excited-- although I'm not sure how I feel about seeing a shark next to me in the ocean quite yet...

Whale Shark and Ray

More Rays
Whale Shark Tank and Tourists
 The Whale Shark tank was by far the most impressive, I could have sat there for hours watching these massive giants gliding effortlessly in the water.  There's a cafe next to it that I'm seriously thinking about visiting and studying at right up against the glass.

Shark sex, finally explained!
Almost every exhibit had something about the reproduction of each animal.  The shark one was the most unexpected for me--so I HAD to take a picture and share it with you all : )

Sea Turtles
 Some of the exhibit are outside in the open which include the Sea Turtles, Manatees, and Dolphins. You can either watch them from above or see them through the glass underground.  Most exhibits are translated into English, so you can get a lot of the history and facts about these animals as you stroll around.
Robb VS. Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle posing like a boss

Cleaning the dolphin tanks
As we walked past one of the dolphin tanks (they have 6 or so, with 3-4 dolphins each) we found it being cleaned with the dolphins still inside.  It seemed a little awkward, you would think that they would temporarily put them in another tank... it made for an interesting image at least.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


A lot of friends and family have been talking about coming to visit us while we're out here, so I thought I'd make a list of things that I find helpful in Okinawa.  I've been here as a tourist and as a resident, and I find this place so incredible every single day.  I can't wait to share it with everyone who comes to visit!

7 Things You'll Need in Okinawa

1) Booties- for all aquatic activities.  Coral and other sharp rocks are everywhere, even if you're cooling off in the water, you will need something solid to step on.  (An old pair of Chucks works just as well).

2) Layers- Okinawa has an ever-changing climate: it can rain and be sunny and get windy within minutes.  Be prepared to be in a bikini one moment and a raincoat the next! There are umbrellas everywhere, depending on what season you are here, decide whether it's worth picking one up (they are inexpensive and available EVERYWHERE)

3) A good camera-- (that you KNOW how to use) 
A lot of moments come up that you'll want to capture, but you won't have time to carefully adjust settings- hilarious shirt, funny sign, beautiful bird, beach drive by-- be quick or know what auto settings get you good shots.  If you're here as a photographer, it's a different story.
*Waterproof case for your camera/phone is also a good call.

4) Cotton based clothing and comfortable shoes--  This is a humid climate: bring those cotton flowy dresses and pair them up with some bright tennis shoes, or rock some wide pant legs with cropped tees. You want the comfortable shoes because it's a great place to walk, run or ride a bike to see the sites! This island is part of Japan, but super laid back  when it comes to fashion (unlike dress-up heaven, Tokyo) so have fun with  your outfits, and keep it casual.

5) Sunscreen  (even if you tan! ) This is the place where you burn up.  There are plenty of arm cover ups that locals wear religiously, and even parasols that you'll see on the beach.  Know your skin and how sensitive it is-- you don't want to spend your vacation getting over a sunburn--trust me.

6) Basic Japanese Phrases and Cultural Guide:  Most people speak very little English here and this is a culture that is very polite.  Don't piss people off, learn how to say please, thank you, and the always useful: where's the bathroom?  If you have allergies or don't eat certain meats, for example, make sure you learn how to ask if that is in your food.

7) An open mind:  things here are different.  Don't be afraid to try new foods, or explore places you have no idea what they are.  Most of the time you will have no idea what the packaging says or what the signs on the side of the road want you to know.
Some of the best times we've had on this island were when we just followed signs to random places and let ourselves get lost.  And some of the most delicious food I've ever tried--well, I still don't know exactly what it is... but I'm still alive!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

things i love about okinawa this week

Parks reminiscent of Jurassic Park and their delicious pineapple products

Best pizza I've had so far on this island, with pineapple topping, of course!


I finally got a pedicure here and they are so much fun! It's a two hour process where they trim, groom, and clean up your nails, followed by a long and relaxing leg massage while you pick what you want them to paint from a giant book of nail art.  It was definitely worth going, and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a relaxing break (and fun nail art that will last for weeks!).  

