Posted by: mariabro | January 27, 2018

Getting our sacred on

One of the reasons I wanted to start our travels in Peru was because of the special, sacred nature of the indigenous people and the country itself. I had taken some previous courses in the Inca traditions and shamanism. I love the respect they have for pacha mama, Mother Earth and I wanted to feel that connection more closely. I arranged to participate as a family in two traditional Inca ceremonies; the cleansing ceremony and the thanksgiving ceremony. It was a bit of a mix of family therapy, mysticism and religion. To my surprise, the boys seemed engaged and interested. We learned a little more about ourselves and each other. Craig learned about the medicinal plants of the jungle. I think we all grew as people because of our experience.

I wasn’t going to try to put into words my experience at Machu Picchu because it was beyond words. But as I ruminate over my visit I want to try to remember how I felt when I entered this magical place. As I went through the gate, and saw the town laid out before me surrounded by mist, tears literally came to my eyes. I had the same visceral reaction as I had when I flew over the Grand Canyon. It was breathtaking. Hayden looked around and said, “I feel like I’m in another world.” And that’s exactly what it felt like. Another world where the people lived in the clouds, in harmony with nature. The sounds were muffled like when you lay on the sand at a crowded beach but all you hear are the waves and the muffled sounds of people in the distance. Machu Picchu is not ruins. It feels like it is still livable. Add a few alpaca rugs to the floors, some candles and you’d have a cozy mountain retreat. Luckily, the Spanish conquistadors never made it to Machu Picchu…

After Machu Picchu we headed to Urubamba in the sacred valley. We had some downtime here, caught up on school work, did some site-seeing (the salt flats, ollantaytambo ruins) and went on an ATV adventure).

We are now on a 10-hour train trip through the Andes to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. We will spend our final three nights in Peru there. Then we head to Argentina.

We have spent almost a month in Peru…exploring Lima, Iquitos, the Amazon, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Urubamba and the Sacred Valley, Puno and Lake Titicaca. It has exceeded our expectations in every way.

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Posted by: mariabro | January 19, 2018

My worst nightmare

Imagine your worst nightmare…

What would it be? Traveling 40 minutes down a small river, into the deep jungle…in a small boat…at night…threatening rain…and…the motor cuts out?  Well, yes, that would be my worst nightmare. And it happened. We were taking a “night cruise” to look for caiman (alligators) when the propellor of our motor became wrapped in vines. Then the engine flooded as the guide tried to get it started. We sat for about ten minutes in a mosquito infested pond…as it grew darker…trying to get the motor started. If it had not started it would have been at least a 6-hour paddle through the night to get back to our lodge. Hayden managed to record the event…you can hear my frustration.

Script

Me: what’s your backup plan Craig?

Craig: lots of Deet

Me: Ya, my worst nightmare. I think we should row back to the lake. It’s never going to start with all these weeds. (No one is listening to me…)

Me. Again. :this is so stupid. I don’t know why we came in here.

Fortunately, they got the motor restarted and we were able to get back to the lodge…and managed to spot a few caiman on the way. Moral of the story? When you Face your fears…you’ll be surprised at your strength.

Ok, it seems there might be something worse than being out in the jungle, in the dark, with a boat that won’t start.

Being ill in bed all day watching Spanish episodes of honey boo boo and dance moms…

Yes I succumbed to; travelers belly after trying to eat healthy by eating a salad for dinner…I know, I know, rookie move. Pasta and fries here I come.

I also had chills all day from what turned out to be strep…and a headache from altitude sickness. The trifecta! Cusco’s elevation is about 11,180…just a 1000’ short of the peak of Mount Fuji…where I also suffered from altitude sickness. Wouldn’t you know that damn Craig (former smoker) had no problem. I said it was because his lungs were used to less oxygen!

So, a day…or three, in bed to rest and relax. Downtime is always good on an adventure. And what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!

Ok! On to our first real f*ck-it list item. Machu Picchu. Heading up to the ruins in the morning. Now, I’m off to take another amoxicillin, cipro and paracetamol… 💪

Posted by: mariabro | January 12, 2018

Welcome to the Jungle

After 6 days in the concrete jungle of Lima (pop. 11million) we headed to the actual jungle. The Amazon jungle. A quick two hour flight to Iquitos, a less-quick 1.5 hour drive to Nauta, and a slow boat up the amazing Amazon river…and we arrived at our Treehouse. Literally a treehouse.

