Have you ever made the wrong choice that transformed into the right choice? Have you ever thought you were going to drive off a cliff then realized you were riding with an angel?
Early morning basketball practice has ended, and the rest of the day is staring me down.
The sun was “copy and pasted” from a magazine and floated high above in the powder blue sky. The degrees hovered around 18.5C (or for you American’s 65F’ish). To say the least after a couple rainy days, it was the perfect day to get outside.
As of now, I feel like I could handle life here by myself just fine. I’m a pro at the bus systems, trains are light work, coordinates aren’t hard if you find the ocean or mountains, and if you can’t understand someone … simply say “hi” and smile big (Japanese hi is word for “Ok”, “Yes”, “Ya”, “Yup” and everything else in between).
Someone wise once told me, “When you think you can easily walk on the slippery ice . . . that is when you fall!”
This afternoon, I was headed to the highest peak in Beppu. Like most adventures, I had no idea what was up there, and no idea of what to bring. Not wanting to carry a full backpack around, I simply grabbed my goPro, Phone + wifi box, brochure of the mountain (in full Japanese), and a few dollars for the bus rides.
Whap! The door slammed behind me.
Following the map on my Japanese brochure, I made it “easy peezy lemon squeezy” on the first bus that led me straight to a parking lot :/.
I sat befuddled in the corner seat of the bus as it backed into a parking spot, and the passengers got out one by one. On my map, bus #26 did not stop in a parking lot – plus I thought all busses made loops around the city?
I slowly followed the crowd and made my way to the bus stop across the street, dragging my feet like a wounded puppy. I sat alone patiently, waiting for a new bus to lead me towards the Promised Land. The seconds… minutes… crawled by like a snail scooting over your front porch. My mind was exploding with a small voice screaming, “Drew, do not try to walk there! It is a 40 min drive.”
Before long, my phone hit 15 minutes of waiting. Suddenly, the loud, shaking, grunge of a startled bus who was awoken from its 15 minute nap ignited itself! You are currently thinking the same thing I was.
Honestly, I guess every bus driver needs a smoke/relief break.
Yes, the same #26 bus emerges out of the parking lot grave to pick up its former passenger, me, and get back on its way.
Just a small wrinkle to my plans, I still arrived at the mountain in style.
The cool crisp air hits me in the face. The picturesque views have me thinking I’m living in a National Geographic book. The wind buzzes through my ears and the rocks below me stand firm. So this is what it feels like to be on top of the world.
I sit quietly in awe.
The beauty of the earth lies below me.
Amazed at God’s unique creation, it is as if the beauty is His living handwriting to us all.
The sun began its decent, and I made the trek back to where the bus had previously dropped me off. There was no one in sight as the light was slowly sucked out of the air and darkness filtered in. The temperature dropped dramatically. Soon, my cut-off shorts were desperately wishing they were pants once again.
I huddled under a street lamp at the bus stop, glued to my phone slowly draining my limited monthly Wi-Fi gigabytes and battery. I get up to read the Japanese bus sign for the fourth time, trying to decipher the hieroglyphics. Now when does a bus come up the mountain at this time after sunset? The only words I recognize are… well, the word “bus.” There was no hope.
Goose bumps began forming on my arms and legs, as I feel yet again another temperature drop on top of the mountain. A few cars whiz by every now then as if they are in a rush to hurry home. A friendly couple walk by me, yet speak no English. The wait time was now up to 40 minutes. I have begun to get “fridgity.” With my fingers stiff, I say a quick prayer to help me get home … and go back to rubbing my legs.
Is the bus route only for this area in the daytime? I mean… no one wants to hike a mountain at dusk, so maybe not.
A white off-brand mini coup pulls up across from me. It parks, blocking the entrance to an empty parking lot. My eyes stay glued ahead.
An older man exits the car and walks toward the vending machine adjacent to me. He purchases a small can of herbal lemon tea and takes a seat directly beside me at the bus stop – when he obviously has a car to drive in across the street.
Instead of drinking the tea, he begins to violently shake it up. I try to start a conversation with him, yet quickly realize he only knows about 15 words (give or take) in the English language.
