Thursday, December 29, 2016

United Nations Parable


A little light hearted parable welcoming the new year and our new Secretary General

UN Secretary General I: We need to sprint. We need to run 100 meters really fast. This would be a great outcome for mankind. Let us be practical, hire the best, and deliver this outcome!

Ban Ki Moon
Following a two year long procedure the UN hires Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive five years ago. He is retired now of course and a bit over the hill, but still lightning fast. Not bad.

Admin: Usain, welcome to the UN team. We see you prefer using Nike brand running spikes. Unfortunately no due diligence has been done on Nike, and wearing such shoes in an official capacity violates single source procurement requirements. In order to ensure no audit problems down the line, you will have to run in these noname brand army boots made by UN volunteers in Ouagadougou.

Usain: This will slow me down quite a bit, but ok, I am willing to change and learn new things for the good of our organisation and the world.

Usain Bolt
Admin: Usain, you are spending too much time practising actual running. It is mandatory that all staff spend time learning. We have developed some video based learning tools, which are run on a sketchy internet platform dating from 1980 and filled with logical inconsistencies and technical glitches, that will serve to teach you the basics of bipedal motion. We ask that you please take these and print out your certificate to verify to administration that you have successfully completed 'basic walking' 'speeding up' and 'running for beginners' training modules. Unfortunately we cannot allow you to continue actual running until these courses have been duly completed.

Five years later,over the hill, out of shape, wearing noname brand army boots and dragging a cinder block chained to his left ankle (which is another administrative story). Usain manages to run the 100 meters in 46.07 seconds. Although slightly off his 9.6 second world record pace, this feat is noted in the UN results based knowledge management information portal as successful completion of a performance indicator in the sesqui-annual strategic plan and reported to member states, who thank the secretariat for the effort and ask for strengthened and enhanced work on moving quickly.

UN Secretary General II: Let us be practical, we need to face the fact that the running thing didn't really deliver an outcome. We need to think creatively and work with the private sector. Let us swim 100 meters really fast. We can deliver!

 
Antonio Guterres
Admin: Well this Bolt fellow can't swim, and given his deplorable track record (pun intended) with our learning tools he's probably not capable of change. He only has a few years left before mandatory retirement anyway, let's transfer him to the field office for thumb twiddling. But be sure to keep the really nice ankle and cinder block arrangement we developed to assist him. Of course, while Usain is still on the books, there is no envelope for new staff hires, but maybe Michael Phelps would be available for consulting work. This ankle contraption will probably fit him nicely.

Michael Phelps

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Wrapped and Ready

Can a blog of a cliche expat diatribe be interesting?

I remember as a kid being astonished and impressed with edible rice paper candy wrappers. What ingenuity! Edible wrapping paper.  Even if it tastes like nothing, it is still edible wrapping paper. How incredibly cool.

Japan is the land of wrapping.

Here is a photo of an individually plastic wrapped banana for sale at our local 7-11.  Since the peel provides a perfectly good natural wrapping, what on earth is the bag for?   I suppose it provides a surface for the decorative and informative label, but does one really need information about bananas? In any case, the phenomenon is not specific to bananas. The same store also individually plastic wraps its limes.


Another possible explanation is related to the fact that plastic waste in Japan is usually incinerated to generate electricity. Such waste disposal systems benefit from a well separated dry plastic waste stream. Absolutely everyone who buys these individually wrapped bananas, throws away the peel and the bag into carefully separated bins. I suspect the Osaka city government has guaranteed the incinerator operators a daily minimum volume in order for them to justify the upfront investment (over 100 million dollars) of constructing an incineration based 'waste to energy' plant. The point here is that perhaps there is a financial incentive to overuse plastic.

I think the record, at least for common grocery items I have purchased, was a small wheel of Japanese made camembert cheese. The cashier had kindly placed it in a little dainty plastic bag to keep it protected from nearby groceries in my larger grocery bag. I duly opened and placed this bag in the burnable plastic garbage bin, and then turned to the box, which I opened and placed in the cardboard bin. Inside the box (this is starting to sound like a Russian Doll toy I know), I found a little plastic tub with a plastic lid. Finally, out popped the cheese, or so I thought as I naively attempted to slice a piece only to discover, as my knife failed to penetrate, that it was shrinkwrapped in plastic. Removing this last layer of plastic I did finally get to the cheese, which ironically is of course covered in a perfectly good natural rind that served for centuries to protect such cheeses from the elements before the invention of plastic.  I lost count somewhere in the middle of this paragraph, but I think I just recounted six impermeable layers of wrapping around my brie.