P.S. I went with a dinosaur design because dinosaurs are awesome. duh.


I was lucky enough to attend a workshop and learn a little more about the art of Kimono Dressing. It's incredible how precise the process is, how many steps and layers go into each garment and how beautiful the outcome is!  It takes years to obtain a license in this art, and every hair salon here is required to have this license.  I'm hoping to have an excuse in the future to go to one of these salons and have the honor of being dressed in a beautiful kimono.

Attention to Detail

I had a meeting at Starbucks the other day, and was handed this card at the register.  It's for the barista to make sure they are handing you a beverage that is lactose free--pretty genius. 


I've found a food bus (yes, it's an actual, old bus, that serves food) with hearty snacks AKA "hambagas"and a huge variety of snow cones and of course--BEER!  Great stop to make while riding your bike around the island--this truck is located in Zanpa, next to the lighthouse.

The view
Seriously, every day.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Challenge

It's cool enough now in the mornings to just leave the AC off, open up the windows, and enjoy the breeze.  I can hear the ocean outside my window as I'm sitting here with a cup of coffee watching two white butterflies flutter around outside my window.  They linger outside in front of an ocean backdrop until about nine in the morning, as if they were hired by Japan to make my mornings seem magical.

Yeah--it's THAT ridiculous.

There is not a day that goes by when I don't feel lucky to have the opportunity of living here.  I sit on the porch and watch the sun set into the water and drool every single time.  It's not that I'm trying to rub it in, it's just that I'm still THAT appreciative of it.  (and I want all of my friends to come visit)

In the midst of all this "magic" I have managed to get into some sort of routine and start what most people call, "a normal life".

I drink my coffee, go to the gym, study Japanese, do my online courses, work on design projects and then hang out with Robb in the evenings.

We're exploring new activities all the time, for example, the wood shop in which we are not making furniture for our house.  Threw some seeds on the ground the other day and they started growing within 24hrs so we are going to start (an organized) vegetable garden as soon as we can.  We also started going to salsa lessons--in Japanese--which make it even more of a challenge since we first have to decipher what the instructor is saying before we can attempt to do it with our bodies!

Wood workshop

This photo was added to make you throw up.  TEAM HANSEN!

Robb using a Japanese hand saw

The newest project I'm working on is based on a pact that Robb and I made recently.  More than a pact, it's a challenge:  Go for one year without buying manufactured clothing.  I've decided to start making all of my clothes--and Robb's, too.  **

This challenge is meant to make me exercise my pattern making and sewing skills and provide us with one of a kind apparel.  I think it's also a good way to keep from buying random clothes when I truly don't need them, and to appreciate the value of the production process--how long and how much effort it really takes to dress someone from scratch.  We tend to forget in an age of inexpensive ready-to-wear-easily-available clothes how much time sewing requires and take mass production of t-shirts and jeans for granted (and probably paying much less than we should for them half the time, and then overpaying just for a label the other half ).  I want to pull away from that mentality of wanting more and start taking a look at what we actually need.  We've been applying this overall when it comes to purchasing food or things for the house.  It's refreshing keeping things simple and having an uncluttered living space that's easy to pack up and move.  No extra crap we don't need--it's the new motto.

It sounds like a difficult challenge, but then again, I moved out here almost three months ago with two suitcases and have managed to live just fine with what I have, with the exception of needing a button up shirt for a job interview last week, which I forgot to bring with me and therefore was forced to buy one at the last minute from the Exchange on base.  HUGE mistake.  That place has the worst selection of clothes I have ever seen in a store.  It's all either very high-end expensive brands OR what I call "old people clothes".

Luckily I don't live in Tokyo where I usually want to buy EVERYTHING (that I really don't need) at the fashion district--so, I think living in Okinawa and avoiding shopping malls which I naturally do anyhow, will keep me in line with the challenge.  Plus, I have a Pinterest board ready and full of ideas of clothes I have been wanting to make!