Our host/guide excitedly described the scorpions, tarantulas, Jaguars and anacondas that frequented the jungle around us. As I realized the remoteness of our home for the next three nights, I had a slight panic attack. These kind of thoughts only come with age and the vulnerability of having children, but I wondered to myself what if one of them gets bitten by a spider? What if some other crisis arose? It would be about 3 hours before we could get back to the airport of Iquitos, itself not a center of medical expertise. (Ok as I’m writing this my heart is starting to pound again…)

But something surprising happened. As we cruised the Amazon river I felt the peace of the Amazon descend. I looked around and realized the jungle held the key to everything that could ail us…or the earth. All the medications we could require were in the jungle. And then I noticed the scent of the air. It was the freshest, sweetest air I had ever smelled. If you could bottle nature, this would be it, a combination of fresh grass, spring rain-showers and a dollop of wild flowers.

We toured a local village, where the kids played ball in the street while the mothers cooked dinner in the huts that lined the street. The boys had the surprise of their lives when they were invited to see…and hold…(I didn’t see until later) the massive anaconda that one of the locals had recently caught.

We watched the grey and pink dolphins frolic in the river at sunset. When we shut off the engine of our little boat it was palpably peaceful and serene.

We ate catfish that tasted like chicken and drank a few more Pisco sours.

We slept well in our tree-house, our little Swiss family Robinson. The hum of the insects…outside the netting…was lulling. The WiFi was not working and the boys actually talked to us about things that mattered….Played chess with us and played music for us. Pierce, who is thankfully into great classic rock played “name that tune” which was super fun. I think we both surprised each other at the depth of our classic rock knowledge. Well, 2/3 ain’t bad. Brittany and Pierce are our classic rock kids. Hayden is the rap outlier.

Tonight we ate the pirhana that the boys caught and cooked. I’m more of a catch and release kind of fisher but when you see the teeth on these pirhana it’s hard to feel sympathy!

Enjoy the pics on fb which go along with this post. Off to Cusco and the mountains tomorrow….

Posted by: mariabro | January 8, 2018

The adventures of the “f*ck-it list” family.

We were initially going to call ourselves the “bucket-list” family. But like most good ideas it was already taken…by a millennial who sold his company for $54 million and decided to take his gorgeous-blonde-Mormon family on a trip around the world. We are decidedly not them. Craig said, “we are more of a f*ck-it list family”. Thus, the origin of our moniker.

We are now five days in to our 207 day odyssey. Things have been pretty smooth but we’ve had a few bumps already…

We arrived in Lima at our Airbnb only to find it was already occupied by another family. We have used many airbnb’s around the world but never had something like that happen before. After a few hours of waiting for things to be sorted, we walked a few blocks to the Marriott and stayed there for the night. To their credit Airbnb responded very quickly and refunded us the first night. We moved into the newly vacated (and re-cleaned…) apartment the next day. The apartment faces the Pacific Ocean and has spectacular sunset views. It’s located in miraflores, an area of Lima much like Minami Azabu in Tokyo or Wellesley in Boston. It’s safe and beautiful.

The other bump was Hayden’s drone does not seem to work. It gives an error message about magnetic interference so we are trying to get that figured out. My Spanish is being challenged.

Speaking of which, my one year of university Spanish has come in very handy and given me a lot of power in the family unit. I am enjoying that so I am practicing on Duolingo 20 min per day. It’s my competitive nature.

We have settled somewhat into a routine for now. The boys have “school” in the morning for around 3 hours. Corey, our tutor is great,  working through the curriculum and being a buffer between us when they get annoying. It’s nice to have another big guy around when we tour the more local areas of Lima. He’s very easy-going as well.

Craig and I go out for coffee and then walk/exercise for a few hours. Craig likes to walk and explore. Yesterday we walked 8km to the Mario Testino museum and explored the Barranca district which is the bohemian area of Lima. It had a cool vibe, lots of artists and is an up and coming area.

We have liked Lima more than we expected. The weather is great, cool breezes at night and warm during the day. Temps are moderate and vary from 67(19) to 74(23) despite being only 800 miles from the equator.

Oh, and the food has been incredible!  We knew Peru was a foodie hotspot but we’ve been totally impressed by the quality and diversity. Last night we ate at Huaca Pucllana, a restaurant set amid the historic ruins. The ceviche was the best we’ve had. The Chilean wine was delicious and we are in love with Pisco Sours, the local specialty.

