Thursday, February 10, 2011

bfg on going to the doctor; take notes Canada!

A few months ago I had caught a cold. It was exam time so there was no way I was missing school. I would catch naps in the woman's tatami room when it got too much. It sucked but I survived. I did not want to go to the doctor. The idea of going to the doctor was something that promised all the challenges of being in a foreign country without the grand adventure. Not even a Starbucks mug for me to gloat over.

When I woke up this morning I felt like shit. When I got out of bed, I almost collapsed.

I was just so dizzy, that has not happened to me for sometime... in fact, I can not remember really ever being so bad. I texted my supervisor promising to call later on when she was at school and fell fast asleep.

In the end, she called me. It was 10:30am, more than three hours after I texted her and I was still zonkers. Even though she was on the phone and could not see me, I was embarrassed at having drooled all over my pillow. My Muji pillow cases are sacred artifacts after all.

"Do you need to go to the hospital?"

I was afraid to answer. Was this a trick question? Like if I say no does that mean I am not sick enough to warrant staying home? But I did not want to go. I was scared they are going to ... do things. I don't know but I was scared. "I don't know."

"I understand. You are sick you can not think."

I do no't think it has to do with being sick but okay.

She continued, "I will come then... around 3 o clock. Do you want something?"

I could not believe she would do this for me. "Thank you." I closed the phone and went back to sleep.

Hours later, she messaged me saying she was on her way. I carefully picked out a doctor appropriate outfit: must be 2 pieces so if they need to look at my chest I do not have to show my crotch, many layers to keep warm but easy to discard a certain amount depending on what section of my body they needed to see. Etc.

When she arrived she had a bag full of food, "For you! I did not get sushi heehee." but she got me my favourite coffee and juice, rice balls, some noodles.... more coffee. It was heaven in a bag. I had not eaten the entire day and though I was not hungry I know I need to force myself. And no matter what state I am in, I can always have coffee.

"Do  you have your insurance card? It is blue like this one."

"Yes, of course I have it! I always keep it in a little pouch in my wallet." I pull out my wallet. The pouch was empty... "Oh it must be... oh my god! It is not here." I never take out my insurance card. Since I drive to school ever day I always keep it on me in case I get into an accident or something. But it was not there. "I do not understand. I never used it."

She called the school to see what had to be done as I looked in my file of "all things Japan that are uber important"... no luck.

She closed the phone. "Tanaka san said we have to pay. It will cost about five man."

I have one man six sen yen in the bank. "Oh, I can not afford that now!"

She said, "Do not worry. I will pay for you and when we get reimbursed you can give me the money."

I wanted to cry. I wanted to be home. I wanted my card. I wanted to not be sick. And I felt so horrible. "Okay..." I put on my jacket getting ready to leave holding back tears of disappointment that I could be so stupid and irresponsible. As I shut the bedroom light I saw my bookshelf, "One moment. Let me just check in one more place." I went to the top shelf were I have a little bin I put papers that I have not classified yet. It is how I cheat. And sure enough, there was my card. I have no clue how it got there but it was there and I had found it. Elated, we both headed to the car but by then I was sweating and ready for a nap.

"I am not sure what clinic to bring you to. Do you know?" My sensei is always so thoughtful. In her situation, I would have brought said foreigner to where ever was convenient to me and not bother asking.

"Actually... do you know Magarikane clinic?" Another amazing fact was that after having read on facebook that I was sick, my Japanese friend Mao emailed me a clinic that offers English speaking doctors. I did not even have to ask her... she just messaged it to me. Can you believe that?

Off we went and in less than five minutes we were in this cute little brown building.

Walking in I was surprised to see facial creams on sale... it was odd. There were three nurses there and I was starting to get nervous. They gave me a form and a thermometer which I had to stick in my armpit. Classy!

I answered the questions but my thermometer was broken. My supervisor informed the nurse where she promptly ran to a back room and came out with this mega thermometer. I was super afraid at that point a thought running through my mind that she would ask me to drop my tights or something. I looked at her with big eyes. She zapped my forehead and said. "Ahhhhh 36.8 degrees" and wrote it down. It was a super Star Trek moment and I wished for a fleeting moment I had my Vulcan ears.