There is one last grocery item that a blog about wrapping simply cannot omit. Onigiri. This is some kind of delicious filling such as tuna and mayo or salmon roe (pictured) wrapped in wet sticky rice, which is then wrapped in dry seaweed. Probably back in the edo period they made this for you in a little rustic stall, forming the rice around the delicious inner goop, then wrapping it in seaweed so you could carry it away without getting sticky rice all over your hands. Now though, these need to be stored on shelves in convenience stores, and the rice cannot be allowed to contact the seaweed or the later would lose its crunch, thus requiring the ultimate high tech plastic wrap. So there is an inner plastic sheath separating the two, and one opens with the '1-2-3' labelled pulltabs in order to be able to slide the plastic out from between the rice and seaweed, as well as remove the outer plastic wrap, all at once.


All these technical issues aside, there does appear to be a deeper cultural issue whereby wrapping things leads to an enhancement of their perceived value. But these culturally appropriate wrappings are usually reusable. Like the Furoshiki (風呂敷) I received a little (boxed) memento in when I met with the governor of Tokyo, or the 100 dollar wood bento boxes that dutiful housewives pack their children's school lunches in.



Well the final answer to this Japanese wrapping mystery will have to wait. I have run out of time. I can hear my wife calling me to the other room to help her with the onerous, yet somehow deeply sentimental and rewarding, task of wrapping Christmas presents for the kids to open tomorrow.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Medical Adventures in Japan



My first Japanese medical experience occurred after only a week in the country. My shoulder hurt and I could not lift my arm. I googled up for a few seconds (should be equivalent to four years of medical school right?) and self diagnosed having a super awesome, top athlete injury called a "ripped rotator cuff."

Obvious diagnosis for studmuffin unable to raise his arm
So I went in to the doctor, who spoke no English, and was informed, somehow, with the assistance of a useful cartoon pamphlet: "You only wish you were on the starting rotation of the Hanshin Tigers Baseball team. In fact you are an old bureaucrat. You don't have a ripped rotator cuff, you have 50 year old shoulder disease. Suck it up." At least that is what I think he said. Having disclosed my condition to my geriatrician sister-in-law she exclaimed "what? you have frozen shoulder?" and taunted me mercilessly, raising her arms above her head with a gleeful giggle, saying 'look! I can do this". This taunt is etched deeply in my memory, and will stay with me longer than this frozen shoulder (I think).

Now, let me get back to the purpose of this post: medical event number two. I got an ear infection. I get these a lot due to my 'narrow ear canal' - though I only started getting them in my thirties (why so late in life?). Anyway, all the standard symptoms. Plugged ear. Pain when pulling on lobe. Itchy. I have self diagnosed this many times and keep a half bottle of ciloxin drops that expired 3 years ago handy specifically to wipe these bothersome infections out without bothering to go the doctor for a new prescription. I have a slight fear I may be breeding some ciloxan resistant bugs in my ear... I tried my usual treatment and felt no immediate improvement. Uh oh. Either I have finally succeeded in culturing super bugs in my ear, or this medicine with an expiry date in 2012 and an instruction to "discard one month after opening" has indeed expired. OK, time for another visit to a Japanese doctor. I'll tell him the symptoms, perhaps let slip the obvious diagnosis, and he'll prescribe some new pills and drops. I hope the fool does not diagnose me with 50 year old ear disease.

So I went to the doctor. After a bit of tweaking and hemming and hawing he pulls out what I thought might be some kind of device to look into my ear, but turns out to have been the INSTRUMENT OF DEATH.

