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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Surprise- It's the gynaecologist!

Two Thursdays ago, I went into my supervisor's office to give him some information and he gave me a form. I asked him what it was and he said simply medical exam, go to the hospital next Thursday or Friday at the times on the paper. I thought nothing of it. Every year, every Japanese Government employee has to have a full medical, including a chest xray.

I took the form and went on my merry way. On Thursday, I was at the school I have to take the inconvenient bus to get to. So I didn't want to leave there to go to the Health Centre. I would have had to take a taxi. So I decided to go on Friday.

On Friday morning I went to the school and showed them the paper. And told them I need to leave for my medical check. I went to the hospital and had to ask where the Health check was being held. The lady pointed down a hallway to a door that a stream of old ladies was flowing into. I went into the room and was handed a number.

I sat on the floor near a wall. There were 5 seats for patients in the room and those were all occupied by some of the older ladies. All the other patients were sitting on the floor. I started to try to fill out my form. I zoned out a bit, and only vaguely registered the lady saying a number over and over. I looked down at the strip I'd been handed. Sure enough, it was my number. I stood and apologized, loudly enough for the room to hear.

I sat in front of a lady at a long consultation table. She asked me if it was first time doing the town health check. I said yes. She asked me something else that I didn't understand. Looking at the paper, I was disheartened when I realised that it was the first of about 10 questions... This was going to be difficult.

She tried to explain... every month... once... only women... OH! A period! When was my last period?! Then she tried to ask how regularly my period was, and of course had to resort to sking me for days for each month... Then she tried to ask if I had any discharges... which turned "In your panties, yellow or white?" Had I ever been pregnant... Family history of illness (had to explain what diabetes is since I didn't know the word for it, and I didn't even bother trying to explain hypertension... made up a cancer since I wasn't sure which one my Grandfather had)... medical allergies and medicine currently being taken...

Then I went back to my seat on the floor. A nurse introduced herself and began to explain the process as well as the leaflets we'd been given. She told us when we were called behind the blue curtain that we should remove our pants and underwear. I thought I was mistranslating. Then she said something about breasts. It suddenly occured to me that there were only women there... All the patients were female. The consultants were female. The nurses were female. The only males were two clerical workers and the guy handling accounts.

They put on a video about mammograms. Every few minutes the nurse would call names and dispatch them the Health Centre bus outside or behind the curtain. I was trying to figure out the system- it seemed to me you went to the bus before you went to the curtain.

They finally called my name and sent me to the curtain. I wandered behind it. Sure enough, the women were taking off their undergarments. Those who wore pants were changing into skirts. I had no idea I would need to bring a skirt. Luckily there were some loaner towels in a basket. I grabbed one. As expected, it didn't quite fit my very Western behind. I changed and stood in line, waiting to get into the bus. The nurse came in and said, please go in as soon as the last person comes out. We don't want the doctor kept waiting.

When it was my turn I went into the bus. There was a lady ahead of me and 2 doors. The lady asked me if it was my first time. I said yes, but that was the end of our conversation, at that same time, one of the doors opened and a lady came out. The lady in front of me went in.

Shortly after the door on the left went in. Inside there was a short bed, with stirrups at the bottom. There was a curtain at the edge of the bed. I couldn't see the doctor and the doctor couldn't see me. A female hand came around the edge of the curtain. "Form, please."

I gave her the form and got onto the bed. The doctor examined me wordlessly, and then the lady said, "it's over". It was kinda weird. It was nice not to have the doctor see me, (although in my particular case, it would be sorta obvious since I'm possibly the only black woman in the entire prefecture) but it felt a little too detached, sorta like kissing someone, you don't really want to kiss or something.

I left the bus and put my clothes back on. I wandered around the curtain. I wasn't sure if I was done or not. At the same time the doctor doing the mammograms came out of her room. She approached me. "Do you have the white paper?" I told her I only had the pink one. "If you have no more papers you're done."

Oh! It was a gynaecological exam only! Who knew?

Afterwards, I realised that my supervisor must have known when he looked at the form. Poor silly Sugs. Oh well, all is well that ends well!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

T 4

I went to see Terminator 4 on Saturday, as I was in Morioka. The amount of time it takes to get a movie in Japan is ridiculous. No one can give me anything I consider to be a good reason why it takes so long. Take Twilight for example: out in November in the USA, in December in most other countries. The last country in which it was released was Japan. Release date: APRIL 4TH!!!! Seriously, what's up with that?

TOA and JET video

I applied to be a Tokyo Orientation Advisor. These are the people who receive the new JETs and guide them when they first arrive in Japan. I believe I am the first person from my country who's chosen to be a TOA. I was accepted and I am super-psyched to be meeting the new JETs. A friend of mine will also be coming in, so I am very excited about that.

I also got an email from CLAIR (the organisation that oversees JET) to participate in the JET video. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Breakdancing comes to the North of Japan

There really is never a dull moment in Japan, unless you're trying to have dull moments... in which case you will obviously succeed.

A new ALT has come to the North of Iwate. When he was back in the US, he used to break dance, so now he's teaching us all how to do it. Most of the ALTs in North Iwate go to class, and we do it outside the train station in one of our towns.

I went for the first time last night. It was loads of fun. And there was an unexpected perk. I realise that I am not going to make massive changes in the English abilities of my students or in the Japanese educational system. So, I just do the best I can. I am however, focussed on the goal of Internationalisation. This is the secondary goal mentione in both the JET program and Interac. It is soemthing that I do every day just by existing. It is something I do every time I participate in a Japanese event. And we were definitely doing it by doing break dancing in a space where we were clearly visible to the public. Every now and again Japanese people would stop by and try a little. Two of them even promised ot come back next week!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Blood!

Well it`s that time in the ALT year, for changing of the guard.

The school year start s in April here, so Interac and private ALT`s often change at this time. JET`s change to coincide with the Western school year.

We`ve just been joined by one new ALT in Ninohe, 1 in Kunohe and 1 in Karumai. And we`ve just found out who the new JET`s will be in my town as well. I`m superpsyched! (Although I really am going to miss Dan and Tyler :()

One of the new ALTs is married, supporting our theory of sterotypes here. For example, I replaced a black ALT, and I theroise that my post will be given to a Black JET until a black JET does something wrong. Dan`s married and so is his successor. That post will probably go to a married person forever.

At the schools, there are new teachers as well. Japan shuffles teachers around from school to school every few years. The only addition to my life this year, that I really can`t stand is the new Elementary English School book. They`ve decided, to make English teacing in the 5th and 6th grade of elementary school 'official'. SO now it has a text book. It doesn`t come on stream til next year, but they've started using the text book here.

I don`t like the book. For a million reasons.

Logistically: It`s set up for two people to teach together. The form teacher and ALT are supposed to teach the lesson together. Or rather, the form teacher teaches and the ALT supports. None of my teachers have made any effort to do any more than they usually do. Additionally, the teacher`s guide is written only in Japanese. I read enough Japanese to be able ot understand it, but not fully. The book itself is pretty much all pictures, so it`s indecipherable without the teacher`s guide.

The book is a step backwards, because the children will be taught things that many of them have been learning since Kindergarten, and will be taught again in first grade at Junior High. IN addition, it gives the impression, if not explicitly stating, that the importance is on the activity and not on any learning of English. That`s 5 steps in the wron gdirection, Japan. I`ve also noticed that they`ve changed the name of the class. Grades 1-4 have English class. 5 and 6 have Foreign language class... Hmmm... one wonders.
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