Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cracked Ribs and Friendly Nurses: Part Two

Before I begin I would like to offer readers the chance to reaquaint yourself with the story so far, scroll down the page for part one! Apologies if any of the below is inaccurate, the pain slightly clouds my memory of events.

And now, the saga continues...

...and starts to get a bit silly.

I arrived at the hospital hunched in the car, my screams echoing around the inside of the vehicle as my ribs seemed to crack with the slightest bump in the road. The car drew to a halt in the ambulance bay outside the hospital's emergency entrance, and a wheelchair was pushed to the side of the car. I exhaled to reduce the risk of another crack, got out of the car and screamed again as my chest crunched. I shuffled into the entrance out of the cold, the door closed behind me, and I was now in the hands of the Japanese public healthcare system.

Waiting in the A&E department I was confronted with two nurses sympathetic to my plight. Now I haven't trained as a Japanese nurse (chances are I never will), but I'm fairly sure they had at least one class a week in which a lecturer stood at the front of the class and said "awwwwwww" in a very sympathetic manner, then encouraged the class to do the same. The first 15 minutes of my treatment consisted of one nurse (Nurse #1) saying "awwwwww" at me every time I winced, groaned, or screamed in agony. The other nurse (Nurse #2) was clearly more qualified, having taken her "awwwww"ing to another level completely. Every time I screamed she would precisely mimic the rhythm and pitch of my screams, so the dialogue would go something like this:

Me: ARRRRGH aaaaa aa aaa fuck
Nurse: awwwwww aww aw aww awww!!!!
Nurse: awwww aww awww awwww!!!!
Nurse: aww aww awwwww aww awwwwww awww!

And so it continued for 15 minutes, me issuing bellows of fundamental agony, the nurse putting one hand on my shoulder and whimpering sympathetic echoes of every scream, my friends stifling giggles in the background.

Finally the doctor arrived, and the issue of pain relief could be addressed in a manner beyond soothing feminine whimpers. The nurse gestured a jabbing motion at her own bottom, which I assumed indicated a painkilling injection. There was nothing I wanted more, had I been physically able I would have bent over and proffered both cheeks for sweet sweet pain relief. After a brief discussion with the doctor a syringe was fetched, and pain relief was adminstered enthusiastically by Nurse #2, who then took a break from whimpering to massage my arse (supposedly with some cloth to stop the bleeding from the injection) for what seemed like an uneccessarily long amount of time. As this was happening the doctor told us we were waiting for the duty radiologist to come in, then while one nurse massaged my arse the other took over chief whimpering duties.

When the radiologist arrived I began a slow painful shuffle towards the x-ray room, escorted by Nurse#2, who by now had become hugely curious about what me and my friends were doing in Japan, gesturing towards me and asking Amelie "Is he your fiancé?". She was clearly impressed by my stoic attitude towards pain and was now after some phil loving. Not appropriate when I'm in crippling pain, but flattering nevertheless. After the x-ray I began one more shuffle back to A&E where despite my continued agony (the painkillers having had little to no effect) the conversation turned onto subjects that were more familiar. Owen's big foreign nose, my big foreign hair, and the shocking revelation that Alex was my little brother.

Nurse#2: But they can't be brothers, they have different hair colour!
Amelie: Yeh they're brothers, it's quite common for family members to have different coloured hair.
Nurse#2: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee * takes deep breath* eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Cultural exchanges aside, there was still the minor issue of my unbearable agony. I was given tablets that had no effect, the injection had barely dulled the pain, and there was no way I could get to sleep in this level of agony.

Nurse#2 then took me towards the corner of the room, pulled the curtains round to give us some privacy, and started taking my trousers down. Given by this point I was fairly sure she had the hots for me, someone who is familiar with the basic tenets of pornography would have this story ending in only one way "Oh, I'll give you pain relief..." etc. Happily (because I have a girlfriend who I love very much and complains about not being mentioned in blogs, hello Rachel) this was not what the nurse had in mind.