As I sat back to begin waiting, my name was called. "Huh?" Huh!? How is that possible? I just gave her my form. Not only that but I made the nurse actually work by helping me... does that not mean I would have to wait at least an hour?

I was escorted to a brightly light area with many a white door. The nurse opened one about half way down and motioned for me to sit down. "Influenza test" she said. Enough English for me to understand.

She took out a long thin Q-tip as she explained in Japanese that she needs to take some of my snot. "Okay," Not sure what to do, I tilted my head back.

And up she rammed that mother fucker. I felt like my brain was being tickled. It was so weird and disturbing I instinctively turned my head away ever so much. She did not try to reframe me at all just followed me and she turned that mother fucking thing into the deep recesses of my nasal cavity.

And then, just when I started to cry from the feeling (the kind of tears you get when plucking your eyebrows) she stopped. "Iiiii."

After mixing my fluids with what looked to be a device very much like a pregnancy test she said, "Chyotomatekudasai" and left me.

I fell asleep so I am not sure how long I waited but when the female doctor arrived I was relieved. In Quebec, they passed a law saying citizens can not request a civil servant of a particular gender (driving test examiner, voting administration, etc.). I am very much for this and try my best to follow this ideology myself even before the law was passed. The only time I have ever preferred a particular gender though is with a doctor. I never asked for a woman before because I think it would be hypocrisy but I do feel like there are certain things female doctors just understand more...

"You do not have influenza," she said, "but you do have the symptoms. Also, you are very pale so I am concerned..." she checked my throat. "How do you feel?"

And I told her I felt horrible but that I was not sure what part of me was in pain from being sick and what part of me was suffering from ladytime which started this wretched morning.

"Ah!" She understood. "Chyotomatekudasai" 

I waited a long time. Must have been five minutes when a nurse returned.

"Kusuri." and she handed me medication explaining to me in Japanese how I was to administer it. I will allow myself this peacock moment that I actually understood everything she said even though my head and uterus were about to implode.

She actually got my medicine for me. I was stunned. I paid her the 2,000 yen and went on my way.

In less than twenty minutes I came into a clinic in a foreign country and was offered better service, better care and much cleaner facilities - eating off the floors clean - than I have ever, EVER witnessed in Canada.

 The staff were so gentle and kind. When I showed my supervisor the medicine she nodded her head. "They are very kind. Usually, the do not do this. But you are so they wanted to help you." To avoid me having to go to a pharmacy, they fulfilled my prescription for me. I am still overwhelmed and can not believe it. This happening to me, a supposedly unwanted gaijin? My friends, colleagues and the clinic were more helpful and polite than any doctor I have seen in my life and that is a scary thought.

 The medical system seems to be similar to Canada with insurance and such but the quality is of an entirely different level. In a way, I am kind of ashamed. Before leaving Canada, I was very sick and every doctor I saw refused me. I could not even go to the CLSC - they showed me the door and said to try again in six months. I ended up in a walk-in clinic where I waited five hours. And I had to pay $60 for a note for work. My adventures, because that is what it did turn out to be, showed me that a social medicare system does not necessitate bad quality, grumpy doctors and nurses that take sick pleasure in sticking a needle in your arm; definitely a moment of culture shock for me.

Canada, I think it is time for you to wake up and take some notes!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

bfg on seeing the face of god; or Starbucks Challenge #2: Nagoya

My lungs are on fire. It hurts to breath much less swallow and little men are stomping on my eyelids saying, "Close it dammit! Close!" But my fingers are itching to write this. I have to write this.

When my friend Vanessa (yes same name and both from Montreal at that! Luckily she has blonde hair) announced on her facebook status that Miyavi was performing in Nagoya in February, I hastily commented that I would love to go with her. Up until today, it was hard to believe that I would go see him...

