Friday, October 21, 2016

#2: learn a new unique skill

Jet-lagged, terrifically hungover, awake for a solid 36 hours on a trifecta of flights, and partying like I was nineteen after being reunited with my bestie? Seems like the perfect time to immerse myself in learning a brand  s p a n k i n g  new skill. Amirite?

If this doesn't explain the hangover, then I'm not sure what would:

This list item was left pretty open. The goal was to see what opportunity to learn a new unique skill arose whilst traveling. 

Visiting Okinawa, Japan was inspired by the fact that my best friend was currently residing on the island, and we were far overdue for some BFF antics. Oh, and it's gorgeous there. She was determined to check off a few of my list items with me, and took charge in planning this one. I was more than okay with all of this.

First things first. The immediate three things that occurred upon arriving in Japan were this:

1. As my first act in Japan I photobombed two Japanese girls taking a selfie in front of me in line at the gate. To my delight, they loved it.
2. A lone fanny pack was picked up at baggage claim by a guy who became, in that moment, the most confusing hero I've ever had.
3. I noticed that the Okinawan people were very, very happy.

I awoke startled, with not a clue as to my location. What I did gather in those first moments was that I was in a double bed with KJ, and she was briefing me of the current time: 2pm. Despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon, somehow our reincarnated college-days only allowed us 6 hours of slumber. Six hours that didn't even begin to chip away at the deep sleep debt we had accrued. 

My mouth was the Sahara Desert. I recalled a faint memory of an awkward situation involving shots, a balcony, and a tall man that was a cross between Haley Joel Osment + Rob McElhenney telling me he "just wanted to cuddle." My surroundings confirmed I had wisely rejected this stellar offer, and I breathed a dry AF sigh of relief

"I. Need. Water." I whispered.

"Same." KJ concurred.

We ambled downstairs where my BFF held a vat of coffee and informed me that my lesson to learn a new unique skill was to commence in just two hours from that moment of pure hangover-ness. Ouch.

And so, after a classic Irish flu remedy of grilled cheese, we were en route to the Sunabe Seawall for a first glance of the 50 shades of blue Okinawa water, and an inaugural lesson in playing the sanshinSunglasses were imperative at this juncture: all the brightness was happening and it was the rockstar thing to do, wasn't it? 

I'll be frank- I did not know what a sanshin was. It's essentially an Asian banjo. Pretty awesome, I know. We saddled up to the seawall and I channeled my inner star student. 

The snakeskin made it look super badass. Which, in turn, made me look badass- so, I was hooked already.

What I didn't realize is that our teacher, Ryo Kinjo, was kind of most definitely a big deal. He was a professional sanshin player, with his own YouTube Channel to boot. He came complete with an entourage too, solidifying this status. Seriously though, his friends were some of the sweetest and nicest people I think I may have ever met. Their smiles were contagious, and I found myself wanting to try really hard, if for anything but to at least impress them with my earnest ambition that screamed "TEACH ME YOUR MUSIC" to learn this instrument I had never heard of in my life. 

If they didn't cover their ears in pain, then well, we'd all win that day.

I held the instrument like a newborn baby; afraid I would break it and disrupt the snake-skin badass vibe (if babies were made of snakeskin, that is). We were made to make music out of the three strings that graced this music apparatus. THREE MEASELY STRINGS. Ryo played a little ditty for us with ease, somehow making the string trio sound like hundreds more. Due to my hangover, lack of sleep, and beauty of the notes, I was mesmerized. 

Now it was our turn. We were taught the basics of a few short songs, where to move our fingers and when, and listened to how it should sound. It was a jumble of information in my head. We all tried to play together, and it sounded...horrible. And squeaky. I was, quite possibly, the worst one there. I think I said "show me one more time" about 3984759 times. 

We were taught a selection of songs, but our top pick by far was the party song, traditionally played at weddings, and all sorts of celebratory occasions, obviously. One we wanted to play over and over again. Perhaps even add in a jig, or maybe that was just me. We were celebrating now, weren't we? Or at least I had for all of Okinawa the previous night.

I kind of just wanted to jam out, rock the sanshin free-form, improvise a little. In fact, it took all of my willpower not to bust out an original. Self control, I reminded myself. I had just met most of these people, after all. 

After practicing the 20 second song to no end, we had our sunset recital. I was actually nervous. If I royally bombed at playing this, did it mean I failed at #2 on my list? 

I had learned some basic notes of a foreign instrument in Okinawa, Japan, from a professional. I was attempting to play a song that would induce all the festivities. 

"So, don't be ridiculous" I told myself, "of course this was a success." 

I really needed some sleep.

...and then a five year old girl came and showed us all up. The end.

She was a sanshin prodigy. MIC DROP. 

The best part of learning the sanshin? Probably days later when my BFF picked one up in a store we browsed around, and much to the owners glee, played them the party song while they danced, grins on their faces. 

So, maybe the Sanshin wasn't for me. 
Maybe I wouldn't have YouTube channel of my own personal Sanshin stylings. 
Maybe my family wouldn't be getting a CD complete with 15 tracks of my Sanshin songs for the holidays.

But, I had attempted to learn a new unique skill, and the notes didn't sound ALL bad. The sunset wasn't too shabby either. Oh, and I was oddly in the mood for funfetti cupcakes. 

**Learn a new unique skill? CHECK! Learn a new unique skill with my BFF? CHECK, CHECK!

*special shout out to Ryo for his patience, talent, and passion to help me learn even one note of the sanshin's Okinawan soul music!

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