Without an alarm clock I woke up automatically and headed to the shower. Like any new place, the appliances and switches were different. It probably took me a good 10 minutes to finally figure out how to get the water running out of the right faucet at the right temperature. The pop tarts from the lump of groceries Sergeant Armendariz bought me as a welcoming gift were my breakfast for that morning. In the future I was hoping to buy Japanese food, but old American food held me over for the time being. He picked me up and drove me to take my drivers license course. Lecture was reinforced with a slide show. It was fast paced and I tried to absorb all the information. The main difference of driving in Japan compared to in the states were the narrow roads, slower speeds (all in kilometers), many round mirrors posted near the roads to view blind spots, no shoulders, deep ditches along the road (to drain excess water), little to no street lamps, and last but not least; the Japanese drove on the left side of the road. The cars in Japan were smaller to compensate for the narrow roads, however, it was still a frightening trip in any car. Most car accidents involving the military in Misawa happens off base. If any law violation occurs on base security forces (military police) take points off our record. When so many points are accounted for, then our drivers license is revoked for a period of time (depending on the law violations). The overall maximum speed limit on base is 40 kilometeres. Besides driving slowly another concern everyone has to be aware of is that cars must stop at all train tracks intersecting the road. It seems redundant to stop because in America cars only stop when a train is actually coming. The instructor told us that passing a car on base is not allowed. The only time a driver could even consider passing a vehicle is if it is a large vehicle and they drive way over to the side of the road. Only under these conditions will a driver not get in trouble, meaning that if a car passes a large/slow vehicle they can still get in trouble if the larger vehicle doesn't move over. So many complications! On the other hand, cars can pass buses off base without stopping (one must only use caution). Off base, a car is supposed to stop at least 25 feet away from an intersection (to allow large vehicles to turn on the narrow roads without colliding with others). Large vehicles have the upper hand. After all this information I was less and less interesting in buying a car. Even the insurance is strange. Every car must be inspected every 2 years and is called the JCI. The driver must pay hundreds of dollars to get inspected and does not guarantee an approval to drive the car on the streets. A DBIDS registration, vehicle title, JCI, insurance (for liability), road tax, 4EJ (Japanese license for military members), and an American drivers license are all required to be in the car while driving. Road taxes are paid in May of the fiscal year. As I said before, information overload! To my dismay the instructors informed us that we were taking the test right after we finished trying to absorb what was just taught. Many of the questions were super confusing and I felt like I would fail for sure since only 7 points were allowed to be missed to pass. To my surprise, they issued me my Japanese paper drivers license (4EJ). For a drivers course it was a slow yet quick 3 hours. I left for the hospital on foot to rendez-vous with Sergeant Armendariz. The hospital was keeping him busy, so I used the free WiFi to skype with Adam. My stomach was bombarded with hunger pains which drove me to seek out my sponsor. Thankfully he was heading out to meet with his wife at the BX to eat lunch. Of course, I tagged along and ate Subway with them. It was time to buy a phone even though I had only arrived the day before. Sure enough, plenty of phone companies were willing to sell me their products and flaunt their deals at me. Ssgt (Staff Sergeant) Armendariz highly suggested going through “au” (a phone company in Japan like verison, sprint, ect.). It is most likely he urged me to go through that company probably because he himself had au. Whoever I went through to get a phone was of little concern for me, all that mattered was what types of deals being offered. Luckily, au was having a discount on their Galaxy Notebook 3 Android phones. The plan was great, only $57 per month, although the device was a little on the expensive side (about $535). In Japan, or at least in Misawa, there was also a activation fee of $31. Back in the States I had a Straight Talk phone which is a pay as you go phone...lets just say I did not know what I was getting myself into with this high tech phone. After a few hours of messing around with the phone I had a better idea of how to do the basic stuff like send messages and what not. Funny that these phones are made to make life more fun and easy, yet it only makes it more complicated and confusing! Ssgt Armenariz took me to the Commisary (military grocery store) to get more groceries. The food was a bit more expensive compared to back home. I decided to buy the basics: granola cereal, a bag of apples, peanut butter, and a pomegranate (my favorite fruit!). As I walked around I did not really know what to get. This was my first time buying groceries for just myself. A1C Panic and her friend Coley met up with us and took me to the BX. This time I knew what I needed: a pan and spatula. Any basic cooking involves those kitchenware. On top of that I bought a filter because A1C’s friend was obsessing about clean water (apparently he saw a documentary about water and how impure it was from the faucet). Later that night Panic was going to a New Years party and invited me.’t nervous (there was nothing for me to loose since they didn’t know me). The party was in a house on base hosted by a really nice family. Food was everywhere and I pretty much ate everything. Finger and party food for some reason tastes really good! Everyone was having a good time; especially when the alcohol was being passed around. my New Years resolution was to learn Japanese, eat healthier, meet new friends, and safe a life. Only a few seconds were left and in the first moments of 2014 we all hugged and greeted each other with happy new year. People started to file out not too long after including myself. At another friend’s house of Panic we stayed for a few hours and watched “The Crazies” (definitely not my type of movie). Panic and the others wanted to go to the Cafe Mokuteki.
adjust to the time change. That night I went to bed feeling content. It was a great beginning to a new adventure in Japan.