Monday, 28 January 2008

PostHeaderIcon It's hard to bow with crutches

So, my leg is still broken. It’s been difficult and has had an affect on my life here despite my best efforts. This includes the lack of motivation to update my blog as I was worried I would only unleash hate filled frustration on the unsuspecting internet. I’ve tried to remain in high spirits and to some degree I have been successful as I’ve avoided turning into a bitter recluse. However, last weekend ranks as some of the most depressing days of my short life. I won’t mull on it too long but I caught a stomach bug which meant I was throwing up most of late Saturday/early Sunday. This left me exhausted (lack of sleep/no food) for the start of the week… which coincided with lots of rain. Every time I left my apartment I had to take a leap of faith on every step as when they are wet the surface turns into some slippery grime. Despite my best efforts I had the occasional slip and smashed my knee/wrist pretty bad at one point. I’ve tried not to exaggerate too much but I was really in an exhaustive spiral of working, sleeping, falling, sleeping, working, not eating and falling. Also, this seemed to coincide with a reasonably short but intense period of culture shock which didn’t help matters. However, come Wednesday morning I had remarkably returned to my normal ways and have been feeling alright ever since.

The one positive thing about this period of depression over others in my angst filled youth is that it has a definite expiration date (8th February 2008). I’ve been back to the hospital and my leg is healing pretty nicely. The x-ray (called a ‘Rentogen’ here after the German bloke who discovered it) I had on Friday shows that a good portion of the bone has healed. I studied all the possible questions/answers and went by myself for once. I was so proud of my memorised medical script until the doctor started talking really, really fast but it’s all good. It’s difficult for me not to write about my leg because every day it determines what I can and cannot do. I’ve managed to adapt pretty well but I really can’t wait until my cast comes off and I can taste freedom once again.

One thing I haven’t mentioned on my blog but has been a popular topic of conversation amongst my friends for a few weeks now is re-contracting. I decided back in November that I was probably going to stay here for a second year. Ever since then I have had creeping doubts and as the deadline gets nearer I’ve been thinking hard about it. It’s quite a big commitment to make as you can’t really back away from it and you’re actually agreeing to 18 months rather than just a year. Despite a few niggling doubts I am probably going to sign my papers later today. I have really enjoyed my time in Japan and sometimes I need to stop and appreciate the opportunity/experience I am having. There are certainly some things that leave me feeling frustrated and occasionally I feel a bit homesick but I am very comfortable in my decision to stay here. A lot of my friends seemed to have had a much harder time deciding and for some periods it looked like a few of them might be leaving. I’m pretty pleased to say that the majority of people I hang out with will be staying next year. I didn’t think it would factor much in my decision a few months ago but I’ve got a good group of friends here which make things more enjoyable/bearable. It’s a shame that some people will be leaving but then there are always new people to meet next year.

What have I done since my last update then? The day after my birthday I had to head to Kochi City for a mid-year conference. I’ve kind of grown to hate these JET conferences to be honest but this one wasn’t too bad. Once they got over the recycled general statements there were a few useful things in there. All I know was my leg still hurt and I had to hobble up and down stairs all the damn time. I was kind of looking forward to the post-conference celebrations before I broke my leg because everyone in the prefecture was there. Sadly I went out one night for a few drinks before I had to head back to my hotel. Just hobbling about a few hundred metres everywhere just about kills me to be honest. I need to literally lift my whole body weight as the crutches don’t give any support under my armpits like I thought they were meant to. Although, I did enjoy going to an Irish themed pub in the city for Guinness/fish&chips and they played some traditional music which was nice. Although that warm, fuzzy feeling could have been the mix of alcohol and painkillers.

Cake on my birthday awww

Can you guess where it's broken?

A common sight for me

This last Saturday was ‘Australia Day’ which, funnily enough, is their national day celebrating ahem… the first prison in Port Sydney. They basically drink all day, have a barbecue, listen to the top 100 songs on the radio and play cricket. Joey in Muroto decided to host something that day at the last minute and a few of us headed down. We headed off up into the cape to an abandoned hotel/restaurant from the days before the economy bubble burst. I always enjoy an abandoned building but I had to hobble up a spiral staircase covered in broken glass. The view from the top was fantastic but it is still January here so the wind and the cold forced us back down. In the end we had a barbecue on Joey's balcony, played some games like indoor cricket and drank lots of beer.

On top of the abandoned hotel on a brisk January afternoon

Australia Day: No sun, no barbecue and no Aussie in sight.