We will spend about three weeks in Peru. We are heading to the Amazon on Tuesday, then to Cusco and Machu Picchu, one of my bucket list places.

The countries we selected are, for the most part, countries we haven’t visited before. Here is the list. I can send our detailed itinerary to anyone who may want to join us somewhere along the way! Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Dubai (UAE), Jordan, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Japan, South Korea, China, (Tibet), South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Germany, Croatia, Romania, to be determined…

I don’t want to overwhelm Facebook with too many posts so I will update the blog once or twice a week and post the link on Facebook.

Thanks to everyone following along on our adventure. It helps me feel connected to all my friends back home. ❤️

Posted by: mariabro | December 17, 2017

Try to be the change.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with a group of women in Upstate New York at an oasis. An oasis of intellectual thought and civil discourse, things I felt were missing from everyday life in this election year.

The oasis is called Chautauqua. It’s mission statement declares that “it is dedicated to the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life through a program that explores the important religious, social and political issues of our times; stimulates provocative, thoughtful involvement of individuals and families in creative response to such issues; and promotes excellence and creativity in the appreciation, performance and teaching of the arts.”

We spent the weekend listening to lectures on the history of jazz by Wynton Marsalis, attending concerts and discussing current events. It was a thought-provoking weekend spent with a diverse group of people.

When I returned home, I realized that Chautauqua was a kind of model community that the rest of America could learn from. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is “the most American thing in America.”

It promotes the “obligations of a citizen in a democracy to be engaged with the important issues of our time, to be practiced in discussing those issues across partisan boundaries and to understand individual self-interest in balance with the common good.”

With the election behind us I believe, more than ever, it is the responsibility of the citizenry to be engaged and involved in society, to be respectful of diverse opinions and to be tolerant of differences. This is what makes America great.

I am a Canadian living in America. I have watched with great interest the workings of this massive democracy. I wish I could have voted in this last election. It surprises me that over 43% of eligible voters did not take advantage of the opportunity to make their voices heard.

I am not a political scientist. Rather, I’m an observer of human nature. Here are some of my observations about American politics. There is a deep divide between the right and the left. The two-party system seems to reinforce an “us vs. them” mentality.

George Washington recognized this in his last address to the nation: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

The American political party model is in a minority worldwide. Canada, a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, has multiple parties: the Conservatives on the right, the New Democrats on the left and the Liberal Party in the middle.

We also have proportional representation. In this system, the loser gets a percentage of the representation rather than no representation, which differs from the electoral college “winner takes all.”

Canada’s minority parties are influential and capable of winning elections. When a minority government is formed, the third party wields a great deal of power because the governing party must align with them to get things passed. Consensus building is valued.

The last year has been rife with negativity. People are tired, and many are frustrated. As I ponder my response to it all, I think of the words of another polarizing politician, Mahatma Gandhi: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

My response to the election will be to continue to try to be the change. I’ve added one item to my children’s chore chart: Do a random act of kindness. I know it shouldn’t be a chore, but I want to remind them to be thoughtful and kind on a daily basis. Acts of kindness, individual by individual, are what will keep America great.

Posted by: mariabro | February 13, 2014

Photoshopping our Lives

Through social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we create our own Avatar – our online persona.  It is a reflection of who we want to portray to our social networks.    Social media has allowed us to craft our image, in other words we can brand ourselves.  Facebook has only been around since 2004.  I joined in 2007, in my mid-fourties and living in Tokyo.  So, my “brand” is fairly recent in the grander scheme of my life. (I think I am grateful there was no Facebook when I was younger…)
My avatar doesn’t wear glasses, likes to socialize and is always smiling.  Or, you may surmise, my life seems pretty happy at this point.  Or maybe I only post pics of the good times?  FB seems more of a place to share the good times than the bad ones to me. Like a glossy magazine of your life.
But for many people, the happy life we display on Facebook was/is not always the case.  Everyone has their share of hardship.  For me, about 15 years ago I had a triple whammy.  Death, divorce, and a move.  Over the course of many years I have gone through –
  • death
  • divorce
  • job loss
  • miscarriages
  • financial insecurity

In fact, here is a picture (which my family roars with laughter at now), that reveals the stress I was going through before our move to Tokyo.  The boys were 1 and 2 yrs old, Brittany 10.  Craig had already moved to Japan so I was left behind to pack up and clear out our lives in Canada.  Not the Maria you know.

