Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Muroran got its first snow of the winter today.

It was snowing off and on all day. A tad distracting, but perhaps a good indicator of what a true Hokkaido winter has in store for me.

I'm used to the winters we have back home in the Pacific Northwest. My hometown is further north than Muroran, but then again, my hometown doesn't catch weather systems that come straight down off of Siberia, so I think it's a push on that one. After six winters in Shimane Prefecture, where the snow isn't so much snow as it is slush, where the sun doesn't come out for two and a half months and the bad voices tell you to do bad things, where you're as likely to have it rain as you are to have it snow...I'm in the mood for good ol' powder snow and cold temperatures. Now if I just had a hot cup of cocoa waiting for me when I got home from work every day, life would be perfect.

Oh yeah, I was sick. Sick from Thursday of last week right up through Sunday night. I had a raging digestive system, and I didn't know what the heck it was that had it so angry. So Monday, I went to work, still feeling pretty miserable, but I got the okay from the vice-principal for me to head over and get checked up at the local doctor's office in the afternoon. Most of the checkup was me explaining the situation to the doctor, and the doctor doing some tests which consisted of him pressing my stomach region and asking if it hurt. No pain, which I guess was a good sign, but he said that there was a possibility of an intestinal infection, so he said he was going to prescribe me some antibiotics. Oh, and he needed me to provide him with a sample.

Now there are quite a few things I've done in my time here in Japan that I'm not proud of, but I think my dignity was severely injured this time. Let's just say I had to do something very uncomfortable with a Q-Tip. No sir, not proud of that one at all...

But considering what I went through the last time I had an intestinal infection, I didn't want to take any chances.

Back in the fall of 2003, I had just transferred from Hakuta Town in eastern Shimane to Izumo City, and I was teaching English at the fourteen elementary schools there. I pushed myself a bit too hard at first and wore myself down. That, coupled with me eating some raw liver, proceeded to twist my gastrointestinal system up into some very nasty knots. I woke up in the middle of the night with my body on fire and a reenactment of Shiloh going on in my stomach. "This is a bad sign." But I got up and went to work the next day anyway. When I got there, I told the principal that I wasn't feeling very well and I might have to leave early. He told me to check my temperature, which ended up being 100 degrees.
"Go to the doctor," he told me.
"Yes sir."
So I went to a doctor's office near the school, got a blood test, got some medicine, went home and went to bed.

I thought the medicine had started working its magic. My temperature started to go down. Good news!

Then, after a couple of hours, things started feeling out of whack again. "Not good. VERY not good." My temperature started going back up. 100. 101. 102. I start worrying, and call up my boss. "Umm, I'm not feeling very well. Can you take me to the hospital?" "Okay, I'll be there as soon as I can." I sit and wait and check my temperature. 102.5. 103. 103.5. Freaking out now. Room starting to spin. I start to wax philosophical on the fragility of life to no one in particular. My temp hits 104 before my boss shows up. I make it down to the car, and she drives me to the Shimane Central Hospital emergency room. They take me in, take some samples, and hook me up to an I.V. In a nearby bed, an ER patient passes away. I'm too much in shock from my current situation to see any kind of foreboding in that incident, but it happened all the same. They transfer me to a room in ICU, where I spend the night. I spend the next three days in the hospital, living off of my I.V. feed for the first day, and then moving on to...well, I guess there's no other way to put it...gruel.

The Japanese word for it is okayu. Basically, it's a kind of rice porridge, but the term gruel describes it so much better. Since my digestive system had been affected by this bug that had got in my system, they started working my stomach back on to regular food slowly. The first meal was a bowl of warm, slightly white water. Next meal, the water was a little thicker and a little whiter. Next, I think there were some actual chunks in it. Mind you, this is completely flavorless. Very difficult to choke down. The consistency of my hospital gruel got thicker with each meal, but by my third day of forcing it down, I was ready to scream. I also hadn't been able to shower for four days, and I was starting to ferment. I begged my doctor to let me go home. She grudgingly agreed, but gave me some strict instructions on my diet. "Keep eating okayu. Stay away from dairy products for a while." I wanted to cry when I heard the gruel part, but the dairy part surprised me. "No dairy? But I've been getting milk with breakfast and dinner every day."
"Yeah." (Yeesh, what kind of an operation are you running here?)

So I checked out, finally had that shower, then went and bought some packs of gruel. Which I ate for the next few days. When I finally felt better, I swore that I would never eat gruel again.

So much for swearing about anything.

This time around, when the doctor gave me my prescription, he said, "You need to take it easy on your system for a while. Avoid foods and drinks that are too hot or too cold. No dairy. You'd be best off eating okayu for a while."



So I've been taking my medicine and enjoying the wonderful world of gruel for the past three days.

When I finish up all my medicine, I'm gonna go out and eat a steak.


Blogger PeacefulWarrior said...


Hey maybe instead of steak. I can send you over my recipe for Carne Empanada! LOL That would make your stomach feel great!

Take care brotha!

Thursday, November 10, 2005 2:07:00 PM  

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