Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)

So, with my crappy eating habits (chili con carne three nights a week, spaghetti once or twice, and a prepared Japanese meal purchased from the local AiAi grocery store two or there times a week), it was no wonder that along with an increase in my waist line, I was also going to end up with some gastrointestinal disorder. And so it came to pass. And pass. And pass.

I had to spend a night in a Japanese hospital. Cue music! (DUN-DUN-DUNnnnnn!)

It started when my office (the OBOE - Ohtawara Board of Education) wanted me to take a physical to prove to my students that my stomach was a second gaijin (foreigner), as the thought of that frightened many. For some reason, the guy from my office who usually sits by the second incredible huge stack of papers to the left of the door--his name has only been whispered about, like he's a gajin or something), drove me to the local hospital - Ohtawara General Hospital - for my examination.

Apparently a few short weeks ago, this hospital was fingered by the national newspapers for a problem with morality. Here's why: 

When a person requires medicine, the hospital sells it to them in small waxen packages. the contents are invariably a fine purple powder that tastes like grapes, if grapes tasted like rotting road kill. Now, if there is an excess of medicine remaining after you are either cured or die of complications brought on by said medicine, your or your next of kin who is female is required to bring the remaining packages back to the hospital. Now, you might think this would get one some financial relief - but no! The hospital in its infinite wisdom does not offer the partial refund, instead merely offering a bow (the nod to those less superior than the medical community) (that's everyone) while offering a 'sumimasen' (excuse me). The medicine is then re-sold to the next sick person with an exact but not necessarily similar illness. It's called double charging. It sounds so... I don't know... international?

So, I was dropped off by the nameless guy who then excused himself to go back to the office to hide within his paperwork. A nurse came out, noticed there was a gaijin in the waiting room (me), and quickly ran away to hide in the nurse's room (aka closet). A short few hours later, a tired doctor with a cigarette dangling precariously from his lips approached, coughed some acrid smoke on me and told me in perfect English English (like from England) to: "Take this off", "Cough now", "Spread this," "Urinate into that", I almost got the order right.

Turns out I had blood in my urine (unrelated to my gut, but a welcome diagnosis). I figured they could just slap a Band-Aid on it, but no, they wanted me to stay over night for further tests and observation. Ha! As if I'm not observed enough already in this country.

So I'm lying there in my semi-private room with 40 other hapless souls listening to the Enka music (Japanese muzak) being piped over the speaker system. (Click HERE , if you dare) (okay, it's not that bad) (And the girl is cute). At this time, the nurses began singing along with a portable karaoke machine (karaoke translates into 'crappy Asian singing contest').

All of us sickos were wearing white gowns open at the back. The rear opening gown is an international thing designed to give the nurses a thrill, make'em laugh or a chance for us to catch double pneumonia and an opportunity for an extended, expensive hospital stay.

After a while of mind-numbing numbness brought on by the Enka music (I think it's called general anesthetic here in Japan), an orderly rattled in with our dinners. Talk about internationalization! This was just like being back home! In a hospital! With bland, grey food containing just the right amount of mystery animal (I guessed squid), vegetable (no clue) and mineral (mica) to make it a challenge to keep in one's gullet.

I was wrong, though. It was natto (rotting/fermenting soy beans). But, since I like natto, I ate my grey glob and licked my wooden hashi (chopsticks) clean so that they could be used by the next patient. Trust me. It was a bonus to be served natto first.

Still swallowing the goopy goop, the doctor came in with his cigarette and told the nurses to stop with the karaoke. The airwaves swelled up with the Sounds of Silence as the Simon & Garfunkel tune continued to play without words. Because he was busy smoking, the doctor performed pantomime to inform me that my urine sample had been switched with someone else, though judging by the side of my stomach there was still a chance I could be pregnant.

I tapped my belly, and with my mouth still trying to chew the stringy mess that is natto, I mumbled "Budweiser onegaishimasu" (Beer me, please). 

The doctor smiled and said I was "Fine thank-you, and you?"

I happily rolled off the wheeled stretcher and put on my street clothes - which were now dry-cleaned... thanks orderlies! - and then doubled over with some vicious stomach cramps. 

The hospital, sensing I was a tad uncomfortable, tried to sell me the antidote to dinner. I decided not to pay as I figured the diarrhea would help me lose weight.

Somewhere squeezing the Charmin,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by Robert Palmer, the best dressed man in rock and roll: he's SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE! (which is the title of another song of his).
PS - obviously me in the photo dressed up as a doctor. The woman in the nurse's uniform is indeed a nurse who works at the hospital mentioned above. She and the rest of the smiling happy people are part of the Ohtawara International Friendship Association - and excluding the gent on my right, I was fortunate to teach them all English once a week for three years. I didn't think they had learned anything in all that time... but at my good-bye party they were all competent enough to create their own good-bye speeches. It was beautiful. I'm a teacher!  The guy on my right? He's a teacher at Kaneda Kita Chu Gakko and along with being shy, he was a very intelligent, caring and all-around nice fellow. More on him later.

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