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Life is not always easy.  I worked hard to overcome the challenges I’ve faced and feel I became stronger because of them.  I don’t wish my children hardship but sometimes I look at how easy their lives are and wonder how they would deal with any sort of life stressor.  I honestly believe hardship builds character.
If you are going through any life difficulties, try to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.  Keep working toward your goals whatever they may be.  Embrace the hardship and try to see it as something that will strengthen you and propel you onward, and upward.
And when you get to the positive cycle in your life, which you will, appreciate it and be even more grateful because you know the difference.  Celebrate the good times, share them with your friends on FB and be proud of your accomplishments.  And when your friends are in a happy place, understand that it may not always have been that way.  Don’t envy their happiness, support it, because you never know what it took them to get there.
Posted by: mariabro | October 10, 2013

The Detached Expat

Posted by: mariabro | May 1, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

The sound of the blast and the smell of the explosion continue to haunt me. We were in the grandstand seats at the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the bomb went off.  I heard the massive boom, saw the smoke and felt the debris rain down over the finish line.  A tragic end to an epic event.

We had spent the day watching our first ever Boston Marathon and were privileged to have seats right at the finish line.  All day we cheered the extraordinary athletes who pushed themselves to the limit.  The first to cross was Yamamoto, the Japanese wheelchair athlete.Image

We were so proud to see him accomplish such an amazing feat and to watch as they played the Japanese national anthem.  After spending seven years in Japan, we shared the country’s pride in watching one of their own win such a prestigious event.  Then came the elite athletes, the women’s winner Rita Jeptoo, Kenya

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and the men’s winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia.  Here is a picture of my husband placing his medal on him.

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It was a beautiful spring day with a slight chill to the air.  After a couple of hours watching from the stands with our friends and our children we headed back to the Fairmont hotel for lunch.  My husband, daughter and I decided to go back about the four hour mark of the race to continue to cheer for the runners.  Two of my younger children decided to stay back at the hotel since they were a little tired and cold.  Just as we got back to the stands and turned to watch the race the bomb went off.  Directly across the street.  I remember it was silent for a few seconds, everyone was stunned.

I think it was my training as a flight attendant many years ago that came back and helped me react. I am the type of person who always watches for unclaimed bags at the airport, always like to figure out my escape routes etc.  I immediately knew it was a bomb.  I also knew we had to get away as I was pretty sure  it was a terrorist attack and I felt there would be more bombs.  People were saying “Get down”, but I said, “No, it’s a bomb, we have to get away.”  I grabbed my daughter’s hand and yelled at my husband to “GO, GO!”  My daughter seemed a bit dazed and said later she thought maybe a speaker blew up and did not realize the severity of the situation.

I remember thinking “if this was a bigger bomb the buildings would have come down and everyone would be dead.”  So many thoughts raced through my mind, but the certainty I had that it was a bomb and it was an attack, remain with me.  My first thoughts were that I had to get to my younger children who were at the hotel.  We ran to the hotel while the first responders ran towards the blast.  No one on the other side of Copley Square had seen what we had just seen.  I tried to be calm and said to the hotel security guards.  “I think it was a bomb, you need to do something about security at the hotel!”  They looked at me somewhat skeptically but then realized what had happened and began to lock down the hotel.

When we reached my husband’s staff we told them what had happened. One of them became frantic as her son was running in the race.  I tried to help her get him on the phone but the cellphone lines were overloaded and the call would not go through.  I raced upstairs to get the boys and, still in emergency mode, outlined what had just happened.  They started to cry and we tried to reassure them. But at this point we had no information and were not sure there were not more bombs at the hotel, the race headquarters.  We went to the lobby, kids and dog in tow, to decide what to do.  Then we went back to the room and tried to keep the kids occupied while we watched the news and reassured our friends on Facebook that we were safe. I felt trapped in the hotel but was not sure what else to do.

It was just two years ago that we had been in an equally traumatic situation.  March 11, 2011 we lived in Tokyo and experienced the Tohoku earthquake.  There were many similarities that day, but this time it was not a natural disaster, it was a terrorist attack.

