Friday, June 29, 2007

Drugged up

Yesterday I discovered a way of getting to see a doctor without having to wait. Be a stupid gaijin!

You see, what started out as a little cold on Sunday, has worsened day-by-day until I could take it no more yesterday. I told Wayne I would go and see a doctor. He knew I was really sick then, I never see doctors over here. I had too many bad experiences my first time living here that it has scared me off. I even had one medical professional tell me I had cancer (in his defence, he never thought I had cancer, but didn't know the English word for cyst but did know the word "cancer", so just told me I had something like cancer, that it grew like cancer, that they had to cut it out like cancer... - all I was hearing was cancer... cancer... cancer). Wayne and I have only really had to deal with doctors once since we've been here together and other than him being told that he was "diseased in the head" the doctors were great.

Wayne talked to his supervisor and got off work early to take me to a doctor. We first went to our local clinic which on a quick glance was closed until 5pm. Wayne then decided to take me to the hospital. Once we got there, I chickened out. Going to a local clinic was one thing, but having to fill in all the forms and work out where to go when I was feeling like death was another. I told Wayne we'd wait the two hours until the clinic opened.

Wayne wanted to get there just before 5 in the hope that the wait wouldn't be too long. Another think I hate about going to the doctor, is waiting rooms. The last thing I want to do when I'm sick is sit and wait in a room full of people with germs. I'm sick, I don't need more germs around me. I'm sick, I want to be lying down in my own comfortable bed, not sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours. Of course we have waiting rooms back in Australia, but we also have appointments, so hopefully, the wait isn't too long. In Japan, there are no appointments for doctors, you just turn up during the opening hours and sit and wait.

Mmm.. yes... turn up during opening hours... that would help....

We got to the clinic just before 5 and surprisingly the clinic's car park was empty. I was a bit suspicious then, but too sick to really care. Then one guy (how by the way turned out to be a cleaner), who didn't look sick at all, walked in the surgery door. "OK" we thought, he's Japanese, he knows what he's doing, we'll just follow him (I operate on the Dirk Gently navigation technique in Japan). When we entered the foyer, the doctor came out of his office looking very surprised and asked me what was wrong. With my head heavy with all the germs I was confused as to why the doctor would be greeting his patients at the door and in a pathetic voice simply replied "I have a bad cold".

He quickly ushered Wayne and myself upstairs where the reception was dark and there was an obvious lack of nurses and patients. Kindly, he looked at my throat, listened to my chest, asked about allergies and then ran off to his pharmacy in the building next door. Following him, Wayne and I read the sign on the door and realised that he was in actual fact closed on Thursday afternoons. Closed, but still kind enough to see the lost and confused gaijin.

Another reason I usually resist seeing doctors in this country is the amount of medicines they prescribe - lots of them! I was given, all in little white paper bags with a cute cartoon character in the bottom corner; antibiotics, something for my stomach to stop the antibiotics from making me sick, an anti-inflamitary painkiller, some tablets for my throat, some gargle for my throat and some cough medicine. All little blister packs in paper bags with the number of times a day I am to take them. No side-effect information, nothing. Just cute little paper bags. But right now, I don't care - give me drugs and lots of them!

I did, but the way, get through the interview tests, but not easily, not comfortably. I interviewed 61 students for about 2 minutes each. My voice lasted for the first one and a half interviews. After that, it was a raspy yell to try to get anything out. To make things worse, over the noise of the old air conditioner and the construction happening outside, the students couldn't hear what I said, so I'd have to repeat it a number of times. With each syllable I uttered it felt like a cheese grater was being scraped across my throat. As the interviews wore on, salt and lime was following each cheese grating motion. With each interview, I averaged about 100 syllables... 100 syllables multiplied by 61 students makes a hell of a lot of cheese grating. Once I got home that night, I almost cried with each question Wayne asked me.

Luckily, the students now have tests, so I have a few days off from school. It's so frustrating though being sick on days off. I had been so excited about having a day off coincide with my favourite flea market, but instead, I had to spend the day in bed, my body would punish me with shooting pains in the head and I'd be bent over coughing if I tried to move. I'm now drugged up, taking a OTC cold medicine on top of all the other prescriptions, but that only lasts for about an hour at a time, I then have to wait a few hours until I can take the next one. Actually, the effect is wearing off now.. so I'm off to bed until it's time for the next dose.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Not on speaking terms

I'm not talking to my husband. That's kind of ok though, as I'm not talking to anyone. I'm voiceless. I'm without voice. Well without much of one anyway. I can get words out quietly, but it hurts and if I try to project my voice, it just comes out like bad feedback from an amateur rock concert.

A voice is something that really comes in handy when you work as an English teacher. At school, we are nearing the end of student interview tests. I have about 280 students that I teach each week and during interview test week, I well, interview them each for about 2 minutes at a time.

Sam, who I teach with, was kind enough today to help me out. He did all my roll calls, did all the pre-test explanations and taught half of a normal lesson that we had scheduled in. So I managed to make it through the day, only having to postpone the listening test recording that we had to do. I have 3 more classes to interview tomorrow and then I don't actually teach for a week. I'm hoping it will hold out.

I must say though, I hate being sick in summer. I hate being sick anytime, but at least in winter you can snuggle into bad and drink lots of hot tea and have lots of warm soup. Instead, I came home early from school today and fell asleep on my futon in a sweaty heap.

I don't really know why I'm blogging all this. Maybe because I love talking, haven't been able to do it all day so need to waffle on about something. Off to bed now and hoping I wake up with a voice.

Monday, June 25, 2007

How do you comment....?

Every now and then as a teacher, you come across some work that you're really not sure on how to comment.

