When you see a glass, do you see it half empty or half full?
Do you live for today or dwell on the past?
Do you thrive on positive contact or wallow about what people may have meant?
Whether you are predisposed to your personality traits by birth, or you believe that you are who you are by virtue of nurture and how you interacted with those around you as you grew up, there are indeed other factors that determine your outlook on life.
One of the main factors that determine your attitude towards others is in fact your country of birth, or to put it in more specific terms, your culture. A country that is a prime example of this is Japan.
Japan is a country known for many things – sushi, sumo, anime and technology – but running through the core of the country is an admirable balance of respect and regime, with the structure of these coming together to make a country who is revered for its values. So imagine a society that puts elders first, instils in children a sense that if you behave correctly towards others, this will be repaid in reciprocal respect kindness – sound idyllic?
Whilst there is no suggestion that living in Japan adds up to a perfect existence, or that people from other countries and cultures are distinctly lacking in similar moral values, the overall ‘vibe’ of the country does ooze an enviable feeling of satisfaction. Indeed, the rate of serious crimes such as murder is statistically one of the lowest in the world, suggesting that respecting your fellow humans runs deep into the Japanese psyche.
One of the reasons for this may be that there are subtle reminders about how to behave towards each other wherever you go. Public parking areas not only make allowances for the disabled and parents with young children, but also the elderly and pregnant ladies. The tradition of taking your shoes off as you enter a home is not just an age-old tradition, but a way of life that signifies how you should treat the belongings of another. And one that is hard to get used to, is that in Japan there is no tipping – a job should be done correctly without any added incentive and a clear price makes financial exchanges seamlessly cordial.
This all adds up to a place where if you put down your phone and walk away from it in error, return and it is likely to still be there, or put your bag on a chair that’s meant for sitting on, and it is likely to be frowned upon.
In other words, Japan is a country that values values.
I heard of the Spartan Race last year and it’s not for everybody! The worldwide event, the Spartan Race – Sprint (5k) is a known gut wrenching obstacle race that was recently (2015) launched in Dubai.
The Spartan Race is an increasingly popular, invigorating and challenging obstacle course that is designed with everyone in mind. Plus they have some daring courses that are tailored made to help you build inner and physical strength.
You have a choice of a Spartan Sprint (5 kilometers / 20+ obstacle), Spartan Super (13 kilometers / 25+ obstacles), Junior Spartan (800M to 1.5km for 4 to 15 years old) and Special Spartans (for racers with disabilities). It’s been stuck in my brain since the moment I laid eyes on the ads. I loved the idea! I searched the website, spartanarabia.comand immediately registered my husband, my sister and I.
Who Will Join Us?
All along, I’ve been telling our friends about the Spartan Race and ask them to join our team ‘The Narts.’ Some of our friends called us nuts and some just completely ignored the message. Participating were my husband, my sister, her fiance and me.
A few weeks after registration, it was the beginning of the Workout Tours. These are weekly workout sessions that are free of charge. The company and its national sponsors do this to encourage people to workout. Preparation for the race is crucial and they give you that opportunity when you register.
I was so excited that I created a WhatsApp group. I titled it, counting down to the day of the race. The app reminded each of us of our workout tour times and I sent inspirational pictures.
My sister and I went to these tours. Oh gosh… our legs were throbbing with pain afterward. It was like the intensity of the Insanity work-out with Shaun T. The routine was mad crazy and I didn’t do much of it. Nonetheless, the workout tour ended up leaving us with a beautiful feeling! We trained well today. I am very proud of myself and my sister.
Go Big or Go Burpee
We are getting closer to the race date. So we went to the workout tour where it’s usually held – Skydive Dubai. The training event called for rope climbing. They had a specific area where the ropes hung from the ceiling for us to use. I have never shimmied up a rope before and thought it would be terrific if I could.
Not quite a surprise, my sister and I couldn’t do it! It is much harder than it looks. We just laughed and said ‘Oh well, we’ll just do burpees!’ If you fail to complete an obstacle, you must do at least 10 burpees as a penalty.
A burpee is a full body count exercise that has four steps to it involving squats and a push-ups. What was also not so surprising was that Yazan, my sister’s fiance who’s a slim, flexible young man, was able to do it. We were relieved and happy!
Yazan reached the top and touched the end of the rope. We were so thrilled that we were still clapping as he slid down the rope. After showing us his hands full of deep scratches, we ran to the car and headed to Marina Mall.
We found the nearest pharmacy and got some alcohol pads to sanitize the wounds with and a skin repairing cream. Yazan can’t join the race now with fresh wounds. We all felt pretty bad at this point. We’d just have to go on without him.
The day of the Spartan Race – Sprint 5k, we woke up full of energy and mentally prepared. We stuffed our bags with a change of outfits, towels and the basic essentials and headed to the gas station. There, we grabbed some breakfast and we were off to the race location: Jebel Ali Racecourse.