She snapped on some white medical gloves and started opening a small packet with a torpedo shaped object inside. My friends had realised what was happening a long time ago, and at this point had hidden in the corridor and were laughing their sympathetic little heads off, proving once and for all that anal suppositories are the funniest pain relief treatment in the world. Seconds later I was bent over and very much not enjoying the intimate attentions of a nurse who at one point during her exploratory examination actually uttered the words "where is it?". I might be foreign but everything is still in a perfectly normal place thankyou very much! Instructions to "rerax" were not easy to follow as the ridiculousness of the situation took hold, and laughing with broken ribs whilst being violated by a japanese nurse is not an experience I can recommend.

There was however one more horror that awaited that evening, and amazingly it was not directed towards me. I was given a supply of painkillers, naturally in the form of anal suppositories. However with my lack of flexibility I would obviously not be able to take these drugs myself. The doctor turned to my little brother who bravely refused to show in his face the horror of the task which had just been assigned to him, and accepted a handful of disposable gloves with admirable indifference.

We were given a proper send off as the staff expressed amazement that foreigners would drive a Japanese car, the radiologist pointing out that "hey the one with the broken ribs has got a big nose too!" and inspecting the tyres of owen's car with great interest for no apparent reason.

For everyone else, this trip to the hospital was a hilarious diversion from the routine of daily life, but I'm in no hurry to do it again. I missed out on 2 snowboarding holidays and 6 weeks of boarding at my local slopes, and couldn't get out of bed unaided for a fortnight, but I hope readers will be pleased to know I am now nearly fully recovered. My little brother was also very pleased to know that the next morning I managed to take the painkiller myself, and as discussed in the Fire and Ice entry, the holiday was awesome.

Philster Out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cracked Ribs and Friendly Nurses: Part One

I paused before the jump. I'd done it 20 times before, yet was still a relative novice at flinging myself into the air while strapped to my snowboard. I adjusted my helmet, jumped to my feet, and twisted to point my board down the hill. The floodlights beaming down on my last run of the night, the adrenaline and nerves beginning to coarse through my veins, I set the board flat upon the ice for maximum speed. I hit the base of the jump at pace, the board hurtling upwards with the slope of the jump, before the ground disappeared beneath me, and board and rider were flung into the night air one last time.

The board came back down onto the icy surface at an angle. I compensated, and pressed my heels into the back of the board, my board now perpendicular to the slope, my front facing downhill. I can't be 100% sure about what occurred next. Maybe I hit a lump of ice. Maybe my muscles gave way, and couldn't keep enough pressure on the back of the board. Whatever happened, the result was emphatic. My board flipped from heel-edge to toe-edge, and my body was hurled forward. My speed had not abated from the pace at which I hurled myself off the jump, and there was no time to get my arms out to break my fall. My face and chest bore the entire impact as my body smashed into the ice, the air instantly forced from my lungs as my body rolled, bounced and thudded to a halt.

I screamed, and yet remained completely silent. My lungs were empty, and yet I kept screaming, my face an expression of fundamental agony, but still no sound escaped. After what felt like an age (but was probably mere seconds) my lungs filled with air again, and my screams were audible to anyone within a 5000 mile radius. My face burnt as I looked around for red blood on white snow.

Surprisingly quickly, I stood upright again and boarded carefully to the bottom of the hill. I dismounted the board and took a few minutes to compose myself. I got into the car with surprising ease, and drove home, the pain easing the whole time. I stepped out of the car and there came a sickening crack from within my own chest. This time I had no problems in screaming at the top of my voice, though the scream just seemed to elongate the pain.

Now I am not a man with a high pain threshold. I will readily admit this. Pain is rubbish, and in my opinion best avoided. But seriously, compared to what I went through that night, childbirth is like a nice walk in the park with pretty flowers and a picnic then an ice cream with sprinkles.

