I'm still in Japan. Tomorrow, I head for Hong Kong, with a follow-on visit to Shenzhen, China to visit a company that has asked me to consider hanging up my helmet and consulting with them for a while after this tour is over. Little do they know I bought a BMW F650GS Dakar prior to leaving the States from the good folks at Ride West BMW in Seattle, WA, so that I'd have a smaller, "somewhat more nimble" adventure-tourer in the wings for future rides in the Americas, and maybe Africa! Helge, are you reading this (hint, hint)?
However, in the continuing flow of email leading up to our actual embarkation, the following gem of a thread manifested itself today. The "chat" is between our intrepid tour leader, Helge Pedersen, and Liu Lifeng, who works for the Chinese tour operator helping us with arrangements in China. To set the background, recall that Helge is perhaps best known for his excellent photo essay "10 Years On 2 Wheels" - a chronicle of his remarkable 10 year, 250,000 mile solo ride throughout 77 countries on his BMW motorcycle. Here is a verbatim cut and paste of email between Liu and Helge:
Liu Lifeng: We have got the number plates for all the bikes, but for the driving license, all of you are requested by the authority to take an exam on computer in English about some traffic regulations. The exam will take about 1 hour. We could not persuade the authority not to do this. So we might arrange this exam on 9th in the morning. There are only about 6 computers, so 12 of you will take 2 hours in total for the exam. That's all so far. See you. Best regards Liu Lifeng
Helge Pedersen: Liu, please let me know if there is any way that we need to prepare for this test. I would hate to have some of the people fail the test :-( It could be me and I would have to walk. Helge P.
Liu Lifeng: Dear Helge, I think none of you will fail the exam, don't worry. From my understanding, the exam is not difficult and maybe they only wanted to charge us some money, so if we pay, you will get the license. But everyone has to take the exam. If you fail, you can write a new book - One Month in China on Two Feet. Liu
And, although it has nothing to do with the journey, or the above, I've set a goal to try and include at least one image in every update. As I leave the land of ramen, wacky AC adapters, and in truth, the land of my birth (I was born in Yokohama), a final parting image of Aoyagi Risako-chan, in ceremonial finery, and a cultural lesson:
[Risako-chan is the daughter of my kind and incredibly generous hosts in Japan, the Aoyagi family - here she is in her ceremonial finery for "Shichi-Go-San" - the cultural lesson is below.]
Shichi-Go-San - the literal translation is "7-5-3". As was common throughout the world long ago, Japan suffered a high infant mortality rate. I recall once hearing that children weren't even named for a number of days after their birth, in case they didn't make it throught the first critical days of life.
Shichi-Go-San is a celebration of life. When girls are 3 and 7, and boys 3 and 5, the tradition was to dress them in the finery of the times, and have the family visit a temple near the place of their birth to thank the local gods for the children's continued good health. This ancient custom is still observed today. So, a picture of a VERY serious Risako-chan, dressed in her kimono, captured with a Nikon digital camera, tweaked with software running on a Fujitsu laptop, uploaded to this BLOG via the world wide web - a perfect blend of the old and new that very much mirrors Japan today.
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