Here ends this update. I still need to write about my trip but I’ve forgotten most of it. I’ll just post some pictures and comment on them later on. Here are some other bits I couldn’t fit in the above post:

At the supermarket I lean on the trolley and glide through the aisles in order to buy food. I call it the ‘superman’ and I enjoy looking at the confused old women.

I’ve fallen over so many times I’ve turned it into an art. I can tell when it’s about to happen and go ‘uh-oh’ and prepare for the smash. It makes me laugh thinking about it.

At the lowest point of my depression I wanted to make beans on toast (I got them in a birthday box). I didn’t have a tin opener so I had to smash the thing in with a knife. I was only partially successful and nearly broke down in tears when I sprayed myself with bean juice and dropped my crutches.

I haven’t shaved since the day I broke my leg. I’m now sporting a pretty terrible beard and messy hair.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

PostHeaderIcon 二十二

Hello. It's my birthday today. I am 22/二十二.

I'd actually forgotten until yesterday evening when I saw the date on a news article. I'm usually apathetic enough towards my own birthday as it is nevermind being in a foreign country with a broken leg. I was awoken from my slumber once again with an orchestra of air raid sirens but I dismissed them and stayed in bed. I never gave myself enough time to have a shower (it's an image of dignity I assure you) so hobbled off to work.

I finally got a cast on my leg/ankle on Friday morning. I'll have it on for 4 weeks so it isn't too long but still annoying. The pain went away yesterday and I think most of it was from the swelling around the whole ankle. I just sat on my backside most of the weekend perfecting my football skills on the Xbox. Although the initial day of the still broken leg, frictionless crutch and heavy rain have traumatised me slightly. The worst was when I slipped in the toilet (note: not actually in the bowl) at about 5am in the morning. There's a little ledge guarding my small bathroom and the useless crutch just gave way trying to maneuver it. This meant the entire weight of my body landed on my still broken leg (I felt the bone move again) and my whole body just collapsed into a depressing pile of woe. I'm pretty much thinking about it all the time and forcing myself to think "left foot first left foot first". The prospects of rain and stairs now fill me with despair.

Things picked up at work today just before lunchtime when I got a parcel of gifts from my aunt. I missed school lunch because I can't be bothered with the calamity that it will involve so I went to a cafe. After that I went to a bench near a fish pond and opened them up which was nice. Despite the occasional laugh directed at me when I hobble (it's some non-malicious/uncomfortable/not sure what to say Japanese reaction) everyone was pretty nice at work. Just as I was packing up to leave they turned off the lights and my old supervisor Chika (an exceptionally kind person) brought me in a birthday cake. Now, it might be my sluggish nature due to the painkillers but I honestly didn't process the situation at first and was wondering what the hell was going on. So everyone sung happy birthday to me and gave me some Glenfiddich whisky because I'm/it's Scottish and great.

I've always hated having birthday stuff and being the focus of attention... and even though there was a bit of shyness I was genuinely touched. It's the most powerful effect a birthday song has had on me actually (not exactly hard). It's like weeks of my petty moans/irritations vanished and I was left with a mild feeling of guilt for not thinking kinder of my colleagues.

Anyway, I'm still at my desk an hour after work because I have an adult class in about 25 minutes. There was no point going home for an hour just to deal with the dreaded stairs. I hate stairs.
Thursday, 10 January 2008

PostHeaderIcon I broked

I was learning some vocabulary earlier today.

"Hmm hospital might be a pretty useful one "

Fast forward to 9pm where I go to block a shot during football. I manage to do so but I put all my weight on the trapped ball... which then moved making my right ankle go SNNNNNNNNNNNNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP.

I heard it snap and kind of knew straight away that it was pretty bad. All the Japanese dudes were just "Meh, he's always getting injured or falling down holes".

I sat at the side for 5 minutes then had to hobble across to the exit. I took my sock off and there's the right side of my ankle going "Heh, I'm broken". I went to stand up to tell Noah/my supervisor that it was broken when I put a bit of weight on it and felt the bone move a bit ARGH

Went to the hospital. Noah and my supervisor held my hand all the way through sniff sniff
The person who does casts and stuff is away home so I'm in bed waiting to be fixed tomorrow morning.

It sucks and I'm now ready to embrace the life of a hermit with a massive beard.

Oh yeah, to get in my apartment I need to go up 30 steps. They gave me a pair of crutches and one of them has no friction on the bottom. Cost me 6000 yen to lend them too.


