Tuesday, June 22, 2010

reaquainted with summer

i'm going to say this before i post this so those who need to know, know.  if you are either one of my sisters and you are reading this, it is in your best interest to just skip this post.  you won't be missing out on anything i promise and you'll sleep better tonight anyhow.  okay, and now that i have said that, i will go ahead and add that if you don't like spiders, no really really really don't like spiders you too can go ahead and quit reading now and i promise that it won't hurt my feelings.

so today is spider day here it seems, or at least my getting reacquainted with them day.  you'd have to be an idiot to think that you can live in a place like this with this much lushness and greenery all around you and not be prone to having a run in or ten with "wild life" everyday.  it just happens and i happen to love it, though i know there are people on the island that aren't that thrilled with it.  one of the most predominant species of "wild life" in naru is the spider.  my old friend and i happen to be very facinated with them and how many shapes, sizes and colors they come in and how cool their webs are ect.  so i welcome their presence, but today i was reminded that they are back in a few interesting ways.

first encounter:  i was almost through my bento today.  the regular saba bento that i usually have and i went to take a chopstick full of rice and realized there was something moving in the tray.  well, it was a spider of course.  not a big spider, but one of the jumping ones that we have here.  they run across my desk from time to time so it wasn't a huge surprise, but in my lunchbox!  this was a new one.  i carefully picked up my tray and walked it outside and deposited said spider back into it's home.  i was now finished with lunch it seemed.

second encounter:  simple and honest.  spider web removal from both the basket of my bike and the laundry lines on my porch.  no big deals here.  doing my best to keep spiders safe while i did it and make sure that they get somewhere without me trampling on them.  easy.

third encounter:  folding laundry on the couch and see something moving.  a spider about the size of a tennis ball (pretty average size for this species here) moves from beneath my underwear.  we can't have that now can we!  so i fetch a soup bowl from the kitchen and make haste to get it back to its home.  mission accomplished with some coaxing and directional talk after he dropped out of the bowl on our way to the door.

this spider stuff is taking some time today.  i think i am meant to be paying attention to what is surrounding me and being more careful about what i am doing and observing things a bit closer perhaps.  either way, spiders are here to stay and so am i...for awhile longer at least.  i'm glad that we get along so well.  thanks for having me on your island spiders, trees, hawks, crows and everything else that makes up this beautiful place.  well done.

Friday, June 11, 2010

golden week revisited

i never posted this pic i took on my keitai of the ume (ocean) while i sat and listened to a couple of guys jam acoustic guitars into and over this sunset.  what a wonderful memory this is for me. 
here is the full set of kitties now residing on my porch.  i did everything i could last night to rid the porch of anything comfortable for them to sleep on, especially after their mom left me a HUGE dead rat right outside the doorway.  these little ones HAVE to go.  yikes.

doctor woes

so, though i have tried as earnestly as i can to avoid seeing any and all doctors while i am here in japan, (much like i do back in the states.  sorry i know you hate to hear that mom.)  i have ended up seeing quite a few in the last few months.  i have shared my great success in seeing two eye doctors and as thrilling as that was, i knew that my luck would run out at some point, and last week it did indeed.

after my longest day of teaching two weeks ago (13 hours and seven classes) i came home as usual and just wanted to sit down and have a relaxing moment with a nice biru.  i cracked open the can and took a hefty slurp and OOOOOWWWWWWWWWWCHHHH! that not good wonderful feeling of a raw nerve being dipped into beer-y coldness happened.  many expletives went through my mind at that point, as i have had a root canal before and remember that this was the feeling of where that fun time originated.  i thought maybe it was a fluke feeling though and stupidly tried for another drink, smaller this time, but alas, the same pain.  so i one-side chewed my way through some room temperature noodles and vegetables, left the beer on the table and tried to sleep.

the next day i knew that i had to do something about all of this and so i got the ball rolling by asking my jr high JTE (japanese teacher of english) if she knew if naru even had a dentist.  she said that in fact we did (HUGE surprise to me, HUGE!) but that i should ask nohara sensei (a goto island native and has been in naru for a few years now) more about it.  so i went to ask her and she said that yes we did have a dentist here, but she said it in the unique japanese way that means yes but no.  i pried a bit more as politely as i could and tried to tell her about the pain i was in and that eating and drinking anything at this point was kind of hard and so the quicker the better on the fix sort of deal, but she then dared to tell me NOT to see the dentist here.  in case you are not aware, any japanese person telling you anything definitely is kind of a big deal.  they will usually politely dance around a no as long as they can and then just leave you with a smile about whatever you were asking their opinion of.  she gave me her no but then, in perfect japanese fashion, passed the buck onto an authority, the school nurse.  she said that before i decide that i should go talk to yoshihara sensei about it and get her opinion on the dentist here.  i didnt have time to see her just then and had to run back to the high school so i told her i would return and we could get her opinion together.  no problem she assured me.

