Riding the Bus

Originally published on 16 June 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my first ever solo trip to Japan!

School has gone well the past couple of days! I’m really trying my best to do everything right, and Yuri’s feeling better, so I think she’s been more willing to overlook some things, which I am grateful for. I’m getting more comfortable with the lessons and not quite so frantic and worried all the time. I haven’t had as many lessons this month because I’ve been learning and doing other things. Instead of 3 or more lessons every day, I’ve had about 3 to 4 in a week. Whew! What a relief. I’m glad I got learning how to do the lessons out of the way and I don’t have to deal with that now, but I really don’t think thrusting us into that part of the job first thing was the best way. Everyone’s learning this summer!

So, if I haven’t been preparing and giving lessons as much, what have I been doing? Well, I cut out shapes and pictures of everyday items for kids’ classes, put double-sided tape on the stuff I cut out, I put round edges on flashcards (sharp corners are “dangerous,” you know), I put things in order (organization might my one true calling in life!). I also help Yuri translate things into English, and I do reception work (attendance, etc.–not answering phones, which I don’t like!). I like all this stuff a lot more than dealing with the kids. It’s so hard to play and teach them things when I don’t know what they’re saying. If they ask a question, I have no idea what to say, or even if they ARE asking a question.

They’re good at facial expressions, though, right?

Other than that, I help out on the bus. Because of this experience, I want to mention the backroads of Ise and the amazing driving abilities of the Japanese!

First of all, other than the main road Route 23 and the road that goes through Central Ise, there’s no direct road to anywhere. Ise is about the size of not too big, but bigger than the town I are up in for sure. It takes half an hour to get from one end of Ise to the other. The roads twist and turn, they go in circles, you have to watch out for railroad tracks, there are “two way bridges” that only one vehicle can go through at a time, and there are no shoulders on either side of the road! To deal with crazy 90 degree turns, they have these huge orange mirrors up just so you can see around blind curves:

Can you see me? 

To add to it all, they drive on the opposite side of the road! Making turns is intense when you’re used to driving on the other side! But then you have scenery like this:


But Japanese drivers are astounding. They pay attention, for one, and they are incredible at backing up. They have lots of practice with VERY narrow parking spaces. They are not afraid to get right up beside you, and I’ve seen cars fit in spaces and around other cars where  you’d never think they could fit. The cars are short and sort of squatty-looking, and as I said, they drive on the opposite side. I’m so glad I’m not driving around this summer. I’d have died already, with no doubt in my mind. It never ceases to amaze me, when I ride with a Japanese driver, how incredibly scary yet safe, it is. The school bus is smaller than a normal American bus, of course, but it’s still pretty big for Japan. That thing has made better 3-point turns, backed into smaller spaces, maneuvered around things, and just basically driven better that I could ever dream of doing!

Oh, and rainy season is upon us. The weather was rainy the first couple of weeks I was here, but ever since the rainy season actually started last week, it’s been really pretty and sunny. Until yesterday when it positively poured. And the wind! I kept hearing that song “Against the Wind” while the rain pelted my face. Thank goodness for rain suits! And God definitely had His hands on me yesterday. Those gusts can knock you over before you know what happened. It’s a miracle I stayed upright!

Night time rain gear!

I think that’s all for now. I hope everyone’s week is going well. Have a great weekend!

Love, Whit

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