Let me start by saying I’ve always been a hot mess when it comes to driving to a place for the first time. I have a horrible sense of direction. If getting lost was a job I would be the CEO of the company.
When we arrived on island, Marines in my husband’s new unit picked us up. The first thing I noticed was the size, shape, and oddness of the cars. As I rode on the right side of the car, I “white knuckled” it the whole way to the hotel. Not having a steering wheel to control, was freaking me out. It blew my mind driving on the left side of the road. I couldn’t handle the “willie nillie-ness” of the drivers. Drivers who stopped in the far left lane like a parking lot. Drivers who went through the light well after it turned red. Drivers who, always, always expect you to give them the right of way…always.
A week later, I failed my first written drivers test and passed the second (those signs were tricky). We finally got our cars, so I bit the bullet and went adventuring on my own. Long story short, a two mile trip was an hour long. My 6 month old was screaming and my 3 year old was hungry; I never made it to my destination. I got back home feeling frustrated, hopeless and disoriented.
This became a pattern for me. I would get lost, drive around longer then needed, apologize to others for being late and then exhausted, find my way home. GPS would help for destinations out in town but once on base it was by directions only. Until one day things changed.
Finally, I was starting to recognize signs, streets and buildings. I would have triumphant moments of “Oh, I know where I’m at!” I’d make it home in record time, then call my husband at work and let him know of my accomplishment. After all the days of missed turns, U turns, and too many turns, this felt good. I was growing accustom to the Okinawan way of driving, always being on the defensive and taking my time to get from place to place.
It can be a bit overwhelming when first driving in Okinawa. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and get other peoples experiences. After some time and lots of patience, it will all come together. The fear of driving in this new land will be concurred and there will be no place you can’t go on this 7 by 70 mile island.