Monday, July 18, 2011

Gomennasai- What does that mean??

Well, let me start off by giving you a little lesson in the Japanese judicial system. We learned during our introduction class that when doing something, on purpose or by accident, should always be reported immediately, apologized for AND paid for if necessary. Otherwise, one may end up with a giant fine, time in jail, or if you are lucky and depending on what you did, they may say, "Daijoubu", which means, "don't worry about it." The Japanese have many rules for everything and you've gotta follow them, otherwise you will be in big trouble! Oh yes, there are cameras everywhere! You will get caught.
   OK, so now that that has been explained, let me tell you why I gave this little lesson..  Today, after I got my long awaited drivers license, packed up my friends car, (thank you again, Kristen) we headed over (driving on the left side of the road and sitting behind the steering wheel on the right side of the car) to our housing complex, about 20 minutes from Main Base. Gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles and "threatening" the children with no TV or games if they spoke a word while I was navigating my way, we made it there with no problems. We got our keys, did the walk through inspection and hauled a few of our belongings up to our new home. After we felt we had sufficiently put away our things and Josh told me he was planning on going back to work, we piled back in the car and headed back for Main Base.  This is where the "fun" begins.
        We started off our journey back to Main Base with no problems. Josh didn't forget to drive on the left side of the road and the girls were remembering their code of silence. Then it all went down hill. I told Josh to take a left, when he should have taken a right and we got all turned around.. We had no idea where we were, or which way we were supposed to be going. Josh, frustrated cause he needed to get back to work and me, frustrated cause I knew I'd told him the wrong way, felt bad and knew he was upset, kept driving in hopes of a sign of some sort that may tell us where we should go to get back to Sasebo. Finally, we saw a sign for Rt. 35, that also said, "Central Sasebo". Thank goodness!! So, we start following the signs and come upon a toll. I see it's 200 yen, so I take out a 500 yen coin to hand to him. Similar to America, there is an express lane, in which if you have a credit card attached to your little toll chip, you can drive right through and the little chip will add the toll amount to your credit card. Here it's called the "ETC lane". So up we drive to the toll and Josh is heading to the ETC lane, to which I say, "No, you can't go in that lane, we don't have an ETC card!" At this point, he's already past where he can switch into the other lane, or so I think and he cuts it right and proceeds over to the non ETC toll booth. In the process, I *think* he has run over, or at least partially hit a road cone. Still in a tizzy over getting lost and now possibly running over a road cone in my friends car ( sorry Kristen) I give Josh the 500 yen and he tosses it in the basket. He's too far away from the basket to get the change, so he has to get out of the car and retrieve the change and get back in the car to proceed. In the meantime, I'm sure my blood pressure and his are so high we could both have strokes right then and there.
     So, we pull away from the toll when the thought runs through my mind, "Humm.. we just possibly ran over Japanese government property. This is not good when referring to the possible repercussions one might have following breaking a rule in Japan, which of course is damaging government property. I was afraid to say anything at the time, because I knew Josh was stressed out already and I didn't need to add anything else to the plate, not to mention it was a highway, with no toll collectors, so we don't know who we'd tell anyway. On we go continuing to follow the Rt. 35 signs and finally figure out that it dumps up in the middle of Sasebo. Great! We are back in Sasebo, we get on base and drop Josh off at work. I drive back with the girls to the lodge, sit down on the bed and lose it! I haven't cried at all since being here and in fact, I very much like Sasebo!  My phone rang, I answered it, half thinking it was going to be the Japanese police and found it was my friend Ro, who is fluent in Japanese and has lived here before. After telling her what happened, she said that we should go back and "Gomennasai" and offer to pay for the cone, so that if they saw us on video, we would not get in any trouble. After calling my mother at 5:15AM her time, (love you Mom and thanks for listening) crying and explaining that if we didn't apologize and offer payment we could get in a lot of trouble, even just for a road cone, Josh, Ro and her husband John, tried to navigate their way back to the "scene of the crime" to offer gomennasai and payment. The toll man, after being told the situation in Japanese, said, "Daijibou" (no problem) and let them go. I cannot tell you how happy I was, when Josh called to tell me everything was OK. The last thing we needed was to pay a hefty fine, or get hauled into the police station for questioning, as to why we hit a road cone and why we didn't stop immediately.
   So, Japanese judicial system lesson one learned- Always apologize for what you've done and do it soon, cause if you don't, they are watching and they will find you!

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