Let me digress. I was on a ship in the Antarctic for three months in 1986 and my cabin-mate developed a wart. He thought, well, we have a free doctor on board, why don't I just make use of this service and get this wart removed. Could be a nice co-benefit from spending two months on a ship, in the dark, in the Antarctic winter. The doctor had very little to do cooped up on our boat (recall: In the dark. In the Antarctic winter), and was thus, perhaps uncharacteristically (though I am not sure), excited about this wart. He applied caustic acid and pulled out a sort of medieval torture device that looks like a grapefruit spoon and started scraping my cabin-mate's wart (though left nameless, this cabin-mate is a famous scientist from Lamont Doherty / Columbia University). The doctor prescribed coming back every day for new acid applications and scrapings. He said "Ve must clean it up. it must be clean" in a heavy German accent. After a few days my cabin mate started to get pained and annoyed. He did his best to go anywhere on the small ship the doctor wasn't to avoid his scraping sessions. Germans like to purge impurities. Zis is a vell known fact.



Grapefruit Spoon (note serrated edge)

Anyway, to get back to my own story, at first I was blissfully unaware that the thing being placed in my ear was the Japanese aural equivalent of a German wart removing grapefruit spoon. I assumed he was just confirming my very precisely self-diagnosed inner ear infection, which I had taken the liberty of already informed him, in case he was one of these intellectually challenged doctors who don't read up regularly on wikipedia, is "Naiji Kansen" in Japanese.

Suddenly a rather loud sucking sound started emanating from the device and he placed a large pea of goop in the wad of Kleenex the nurse (huh? where did she materialise from?) was holding. At first this was not too bad, but after a few wad removals, i noticed these wads were not earwax at all. They were in fact giant gobs of blood. And the pain was intense. I'm usually pretty taciturn, but I started moaning. I mean, my since my Japanese is pretty rudimentary (as was his English), in order to avoid the possibility that maybe he did not know this procedure was burning a hole in my head, I should gently let him know about my pain so he could take corrective action. I moaned some more.

This photo from the web is clearly faked - there is no way this woman could possibly be smiling and gazing blandly off into space during this procedure:


Woman pretending to undergo ear-vacuuming treatment

This photo, also downloaded from the internet, shows the do it yourself product, and seems much more plausible:

Woman using a do-it-yourself ear vacuum
Escaping from this guy sitting in a chair in his office was going to be an even more difficult task than my friend had avoiding the wart-nazi on the Antarctic research ship. No wonder they were allies in World War II. The Japanese must be just as rabidly purist as the Germans! This guy was applying a bloody (literally) rototiller to my eardrum. Aaaaargh. I moaned some more just in case he had not applied google translate to my previous communication efforts. The nurse wiped another gallon of wax/blood on her tissue.

"Can you hear now?" he asked. I pondered a snarky remark about how if I was answering this question, irrespective of what I may be saying, I must be hearing him, since how else could I answer his question? but decided it would be a bit tough to formulate the irony of this statement in Japanese. Particularly given that this admittedly well meaning fellow had clearly not understood my universally clear, limbic moaning noises to indicate I would prefer he stop what he was doing. So I opted instead for a simple "hai" (yes).

"Don't touch it for a while. I have caused some bleeding. There is no infection. Just lots of wax. You are healed."

Well, other than my tinnitus (which unfortunately persists), I must admit that the kamikazi-nazi treatment appears to have worked. And, believe it or not, I walked away from this entire event with a bill of only 38 dollars. You can't leave your car for an hour in the remote parking lot of a US hospital for this price, let alone pay the astronomical bill that is sent 6 months later with some deeply incomprehensible notes about why it is not covered by your insurance. I wonder, in the US, do they employ vacuum sucking grapefruit spoon like treatments for ear infections?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Arrogantly shabby or Dilapidatedly picturesque?

Ugh. My flight to Hong Kong is delayed until 2:30 am and I am stuck in an overly air conditioned, shabby, yet somehow also still managing snooty, airport lounge in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  The perfect atmosphere (arrogantly shabby?) to fire up a bit of enthusiasm for writing a blog post.

I spent a few days here this week attending the Asia Pacific Adaptation Forum. Apparently the Brits called this island the pearl of the Indian Ocean, and I guess there are parts of the country that may still evoke such encomium. But frankly Colombo is, like almost all cities in the developing world, a dump. Striving for GDP growth at all costs third world cities reek of the ugly by-products of "progress." At least this is true outside their rich denizen's compound walls.

This said, there are certainly some dilapidated picturesque sites here and there. The Wellawatta railway station, right on the beach, just across the road from my hotel, is a good example. The nearby post office of the same pleasantly doubly double consonant and alliterated name is too.

