Virginia McClain: Writer & Designer

Author of Blade's Edge and Traitor's Hope

Virginia's Pre-2011 Blog

Snow, Orphans and Car Theft...

Posted on December 15, 2009 at 1:43 AM

No, I haven't had my car stolen by orphans. Good guess though. In fact, the three themes of the title are almost entirely unrelated outside of making it into this blog post.

To start with, SNOW!! After an overly warm beginning to winter (enough to delay ski resort openings and generally mystify the locals) it is finally snowing here in Tsuruoka. It started yesterday afternoon and has been more or less continuous since then. Yay! There is a nice solid blanket of a few inches coating the world around me and while it slows traffic considerably and that is somewhat annoying, it generally just makes me happy. It's supposed to snow straight through until Monday, and I'm hopeful that we'll have a nice white Christmas. So that is all good.

Which leads me to car theft. Why car theft you ask? Because I'm amazed that cars aren't stolen here on an hourly basis. With the arrival of the snow, I have witnessed a phenomenon that could only happen in Japan (please correct me if you know of some place else where this happens with EXTREME frequency)... the Japanese leave their cars running and unlocked outside of convenience stores, grocery stores, and just about any other kind of store, when it's cold and snowy. And not just for one minute while they run in really fast to buy a pack of smokes, either. They leave them on for 15-30 minutes while they SHOP and take their time. Try this in most places in the United States and you will come back to... an empty spot where your car used to be. Granted, I know some small towns where one could get away with this, but I still don't know many people who would do it. And, here, EVERYONE does it. Last night alone, when I went grocery shopping and stopped at a convenience store on the way, I saw a total of maybe 20 cars or more between both parking lots that were clearly on and had the keys in them. That was in ONE NIGHT, actually that was in a 2 hour period. Yeegads! So I am reassured, yet again, that Japan is the safest country in the world, and that it's people don't really care about CO2 emissions. (Win some, lose some.)

So, where do Orphans come into all this? You may wonder. They don't have much to do with the snow or the (lack of) car theft (at least, not that I know of) but they have everything to do with me having a wonderful weekend. On Saturday a big group of Gaijin (foreigners) and some Japanese friends of ours, all went to the local orphanage to play with some of the kids. I usually enjoy playing with kids (as long as I don't have to teach them too) but these kids were extra fun. Saturday was basically one of my all time best days ever. I was dragged around all day by a little girl who alternated between having me help her make Christmas cards and decorate cookies and being her own private horse that she got to run around the gym and chase other kids with. We communicated with hand signals and my horrible attempts at Japanese, but managed to get by. By the time we were supposed to leave I didn't want to go. Especially when she put on my jacket (she was about 5 so it was HUGE on her and made her look abnormally cute) and asked me if I was coming back next year. I promised her I was, and after she showered me in many hugs, and gave me my jacket back, I let her go and ran away before the overwhelming urge to adopt her took hold of me and I wound up with a five year old Japanese kid that I am by no means prepared to take care of. (If you realized how little I like the idea of having children, you would understand how adorable this girl must be in order to make me even remotely consider taking one on.) But, I managed to pull myself away in time, and thus am still child free. Though, I will certainly be going back next year and, hopefully, I will have improved my Japanese enough so as to be able to communicate more effectively with my new buddy.

So, that's all that's been going on with me lately. I love the snow, I hope it continues well into the night, and I won't even mind walking to work if I have to. Hope everyone is doing well and preparing for the holiday season.

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