Convinced for some reason that the hospital was not open until the following morning, I put my efforts into working up the courage to get into bed. Every step around the apartment was taken gingerly, as seemingly at random intervals my chest would crack, there would be another huge scream, and the pain would take longer to subside each time. I knew the biggest most painful crack would come if I tried to lie down, and using all my courage I whined that "I need f***ing painkillers right f***ing now!" A few phonecalls enquiring after suitable drugs resulted in the discovery that Honjo Hospital did actually have provision for an out of hours service, and as Amelie and Owen arrived I bravely took 20 minutes getting into the passenger seat of Owen's car. A few minutes of slow careful driving later, and the car drew up at Honjo Hospital. And that's when the fun really started!

Tune in next week to find out why you if a pretty nurse guides you behind a curtain and takes your trousers down, the events that follow might not be as fun as mainstream pornography would have you believe...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting Naked

Nudity is a weird and wonderful thing. It inspires all sorts of extreme reactions across different times and cultures, and is a prerequisite for some of the most enjoyable activities within the human sphere of experience. These activities include:

1) Skinny Dipping. An ideal summers day naked activity. Find an isolated swimming spot, disrobe and hurl your naked self into the water. Enjoy the liberating nudity, free yourself from the tyranny of the wardrobe, and yet retain the comforting knowledge that the opaque water is still concealing your love vegetables.

Is love vegetables a sufficiently all encompassing euphemism for both genders genitals? A quick google search leads me to believe that there are nowhere near enough funny slang words for the female pudendum. The penis on the other hand is bestowed with many more amusing titles. Another brief google search has yielded some fabulous phallonyms, including mister goodwrench, shvontz, giggle stick and johnny one eye the bald headed champ. But before this entry descends into a list of funny words that mean penis, here is the number two naked activity.

2) Streaking at sporting events. In contrast to skinny dipping, this is a far more public naked activity. Erica Roe is probably the most famous British example, a 40 inch bust exposed to 70,000 presumably appreciative rugby fans back in 1982. The famous traditional British policeman's hat could only conceal one of the offending missiles as she was escorted from the field. For those of you who might want to give this naked activity a try, I recommend streaking at a sporting event where you could claim to be the first to have done it. Streaking during a table tennis game would be a first, and exposing your bishop during a televised chess tournament would certainly get you noticed. Formula one motor racing would be another good one, dodging in and out of the cars as you complete a lap of the track, or maybe even doing some naked skateboarding-whilst-holding-onto-the-back-of-a-car, back to the future style. My first thought was snooker, but amazingly this has been done several times, most notably during the 2004 world championships final, when a disrobing man ran down the steps of the arena and then tried to hide naked under the snooker table. Hero.

Which brings us on to the all time favourite...

3) Sexual intercourse. My mum reads this blog (Hi mum!) so I won't write in too much detail about this most popular of all naked activities. Chances are if you're reading this you are on this earth because two people did some intimate squelching together, so given its propensity to sustain the human race, it is probably the best naked activity there is. It doubles up as good exercise and is all round jolly good fun, so feel free to find a consenting partner and canoodle away! Best done within the confines of a loving longterm relationship, please shag responsibly.

All fabulous activites, but after my weekend adventurings I would like to finish with number four, a naked activity only available in certain parts of Japan during certain parts of the year.

4) Outdoor Onsen in the snow. Onsens, for readers who don't know, are naturally heated hot springs, common in Japan due to volcanic activity. These hot springs are of course not unique to Japan, Thermae Bath Spa in England shows you don't even need a hugely volcanically active area for these phenomena to exist, but the Japanese way of bathing in these springs is very much unique. There are plenty of articles online about body-conscious westerners feeling hugely awkward about stepping naked into the communal baths, about being unsure of onsen etiquette (get naked, shower, get in the baths, really not that complicated). A small towel to cover one's giggle stick is an acceptable nod towards modesty, and one that I prefer to do without. After that it's just a matter of finding the best onsen for you.

