Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gulliver (or, what is: Who Travels Better Than Me)

Two stories. The second one is a sequel:

November 8:
What a night. I'm driving now. I'm one of only two teachers who has a license, and the other is on vacation for 2 weeks. I had very little training before he left. There is a little store a few minutes down the road. It's a straight shot. I did that a few times trying to get used to being on the opposite side of the road and car. I got the hang of it after a few times. But I only drove into the city twice before Jerrad left. It's so strange. The roads here are not lined up well; traffic signs and signals are difficult to understand (partly because they are in a foreign language, partly because they are just different); more than half of the streets don't have names. The ones that do have names - well, they're in Japanese. After I showered this evening, Lanifer and I hit the road. We picked up Bobby and hit a department store. Then we went to Basken Robin's 31 Flavors/Mos Burger for big scoops of Chocolate Mint ice cream for me, hamburgers and Coke for them. After that we dropped off Bobby and got back on the highway to go home. We were going to make it back just a few after 9 - giving me plenty of time to shave and sleep early so I could wake up to walk in the wee hours of the next morning.
I can handle the driving. I've gotten used to it - at least, enough to get around. The problem is I don't know my way around the place. It all looks the same. Flashing lights. Little cars. Crazy signs in crazy languages. I'm becoming more familiar with the place, but I still need help. Lanifer rides shotgun (on the left side of the car) and I assigned her my navigator. She's the one who is supposed to say, "Turn left at this next light". That type of thing. There are only two problems with this setup. One, English isn't her first language, so sometimes gets her left and right confused. And the big problem is that she doesn't say turn left up ahead, but, rather, says, "Oh no! You were supposed to turn left back there!" That type of thing. It's never a big deal. We just go forward a block or two and then turn around. Something happened tonight that turned out to be a big deal.
We are on our way home, and I'm eager to go to bed. We get on the highway heading back, and are approaching an exit up ahead. I said, "Lanifer, do we take this one?" Nothing. I ask again if I need to take this exit. For a moment she still looks ahead. Finally speaks up and says "Keep going." Once we pass it she said, "Oh no! We were supposed to take that one!" I was just an ounce frustrated. It's more my fault than hers, but it's really no one's fault. I knew it was going to make a funny story. I would hop on the next exit, turn around, no problem....But then we kept driving. No exits. Then we kept driving some more. No exits. I had no idea where we were going. I kept this realization in my mind, as to not freak out Lanifer, but I sensed we were going to be on this stretch of road for an unspecified amount of time; we were in it for the long haul. Then Lanifer sees something. She speaks with a sense of something that sounded like a mix of defeat and fear - and full of urgency: "Oh no! We're on a toll road; and we are heading to [some city with a Japanese name]!" She didn't have any tears, and there wasn't a whimper in her voice, just a tremble noticeable enough to call it as such. That's when I dropped my guard and let some of my true state show. After she said her line, I took a breath, opened my mouth, and all I could say was a quiet "Oh shit." I didn't realize I had said it. She didn't tell me I had said it until maybe 20 or so minutes later after I had paid 400 yen at the tolls, did a big loop in the next town, and we were on our way back to familiar roads. She fisrt became nervous at the missed exit. I knew she was. But she was doing the familiar "Really, I'm fine" girl thing. But she told me that once I said my two-sentence line, that was the moment her heart really started beating. She went from nervous to scared.
She was silent most of the way home. We got back around 10:30. As we were within a few minutes of our place, she would say, "It's really ok; don't worry about it." She'd pause for maybe a minute, and then say the line again - I'm not sure who she was trying to reassure. Once we got back to our place I had to do some touch-up work on the next day's schedule. She helped, and I could still tell my her breathing that she was still a little shaken. I told her that I might not always be able to guarantee that I knew exactly where I was, but I would be able to guarantee that she would be safe, wherever it was that we were. It was true, and it is true (I would just be better to know where I was).
Her room is next to mine. We passed one another as we were going to bed. For the first time since our little journey I could tell she was calm again. She said not to worry again. This time I knew she meant it, and was at peace with it. She then said, "That really is funny what happened." We laughed about it and went on our ways. I knew it was going to be a funny story by tomorrow. I'm happy it's a funny story tonight.
I'm tired. I'm ready to go to bed. It feels good to be in bed, and it feels great to be at home!

November 27:
Another driving adventure. I really have no idea no idea how this happened. I could have sworn I knew exactly where I was, and where I was going.
This afternoon was the beginning of our 3-day holiday (we call weekends holidays here; no, I don't know why) and most of the teachers had other weekend-get-a-way plans. Lanifer and I were the only two left. We decided to go to an "American steakhouse" called Bronco Billy's. It's the closest thing I've found to the real deal. No buffalo heads stuck on the wall; but we did eat our steaks while listening to "Johnny B Good" and "The Leader of the Pack". We finished and went to Aeon (a shopping center) from; and then Starbucks for a while after that. I'm familiar with all these places. Driven to each of them many times now. As we were leaving Starbucks and on our way back home, I, for some reason, decided to take another route - to save us time. We ended up in another city. At some point, while a feeling of confusion overcame both Lanifer and I, Lanifer said the familiar line: "Oh Jacob, we're on a toll road again; we are in [the name of some other random Japanese city]!" I didn't say any bad words this time. I almost said the "F" word, but I stopped myself. I pulled into a gas station that we happened to be approaching. [By the way, gas stations here are great. They run up to the car and take care of it for you. Put in however much you want, maybe check tire pressure, clean your windows - and they don't accept tips. The pay they receive is what they work for, and, if they were to accept a tip, it would be like telling their boss they are not paid enough; an insult.] Some broken English, and some broken Japanese was exchanged, and we were soon back on our way, in the opposite - and correct - direction. I, once again, had a pretty good idea of where we were. I had the van in the far right lane as we were pulling up to an intersection. As we were coming close, Lanifer said, "Oh, you are supposed to turn left here!" "No, Lanifer. I know exactly where we are. I know what we need to do. Trust me." "No, Jacob, we need to turn left." "No, Lanifer, you need to trust me, I got turned around a moment ago, but now we are on track. Trust me." "No, Jacob. Really. I mean it. This is our turn. Turn left here. I promise. I really mean it." My thought at this point was, Fine, I'll turn left here. Soon she'll realize she was wrong, and we can turn around again and go the correct way. Turns out she was correct. We were back on a familiar road....And then, some how (I still don't know how) we got turned around again. (Still no bad language, though!)
We finally did make it back. And we made it back in one piece. And we were both smiling.
Getting lost this time was a lot less stressful than the last time. I was more comfortable with driving, and Lanifer was more comfortable with riding with me! She knew I was telling the truth when I would say, "I can't promise you I will know exactly where I am at all times; but I can guarantee you that you will be safe with me every moment." This was another example showing I am telling the truth when I say that.
We are back right now. I wouldn't be able to go to sleep right now. I was a bit worked up. I was focused, by my heart was working fast. I might watch a movie. Then go to bed.
It is 11:08, Thursday night. I didn't die, I made it home safely; those are 2 things to be thankful for!
(Oh yeah, and did I mention that it was very dark, and raining the entire time?