As for Robb....I am new to menswear BUT I definitely learned all about it in school, and I plan on making him some pretty bad ass stuff.


**NOTE: This does not include undergarments or socks-- I have no idea how to make these, and if I really need underwear on a whim I don't think I could quickly make a  pair!  I've also decided that if we need a very specialized item, such as a wet suit, we can also make exceptions.

My attempt to make government furniture a little livelier...

From our weekend bike ride, quick stop at Zanpa!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Yeah, I know, it's been a while...

It's been "hurry up and wait"for months now, and that's exactly how it felt when we got our house.  Three weeks we waited, and then suddenly we were rushing in here with government furniture, my suitcases and Robb's suits and surf boards and suddenly buying plates and cups and silverware and curtains and odds and ends and rearranging and cleaning and and and-- FINALLY some R&R in our beautiful little beach house : )

Part of our living room-- you can see our tatami room in the back

No joke, we are both from AZ and these are the tiles in our Japanese home--what are the odds?!

We LOVE this house, it's a perfect size for us and it's right in front of the beach--we couldn't ask for more!  Oh wait, that's right, our awesome friends live a few houses down so we just meet up at the beach and paddle out until we can't see land in front of us and watch the sunset together.  Yeah, it's that ridiculously happy here.

View from our front porch at sunset

R&R on the deck

Fixing up a bike on the deck

Last week started off with a bang with my first official Japanese lesson! I'm finally getting help because, let me tell you, learning Japanese on my own is not an easy task.  Getting through the alphabets was one thing, but after that I seemed to hit a wall when I realized how much I had to learn to become fluent and I kind of froze up with anxiety and made the effort to find a teacher.

I signed up at Kumon, which is usually a math and science tutoring center, but here in Japan they also offer Japanese as a foreign language.  It's a genius program, I think, because it lets you work on your own inside of the classroom so it's essentially work at your own pace and ask questions when necessary.  After every unit the teacher comes up to you and makes sure you understand the material, does a mini "test"so she knows if you're ready to move on.

The hilarious part about all of this is that because it's a tutoring center, I am sitting in this small classroom surrounded by 20 tiny Japanese children running around with papers, pencils and backpacks and always staring at me--the giant blonde girl towering over them--repeating basic Japanese words and slowly starting to read and write.

One little boy was trying to practice his English with me, and I asked him if he liked baseball and he started jumping up and down with excitement when I mentioned his favorite sport, SO... I'm pretty sure he's now my boyfriend.

My studio is slowly coming together.  It has an amazing view and I made my first dress for a good friend back home.  Can't wait to see how Japan influences my designs...

I  leave you with this little gem:  T-shirt from American Village
Retail price 700 Yen,  Life Advice: Priceless.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Globalization is a bitch.

Maybe my upbringing was an elaborate plan to keep me wandering the earth, walking different paths, living different lives, taking-on different roles forever.  Come to life, learn a language and be part of this culture for some years then move to the next one—REPEAT sequence—and so on…

It makes growing up diverse and fun, not to mention how it broadens the mind.  As an adult I think there are a few factors that most definitely make moving around a bit more of a challenge.  First of all, learning a language become progressively more difficult with time and therefore requires some real effort on my behalf. 

Second, and a factor that is very much tied in with the first one, is being exposed to the language through the purpose of the move.  I used to move to a new country and have an automatic activity to keep me occupied: school, work, volunteering, tourism—SOMETHING.  And as soon as you have a local activity you're a part of, you are learning the language THAT much faster—out of necessity, really.  If it’s your mother tongue, maybe you're picking up new slang and most definitely making new friends.