In the hot humid japanese summer the charm of these places can be somewhat lacking, just another place to be uncomfortably sweaty. For me it is winter when the onsen comes into its own, particularly in the snowy climate of Northern Japan. On saturday I visited Tsuronoyu Onsen. Situated in the mountains above Lake Tazawa, this is a truly secluded location, the forest floor covered in 6 feet of snow in places. The snow falling gave the world outside the car a perfectly white, Narnia-esque appearance. Arriving at the onsen itself, it was clear this is a world away from a "regular" onsen experience. Thatched buildings line a narrow alley to the entrance to the baths, the water an amazing shade of light blue. A small wooden hut constitutes a changing room, and where normally modern onsen would have rows of plastic chairs and shower heads, there was a bar of soap and a single wooden tap. A brief scrub later and I gingerly stepped out of the changing rooms into the arctic conditions outside, quickly immersing myself in the warm blue water. A frankly obscene level of relaxation was soon forthcoming as I caught snowflakes in my mouth and gazed upon my surroundings, the snow falling softly on the forest floor, huge banks of snow built up at the side of the onsen, the occasional icy breeze making the water seem all that more welcoming, the soft rounded pebbles a comfortable cushion beneath me.

I was just in the middle of seeing how many pebbles I could fit in my belly button (this happens when you go to the onsen by yourself) when from a door nearby three young, attractive and entirely naked women walked out. I want to make it clear I hadn't "accidentally" stumbled into the women's baths, rather I hadn't realised this was actually a mixed onsen. Equally I would like to make it clear that I totally didn't look, because as well as my mum my girlfriend reads this blog. But the point remains: snow, hot springs, naked women, it is an intoxicating combination and definitely my naked activity of the week.

For those of you who were curious I managed to fit THREE pebbles into my bellybutton, and you can find a list of funny words that mean penis here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Oi San Nensei! Cheer the f*** up!

Yesterday was graduation day at my only Junior High School, Yuri JHS. Firstly I would like to apologise for lack of pictures, unfortunately a hyperactive 8 year old at Yashima primary school has broken my camera.

These perfectly choreographed ceremonies are an elegantly poignant climax to three years of hard graft. They also make a lot of people cry. And I mean EVERYONE. Graduating students, their younger peers, parents, teachers, I even considered crying just to fit in better. I do wonder whether given the same level of ceremony a similar event at my secondary school would have elicited that many tears. Back home I remember feeling that the end to my five years at Saint Francis Xavier school was a bit of an anticlimax. I finished my last exam, left school to go home and play mario tennis with my friends, and that was it.

The japanese approach is the very antithesis of that. Yesterday, the san nensei (third year) graduating students filed in slowly to constant applause, walking through the younger students with intricately rehearsed precision. They sat, and one by one were called up to receive their certificate of graduation, again a slow march with each student taking an identical route through the crowd onto the stage. The headteacher gave a speech about dreams and ambitions, which had at least half of the graduating students crying. Then the older students turned around to face the two younger year groups, and sang goodbye songs to the younger students, the younger students responding with goodbye songs of their own. The tears were really flowing now, the girls in particular stuttering through words of their song as they fight back tears. A boy in the back row wept openly, but belted out the school song with unmatched gusto as the tears rolled down his cheeks. The graduates then slowly filed out of the hall, first year girls handing everyone of them a single rose. 15 minutes later staff and students formed a guard of honour outside for the departing students, and with constant applause ringing in their ears, tears running down their cheeks, they left the school building one last time.

I totally had more fun, mario tennis is f***ing awesome.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Akita in the news!!


Essentially, teacher blackmails art club student with "cute smile" into dressing up in a maid uniform for pictures.

As a disciplinary response, the teacher in question has been temporarily suspended from officially managing the art club, but is still free to teach the club. I can't help but think in most developed nations the penalty would have been a tad more severe.

Weird country.