Bored Railroad Clerk and Customer
Dilapidated yet Picturesque Wellawatta Station


Sri Lanka Letter Box
Welcome to the Wellawatta Post office
I really liked the railway station. The tracks and wall paint appear to date to the British heyday, as does the bored yet gainfully employed railway clerk. But don't be deceived by the general look of decay, there has been progress and change. The station has free wifi. And, even more importantly, they separate their trash into three colors of bin (though there appears to be trash everywhere, as a sort of ambient accoutrement, so it is a bit unclear to me if anyone is actually using these bins).

Modernization: Free WIFI and sorted trash
So upgrades and improvements are clearly possible, but what does not appear to happen in wellawatta - I don't really know for Sri Lanka actually, but it is certainly true in some other countries I have lived in such as Kenya and the USA - is a sense of pride in exactness or beauty in public works, and maintenance of them.

Japan is precisely the opposite. As far as I can make out they lavish funding on quotidian public works, and clean and maintain them intensely.  See for example my recent blog post on public lavatories in the Osaka subway stations.  Or how about these incredibly beautiful manhole covers, decorated with egret and stork motifs. This is not an art exhibition, these are sewers!

Japanese Manhole Cover
Another Japanese Manhole Cover
As a contrepose here is a manhole located in the road just next to the wattawalla train station in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan Manhole Cover
Will it fix itself some day? Or is the stick with red cloth tied to it considered job completed?

Maybe the key to sustainable development is not the cliche solutions development gurus are always rabbiting on about (money, mainstreaming, technology transfer, knowledge platforms). Maybe it is instilling a culture of appreciation of beauty, precision and maintenance.

I'm doomed to miss my connection in Hong Kong and spend another 8 hours in another airport lounge there waiting for my connection to Osaka. Hong Kong Airport is, like so many others in Asia these days, glitzy and comfortable so that will be comforting. Yet, somehow, simply too boring to spur me to write a blog post.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Japanese origins of Pokemon

I'd estimate there is about ten thousand dollars worth of camera gear in place around this little carp and lily pond on my daily jogging route. Half a dozen middle aged men stand there for hours waiting to take "action" photos. Photos of what I am not sure. Dragonflies being eaten by carp? Or hovering over certain lily pads? At their senior pay grade this surely accounts for several more thousand dollars worth of 'effort'. The resulting output must be the most expensive photos of carp and lilies in existence.

Japanese men playing with expensive equipment while wearing baseball hats
My own attempt at an "artistic" photo of carp and lilies
This blog post is about how Japanese culture naturally led to the invention of Pokemon cards, and more recently Pokemon-Go. Japanese people love going out and capturing things. Sometimes it's photos, as above. Sometimes plants or small critters. And they love little pets. Pretty much sets the stage for the evolution of Pokemon-go, no?

The same jogging route that passes the carp pond also boasts an allée of ginko trees. About one out of 10 of them is female, and October is the fruiting month here. Ginko fruits smell unbelievably bad, but they hide a delicious nut inside. Below a father-son team collecting these. Imagine enduring a stench wave attack from a plant-type pokemon. Once, back when we were living in Toronto, Min and I decided to try to cook some of these nuts and we went to collect them from a stately old tree in front of the University Bookstore on St. George Street, about a block from our apartment. We only managed to collect a few before a crotchety old Chinese man hobbled over to shoo us away, informing us in angry Cantonese that this was his ginko nut collecting territory. 

Collectors
Ginko Nuts
Could those be Ginko nuts on Gloom's head?
Little pets are also big in Japan. I'm not 100% sure but it looks to me a bit like this fashionably attired woman has chosen her outfit in order to match the very distinctive and attractive colors and patterning on her Meowth, which she is parading proudly in a public park on a leash.  No walk in the park in Japan is ever complete without an eclectic menagerie of pocket sized pets being pampered.