The issue with being a military spouse is that there is no real necessity for any of these things.  It’s like the most at home out of home experience you can have.  Want an American product?  Stay on base.  Want to be surrounded by your language and culture? Stay on base. Want to live in a bubble where nothing has changed except the side of the road you drive on?  Stay on base.  This is the easiest way to learn absolutely NOTHING about a new culture, NOT interact with any locals and AVOID learning a single word in Japanese.  They make it so easy!  Here is a beautiful home twice the size you need but don’t worry, you don’t have drive more than two minutes to get to a Chili’s and we’ll pay for everything.  There’s also the challenge of not having school to attend or a job to fall into when you arrive which makes making friends and getting out of the house that much more difficult.

Not to mention the fact that leaving base, you run into almost any type of business that caters to Americans.  I mean, come on, there is a place here called American Village!  Even when you leave base, you can hop over to another part of the island where everything will be made to your liking.  Cowboy Steakhouses, American-style sushi, Antiques from the U.S.  Even “Taco Rice” which, come on, I know it mimics Mexican food, but let’s face it—Mexican food is the official food of America.  And then there's the evil trifecta:  McDonald’s, KFC, and Starbucks.  McD’s is self-explanatory: they own the world.  KFC I’ve loathed ever since they put one in front of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Starbucks—annoyed the crap out of me ever since I saw the around the block line at one in Buenos Aires…the place with the best tiny little cafes!  Yes, a fucking Starbucks thriving.  Globalization is a bitch.

But what can I expect?  Businesses need to make money and it’s smart to cater to your consumer.  What scares me is that the consumer’s tastes are turning Okinawa into a mini-America.  Is it THAT difficult to adapt to something new that we now have a place that sells apple pie, and French fries being sold at Hama Sushi…  Even the housing agents use this as an incentive to rent off-base housing right next to the base.  Don't worry, she said to me in the car, you are next to American Village and all of your neighbors are also American.  Robb and I just looked at her and said--that's the OPPOSITE of what we want.  She was shocked.  But you are American, you want a big house, next to the base and next to other people just like you.  THIS IS THE STEREOTYPE.  It almost hurt to hear this and to be put in this category.

I understand there being American restaurants and products on base—I mean, that’s expected and don’t get me wrong—I LOVE finding my face lotion and favorite chocolates when I want them.  But the rest of the time, I like to feel like I’m living abroad.  I want to be surrounded by Japanese people, language, and culture.  I want to go somewhere and have NO IDEA what I am about to order and be forced to use the little Japanese I’ve learned so far.  After all, isn’t that the whole point of living abroad? 

YES, I came here under the best circumstances I can think of.  We chose to extend and stay out here for three years.  Not only that, but I arrived to a house full of friends, open arms and people who are just as eager for adventure as we are.  Friends who have not only gone out and tried so many local things, but who can also serve as sources of guidance when it comes to Okinawa and it’s endless recreational activities.  Friends who have crushed so many stereotypes I had in my fretful mind about what it means to be in the military and abroad.  They introduced me to our current neighborhood, which is mainly Japanese families and businesses, even though it's near a base. 

I was lucky, I know not everyone lands on two feet and in paradise.  But if you haven’t found that place here, or those mind-opening friends yet—why not make every effort to find them?
During my bike ride the other day I wandered into the crop fields and through the culture center and on to a local beach where I did not run into a single English-speaking person for the entire afternoon.  I was definitely the out-of-place blonde riding around clueless and without much form of communication other than “pointy-speaky” and a few phrases I’ve learned in Japanese so far.  The whole afternoon I felt some sort of euphoria riding around, not just from being surrounded by beautiful landscapes, but from being so lost within an unknown place.  It was just so comforting in a way, knowing that even in this world where globalization has made everything available to everyone anywhere, you can still have moments of complete isolation from the outside, and complete immersion into a culture—even if it’s just for an afternoon of fun.

Times when globalization makes me very happy:  finding Mate at the local grocery store!  

Also a nice reminder of home--Spotting Messi Jersey at the supermarket. 

Taco Rice!  Believe me, if it were Mexican, it would be called "Arroz".

These are the kitchen tiles in our Japanese house.  Coming from Arizona, I still can't believe this is randomly in our house!