Now she was probably disappointed to discover that I am not a Visual-K fan not by choice but just that until today I never really bother with the term. And no, I don't know any of his songs really. I first "discovered" Miyavi by accident two years ago; I was looking for a youtube video of "Hit the Road Jack" and came across this:

I remember watching this and just falling in love. Usually, one does not notice accents when you listen to someone singing and yet here even if blindfolded you would know this fellow is Japanese with his clumsy "r"s and "l"s. I continued to watch several of his music videos loving his cutting edge style, his effeminate ways (to me) and his guitar. God, that black guitar... And the entire time I thought how I would never see him live. He would never come to Montreal and what was the chance of me being in Japan when he is playing? Right?

You would think of course that since the time Vanessa bought my ticket, I would have spent more time researching and memorizing the lyrics to his songs but in all honesty it never really sunk in that I was actually going: not when I bought the ticket, not when I was riding the Shinkansen, not even when I was stuffing the locker at the back of the concert hall with my bag and coat. Possibly because I am sick but I think mostly because he was just a Youtube fantasy in my mind. I never really imagined him beyond the 2nd dimension.

Some Wally Lamb book ends with the line "God is in the roundness of things"; that line came to mind when Miyavi walked onto the stage. I was expecting a get-up a la Boy George Golden Years: full make-up, an outfit that out does Lady Gaga and Elton John on their most extravagant days  and a hat. Instead, a slim body dressed in an almost too thin black shirt with a boat neck cut, black shpants and, yes you guessed it, black sneakers walked on stage. The only other person there was his drummer, a talented individual who I didn't even notice was playing in his zebra print underwear until the second half of the show because I was all eyes on Miyavi.

I never do well in crowds or parties since I get all shy; I much prefer intimate drinking gatherings so though I was relatively close to the stage I was probably the Audience Oldie standing with my arms folded preserving my voice by not shouting and standing in the way of the all to eager jumpers.

From the first note, I just could not stop thinking of how amazing this artist is. Some of his songs I do not enjoy in the least; not my type of music. But the show was mesmerizing principally because of how charismatic that man is with his guitar. No professional, I could not help but gawk at each note, his pace, his rhythm. Even his timing... it was like a Kawabata novel! His songs, especially at the end, often fool you; you expect something low like a "dam -dam" and he gives you a light "bing" and says thank you. You expect a high note ending with some screaming, and just when he builds you up, it ends. And then right when you have nothing left to expect he belts out this scream where even from where I was standing I was able to admire two perfect white rows of teeth (truly an achievement here in Japan).
Then is the fact that other than the drummer it was just him and us. The stage had five microphones set up with one split so that he can make "rap like noises" ( I really do not know what else to call it - please forgive my ignorance). My favourite was the microphone facing the drummer. Instead of the drummer being behind the singer he was next to Miyavi, his right side facing us. (picture it now...) So that when Miyavi was facing him, it felt like they were in their own moment and we had a chance at a sneak peek. It created this intimate feeling of getting a glimpse  of what it must be like when it is just the two of them playing together. 
Much more handsome in person than in photos (and he is handsome in photos so you can imagine) the best part of his looks are his eyes because they too deceive. Manga eyes, not like Bambi but almond shaped that when closed you think they are tiny so each time he opens them it is like "Wait a second...!"
I can go on but all of this quiet frankly just made me so curious as to who this person is. Why did he pick up a guitar because it looks like he was born with one? And though I praise him for his genius the best part of tonight is seeing a man - A HUMAN being create this pregnant atmosphere of abandon and transparency. When he felt like flicking his wrists or dancing Celtic or jumping in the air he did it - so it was no surprise when the little Japanese lady with her hair tied up in a scrunchy that made her look 70 years older than she was squat down in sumo position and fling her head side to side in complete loss of self - though she did excuse herself when she knocked into people. It is moments like that which make me want to do something, write or draw (god, I can't draw), sing or prance, or SOMETHING. I think that is why I love meeting authors and such; I realize their not a name on a cover or an "idea" or a youtube video but a person who simply just did not hold back. 

I left Nagoya with an empty wallet having claimed my Starbucks prize, a travel mug which I can now check off the list, along with a Miyavi t-shirt and bag. I do intend to return to the city but this night was, despite being poor, sick, looking like a troll, cold and having missed the last bus home, perfect.