Teaching In Socks

Laugh it up Doctorheads
January 21, 2009, 6:47 pm
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In Japan, the network of independent and private doctor’s offices Americans are accustomed to doesn’t exist. Rather, if one is afflicted with any sort of ailment, they go to the Hospital. There are private hospitals and a small assortment private offices (there’s a pediatrician right next to my school), but they aren’t as prevalent or nor are they the standard ethos to treatment like as they are in America.

As a result of a bug I picked up on on the plane during my flight home, I found myself in Japanese hospital.  It wasn’t an emergency, but I was having trouble hearing out of my left ear. Normally I embrace a situation and use it to my advantage, expanding my selective hearing bold to a boundless range or irresponsibility.  Unfortunately, I no longer have that option.  When you are trying to teach someone how to speak proper English and pronounce words correctly, your left ear (both of them actually) is a useful and necessary instrument and I can’t afford to get fired in this global economy.

I was sans translator, but flush with patience resources; every coat pocket carried some kind of document I assumed might be important or a conversational dictionary that I thought could be useful if things really deteriorated. Although the experience wasn’t as daunting as you would imagine or as my previous sentence would suggest.

First, it helped that I was equipped with very precise directions from my friend on where to go to reach reception (the second floor), and she had presence of mind to send me an email to my phone with the Kanji for “Ophthalmologist”, and a written request to see one. Secondly, you have to remember, the Hospital is one of those stages where the intentions of both parties are fairly evident.  Most of the script for a conversation is therefore already written out thus pretty consistent across the globe, in fact I could probably could have communicated what I needed to even if they all spoke Kilgon (God forbid I end up in a Kligon hospital,who knows what nerd injury/space travel scenario that might entail).  Essentially, they know I want to see a doctor, I know they want me to fill out some forms.

Perhaps the greatest lapse in communication occurred when two nurses handed me a thermometer while I was still in the lobby. They motion that they wanted me to put it under my arm right there, amongst the other patients and plebes. I was wearing a few layers, and proper placement of the thermometer was going to require a feat of wardrobe adjustment that would in most advanced civilizations be considered slightly awkward. This being winter, the “pale areas” would be be exposed and unguarded. I didn’t think Japan was ready for this, but they were persistent. It wasn’t until a third nurse  entered the fray and saw me start to reluctantly attempt to make the proper adjustments that she got the hint that maybe this wasn’t going to be something everyone would want to see. She kindly offered to escort me back to a room so a public viewing could be avoided.

I’ll spare you most of the glorious medical details, but I will say the Doctor determined that, for one reason or another, “irrigation” of the ear was the best method of treatment. This involves running a saline solution through the ear canal– it’s basically a really good thorough cleaning.

Now, it maybe have been because I was nervous, or wearing too many layers, or feeling dizzy from having a bunch of liquid throw off my equilibrium, but midway through I started to feel sleepy and the light in the room started to get really bright. The sensation was terribly painful or uncomfortable, but I decided that I really didn’t want to faint. I mean, who knows what was written on those papers I signed– I could be part of Japanese Candid Camera show right now and on the brink of becoming the you-tube fainting gajin sensation.

I needed some water and a minute to gather myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t learned the word for “stop” in Japanese. I’m not even sure what I said, but I think I tried to wave my hand and said “atsui” (hot) a few times. Apparently one of the three assistant nurses caught my drift and within seconds I had a cup of water by my side and my chair was flipped backward so that blood could rush to my head.  After a few deep breaths I was back in peak form. The doctor finished and sent me along my way.

In the lobby I could hear the staff and doctor rehashing the story and having a bit of a laugh, but I was more than happy just to be able to hear them.

japanese ear magicians
January 19, 2009, 3:40 pm
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Went to a Japanese Hospital today (not an emergency). They don’t give you a candy or balloon, but I did get a swipe card with my medical information on it. Also, I almost fainted.


Afterwards, as I sat in the waiting room I could hear the doctors and nurses laughing about me, but at least I could hear them laughing.