Thursday, November 01, 2007

Doctor Day

So today was the big day, Maya picked me up this morning and took me to a clinic nearby to see what in the world was wrong with me. If you know me, you probably know I am not a fan of doctors. I respect their profession I just don't like visiting them. Today was different though.

I haven't been to the doctor in a long time. It has been years. I went to the hospital four or five years ago when I almost cut off the tip of my finger while making turkey curry but other than that, no accidents or illnesses that have warranted a doctors visit since the last time I was very sick which was January of 2001 or 2002. I don't get sick very often and so when I stay ill for long periods it starts to worry me which is why I went in today. I was past the fear of doctors part and just wanted a resolution. And I got one.

Before I go into that, I need to say something about the difference between Japanese and American doctors' offices. In the US, you go to a doctor's office and most of them are the same. White walls, white high traffic carpet, a couple of magazines that are three months old on the coffee table, and almost no noise. The doctor's actual office is very sterile, more white, and very tidy and clean. Japan is the exact opposite of everything I have just described.

In a Japanese clinic, it is like senior social hour minus the bingo. You have old people coming and going and it is something to watch. When a new old person arrives, they spot someone they know in the waiting room and rush over to chat with them. I honestly wonder how many of these people have actual issues or just come to meet friends. Maya, one other guy, and myself were the only people that were there that were under sixty. Naturally, this morning's social hour was somewhat enhanced by the presence of a big white guy hanging out with a younger Japanese woman. I am not sure what got more looks, the fact that I was white or the fact that I spoke Japanese and Maya spoke English. Either way, the room was humming with murmurs and whispers about "gaijin" this and "gaijin" that. It's good to know I haven't lost my edge in the shock and awe department.

The visit to the actual doctor was amusing. Maya was a sweetheart and even came in there with me to translate. I did not expect this and probably could have managed but it was nice to have her there just to make sure the communication was crystal clear...or at least hazily clear. The doctor himself was as old as most of the people in the waiting room and kind of funny. His desk was cluttered with papers and rubber stamps. Since Japanese uses Chinese characters, using a rubber stamp for common terms saves a lot of time over having to write out each character. Therefore, his desk had about fifty stamps scattered in piles around it.

I think my doctor knew at least some English but since Maya was there he preferred to talk to her over me. Once he realized I was understanding most of what was being said he talked to me a bit more but still mostly relied on Maya, as did I, I was constantly verifying what I had heard just to be sure I heard it right. The only time the little doctor spoke English directly to me was right before he was preparing to do something particularly evil to me and he was leering above me, silhouetted by the office light. It was in that moment that I envisioned this guy in his 20s using the exact same cheery tone to speak to an American POW right before he strapped the GI to a metal bed frame and clamped a car battery to it. Fortunately, he was in a better mood when dealing with me and the ordeal was over with quickly.

In the end, I probably have a bacterial infection brought on by a bout with bad chicken. Last Monday, Toby and my boss and I went to eat at a yakitori place to celebrate Toby's arrival in Fukuchiyama. Yakitori restaurants are awesome, pretty much all they serve is random chicken parts prepared in various ways. If you want chicken heart, there is heart, tongues are good too. I like chicken thigh, wrapped in a leaf, and dipped in a plum sauce. Over the course of the night, we ate just about all there was to try, including chicken sashimi. Chicken sashimi is raw chicken and before you all tell me I am an idiot for eating uncooked chicken, just know that it is prepared very thoroughly here and is quite tasty and I have had it before that night as well. Though on Monday night, I would guess that that is the dish that let a rather nasty microbe jump aboard my body and wreak havoc on my digestive system. The doctor took some samples to send to a lab and I will find out for sure on Monday but he seemed pretty confident that the yakitori was the source of my problems. Why could something so tasty want to hurt me? Then again, they said the same thing about the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

Anywho, I feel pretty good now and I have been given a regimen of pills and powders to take after every meal. While the trip was not planned and wasn't all that fun, it was very interesting to see how a doctors' office functions here.


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