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!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


In the last post I wrote 'sometimes I love Japan'. Of course, the flip-side is sometimes I fucking well don't love Japan. Like now.

I'm all about health, work, study right now. Nothing else seems to exist outside of this tiny little bubble.

The problem that was treated went away for a few days and then came back. On my arms this time.

I went back to the same hospital that treated it before yesterday, today and tomorrow. More tests. Different diagnoses. More ultra strong drips.

I googled. Their diagnoses don't sound like what I have. But I'm no doctor. Interestingly, one of my flatmates, who had one lesion, and absolutely nothing else in common with whatever I have - was diagnosed as having the same thing.

I don't trust them. I think they don't know what they are talking about. Other people think they don't know what they are talking about. My insurance company has recommended a good doctor for me to see. I've made an appointment to see him on Monday.

Quotes from the doctors included:

'I didn't expect this to come back'.
'It's life threatening'.
'It's much more serious than it looks'.
'It could spread to your whole body.'
'If you were Japanese we'd admit you into the hospital.'

The best one though involved something I'm not divulging on here for various reasons. I was given a certain result yesterday that said I had, let's call it 'x'. The test for x had been done two weeks ago. When they handed me the result the penny didn't drop. Once I got home the penny dropped.

Conversation this morning with the doctors (and now they're giving me their most senior docs):

'Can I just check this test was done two weeks ago?'
'Yes, that's right.'
'Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you treat this? In England x is an extremely serious condition.'
'In Japan we don't think x is serious'

[Side note, in Australia, Taiwan, America, etc x is seen as a serious condition. More evidence the doctors don't know what the hell they are on about.]

The doctor I saw one of the times before (I've seen a few docs there) said:

'It's normal for people with eczema to have x, so I didn't think it was important to tell you.'

I bloody well googled the connection of eczema to x. There's a known link. There's a good possibility in certain people. But there is no 'normal' about it. And it bloody well still needs treating.

Am fuming a little, as you can see.

And I miss the NHS. I really miss the NHS.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Good and The Bad

Sometimes I love Japan. I have a crap wallet. Well, it's not that crap, just a tad overstretched from carrying too many loyalty cards, receipts, etc. (Know what I mean?) Only now it's pretty empty - which means things keep falling out of it.

Today my Suica (travel card - with about 2,000 yen of credit), my hospital loyalty / membership / donno what it actually is card and a bookshop loyalty card fell out... somewhere in Saitama - there were a few options. I checked with the supermarket - no, I went to check in the station - knowing I'd not have a chicken's chance in hell (probably) of finding them if they weren't there... and behold - they were! So... thank you to whoever handed them in and thank you nice mr. station man for being patient with my Japanese, miming and mobile phone's dictionary!


I think I probably mentioned the first skin infection totally cleared up for about three days before I got the second one (in different places)? Well - and I've now got a months worth of antibiotics in my system (grrrrr) - the second one cleared up about four days ago but I've today found another couple of places where it feels / seems the infection has REappeared. It can't have - there is no way I can have more antibiotics. What on earth is going on with my immune system?


Fun and games at work:- Briefly, I've been wanting to get out of my current contract for ages and back into the part of the company I was originally working for. I told by boss yesterday. He said he would 'consider it'. Them be fighting words..... Them were fighting words. My response wasn't as polite or as patient as it probably should have been. Neither was my follow-up email notifying him in writing.

I may start looking for a new job if this simple request isn't granted. Not exactly what I want to do now I've got the Diploma going on, but still.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A brief whimsical moment...

I remember sitting on the beach on New Years Day, feeling so so happy and thinking that a wonderful first day of the year must be a good omen for the year to come.

Funny how things don't work out, isn't it?

Tonight I finish my antibiotics after a MONTH of taking the bloody things in various forms and strengths. I'm suffering side effects that I'm not enjoying and taking lots of good things to try and counter that. I've spent most of this year in pain or in and out of doctors. What a start!

But now the infection has gone and my system can start to get back to normal. I hope.

Tokyo is cold. Not as cold as it was in December, I don't think, but still cold. My plan for the rest of the winter is to stay in my room except when I have to leave - work, food shopping (but that can be done on the way home from work), etc. And this year is all about studying - and trying to survive the diploma!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No more drips!

Today I had another blood test and most of the levels were back to normal, thankfully, which means no more antibiotic drips, I've been put onto tablets now.

