Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Doctor, doctor

I FINALLY made it to a doctor this morning. Two days ago I'd arranged to go (you turn up and wait at most doctors, as I understand it, and don't make appointments) but stupidly changed my mind. Yesterday wasn't practical, and today I finally went to see a doctor at one of the hospitals (which operate like drop in centres).

Now, for the record, I hate going to doctors and will avoid them whenever possible. In the past, I've tended to use doctors for repeat prescriptions of drugs I've needed or for referrals and that's about it. I have my reasons, amongst which is little faith in the medical system.This isn't my only reason though. My preference will always be for homeopathic treatments, or using aromatherapy or acupuncture to cure things. I only take painkillers when I absolutely have to.

But, I'm not stupid and do accept sometimes it is necessary to go to a 'real' doctor. Like when I believe I have a chest infection.

I was at the hospital an hour and a half. A lovely English speaking admin man spoke to me at reception and said he wasn't sure if there was an English speaking doctor there right now. I'd filled in a form and ticked lots of boxes already, but asked nice admin man if he'd mind writing down, in Japanese, what I told him so the doc could read it. Nice admin man sat and waited with me for ages afterwards and chatted and then went off, coming back 10 mins later to say they'd found someone else in the hospital that could help by phone when I saw the doc, if necessary. Nice admin man kept me updated on how long I'd need to wait, etc.

As it turned out, doc did speak English. I had to wait in another area after called, saw the doc for about 2 mins, (note: at no stage did I have any kind of physical examination) got panicked by him using 'pneumonia' and 'xray' in the same sentence. Waited somewhere else. Had two xray techs reading from a book to tell me to take my clothes off - I saw the words 'take your shoes off', saw a gown, and kind of guessed the rest - to their total relief. Waited somewhere else, and then somewhere else. Saw doc for another two minutes and got a prescription for three drugs and his agreement with me that it was probably bronchitis. If I'd said I had plague, wonder if he'd have agreed with that.

Whole exercise, plus drugs cost me about 8,000 yen (£40). Luckily, I can claim all of that back.

And I got to school 7 minutes before my first lesson, but cobbled together a really good class. Was pleased :D

But, my point is - it seems all too easy to get drugs from doctors, in the UK and, it would seem, over here. Oh well.

Oh, and I get totally spun out of antibiotics, so I've a fun few days ahead!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Another earthquake

This morning we had another earthquake. This was a big shakey one but at 4.45 in the morning I couldn't really be bothered to be worried about it - there's been too many since I've been here anyway and these apartments are pretty good to withstand smaller ones. Apparantly it was a locally based quake, which is really good news, as it means it wasn't the aftershock of some massive one elsewhere - ie we felt the Niigata one here... And of course with The Big One being imminent, or not, nothing can really be done anyway. I've no intention of worrying. Much. And certainly no intention of leaving Japan because of them. All part of the experience I say; though they are becoming pretty frequent.

Apparantly there are 5000+ in Japan every year, many of which can't be felt by people. Now that's something to think about. Or not think about...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sapporo update...

....is imminent. A bit like the photos really.

However, I've got round two of nasty flu - this time with fever, bad chest and bad throat. As soon as I get the energy will update on weekend.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


I bought some wellies today ready for the snow festival in Sapporo next week. This excited me. I've not had wellies since I was a kid. I DID want bright yellow ones, but as the shop I saw them in only had black, I settled for that. As they're new, I'm wearing them at the moment. Wellies, wellies, wellies. I love that word!

I was asked by someone why I never comment on their blog and my response was I can never find anything intelligent to say. The truth is, after a day working I can barely put a coherent sentence together, let alone make any actual sense.

Take today. In three of my classes we didn't use a text book. These students, however, are paying good money and so are expecting a good lesson. This is why I'm so brain dead by the end of the day. The first student, for example, asked my opinion on why the Japanese economic system is so bad and we discussed Japanese import and export laws, CJD, foot and mouth and the beef industry, the Japanese workplace..... these are intelligent students with a good level that expect a good lesson. I love it when I get told they've enjoyed my lessons. It's such a boost.