For me writing is cathartic. I wrote about the earthquake just as I am writing about the bombing.  It helps me process and express my emotions.  Here is an excerpt of my blog post after the earthquake. Many eerie coincidences, the bombing was at 2:50 and the earthquake at 2:46.

 At 2:46 we felt a little rocking, which is pretty standard when you live in Japan.  But it kept going.  And getting bigger and louder.  My son ran up to my room to get me up.  I told him to let me rest a little while longer.  Then I realized this was not a “normal” earthquake.   I kept saying “OMG, what should we do?”  When my 7 year-old son could not give me an answer I turned to Facebook.  My postings during the three minute earthquake were as follows:
  • Omg how long will this earthquake last? Longest ever? March 11 at 2:48pm
  • Omg
  • omg this is scary
  • drawers opened, pictures rocking and things falling off the counter
  • its still going, craig work is being evacuated
  • our alarms are going on, I’m going to school
  • Picked up the boys at school, have grandma and yuki in the car. Brittanys on the bus and craig’s at work. Still rocking
  • Thank God for Facebook as we can’t call or text

Again, it was the sounds that continue to haunt me.

The tick-tick-tick sound of the windows and the rumbling, like a train rolling through the house, are of some of the things I will never forget from that day.  My first inclination was to get out and go to an open, flat area.  That is not what you are supposed to do, they teach the kids to “duck and cover”.  But when things are shaking and falling around you, you tend to want to get away.  We jumped in the car to drive to school to pick up my older son.  The parents lined up in a fairly orderly fashion to pick up their children.  But as it was only 3:00pm they decided not to let them out until regular dismissal time at 3:30.  So, we stood in the street waiting nervously.  Then the first aftershock hit.  The utility poles swayed and the electrical wires waved above us.  I heard an announcement in Japanese over the public address system.  I asked someone what it said.  ”A Tsunami warning”.  I wasn’t worried as that is standard procedure after an earthquake.  Then they decided to let us take our children.  I guess two earthquakes and a tsunami warning were enough.  My son came out to me and hugged me.  Some of the mothers were crying.  The children had ducked under their desks and stayed there for over half an hour.

Finding an area that is open and flat in Tokyo is not easy.  I decided to drive to the Imperial Palace in the centre of town.  It took about 20 minutes to get there.  Traffic was very orderly.  Then around 4pm we saw people in suits and hard hats start streaming out of the office buildings.  The trains were all stopped so everyone was trying to flag taxis on the side of the road or resigned to walking home.  Traffic started to build.  We had the radio on and it kept transmitting more tsunami warnings.  My older son started to cry.  It finally hit him.  I turned off the radio and decided to head home.  We live in one of the highest areas of Tokyo so I felt that may be the safest place for us to be.

We have a three story house so we headed up to the third floor and set up camp.  The boys brought snacks upstairs, and played Wii.   We sat upstairs in the playroom for 6 hours waiting for more news, waiting for my husband and daughter to return.  The aftershocks continued.  Cellphones and texts were not working.  The only way I could reach my daughter was on Facebook on her iphone.  I could email my husband on his blackberry.  thank God the internet was working.  My husband arrived home around 10:00pm.  My daughter was on the school bus.  It took them 8 hours to get home.  I walked to the bus stop at midnight to meet her.  Along with a small group of parents.  We clapped when they got off the bus.  As I was waiting there for her I noticed salarymen wandering around with maps in their hands.  I don’t think they had ever been above ground in this neighborhood.  They were walking home and had no idea how to get there.  Many walked for 6 hours to get home.  My daughter said she saw them walking away from Tokyo while  her bus was driving into Tokyo.  Lines of men in suits walking along the darkened streets trying to get home.

No one was rushing or looting or shouting.  The Japanese people accept this as part of their lives in Japan.  Shougani.  It can’t be helped.  This perfectly describes the Japanese mentality for better and for worse.

My family has been through a lot in the past few years but we were the lucky ones.  We continue to think about all the lives lost and people injured in the earthquake, tsunami and now the bombing.  But it has affected us all deeply.  We question why we were on the other side of the street, we struggle with survivor’s guilt. We wonder why things like this happen.

When my daughter was very young, maybe 5 years old she was thinking deeply about something and in her childlike words, she asked me “What is this world and why am I in it?”

I hope I can figure that out.