The pain is almost completely gone and hopefully everything will start healing soon.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Really not loving these hospital appointments

So. Am still in pain (maybe slightly less) and am still feeling sick from the antibiotic drip.

And I'm not convinced I'm getting the best treatment because a) I don't have much faith in Western medicine and b) I have even less faith in the Japanese medical system after nearly 4.5 years of hearing stories about it.

Today I had to wait 1.5 hours in the out-patients clinic. This is meant to be a first-come first-served thing but I think people were being allowed to go through before me. Now of course I'm not hinting that I was getting different treatment because I was a foreigner but....

Went in. Had been thinking about what they'd done. I don't want to gross out Timourous Beastie again so I'll skip details. But let's just say, I'd decided THEY had been skipping on something they should have been doing. So I made them do it today. And once I'd told them to do it, the penny dropped that it made sense.

The nurse then doing the new dressing was crouching down with his head about 6 cms from the floor. I pointed out it might be a lot easier for him if my leg was on a chair. He almost panicked that I'd made this suggestion but seemed much happier.

Common. Sense. How can so many people lack in common sense? It stuns me.

They then took two attempts (read, two needles) to get the IV line into my arm. When I tried to ask if the nausea and the itching were normal side effects they said they wanted to stop giving me the drip. I told them there was no way they were going to stop it (well, I don't want to have a break, see it get worse, see the doctor on Tuesday and THEN have another few days of this shit).

So, yes. I am still extremely miserable and fed up with all of this.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Just Great

Blood and pus test results showed everythings much higher than it should be. Luckily temperature was okay as I really didn't want to be admitted into a Japanese hospital.

Had another antibiotic drip. Feel really sick from it. And still in a lot of pain.

And trying to sort out the headache this is causing regarding work as I have to go and have drips every day for the next few days and work really isn't being so sympathetic about this - not that I expected them to be, mind you.

And it's due to snow later today. Fan-bloody-tastic.

(Yes, I am indeed feeling very sorry for myself right now. And very grumpy.)

Actually, I take back what I said about work. They ARE being very good about it. Surprisingly!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Japanese doctors...

After spending all of yesterday afternoon and evening and all of this morning pretty much not moving from my bed to rest the painful legs, I decided to give in and went and saw a Japanese doctor this afternoon.

Luckily I didn't have to wait long, although it did take quite some persuading to get them to allow me to see a doctor today and not come back on the 12th! I have a 'membership' card for the hospital, so it was all made slightly easier. Although, 'easier' is a relative term in Japan, as I'm sure you'll understand if you live here.

Saw a lovely lovely doctor (as opposed to the scary ones I've seen in the past) who bunged me on an antibiotic drip and thought the skin infection was actually infected insect bites that the massage had aggravated.... whatever. It's still bloody painful and I have to go back tomorrow to see how the effect of the drip is and to check the results of the tests they did.

Oh such joy.

And I'm cold. And miserable.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

India - the final post

I went back to the same place in Fort Cochin that I'd had the rejuvenation massage for a refreshing massage. I shouldn't have done as it looked like the treacle had given me a little bit of a reaction on my legs. Anyway, the massage was lovely but the legs itched a bit.

Had a chat with the waiter I'd spent ages nattering with the day before and then went to a very nice restaurant with a fantastic menu. Maybe I didn't make the best choice there as it was okay rather than amazing, but the restaurant was cool.

Next morning left the hotel early for Cochin airport. The flight was delayed a little, although there were no indications to actually say it was delayed... Got back to Bombay and headed straight to Sanchia's house where her parents warmly greeted me, asked me all about my trip and fed me before sending me on my way to go and sightsee a little more.

Got the train down to Colaba and Fort area and hopped onto a boat around the bay. Had a baby thrown at me for a photo. Pretty chilled out little cruise though, just 30 minutes but at a pretty time of the afternoon.

When I was with Sanchia, it wasn't possible to get near the Taj as it was all cut off with a barrier. This week it's open though, so had a wander down alongside, sipping chai, snapping photos and soaking in the atmosphere. Went to Leopold's for a snack and a beer and watched tourists taking photos of the bullet holes in the bar. I didn't think this was in particularly good taste, so I didn't join them on this. After an hour or so chilling there, nattering with an American girl and then reading, I went for a wander around the street stalls and then headed back to the station.

