Friday, December 10, 2004

Peace Of Mind

I'm about to leave for a week or so and head down to my southern banking center to install a new ATM and take care of some projects there. The branch is about five hours southwest of my home, and on a different island than I live on. Although it varies, I usually spend about one week out of every month at that office. I either stay in the BOH, which is officer housing on base, or in a local Japanese hotel (depending on which one I want to do more: watch American TV or get away from American military people.) Next week I'll be staying in the BOH.

I don't know why, but tonight I was remembering the kinds of preparations I used to make when I lived in the States and was about to go on a trip. I'm talking about just the basic arrangements, like telling a neighbor I'd be gone so they could keep an eye on my house, and setting my lamps on timers so my house wouldn't remain completely dark and inadvertently alert someone that I was gone.

I remember when I lived in a tiny studio apartment in NW Portland and I went to the beach for the day. I left a message on my answering machine that said "I'm at the beach, but I'll be back tonight, so leave a message and I'll call you later." A great friend, Chris, left a stern message saying, "Ok, K1mber1y, this is the robber speaking. I'm going to come over and wipe you out since I know that you're gone and when you'll be back." He later chastised me for doing something so stupid and so dangerous.

So tonight I was just realizing that I don't even think about those precautions anymore when I leave town. In my old apartment, I didn't even lock my front door when I would leave for a week or longer. I actually never locked my door once, even daily when I went to work, until a strange American moved in next door and I started to feel a little less safe.

The other day in a friend's neighborhood (he is American living in an all-Japanese area, like myself), he saw police giving out tickets to bicycle riders who were not using their bike lights. He told me about it, and then we sat there silently in awe that there are policemen in the world who have time to worry about bike lights. We didn't say that at first, but we each knew what the other was thinking.

There is an incredible peace of mind that comes from living in a country with very, very low crime. It's not really that I think about it all the time -- it's that I don't think about it hardly ever, that I don't have to think about it. I go months without hearing of a single incident. The other day I heard an ambulance and I realized it had been probably six months since I'd heard the siren of an emergency vehicle or police car. I have zillions of examples of how safe it feels to live in Japan. It's one of the things I think about the least -- and appreciate the most -- about living here.

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