We arrived an hour before our race, which was 12:45 pm and parked outside. Anything that’s not in a clear bag wasn’t allowed into the race area so the officials gave us some to place our stuff in. Next, we registered in, got our race kit and headed to drop our bags off at security. We were all ready to kick-start the race.
Let’s Get Ready to Race!
So much excitement brewing, but reality was starting to set in. I was getting anxious. They let us do some warm ups with a coach.
Dubai is essentially a desert. I hope anyone attending doesn’t mind getting dirty ’cause the first obstacle involved crossing a mud pond. (Is this the same thing as a mud bath? LOL) You’d think the sand would absorb the water, but nooooo!
I was standing there thinking, ‘Why do we have to go through the large mud puddle?’ Then the answer hit me – to get to the other side! (Hahaha)
They cover this whole with the heaviest plastic around and fill it with water. This made the bottom extremely slippery. I remember a lady putting her hand on me for support and in my mind, I thought ‘for Gods sake, I’m barely keeping myself from falling!’ In that moment of thought, I fell.
Walking through the water made our outfits super heavy. In addition, we had to run through the sand. The resistance of the sand didn’t make running any easier. My sister and I were exhausted! I asked my husband to carry on without us as we were having to go at it using our own pace. What do you know… he did!
Determined to Finish
We kept on going from one obstacle to another; from crawling to jumping off walls to climbing ropes and walls; carrying a 20kg sand bag up and down a hill and so on… it was a difficult challenge.
There were 3 obstacles that I failed to do and had to do burpees instead:
Pulling a rope that had a bag attached at it’s end. The bag probably doubles my weight because that thing WOULD NOT move!
Rope climbing, of course!
Throwing an arrow into a pile of farm straws? (LOL) I’m not really sure what they’re called though I almost got it – just not exactly. 🙂
At the end of the race, there was a line burning logs that we had to jump over. My sister and I joined hands and over the fire we jumped. Yay!! We were so full of pride and joy of finally finishing a SPARTAN RACE!
It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever done in all my life. It was a dream that came true. Writing about it alone makes me happy 🙂
Before departing on our trip to Japan where Maysm was attending a conference in Yokohama, we had very few expectations of the country we would be visiting. All we expected was to witness first hand the Japanese’s love for technology, their innovative inventions and their overly polite nature. Our only real concern was regarding food. Being Muslims, we were curious as to how we would find the food options available to us, but we thought, it’s only for ten days, if we have to give up meat and go vegetarian, it’s not the end of the world! We soon came to realize that it wouldn’t be that easy. We happen to dislike seafood and with sushi bars dominating the streets of Japan and their need to include some sort of seafood in every vegetarian dish, we were hitting some unexpected obstacles. An even bigger problem revealed itself when we couldn’t even grab a bowl of chips because they would have been fried in pork fat.
The language barrier only exasperated the issue. There was so much variation on the words alcohol and pork that even if we were told a dish was free from both, it probably wasn’t. This problem persisted until we discovered an app that would make things a whole lot easier; HalalNavi. The app contained a whole bunch of restaurants and would show which dishes were free from pork products and also present alternative options.
The app managed to magic up other wonders like directing us to a Turkish Halal restaurant which turned out to be a Circassian restaurant! With such a small minority of Circassians in the world, we couldn’t believe we found one in Tokyo of all places!
Even though we only stayed for ten days, we couldn’t get over how polite everyone was. At first we were slightly dubious about how genuine their kindness was until we took the Metro one evening to get back to our hotel in Yokohama. A rather intoxicated Japanese gentleman was sat next to my husband and proceeded to what I can only imagine was to use my husband as a human pillow. Gently pushing the sleepy intoxicated man off, he suddenly regains consciousness. Oh no! I thought, please don’t turn into a fight! On the contrary; the man couldn’t be more apologetic for his actions. Wow. Now these are genuinely nice people!
Over our ten days in Japan we only encountered two other women wearing Hijabs. With less than 1% of Japanese residents being Muslim, this was not a common sight. As we walked down the street we would get the feeling we were being stared at, only to turn around and for that person to look away quickly. On that note, at no point did we ever feel isolated or threatened by these stares. They were looks of pure curiosity, nothing more.
After accidentally stumbling across a festival in Tokyo we were confronted with a lot of curious locals. They would point at our Hijabs and mutter a question in Japanese. I can only imagine they were asking us a question or maybe paying us a compliment. A word we got rather used to was Kawaii, meaning cute in Japanese.
Even though we had a few obstacles with finding suitable restaurants; We loved our time in Japan and even though there is only a small population of practicing Muslims, we were greeted with only curious and polite looks from the locals (a few requested to have photos with us!) and a ton of great memories from our short trip to this fast paced land.