Churchgate station isn't so easy to find from that area. Not for me anyway; so asked a few people for directions. One guy I asked was a 20-year old Hindu student who was extremely polite and chatty and hyper-intelligent, basically escorted me all the way to Bandra - including paying for my ticket because he'd been taught to treat teachers with the same respect as parents. He told me he'd never drunk or smoked and didn't socialise with his classmates as they did and he had tried telling them they shouldn't, but they hadn't listened to him. Polite young man, seemed to have no ideas of his own. It was almost scary... the kind of person that could easily be sucked into a cult, I felt. But he was very sweet and after getting off the train with me at Bandra, he continued on his way to go and buy textbooks.

Had another catch up with Sanchia's lovely parents and got fed again! Crashed when I could no longer keep my eyes open! Leg was feeling a little sorer, but it was bearable.

Next day was the final day of the holiday. Had breakfast and then Sanchia's dad ran me around trying to sort out more contact lenses, buying huge quantities of medications to bring back, etc. (Well, they're so cheap there and so pricey and weak here). Then I got festooned with gifts from them, fed again, told I now had my own house to stay in in Bombay (and an adopted family)! - And got sent off on my way. Very reluctantly.

Got to the airport pretty quickly. Checked in very early. Paid to chill out in the 'executive' lounge. I use the term loosely, but there was 'free' booze, massage chairs, snacks, etc. And then it was time to fly back - ten hours later (we went via Delhi where we had to stay for an hour) - I was getting off the plane at Narita and staring at the cold breath fog coming from my mouth.

The end. And I've never been so unhappy about coming back to Tokyo. I've been hit by a feeling of sadness and how soulless this city is. How everything is just too perfect. How there's no real character. But tiredness doesn't really help. Oh and the leg - it's kind of been getting steadily worse since yesterday. Not on the scale of Hampi/Bylakkuppe, but not good. Am taking painkillers, antihistamines, slathering it in antiseptic cream and keeping it rested. Hoping it'll fix itself as I really really really do not want to see a Japanese doctor and end up on more antibiotics.

And I miss India. I had a wonderful wonderful holiday and so many good experiences that piqued all my senses to a maximum. I'm going back to Kerala in December.


And now - well, I'm just not looking forward to this year basically. The cold weather over the next couple of months is going to do my head in. I need to make a decision in the next couple of weeks regarding my job and what's best to do. (Stay where I am or return back to where I was). And the diploma is going to be one hard hard slog, I feel. But I'm going to just hold out for December and my next big holiday :D

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Last day in Cochin

I'm knackered!

Got up early - noise in hotel from staff. Enjoyed another cold shower. Trotted off to boat to Cochin (via ATM) and chilled out for a nice breakfast. Well, it wasn't as nice as I'd hoped and the coffee arrived about 15 minutes after I'd finished eating - so I gave them a very large note to change to make me feel better. (Stupid ATM gave me ridiculously large notes and, being Sunday, there's no open banks I've seen).

Wandered. Photographed. Explored. Watched hot men doing interesting things. Took more photos. Stopped for a drink and heard celebratory Sunday guns being shot off at a church on an island opposite Fort Cochin (Vypen). Got a ferry over to Vypen and wandered to the church, watching a wedding and staring at more hot men. Took more photos. Got chatting to a woman who invited me to go and sit by her house and talk with her and her mother. Smelled a hint of scamitis but decided to see where it would lead as not everyone IS out to get money. A lot ARE on Cochin though. "You want to visit my net? You want to pull up fishing line? You want to take photo? You want pay me?" - I'm too cynical to be gullible generally, but you never know!

Anyway, she started a soft sell about being a tour guide but didn't push it any further. She walked me back a different way and we 'just happened' to meet her neighbour, a man in his 60s and his motorbike, who offered me a tour. After getting him to agree to a very low price I agreed - well, I didn't have anything else in mind to do, and we took off to the far side of the island to visit Cherai beach - I had a lovely lunch there, a bit of a paddle and took lots of photos of women in the water in their saris; a lighthouse, lots of churches and temples and then over to another island Vallarpadam to see another basilica.

It was pretty knackering, but I enjoyed it, and looking at the landscape from the back of a bike is always nice too.

Going to go and find another massage now I think. Tomorrow - back to Bombay...

Four hands better than two...

I finished my day yesterday wandering around happily and found myself in a not exactly swish beauty parlour succumbing to the four hands of a couple of women giving me a back and arm massage with lots of lather and ice. Was a strange, but very interesting experience, and pretty enjoyable!

