by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer and Road Warrior
Okay, it's official. Pa Rock has wheels! At about 4:30 this afternoon I picked up my 1998 Nissan Cube, gold in color, with just 49,000 actual kilometers on the old kilometer-meter! It's quite a car: not too pretty, but the gold color helps it to stand out among all of the silvers and shades of gray that seem to be so popular here.
In Japan, as Okinawa is, all of the driving is on the left side of the road, and all of the steering wheels and other devices used by drivers are on right side of the car (from the driver's perspective). Everything is bass-ackwards! I made it onto the base from the car lot, which fortunately is located mere feet (excuse me, kilometers) from Gate 2, but I had to open the door to show the guard my temporary road tax sticker because I couldn't figure out how to lower the automatic windows. (God, I hate automatic windows - especially Japanese ones!)
Once on-base I putted around looking for the only gas station, which I eventually found after several wrong turns. Wrong turns were educational because the turn signal is next to the door - on the right side of the steering wheel. So my first several turns were signalled by the windshield wipers going off! Finally, however, I did make it to the gas station where I was able to locate the release for the gas cap cover in under ten minutes.
My next stop was my office which was closed, but several co-workers were still there - a bad sign of things to come! My boss saw the new heap on the parking lot and remarked that she liked the gold color. So I guess it does stand out. While at the office I removed a bottle of rice alcohol (supposedly something akin to vodka) that my housing agent had given me as a gift for signing with her company. The alcohol is now in my car and by tomorrow evening will be safely in my new home. I'm not a vodka drinker, so it will be here when my company from the states starts arriving next summer.
Kadena is a really big base - on the order of Ft. Campbell - so it took me quite awhile and several more wrong turns - accompanied by windshield wipers - before I found my way back to the Shogun Inn.
Tomorrow I have to travel off-base to my new apartment south of Kadena. I have to be there in the early afternoon when the housing agent will arrive for the initial joint inspection. She will be accompanied by the gas man who will hook up the gas so that I have hot water and am able to cook. To get to the new digs, I will have to traverse a section of Highway 58, the busiest highway on Okinawa.
My boss gave me an axiom to follow in making certain that I was always driving on the correct side of the road. It is: "Keep your hiney on the liney." (That also works in America.) Every time I made a turn, I concentrated on making sure that my body was located next to the center line, and I kept repeating over and over, "Keep your hiney on the liney." I'm likely to be using mantra for a long time to come!
(One bit of huge news: I learned today that all of my household goods have arrived and will be delivered on Monday! I will be completely here!)