Finally, for capturing all those flying-types, family day in the park clearly requires multiple butterfly nets. After all, imagine the conundrum if one member is the family is busily tracking down a Butterfree, and a Venomoth suddenly appears nearby. Clearly it's best to have two nets on hand just in case.
Backup Butterfly Net?
One of the great things about Japan is that these traditional treasure hunt like activities are still going strong, and have not been displaced entirely by Pokemon-go, though the balance of evidence suggests the electronic version is more popular for the time being. The other day Min and I were standing, completely alone, on a drizzly dockside when Pikachu appeared. I was just trying to nab him, when, I kid you not, literally 1000 people stampeded me, all with their phones out trying to capture the icon.

Pikachu Seeking Hordes


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Commuting in Osaka

Tropical Storm Malakas is pounding Osaka. I'm high and dry now - indeed literally quite high in our 38th floor apartment - but I was low and wet just a few hours ago on my way home from the office after a thorough soaking on the short walk from the office to subway.  Following some internet sleuthing based on radar tracks such as the photo below, I took the decision to close our offices early, at 13h, to allow everyone time to commute home safely before the storm hit. But I felt like I was walking through an automated carwash at 13h and the sun was shining again by 17h30. So much for my typhoon landfall prediction skills.


This blog post is about commuting, mostly on this subway, and mostly in a drier state. I've been at it for a couple of weeks now, mostly because I have not yet invested in a bicycle, which I have great confidence will bring this quotidian experience to a close. Indeed I have never commuted with fossil fuel based transportation in my life, having always walked or biked to work during past stays in Nairobi, Paris, Bern, Toronto and Boston.

Let me start with the positives. Every train departs the station at precisely the minute listed in the schedule. Every station has a map of which specific train car you might prefer based on what you wish to do immediately after exiting (i.e. transfer to a certain line, get on an escalator rather than stairs, go to the washroom, etc). Every single departure time and track number is available on google maps in real time. If all this logistical perfection is not amazing enough, consider that every station has a toilet which is not only cleaner and more handicapped accessible, but even decorated with more tasteful artwork, than the average American restaurant. This, I kid you not, is a photograph of a public restroom in a busy urban subway station:



The downside? At least for the first week I was starting my commute on the 'JR rail loop line' from Osaka main station.  Me and about one million other people. The crush of humanity in the real world is bad enough, but with many of them staring directly at their cellphones, half way in some virtual world while barging through the station, it becomes like a real life collision avoidance video game. Of course playing Pokemon go, one can both stare at one's cell phone and see the people in front of oneself thanks to its virtual reality interface. Game goal: Avoid collisions with people in the real world and ensure collisions with pikachu in the virtual simultaneously.


Speaking of virtual reality computer interfaces with the real world, I read an article in the International NY Times this week about the USA opening up the roads for self driving cars. President Obama was quoted as proudly announcing that daily commutes will no longer need to be stressful, as people will have the freedom to sit back and relax and let someone else (google) take care of the driving. Typical of many high tech 'solutions' to quotidian problems, this one neglects the existing, superior technology that the rest of the world has already been using and perfecting for decades for precisely this purpose: the train.

Well, I started this blog a few days ago cooped up in the apartment due to storm Malakas, and am just finishing it up now on the weekend. But the weather has turned nice, so yesterday I plunked down a few hundred bucks on a new Japanese style (ie low seat) commuter bike and tested the time required to pedal 8km to work (without stopping to catch pokemon, but still collecting mileage on my egg incubator and buddy candy count). It appears to be about 10 minutes faster than the subway, and I did not even splurge on one of the ubiquitous battery powered pedal assist bikes. Biking is a great way to get to know local neighborhoods and appreciate the changing seasons (both being things we could not experience back in Nairobi, and one can't do on a subway either). Yet another good example of old technology as the best solution to modern challenges.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Climbing the supermarket chain ladder in Osaka

My first evening in Osaka. Straight from the airport. I found my AirBnB, dropped my bags, and dashed out to grab a snack and some milk for my morning coffee. Just around the corner, I found everything I could wish to eat or drink at the 'Family Mart'. 

Family mart juxtaposed with a traditional shrine dragging activity
There is a convenience store on pretty much every block it seems. Either Family Mart, 7-11, or Watson's. They are all super brightly lit with white fluorescent bulbs and have a steady stream of customers. Many use some machines in the corner to pay their bills or some such banking activity, but most are buying food. I picked up an eight dollar bottle of Bordeaux from the 'Family Mart Collection'. A staggeringly unappealing labeling ploy from the point of view of the western oenophile market, but it wasn't bad. I spent 3 days shopping only at Family Mart. Rice snacks, frozen edamame beans, ready made dinners, a few cans of different brands of Japanese ビール (Beer) and, of course, my bottle of Family Mart Collection Bordeaux.

