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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 
Walking to Work
One of the main things I appreciate about my current job is that it is located close enough to my apartment that I can walk there. Walking to work is probably my favorite part of the day, given that I go to work at a low-traffic time of day. Right now, the sun is usually shining, the weather is warmed up to nearly its high for the day, and all the trees are blooming.

In general, being able to walk to work again has reminded me of living in Japan. I had no other option there. Several times this year I have chastised myself for wimping out and driving due to inclement weather, pointing out to myself that I walked in much worse in Japan. But last week, when it was thunderstorming on Monday morning before the monthly staff meeting, I realized that the situations are rather different. In Japan, if I walked to work in the rain and arrived with my pants soaked from the knees down, no one looked twice, because all the students and half the staff arrived in the same condition. Here, I'm a freak.

The other thing, which occurred to me yesterday, is that it really annoys me that I can't walk to my newly started yoga class. It is about a block closer to my house than my office is, within even easier walking distance, but since it ends after dark, I dare not try to walk home. The distance is about the same as it was from the main train station in Sendai to my apartment there, and there in urban Japan, I had no qualms about walking home after dark, or even after midnight. Here in mostly suburban North Carolina, that is risky behavior.

I think a lot of this has to do with attitudes toward transportation in the US vs. Japan, Chile, and many other parts of the world. Arriving at work by foot, with evidence of the weather on my clothes, and being able to consider walking home after dark, is normal in places where many people use pedestrian means and public transportation on a regular basis. Here, people consider it an eccentricity, a means assigned to the poor or overly green and liberal-minded. As always, I find this rather sad.

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