With the two others (one of whom I am now in SERIOUS lust with!), I regurgitated the same topic: youth crime and the age of responsibility, death sentences, punishment, prisons, punishing parents for their kids crimes, etc. Oh and smoking (cigarettes in Japan are a fifth the price of the UK) and, my favourite, how nuts the Japanese work system is and what people will end up doing in ten years when there's a complete lack of workforce.

The other two - one was a nice easy (for me!) lesson on questions and the other was an intensive where we watched a video and talked about the differences between living in the countryside and the city. (I've really oversimplified that one, haven't I?)

This all takes a LOT of energy and braincells! But I DO love it. I get to use my brain all day - which is why I can't string meaningful sentences together afterwards.

I'm SURE there was something else I wanted to whitter on about - but I'm buggered if I can remember what it was!

OH YES - the photos. It's all proving far too stressful so I'm giving up. Sorry. I'm a techno-ramus. I need to be spoonfed through this. I don't understand why I can't put photos up. I don't understand why when I upload (download?) photos from my hard drive onto Ofoto as Jpegs they turn into jpgs and won't open here. I don't know how to find my IP address or my where my ISP page is. I can barely manage to turn my computer on and type my blog let alone anything more complex. I QUIT. I CAN'T COPE. AARRGGGHHH!!!

Did I mention I have new wellies?

Actually, I've just figured out how to put pictures up here successfully. It's now just a matter of getting around to it!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Just for Chameleon

In the name of research I ate a passion fruit flavour kitkat today. It was surprisingly nice. Sort of sweet and sour at the same time.

Any more requests?

Oh, and I had my first child cry in class today. He was born in England and came back to Japan a year ago - he's now six. Since coming back he's forgotten all his English and is no longer in a school - he starts in April. After calling his mum twice, I suggested she came and sat in the classroom. Apparantly he quite enjoyed it, despite the tears. I felt sorry for the other kid in the class that had to put up with a disrupted lesson because of him. But that's life, and hopefully next time he'll be better. I suggested to his mum that she should sit in with us for the first ten minutes next time...

Not what you need when you're still a bit ill and functioning on 70%!

Oh and I turned arsey today for the first time too. We're only meant to do 6 hours teaching maximum (remember we have travel time and preparation time too - this doesn't just mean a six hour day) and my schedule for tomorrow came through at 6 and a quarter hours. Now, I would have let this slip if it hadn't been brought to my attention that I was expected to teach from 10-11, 11-12, 12-1, 1-1.45 and then have a 45 minute break before an intensive at 2.30-4 and a final class 4-5. I went nuts. And one of my intermediate classes is having a 'strong' beginner in it. I wasn't happy. This kind of schedule is neither fair on me, nor my students. The first call I made they were apologetic but I was standing firm. (I had an audience, okay!). Later they called me back to say another teacher would have my 11-12 class. I was happy. Later still they called again and said my 10-11 class would be given to another teacher instead and so I wouldn't need to be there until 10. BLISS!

Which just goes to show - they knew what they were expecting was unreasonable. Oh, and as for the intermediate class? I'll see how big an issue that actually is and take it up again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

It's my blog and I'll moan if I want to

I'm ill. I've been off work for two days now, though I'll be dragging myself in tomorrow as I don't get sick pay :(

I have some kind of ikky virus - sore throat, snuffles, bit of a headache, body that feels like it's run two consecutive marathons - that kind of thing. And the glands in my throat are getting sorer too now.

Being ill is boring. I've slept most the day but need to sleep tonight so have to do something else. Luckily, my ironing board is a perfect computer stand/tray. It's almost the length of two laptops, by the width and an eighth of a laptop deep and about a centimetre or two higher than a paperback book.

I had one friend, who lives about an hour or more away, offering to bring me anything I needed, which was nice but I would have felt pretty bad about that. My neighbour went in the end though to get me some groceries. And gave me a bowl of strawberries as a treat!

I should stop. I'm rambling. Boredom does that. I think I'll watch a movie instead....