The "Family Mart Collection"
The weekend arrived. More time to explore the neighbourhood. And I did have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps, despite full satisfaction on my first evening in Japan, Family Mart might not cater to every possible culinary desire. I did not have to go very far. A few hundred meters away, in the direction away from the train station, and deeper into what appears to be a sort of lower middle class neighbourhood, I found スーパー玉出 (SuperJade Exit).

Tamade mural with bright yellow and red colour scheme
Checking out of Super Jade Exit
玉出 ワイン おいしい Tamade Delicious Wine
It would be pretty hard not to find this place actually. Everything is bright canary yellow and red with lots of blinking lights - a sort of pachinko parlour aesthetic prevails. It turns out food is cheap in Japan! I filled my Basket with premade tamade goodies and, although my wine label radar warning bells were screaming at me not to do it (justifiably it turns out), a four dollar bottle of wine labelled entirely in Japanese (ワイン おいしい = wine delicious). Life at 玉出 was perfect. But after a week I noticed that the map my airBnB host had kindly provided of the neighbourhood indicated the place I was shopping as "cheap supermarket", while in the other direction, up the income gradient on the other side of the railroad tracks, was something labelled as "nice supermarket". Could life be better somewhere else? That place was ライフ(ra yi fu - can you guess what English word this is transcribed from?).


Checking in to Life
Lessons on how to attractively display fruit
Gentle mist falling on lettuces (nearly a Haiku?)
Air conditioned to arctic conditions. Lettuces with cold mist falling down over them. Wine with original labels and even suggested food pairings. I watched a team of workers being instructed on how to lay out the fruit properly and all bowing to the instructor and saying 'hai, hai'. Two pears, a bit overly plastic wrapped for my taste, though I don't know how they tasted because I could not stomach the price - for 10 dollars?



Two pears for ten dollars
Wine with original labels and suggested food pairings!
Well, that is as far up the supermarket chain ladder as I have managed to climb in my first two weeks. I have no doubt there are higher rungs. The Japanese equivalent purveyors of fine gourmet food such as Le Bon Marche in Paris or Dean and DeLuca in Manhattan with their little 100g tubs of prepared salad, organic home made granola and artisanal breads.  I look forward to finding it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

On the road to ?

It used to really annoy me, when we were living in Switzerland, that the highway entrance ramps were not labelled by cardinal direction such as "North" or "East" but by the next insignificant town in a given direction. For example, getting on the A1 (the main highway in the country) in Bern (the capital) with the intention of going to Zurich (the largest city) one would have to seek out the entrance ramp labelled "A1 Solothurn".  Not something sensible such as "A1 North" or "A1 Zurich". If you didn't realize that Solothurn, which by the way is in fact just such an insignificant little town, was located on the way to Zurich, you could never find Zurich.  It is a bit like a chinese box puzzle, or a rubik's cube,  requiring that you memorize lots of intermediary steps in order to achieve the ultimate goal. Or maybe Swiss cartographers consider it unfair to the people of Solothurn to label the highway as heading to Zurich, when their exit came first?  Switzerland is after all uber-democratic. At first I thought this road direction indicating convention was categorically inefficient - perhaps just some consequence of Swiss cartographers and geographers inbreeding and communicating in Rumantsch in some remote valley since the days of Ancient Rome. But Min then pointed out to me that the US system is hardly free of flaws either. To get from Lyme, NH to Sharon VT, for example, you have to take 91 South and then switch onto 89 North, all in order to travel due West. And I remember very distinctly once being pretty sure I must be lost because we were clearly driving due south on a good long stretch of route 9 North in Northern New York State on our way to Canada. Maybe the Swiss aren't so stupid afterall.