Update: So I'm lying in bed at about 8am. I slept for about 20 minutes last night before I woke up going "hmm I do believe that hurts". The painkillers have worn off twice and it is a bit sore but nothing terrible. I got me a new painkiller 20 minutes ago so it's all good. The most dangerous thing was the damn crutch which nearly made me fall on my face twice.

My feet are really cold and I smell.
The end
Sunday, 6 January 2008

PostHeaderIcon Wakey Wakey

Before I begin the main segment of this post I should explain a few things about my town.

Each day I am awoken at 7am with a little jingle from a loud speaker just behind my window. When I first got here my reaction was "What the hell is that and why is it waking me up?". I had gotten used to it until they repaired a speaker right next to my apartment and now it wakes me up all the time. Lately a little van with a speaker has been driving about at 7:15am announcing something in Japanese. Occasionally I am woken up before 7am from the sound of plinky plinky Japanese style music as all the old women dance about outside the town hall. Back in August I was dumping my rubbish at the designated point when I passed them on the way home and every set of eyes was fixed on me even though their bodies were moving in the opposite direction.

At noon there is an air raid siren that goes off to let everyone know it's lunchtime. On my second day here I was walking along the coast and thought there was a tsunami about to strike. At 3:15pm there is a lovely 3 minute jingle encouraging everyone to do the stretching exercises. I have yet to see ANYBODY perform this yet I need to listen to this alpha male telling me to stretch EVERY BLOODY DAY. It has gotten to the stage where I can't stand this intrusion and quickly stick in my headphones and listen to some calming music. There is another alarm at 5pm to let everyone know it's time to go home... although I need to stay another 45 minutes. Then at the back of 8pm there is another notice from the fire brigade to "Turn off yer gas and don't start any fires now". After listening to it for 5 months I'm kind of tempted to go cook something straight after it out of sheer spite.

Nobody else seems to care about these daily noises but sometimes I find them unnecessary, annoying and intrusive. I can't help but feel I'm living in a mix between some totalitarian state and the little town in 'The Prisoner'. As I've been off work lately I'm finding the 7am alarms exceptionally annoying and I've sometimes found myself gargling sleepy insults to them from under my covers.

This morning I was awoken by the sound of an air raid siren. I remember questioning whether they use the siren for the 7am alarm every morning but I ignored it all the same. It went off and came back on for a second time which somewhat caught my attention. I glanced at my clock and it read 7:32am which seemed exceptionally unusual. I stayed in bed but I was waiting with tense anticipation to see if it went off for a third time. This is because I have been told that when a tsunami is due to strike the air raid siren will go off three times in a row. Why they even use the bloody thing for a town alarm clock is beyond me but I digress. When it went off a third time I launched myself out of my bed totally convinced that the Pacific was going to come knocking on my door. I threw on some clothes as fast as I could and threw on my shoulder bag that had all my stuff in it. I tried to find my phone to tell Noah and his friend Eric that WE WERE GOING TO DIE but I couldn't find it (luckily in the end).

I remember thinking back to the tsunami leaflet and all the stuff you should take: food, water, money, some clothes.... torch.... "I HAVE A TORCH!" I thought.
So there I am standing at my kitchen window trying to process all the information. "It can't be from the Nankai earthquake or I would have felt it. Maybe it is from out in the Pacific somewhere. Hmm that means it won't be that big... phew I'm not going to die. Wait a second... why is there nobody running around in terror?" I continued to look out my window for 20 seconds before seeing an old man walking his dog. For a good 60-90 seconds this morning I had fully accepted that a tsunami was about to hit my town. It was an unusual experience to say the least. The most overwhelming thought was "Right... what in the hell am I meant to do?" more than anything else. I cursed my town and went back to bed.

I woke up two hours later to the sound of shouting and marching. It sounded like there was an army walking behind my apartment. Do you know what? I didn't give a damn at this point. I didn't even bother to get up and look because I was fed up. My only guess is that there was some practice event this morning for a tsunami. It wouldn't surprise me... yeah Sunday morning eh? Let's just have a good old time playing the air raid siren and tell everyone in town apart from the dirty foreigner.
I slept in till the back of 1pm which is pretty unusual but it was great. It was amusing when I processed everything later on. I actually laughed when I saw my red torch abandoned on the kitchen table and even more so when I turned it on and the batteries were dead.

"Okay Craig... we're surrounded by water at 8am in the morning. What did you bring?"
"Well, I got me a torch that doesn't work."
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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.