Yet, that doesn’t stop him from trying! Long Japanese sentences were spit out followed by an ending English word like “country” or “old”? We sat on the bench together chatting away-not understanding anything the other was trying to communicate. By then, my teeth were chattering together in a helpless rhythm and the chill bumps turned into frost bumps.
After about 10 minutes of shaking up his little lemon tea (without drinking), he states “You, me, car.” He then proceeds to walk towards the sketchy mini coup. Frozen, not knowing what to do, I stay seated.
The man places his drink in his cup holder, only to turn around and motion for me to join him yet again.
Sometimes you have to seize an opportunity when you find one.
I dash from the bench to partake in his journey, all the while thinking, this is the worst decision.
He takes my arm, places me in the back seat, and proceeds to lock all the doors manually. One by one.
By now, I don’t know if I was shaking because it was cold or because I was terrified of being locked in the back seat of a random person’s off-brand mini coup, in a foreign country, at night, on top of a mountain, with no one in sight.
I pictured scenarios of me locked in a torture mini coup prison, and came up with every escape plan possible in an emergency situation. I slowly popped the lock of my door back up in order to make sure it was not on a childproof lock. This way I could roll out of the back seat of car if things went south. Thankfully, it popped up. He glared and spun around, reached across me slamming the skinny stick lock back in its hole.
My breathing was slow and deliberate as the car began rolling down the windy road. On every curve, his hand would sharply slide down to the floorboard of his car causing me to think he was trying to pick something up. I change my voice to a deep grizzly sound in order to portray my toughness and ask a simple question “Live in Beppu?” His two word response startled me.
I pull out my phone and use the last 5% of my battery to text my American teammate “Bro, if I don’t make back in an hour – I’m on the mountain in a white mini coup stranded – help. Oh, and tell my mom I love her.”
Ding! Your message was not sent. NO SERVICE.
How! I have my Wi-Fi box in my pocke…
In my flustered dash to get in the car, I had left my Wi-Fi box sitting on the bench beside me. It’s a good thing I don’t watch horror movies, because this was the perfect scene where the dumb kid makes one poor choice, after another, and then forgetfully leaves his one mode of communication sitting at the bus stop. His painful torture is the only thing awaiting him.
Now panic has struck.
I begin to frantically wave from the back seat, playing charades with the unknown man signaling for him to turn around. Just the thing you want to do on a dark night on a windy mountainside road.
The mini coup cautiously pulls off the narrow street, and I begin to explain that I left my camera (I could not think of a hand signal for wireless Wi-Fi box, so I morphed it into a camera).
Blessed. Back up the mountain we go.
To make matters worse, the random man and I pass the same bus #26 I road up on, peacefully driving down the mountainside. What I would have given to be on that bus at this moment.
My Wi-Fi was sitting where I had left it and it was time to head back down… or escape. Here was my chance to get out of the situation and stay at the bus stop. Yet, the bus had just passed me.
With the dark coldness biting at my naked legs, I reluctantly climbed in the back seat, yet again, to start the journey over.
Door locked. No seat belt – in case I have to escape quickly. Personal items in hand to take with me. And the faint sound of a woman singing in Japanese over the speakers.
After what seemed like eternity, we make it to the bottom and through the city. He so kindly followed my directions once we made it to the bottom and let me out at my destination. The item in the floorboard he kept reaching at was solely the emergency break… in case his brakes gave out? At this point of the ride, I was relaxed and thankful for his generosity and friendship. Although we might have gotten off to a rocky start, this man was the definition of true hero in my book – a true answer to my quick prayer. With the communication barrier in full effect, I could plainly see that actions definitely do speak louder than words. What are your actions saying?
I tried to offer him some money for his gas expenses, but he graciously denied it – a quick hug was all he accepted.
I begin to walk down the street and turn to wave a last thank you to my new friend, yet the mini coup was gone. Instead of freezing on top of a cold mountain for another couple hours till my translator got off work, I was standing in a warm room … about to eat dinner and finish another great day with the friendly and caring people of Japan.
Angels come in many different ways. Help someone out today!