Since coming to Japan

I now think nothing of

  • having rice, noodles or soup for breakfast;
  • having lunch at between 3 and 5pm and supper at around 9 or 10;
  • having bought a rolling mat and cooking chopsticks (and using both);
  • enjoying reading The Japan Times;
  • earthquakes (or aftershocks). There are hundreds every year in Japan, most can't be felt by people. In my apartment it's unusual not to feel one or more every week or so;
  • rain, that once it starts will go on for a day. Or two. Or three.
  • wind that isn't wind, but a typhoon;
  • smiling at random strangers;
  • smiling at random strangers who nearly cycle into me;
  • cycling on the pavement and without a helmet on;
  • forcing my way onto trains;
  • having people snoring around me on trains;
  • dumping my bike outside any shop I need to go in;
  • leaving bags in the basket of my bike while I go into a shop, knowing they'll still be there;
  • thanking someone 10,000 times for something;
  • bowing;
  • cuteness - things aren't so cute anymore, now they're 'just Japan';
  • leaping around a classroom in my suit for kids and adults;
  • having kids laughing at my drawings. actually having adults laughing too [pout] - but the drawings are getting better;
  • singing unaccompanied;
  • eating out being cheaper than eating in often;
  • ordering food by pointing to a picture on a menu or by selecting a button on a machine and then presenting a ticket to a waiter with my order on it;
  • vending machines within 50 metres or so of wherever you are with hot and cold drinks;
  • being able to buy alcohol 24/7;
  • getting what I want in a shop, etc even without having Japanese beyond a few words yet;
  • living alone :D
  • having a supporting manager;
  • getting up at 10am and going to bed at 2 or 3am;
  • being able to buy hot coffee or tea in bottles ready to drink;
  • being able to buy lovely hot snacks in convenience stores;
  • having food heated up in convenience stores;
  • peppering my English with words of Japanese;
  • using my brain, creativeness and whatever else it takes to get the meaning over to someone;
  • using squat toilets;
  • expecting both squat and Western toilets to be emaculate and with toilet paper when I go into them;
  • having a shopping basket/fridge/cupboard filled with half Japanese and half Western foods and drinks;
  • having four umbrellas hanging outside my flat and another elsewhere in Tokyo;
  • taking my shoes off before going in anywhere, including my own apartment;
  • waving as I approach someone I know, sometimes with both hands;
  • not standing up my chopsticks in my food - even if the privacy of my own apartment when I'm alone (yes, I do eat with chopsticks at home);
  • watching 24 on dvd;
  • neon explosions everywhere;
  • little shrines and temples hidden within reach of the neon explosions;
  • people working in jobs where you just cannot figure out what they are doing (standing around in some kind of uniform);
  • train drivers dressed like pilots;
  • station staff and taxi drivers who wear white gloves;
  • insides of taxi's which have white lace thrown over the seats;
  • taxi drivers who have GPS (?) but don't know how to get anywhere within a five minute radius of the station;
  • having supermarket shopping taken from a basket, scanned and put into another basket which I then pack away from the till. SO efficient....
  • enjoying drinks called Pocari Sweat and Calpis;
  • watching news bulletins, that aren't live, on the internet;
  • not knowing what my soup or noodles will actually look like once I've added water and the unrecognisable things have rehydrated and grown massively into size and semblance OF something!
  • 20,000 people trying to cram themselves into a train carriage even though another will be along in minutes. Oh, and waiting politely to one side for other people to get off before barging into every available centimetre of space;
  • having a soak in a bath tub that's 2/3's the length and nearly twice the height of a British tub;
  • having a stove top kettle that takes so long to boil I can take a shower, including washing my hair and make breakfast before it whistles;
  • cooking with one ring, one tiny toaster oven and a microwave.

And a million other things!

But I'm still trying to get my head around the fact I'm now living in ASIA, and will be for quite some time. I made the decision the other week that my ambition is to now live on every continent. Well, I've done mainland Europe, the Middle East and Asia, so I'm getting there!