Sick and alone in Japan.

It’s not often that I have an entire day to myself to do whatever I want without anyone bugging me or anyone to bug. It seems this kind of day only happens when you have to stay home sick. And guess what: I’m sick. The funny thing is that even though I’ve been out of school for over two years now, I still feel like I’m supposed to be doing some homework I’d rather avoid.

Being sick in in Japan is not the easiest thing to be. When you can’t read or speak the language, it makes it difficult to find the right medication for yourself at the drug store. I have to rely on pictures on the box, if I’m even lucky enough to get pictures. Then, I have to figure out how many pills to take, however many times a day. Finding the lone numbers on the box with a single kanji character next to them is hard enough, but then I have to type in a possible English translation, turn it into Japanese kanji using my trusty Google Language Tools and see if I get a match. It certainly is a process.

Or I give up and turn to the internet for home remedies. The problem here is that sometimes these home remedies include things I could only find back home, like cod liver oil or lavender oil or some other oil or herbal by-product. Perhaps these things are indeed available in Japan, but that would require me to know Japanese. Here you might say, “Why doesn’t she just get a Japanese person to help her out?” but my dear friend, let me ask you, how do you ask a Japanese person about cod liver oil? That’s not a common thing they would have learned in their conversational English lessons. Sure, I could just explain my symptoms and hope they know enough health-related English terminology to lead me to the right medical help. But that’s something I like to wait on till it’s absolutely necessary. The only Japanese people I know who speak English and can help me with these problems are already busy enough with their own lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like a helpless kid who needs a mommy in this country.

For the most part, I really have been lucky, not getting sick too often. And when I do, it’s usually just a cold and I know how to take care of that at home with plenty of rest, vitamin C, and liquids. A good box of lotion-infused Kleenex always helps too. No official medication required. But what’s keeping me home from work today is… well, I still don’t know what it is, even though I went to the doctor… but I’d had a sore throat for four days (a long time) and on the fourth day, white spots appeared on my tonsils. That’s when I decided I better see a doctor. Now this is always a hassle at school because they can’t just cancel my classes and everyone else’s schedules get changed around because of me. That always makes me feel bad, but everyone keeps a smile on their face and no one complains, so I guess it’s not the end of the world. Anyway, my poor manager had to take me to the hospital on her day off to translate for me and the doctor prescribed me some antibiotic and ..other stuff.. to take for five days. This is what I came home with:

Japanese medicine for a sore throat.

All for a sore throat! So the gold pills are the antibiotic. The powder stuff is for my fever and my nose, so I was told. The blue pills are for nasal discharge, and the pink pills are to protect my stomach from all the other pills. The bottle is a concentrated Listerine-smelling mouthwash I have to mix with water and gargle but not swallow. And the Lifesaver-looking things are throat lozenges I can only take a maximum 5 of per day. Everything else is to be taken three times a day after meals. Yeesh. They never even said exactly what it was I have. Oh well.

I started this medication yesterday and already I feel a bit better. That’s good because I have to be back at work tomorrow. I swear, going to work sick is bad but it’s even worse when you’re a teacher. You have to teach a class for 50 minutes like nothing’s wrong and all eyes are on you. Blowing your nose in public in Japan is rude too and I’m sure my students wouldn’t want to be that close to me (those rooms are small) even if they did understand I was sick. If I’m lucky, I get a 5-10 minute break between classes to try to freshen myself up and get all my materials for the next class. Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day too. Saturdays always are.

Anyway, I guess that’s what I had to write about today. Next, I think I’ll try to write something more creative. With all this time to myself, forcing myself to relax and get some rest, I’ve started reading a lot more. I finally finished a book I was supposed to read for a class back in college but never did. I held onto it though, because I had heard from everyone else that it was a good book. And it was. (Nervous Conditions, if you’re curious). It made me feel good to finish a book. I’m notorious for never finishing a book I start, but since I’ve been in Japan for nearly nine months now, I’ve started and finished four books. FOUR BOOKS. In nine months. That’s a record for me. I’m usually doing well if I finish one book in two years. I’ve since started another book and this is my biggest book to date. It’s a whopping 816 pages long. But I’m excited about it. I used to not fathom how people could read a book that long. But it’s a personal goal I’ve set for myself and it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing a lot more than I could by sitting on my computer all day or watching movies. Reading also inspires me to think, imagine, and create. It’s strange in a way, because these are all the things I should have been doing and feeling when I was getting my Bachelor’s in English Literature over two years ago. It’s like my subconscious finally caught up.

Okay, new personal goal: Read, think, imagine, and create. Even if you’re not sick at home.