so back to the high school teaching with a different teacher who is married to a naru native and had been here awhile.  nakagawa sensei (i believe that you got a blurry shot of him sleeping in the karaoke bar awhile back here?!...) said that he has seen the dentist here and that he had done a nice job with his teeth and was no worse for the wear after seeing him.  his smile is good and his teeth are not bad looking, so now i have his opinion to take into consideration also.  okay okay...

back to the jr high for another class and a talk with the nurse.  nohara sensei accompanies me and as soon as she asks the nurse, yoshihara sensei, about the dentist i know the answer.  she advises me that i should just work on getting an appointment with a dentist on fukue and that it would be a much better idea to avoid seeing the dentist here.  technically she says that the dentists in fukue are very good and that the dentist here is okay.  i get the message and i start to get a little nervous.  i need the dentist NOW and an appointment in fukue will take at least three or four days to arrange, maybe longer.  i ask nohara sensei to see if she can set up the appointment with the very good doctor for me on the following tuesday, four days from then.

back to the high school and word has gotten around that i need a dentist.  my all too eager friend and tea lady is on the case and tells me that she has already gotten me an appointment with the dentist here and that i can go with one of the office guys who is going anyway this afternoon.  now i am nervous, but willing to go as she tells me that the woman who was here last year doing my job went and all was well.  okay, that is two people that say he is okay and who i trust and two people who say he's "okay".  im in pain, i am going to take a chance.

so that afternoon i walk down the street to the dentists office.  i have passed this building hundreds of times by now but have never known what it was exactly.  just a tiny little place that felt a lot like a trailer, but no wheels.  breathe beth, breathe.  the woman behind the counter was friendly enough and the waiting room chairs were comfortable enough to doze a little in as i waited.  okay, maybe this will be alright i thought.  finally after all of the other folks had gone i was called back to wait in a dentist chair for the doctor.  i was feeling really nervous now at seeing the "doctors rooms" and realizing they were pretty dusty and old.  there were two chairs in the room separated only by a partition so i could hear everything that was going on with the office guy's visit, though i did my best to ignore the drilling i was hearing with some nice reading material i found on a chair beside me.  it was a nice little magazine with a picture of a japanese golfer on the cover.  a sports magazine i thought, this will be fine.  well the first half of the magazine had a bunch of various articles in it; cooking and home wares, beauty and sports, and even a few short comic stories.  as i turned casually to the back of the magazine though something happened in it, all of  a sudden there were naked japanese women on the pages.  not just a little naked, fully naked women in the strangest naked-woman poses i have ever witnessed.  i laughed out loud, maybe due to surprise and put it down and took up another issue to see if it was a fluke.  strolling through a new issue i found that the first half was again very family, casual home maker oriented and then it happened again...but this time it was a comic strip of a woman demonstrating how to um, how do i say this nicely, servicing a man.  yes a comic strip.  and of course then after the comic strip there were more awkward naked lady photos.  i was laughing out of amusement now and put it back on the chair for fear that the doctor would walk in a see me checking out nihonjin boobies.  oh japan, you are always full of surprises.

so now i was in a little bit of a lighter mood and feeling better despite becoming more and more aware of how old all of the equipment and tools were that surrounded me, including the ones which he would be putting in my mouth.  so for a few more slightly tense moments i sat and waited and then heard the dentist approach.  i did my best to tell him in japanese what was going on with my tooth and he did his best in english to try and help.  he poked around in my mouth and then told me that my problem was not with my teeth at all.  i politely explained that there was a sharp pain in my tooth and that there must be something wrong with it.  he then instructed his nurse to give me an x-ray while he sat in his office and smoked and found that my tooth was in fine shape and told me again that my problem was not with my teeth at all but rather with my bite.  with choppy english, crazy japanese and some help from some dentist props he told me that i was a grinder and that was my issue.  nothing with my teeth, i was grinding my teeth and that was why ONE of my teeth hurt so acutely.  he sent me home with some ibuprofen and told me to come back next week.  needless to say i walked out of there feeling very frustrated and freaked out. 

luckily i had already started plan B into action and nohara sensei had set up an appointment for me on the following tuesday.  she said i needed to take someone with me to help translate and my supervisor at the high school agreed with strange enthusiasm.  so the wait began for the good dentist...

tuesday finally came and we left early to get there in plenty of time to sit outside the office for an hour before it opened.  upon walking through the doors i already felt better about this dentist as nurses flew around the office in clean uniforms and were doing a meticulous job of cleaning the entire office.  there was hope...