Posted by: mariabro | March 18, 2013

The Luck of the Irish

ImageIt seems that this is the time of year when everyone claims to have a little Irish in them. Or at least they pretend they do, so they can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by hitting the local pub and drinking a pint or two of Guinness.

On an average day about 5.5 million pints of Guinness are consumed. That more than doubles on St. Patrick’s day to about 13 million pints. That’s enough to fill more than three Olympic-sized swimming pools.

GuinessDrinking those millions of pints are millions of revelers who would be hard-pressed to actually explain why they are celebrating, even experts like pub owner Ellen Brown, who says, “I know St. Patrick was English and found God while a prisoner in Ireland so it sounds like a good excuse to drink Guinness all day to me.”

Boston pub owner Mary O’Connor has her own beliefs: “Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland and he couldn’t stand being good during Lent each year. So he finally said forget it. Let’s have a day right in the middle of Lent so we can drink.”

I was surprised by the fact that Tokyo holds a rather large parade in Omotesando every year to honor the famous Irish saint. In fact, it is the largest St. Patrick’s parade in Asia and the first one to be held each year in the northern hemisphere.

But wherever you celebrate your Irishness, you’ll need to know a few facts so that you can pass for Irish and be served your green beer.

● St. Patrick was not actually Irish. He was born in Britain and moved to Ireland, first as a captured slave and then as a bishop to spread the gospel of Christianity.

●  Although many people believe St. Patrick drove snakes out of Ireland, this is actually a myth. It is true that Ireland has no snakes, but this was more because of geography and the ice age than anything St. Patrick did. Some religious scholars believe the myth was a metaphor for driving out evil as St. Patrick spread his message of Christianity.

● For more than 40 years, the city of Chicago has been dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day.  The river is colored using an eco-friendly powdered vegetable dye that takes several days to dissipate.

● St. Patrick’s “official” color is blue, not green. Green became associated with the holiday during the 19th century, and is supposedly worn by fairies and leprechauns (who also have nothing to do with St. Patrick).

Finally, you will need a toast to impress your friends as you tip your glass of green beer. Try this one: “May the winds of fortune sail you. May you sail a gentle sea. May it always be the other guy, who says ‘This drink’s on me.’ “

Posted by: mariabro | February 6, 2013

Rules of the Road

In my (just over) 50 years I have traveled to over 40 countries.  Each trip has been an education in geography, politics, religion, sociology, you name it – you learn it when you travel.

While I enjoy learning about the politics and economics of a country I also enjoy observing the everyday behavior.  In fact, I think the two are closely interwoven.  I have a theory that the driving patterns of a country reflect its political stability.

In many emerging economies the traffic is chaotic.  There are no lines and no rules, or if there are, no one follows them.  I remember a recent visit to Vietnam where we wanted to go out for dinner to a restaurant a short walk from our hotel.  We stood on the side of the road unable to cross.  A never-ending mass of motorcycles, bicycles and cars careened across the multi-lane boulevard.

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We finally gave up, went back to our hotel and ordered room service. We later learned from our guide that you have to simply walk into the chaos and the drivers will swerve around you.  A bit unnerving at first but it did seem to work.

I enjoyed driving in Japan where almost everyone obeys the rules.

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You know what to expect.  There are a lot of cars on the road but it is rarely chaotic. The drivers are as evolved as the economy.  My biggest fear was not other drivers, it was getting caught in a narrow, dead-end road and having to back my SUV up, while trying not to scrape the sides of my car. You know when you hear “further branches ahead” on the GPS it is not good.

I also learned about six hour traffic jams to go 30 km.  It seems many people in Japan choose to go the same place at the same time.  It only took me once to learn that lesson.

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I recently moved to small town America.  The drivers are very orderly but there is a new dynamic that is confusing.  They are so polite they don’t actually obey the rules.  They slow down and let you turn in front of them.  This is very puzzling when you are new and don’t know the rules or when you are not sure if the other person is using “small-town polite” rules or regular driving rules.

My second theory is about politics and nightclubs.  This is a theory I studied many (many) years ago but I think it is still relevant today.

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I remember going to clubs in Paris, London, New York and Toronto. The lineup procedure went like this: in Paris, you had to be invited in by the locals, in London, you had to know someone from high society, in New York you had to stand out from the crowd, in Toronto you just had to lineup.  It all makes sense.

I encourage you to come up with your own theories on your next trip.  Education and travel are life-long adventures. As St. Augustine says, “The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page.”

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