Which side are you on?

Or: International Driving for the Uninitiated

Or: I have a horrible unkept secret announcement

It needs to be made plainly clear that until January 10, I had not seen snow since probably January 2017 when I was still in Victoria. I flew back from Ontario to snow on the ground on BC’s island–which just isn’t right. I emphasize this before I also make available the following facts:

  1. I did not fall on my ass once. Experience told me that I needed better footwear than I originally had. I rectified that with some CAT shoes with decent treads–which was no easy find here in China. I have one size larger than what most retailers carry in the southern Middle Kingdom.
  2. Being in the snow felt warmer than in Tokyo. Maybe it provides a blanket?
  3. Shovelling snow is an acquired skill, and I was able to demonstrate my prowess in a way that should make all snow-habituated people proud.
  4. Re-learning how to drive with three others in the vehicle, the steering wheel on the right side, and having to drive on the left side of the road, all the while the roads are all covered in snow and ice, makes for one of the most stressfully intense experiences I’ve had in quite some time.
    But I took it like a champ. I owned ‘dem roads. It took me at last 20-30 minutes, and I never had the chance to get 100% comfortable with them, but they were mine. It also helped that nowhere that I was driving had posted limits above 50km/h. And I travelled for hours.
    I know many of you commute. Imagine having to drive through a mirror (at least for my North American friends). This really messes with your driving perspective. I can go long periods with driving and go back to zombie-ing behind the wheel with ease. Not this time. If you ever intend on travelling to Europe or East Asia (or wherever else they drive on the wrong side), make sure you’re prepared mentally. It’s just messed up.

My friend that I was travelling with actually bought a house in Japan. In the town of Otaru, to be specific. It’s a small touristy port town on the island of Hokkaido.
He’d been to his house only once, and he wanted to show it to me.
Only, he couldn’t find it.
Japanese addresses are weird. They’re broken up into city, ward, area, block, sub-block, and house number. Main streets have names, but all the side streets and alleyways.. forget it. It’s SO easy to get lost. Even with maps. We searched, even with the help of different mapping apps, but couldn’t find the place. So, we did as we had done since we first arrived and asked for directions. The first girl tried. She really did. She pulled out her own phone after we showed her the address, but she was obviously was confused and couldn’t find it. Bows and thank yous and more bows and we relieved her of her cultural obligation. We found a second passerby who also had no clue, but she demonstrated problem-solving skills. Good initiative. She looked at building numbers and deduced that we were close. She then turned her eyes to a shop owner who appeared to be prepping for close. Not sure exactly what he did. Home reno? Honey-doo? Our second helper explained the situation to the shopkeeper, and he went old school. He went to his shelves and pulled out some actual maps. Having passed the burden to the shopkeeper, our second helper bowed and apologized, and we bowed and apologized, and she went on her way. The shopkeeper knew his stuff. To hell with technology. He pointed out where the house was on his map, drew a little map, and went over it with us three times to be sure we understood. We took the map. I took photos. I compared it to I could with Google Maps, and we were off. Before we did, of course, we apologized, and bowed, and offered thanks, and apologized again. As we walked, it all started coming back to my friend. Things were looking familiar. And just as we were approaching the last corner which we needed to turn at, we heard a vehicle approaching from the rear. As we moved to the side of the road, the window rolled down to reveal the shopkeeper behind the wheel. He had actually followed up to make sure we were going the right way.
Holy shit. Seriously. This is what you can expect when you visit that country. It’s a big old reminder to pay it forward, folks.

Oh yeah. The super un-kept secret announcement. I’ve already talked to a few people about this. No more than 10. Maybe. So the reason why we had to go see this house, is because that’s where I will be living come July.
Fer reelz.
More details on this later.



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