i got back to the chair and must say that i was surprised at how wonderful the whole experience was.  my nurse was kind and gentle and tried very hard to speak english with me that she knew even though she knew i had an interpreter.  while she was in my mouth though it was really nice to have someone speak for me when she was asking a question, as i had given my supervisor the full run down of what was wrong with my teeth and any other health information that i thought would be helpful.  the just exchanged the information that was needed and he let me know what was going on.  none of that awkward trying to talk while there are dental tools in your mouth.  i now feel strongly that everyone should take someone with them to the dentist, as it is a much nicer process all together.

the dentist finally came in and did a great job of speaking his little english with me as well.  he was a kind and gentle man also and after only a few moments of poking around in my mouth he came out with the news that i had not one, not two but THREE cavities and not to worry that he could fill them painlessly.  relief.  i finally knew that i was not crazy for feeling this tiny, sharp pain and that i could rest assured that i really was not a grinder as the other doctor had said.  (WHATTT!!!!????  i have never ground my teeth.)  he fixed me right up with some Novocaine and had me out of there in under an hour.  it was not without its laughs though as i think that the whole office at some point stopped by to take a look at my teeth (kirei! honto! aaaaaa!) and at one point my supervisor, the dentist and two nurses hovered over my face with their eyes in my mouth.  my supervisor even hit his head on the dentists light as he tried to move back, that is how close they all were!  it was interesting to hear the dentist talk about how different my teeth were from the japanese teeth he is used to treating and that it must have to do with the anthropological differences in our origins.  he was interested in asking about the permanent wires in my mouth that my orthodontist put there years ago after my braces were removed.  he thinks highly of my american teeth doctors i can tell you that much.

and so in the end i am pain free and have been reassured that my teeth will be fine.  oh and i have insurance to cover it all and so getting 3 cavities filled, having a full on inspection and cleaning cost me about 30$ US.  hell of a deal.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

lucky day!

i almost had a heart attack today, really.  they told me that i was getting a new "pas con" today and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest.  oh, for those of you who arent hip to the katakana english yet, a pas con is what they call a laptop computer around here.  (personal computer is where their word comes from.  a bit of a stretch, but once you get used to kata english its a snap!)  so i am more than elated to report that i am now writing to you all from my very new and very lovely pas con!!!!  it loads internet pages in an instant and has a version of microsoft word that was made in this decade...i have died and gone to heaven.  in case i have failed to mention it, i have been pissed at my old computer pert near every day for the last, um, i'd say eight months.  it crashed on a daily basis and took MINUTES to load web pages and you could not even think of multi-tasking on it (read: open more than one window at a time).  my supervisor told me just last week that he thought it would be a long while before i was getting a new one, so really i had just started to use it less and less and have been getting by on a lot of hand made lessons. 

soooo...it arrived today and they installed it for me and even transferred all of my files for me and now i have no excuses for not using a computer as it should be used, well, unless anyone still considers the fact that all of the programs are still in japanese (kata, hiragana and kanji) and thinks that is a hurdle.  whatever, small potatoes to what i was dealing with.  and now, off to the races!!!!!

okay, so catching up.  last weekend i met up with a bunch of othergoto  island english teachers and we all headed out to our friend brett's island of ojika.  it is north and has this sweet little abandoned island that is about a 30 minute ferry ride away called nozaki.  no body lives there anymore because the population just slowly died out (as it is doing on ALL of the gotos, but that is another story for another time) and no one could really sustain life there anymore.  the last people moved off the island about 8 years ago and left tons of evidence of their exsitence.  everything from toothbrushes to pots and pans remain in houses dotted along the coastline of nozaki and you can wonder in and around all of the houses and feel the ghosts now residing there.  now the island belongs to the deer who are everywhere and the brave people who come over to visit and lodge at the hostel that remains in the center of the island.  the hostel is the old school building and has been transformed into comfortable quarters for at least a few dozen people, complete with a beer vending machine and everything.  all 11 of us stayed one night on the island and explored a good bit.

the hostel is just a few minutes walk from a really fantastic beach and there is an excellent hike that we took to the highest point on the island and one of the oldest shrines in japan. supposedly constructed in the year 700 AD it towers on the hillside looking over the east china sea below.   its location is superb and has vistas that the gods themselves must have brainstormed awhile on.  being able to soak all of this up on just another weekend adventure is such an amazing feeling.  not too far from home, but so far from where i began. 

im leaving you all with a few pics of my nozaki island adventure and oh, a few snaps of the family of cats who have taken up on my back porch.  fingers crossed that they will be grown up enough to leave soon, but for now they are a sweet sight to sneek a peek at every now and again.  there are five of them and four of them are black and one is white.  their mom is all black.  strange goto cat genes i guess...

matta ne!

(okay, my bad, i just realized that i didnt save the pictures on my new computer, so i will get them up at home in a jiff.  sorry im a little flustered still from the shock of having a computer that works!)