Chilled out for a bit before getting the boat back to Alleppey and having another lovely meal. Got told about a party in another homestay - but, wuss that I've turned into - or maybe it's just all the fresh air, exercise, sunshine, etc - I was flagging and, yet again, crashed at about 10.30pm!

Got woken early by lots of noise, so headed off, via a quick dosa breakfast by bus to Cochin. Two hours later I arrived and found a place to stay pretty quickly, on Ernakulam (easier for getting to the airport day after tomorrow) and headed straight for the ferry to go over to Fort Cochin. The plan was to see all of Fort Cochin today and then do this area and other things tomorrow. Well... got there and headed to Jew Town. By the time I'd finished wandering around there, taking lots of pictures, browsing, wandering, chatting, eating, drinking, inhaling ginger, etc it was getting to be late afternoon already.

Decided to treat myself (and why not?) to a real full on Ayurvedic massage... Second place I went into seemed really nice and they had a free spot and gave me a good price on a 'rejuvenating massage'....

Okay. I have never had anything like this before. Basically two women spent 90 minutes giving me a full body treacle massage. Well, it smelled like treacle. I'm sure it was something that was meant to be insanely good for me. I felt like a turkey being given a very long basting anyway. We started with a head massage, than I got all treacled up, then I was put into a chamber for a bit to sweat it all off, and then I was washed down. Oh and there was a face massage somewhere along the line too! It was all pretty heavenly at any rate and I floated out of there feeling wonderful and spent ages chatting with people in the streets before realising it was almost dark.

Wandered down further to the huge Chinese fishing net contraptions that ran for a few hundred meters along the shore - snapping as I went, of course, and then saw the fishermen selling the freshly trawled in produce... naturally, I went and found a restaurant and had a delicious fish meal and a large beer.

Needless to say, it was then time to get the ferry back across - and there's still loads more wandering to do in Fort Cochin. Loved it! Great place. A waiter tried to persuade me to join him and his bike to go to the beach tomorrow morning - but I declined. I don't want to tie myself down to anything this trip - especially as it's drawing to an all too soon close.

Just one day left in Cochin now before flying back to Mumbai and then back to Tokyo the following day.

Wish I didn't have to....!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Kerala continued

New Years Eve I wore myself out with all the running around I'd been doing - treated myself to a nice meal - popped back to my room (a nice room thankfully) and by 10.30pm my eyes were closing. Pathetic, innit! Got woken up at midnight by fireworks but was too comfy to move!

Got up early next day - had already bought a train ticket to Alleppey - and had a pretty perfect day. I see this as a very good omen for the new year. The train took about 3 hours through the beautiful Kerala countryside that I just couldn't stop staring at. Was handed a leaflet on the train for a homestay I'd been reading about in Lonely Planet and decided to give it a go. The tourist office phoned them for me and they came and picked me up. The place is beautiful and there were three different rooms available. I chose one that is bright yellow and themed with musical instruments. I couldn't stop smiling in the room. I woke up smiling at it today too. There's a big balcony with swing chairs and it's just ... really nice!

After I settled in (ie did emergency washing!) had a wander into the town - I like Alleppey. A lot. It's peaceful. It's nice. It's friendly. The scary Kerala women I talked about in the last post don't seem to be here, thankfully! Had a wander around and found out about passenger ferry tickets for the backwaters. Then got a rickshaw to the beach. Now, I'm sure there's a million nicer beaches in India than Alleppey beach - but I loved it. I had so much fun! The plan was to sit and chill out with my book for a few hours. I didn't get to opening the book. Had fun soaking my trousers running around in the waves - but then everyone was doing that. Took lots of photos. Had lots of photos taken. Was given grapes. Was talked to by about half the beach. Stayed until the sun had set and it had turned too cold and dark to stay longer. But was so relaxed and happy.

Then... decided to splash out on a very expensive meal to continue treating myself. By very expensive - let's say about 1.5 nights accommodations worth of expensive. But it was worth every bite. It was a rooftop garden restaurant at the top of a hotel near the beach. And I had a large bottle of beer - to make up for an alcohol free new year's eve.

Actually, I've only had three drinks this holiday. And no cigarettes. And too much meat. But hey.

Today I got the passenger ferry for 2.5 hours to Kottayam. Not so much to 'see' Kottayam - as there doesn't seem to be much to see here, but just to spend a few hours floating down the backwaters, relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Got another couple of hours here and then heading back to Alleppey. Oh and ate delicious tandoori fish for lunch.

Hard life, isn't it?!