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Tuesday, October 31

A License To SHOP!

Happy Halloween! It doesn’t look very Halloween-y around here. I saw one kid dressed as a pirate and that was on a quick run I made onto the base for cash. He didn’t look happy being a pirate either although he was quite fond of the sword.

To celebrate this sacred holiday, I did something I don’t do much of here. SHOP! It isn’t that I don’t want to shop. Oh, man do I want to shop. It is just so hard. And I mean this as beyond finding what I want or need or the right size.

The town I live in is not a hot spot for shopping. There is a small availability that I have access to but mostly those shops hold women’s clothes which are just never going to work. Honestly no matter how much I really would love to patronize, the first problem with shopping – particularly in my town – is that these small mom-and-pop shops are just too expensive. The shops I want to find are those discounted china stores and the BIG 100 Yen store. Our second problem with regards to those stores… is getting there.

I have actually familiarized myself enough with the train system that I no longer tear up at first thought of riding by myself. But there is no way I can SHOP! if I am going to take the train by my lonesome. Nope, in these cases, the JapaCapaBox with an empty trunk is necessary.

Even back home, I was not much for driving on a busy highway. I clench the wheel and my teeth under the stress until my brain feels like it is leaking out of my ears. If you want to SHOP! here though, and you want to carry those handfuls back out, I just have to pull myself together and drive already. Today I left the security of the Route 16 and it’s offshoots that I don’t mind driving on the Miura Peninsula and took the Yoko-Yoko Toll Road north into the big city, all by myself, for the very first time. I was a nervous Nelly the entire way.

The speed limit on the highway is 80 kph, roughly 49.7 miles per hour… and I did not stray much further above that speed. It felt like it was killing me when the road was quiet as I puttered along in the left lane. When the first person flew by my right side at 90 kph (55.9 mph), I thought I was having a seizure. (Good God, what has happened to me and my wild and crazy ways?)

To get to all of these fabulous shopping destinations, the nice people on base provide directions to all of places everyone will insist you visit while you are living or visiting here. Problem number three arises with those directions. They are always wrong. This is not an exaggeration. We have used their directions on five occasions (counting today) and every single time, there were discrepancies. When driving somewhere, I therefore read them several times over and loosely translate what they are saying into memory. This is where a co-pilot would come in very handy. I’ve tried 1-800-RENT-A-FRIEND but they told me I had to speak Japanese to order one.

With my loosely translated directions held tight in my clasp to the wheel, I took a few wrong turns but eventually made it to China Pete’s and a world full of Japanese china opened its doors to me. There are two rooms to this place but it is filled with goods. I spent two hours agonizing over this blue and white bowl or that blue and white bowl. (Exactly the reason I wouldn’t ask KH to SHOP! with me. He hates that I will vacillate for hours over a decision he deems as straightforward. In other words, he just doesn’t understand the value of SHOP!ping.)

With stacks of boxes tied together, the owner kindly helped me carry out my parcels. I barely spent a thing and go so very much. Notably, this store alone today made me feel so jubilant because I bought many Christmas gifts I had been searching vainly for. There have been so many times that I went out in serious need of particular items and came home hours later frustrated and depressed and wishing I was at home where everything was easier. But I didn’t move here for ease and I haven’t let my frustrations stop my efforts.

I had passes a Toys-R-Us on the way to China Pete’s. While it is an American chain, I was certain they would carry Japanese toys and I have a few kids on my list to buy for. Not wanting to ruin with the good thing I had going; I closed my eyes, said a quick prayer for comparative ease and pulled into the parking lot. And the sun just kept on shining for me. Two more people on the list… done with a quick run through. Why isn’t it always this (relatively) simple?

Back on the road to home, the highway traffic wasn’t too bad. I didn’t miss any turns. I didn’t drive into any other vehicles. I made it safely to my door. A much more confident resident of Japan. (One who would still, however, like a co-pilot. Presently accepting applications from anyone who holds a current Visa… and I don’t mean the kind to work in a foreign country.)

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