Naming roads by the town they are headed to is also done in the USA, but not with highways. Lyme road (in Hanover, New Hampshire) is indeed the road to Lyme and the same road is called 'Hanover Rd' when you are in Lyme. Somewhere in the middle they meet and become one.  The convention works for the most part, though there is also a "North Thetford Road" in Lyme which does not go to North Thetford, but ends at River Road, along the bank of the Connecticut, where there was once a bridge to North Thetford, though it was destroyed about a century ago.  They could have perhaps renamed the road to 'River Road" in order to indicate its new post flood destination, except there already is a River Road, running along the river. Indeed North Thetford Road now ends at River Road, so maybe it could be called the "River Road Road", indicating it is the road that leads to river road?

Lyme is an old town though. In modern developments in the US, roads are purposely built to avoid going anywhere, thereby keeping traffic slow in the McMansion developments full of little lord Fauntleroy's who might, horrors, chase a soccer ball into a street now and then.  In these places the roads are all named after some category of nouns like trees or presidents, or flightless ground birds. Directions to someone's house generally sound like: "just stay on Quail Lane until you see Ptarmigan Street, take a right. The third crossing will be Guinea Fowl Avenue, turn left, and from there just keep straight until you see Dodo Drive on the right - we're in the cul-de-sac at the end".


In Kenya some roads are named after their destinations. Like Limuru road - which is the road we take from our home in Runda out to Lake Naivasha via, surprise, Limuru.  But there is another naming convention where in some area, such as in Runda and neighboring Ruaka, the roads are all simply called by the area name and then distinguished by changing the word for 'road'. Like trying to relabel the US suburb using only one flightless bird name (hmmm...take Quail Lane, right on Quail Drive, left on Quail Road, and then to the end of Quail Close).  Let me provide an example. Min and I walked Apple today starting at our house on Runda Drive, to Ruaka Drive, Past Ruaka Lane, to Ruaka Road, then Runda Road, past Runda Ridge, down Ruaka Grove, past Ruaka Annex, back onto Runda Road, and finally home again on good old Runda Drive. Get the picture? (incase not I have attached them). And this is actually a fairly simple walk since we didn't have the energy to walk all the way over to Runda or Ruaka Close, Crescent or Gardens. As you can see the first word indicates nothing beyond the general vicinity one is in, then the imaginative Kenyan town 'planners' swap out all possible synonyms for 'road' in order to drill down to the streetview level. Someone in town probably has a really big thesaurus. This is particularly confusing for people like me with mild dyslexia since, unless I concentrate, which I rarely do while walking the dog, I usually don't make out the difference between 'Ruaka' and 'Runda' anyway since they both start with 'Ru' and end in 'a' and are about the same length. Even the locals get confused - as for example happened to whoever was in charge of putting in the house number signs and located 196 Ruaka Road directly adjacent to 197 Runda Drive. Which is it? (for the record, Ruaka Road).


Our next destination is Japan. I understand from Wikipedia (cited below) they employ something that at first sounds a bit similar to Kenya, or Paris with its clockwise number arrondissements, whereby it is regions rather than directions that matter, and - here is the real kicker - the numbers are ordered in time rather than space, so that buildings built earlier have the low numbers and modern ones the high numbers. Sounds like we are in for some really interesting dog walks.



Wikipedia Quote: The Japanese addressing system is based on areas, subdivided from big to small. The largest division is called a "Prefecture" in English. There are 47 prefectures in Japan. A prefecture can be one of four things in Japanese, To (都), capital, for Tokyo only,  (道), territory, for Hokkaido only, Fu (府), metropolis, for Osaka and Kyoto, and 43 Ken (県), which cover the rest of the country. The Ken are divided into counties, Gun (郡), or cities, Shi (市). Small cities are generally divided into Chō (町). This is translated as "town" or "village" in the dictionary, but corresponds to "areas" or "neighbourhoods". Big cities are divided into Ku (区), "wards".
Wards are divided into Chō (町), though sometimes the name doesn't include the word Chō. Sometimes the Chō are divided into Chōme (丁目), which are numbered divisions of a Chō. Then the blocks are numbered and, at the lowest level, the building has a number. Finally comes the room or apartment number. For an apartment, the name of the apartment building is often included. However, it is not necessary for mail. It is, however, a convenience for visitors who ask for directions. The buildings within a block are either numbered in the order that they were built, so they jump all around, or numbered in clockwise order around the block. In this clockwise numbering there is sometimes skipping of several numbers for later assignment, where future construction between existing buildings is possible.