This particular gem came from a student in response to the question of what they thought visitors to Japan would find surprising;

"I think a visitor to Japan might find lowness of
men's toilet. In America or Europe men's toilets are installed
higher. Japanese men's toilets are installed very low because Japanese men
are shorter than European and American.

On the contrary, if we use the toilet in America,
we have to turn our Johnsons upward."

I am curious guys (as opposed to girls...) is it true?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pepsi Ice Cucumber - the verdict

When I first heard about Pepsi's new flavour - Ice Cucumber on An Englishman in Osaka, I believed it for a moment and then assumed it was a joke. I mean this is a country that has wasabi ice cream and pumpkin flavoured KitKats, so an cucumber flavoured soft drink didn't sound too far-fetched, it was the comment about Coca Cola Broccoli that turned me into a disbeliever.

It was on Mike's Blender and I realised that it was in fact, real. I had to try some. I love cucumber juice in hot weather, and so now in Japan is the time.

The search began. I went first to my local supermarket and they had already sold out. I had to go home and do some things, so Wayne offered to go out on a "hunt" for me. Ahhh.. we're a real hunting-gathering couple - he hunts for strange flavoured drinks while I work on gathering vintage kimono fabrics. Luckily, he didn't have to hunt for long. He found a bottle in the first of many convenience stores near out apartment. A single bottle only - it was the last one left!

I excitedly pounced on it when he arrived home. With almost the same anticipation as one would have uncorking a vintage wine, I unscrewed the plastic top. With the sound of the fizz, wafted out the scent of sickly sweet fruit. A hint of cucumber maybe, bit it was certainly only a hint.

On the first sip I had the impression of drinking an overly sweet apple juice drink after having brushed my tongue and the roof of my mouth with toothpaste. Mmmm.. not so good. I was hoping maybe the taste would mature. Well it did, but it matured from a five year old's birthday party drink to a sixteen-year old's my-parents-are-out-of-town-for-the-weekend-so-lets-raid-their-liquor-cabinet type drink. It was reminiscent of a cocktail mixed with Blue Vok, Midori and sprite, minus the alcohol, with added caffeine. Over the course of the evening, I went back to the drink every half hour or so hoping it would redeem itself. It didn't. It stayed with me though. Stayed with me, coating my tongue and my palate like the scum around a bathtub after you've used cheap bath oils. Brushing my teeth was a relief leaving only the after effect of the caffeine.

Mmmm... I won't be buying that one again. But hey - if anyone wants some pumpkin flavoured KitKats, I still have some in my freezer since last Halloween.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


As I wrote recently, I finally paid for our tickets for our summer trip. I thought the confirmation email I got from my travel agent was worth sharing;
"Please let me send E-ticket. After it prints it out, it becomes a flow that does the check-in in the airport from the following. My best regards."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Free hugs

Tonight while I was YouTube surfing... ummm.. I mean working very hard, I came across this gorgeous video about a guy in Sydney giving out free hugs. It is so lovely and made me a little teary thinking about how much I miss hugs from my friends in Australia. The music is by a band called the Sick Puppies.

I then got to thinking... I wondered if this would work in Japan. Japan isn't a country known for its hugging. I searched further and found many responses to this first video from Tokyo and Kyoto. Here's one of them

So to everyone out there to whom I can't give a real hug to - cyber hugs to you (to everyone other than the sighing, eye rolling, ignoring bank teller that is).

Being Illiterate

After a panicked email to my travel agent, I was able to get an extra working day to pay for our tickets for our summer trip, so now they are all paid for, though it wasn't a painless process.

I hate going to my local bank branch. There is a woman there that decided she didn't like me from the first day I walked in their door. She doesn't even try to hide her dislike. She sighs loudly at me, rolls her eyes and sometimes even refuses to talk to me. Today, she did all three.

I had to do a domestic bank transfer, a furikomi, if you will. The problem today was while it was to a Japanese company, in Japan, the invoice and banking details were written in English. Good for me, but apparently not for the bank. The sighing woman, sighed heavily, rolled her eyes and thrust a furikomi form at me. All in Japanese off course. I looked at her, I looked at the form and then I looked back up at her with what I hoped was my best "please help the illiterate gaijin" face. She sighed heavily, rolled her eyes and walked off.

The younger teller who I'd been thrust in front of looked at the furikomi form and looked at my invoice. Repeatedly. For about fifteen minutes. At the form, at the invoice, back to the form.... It was like watching a flea tennis match happening on the counter. I wasn't much better. In time with her worried "mmm"s and "ohhh"s, I looked that the form, looked at the invoice and looked at her. My "please help the illiterate gaijin" face had more effect on her, she was trying but just had no idea what to do. She ran to the sighing woman and was only sighed at and then ignored. I'd like to say that at least it's not just me that she sighs at and ignores, but I think really she was sighing and ignoring the other teller as an extension of me. If she helped her, then really she was helping me, and she certainly wasn't going to do that.

After running around a little more with a "please help the young teller" face, she came back to me and told me, "Please fill in the form." I had kinda figured that much, it was the how-to I was having problems with. I would have to translate everything from English into Japanese. I asked if it was OK if I wrote in romaji. That question caused another ten minutes of "mmm"s, "ohhh"s and "please help the young teller" faces.

Finally, another teller came back from lunch and to the rescue. She explained that I would have to fill in the form in kanji. I explained that while I didn't really write kanji, I could copy it if it was written for me. This lovely rescuer teller then filled out the form in kanji for me to copy, as the form could not be in their handwriting. When I handed it back to her, she was even kind enough to compliment my badly completed form.

After another 30 minutes in the bank, it and another furikomi through the ATM were complete.

Since my last post, I've been told of a bank with a branch in Nagoya that offers Internet banking in English. I think it's time to sign up for that!