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Happy New Year! At least, I hope you did. My New Years wasn’t especially happy, due to a nasty illness that I’m only now reaching the end of. So today I think I’ll write about being sick in Japan, as well as cover the multiple holidays I had while sick.

About three weeks ago I caught something, and developed a fever. Then, before I noticed that I had anything more than a mild cold, we took an overnight office trip to Kagoshima where I probably over-exerted myself. The next Monday I went to work, and although I lost my voice in the middle of one lesson, was able to function well enough with the help of my JTEs.

The next day people in the office decided I didn’t look good, and insisted on taking me to a doctor where they discovered that I did indeed have a fever. The doctor loaded me up with a three day course of antibiotics and various cold medicines. Three days later though, my fever hadn’t yet broken, and I was out of meds. So back to the doctor. This time he gave me five days worth of three different antibiotics. That weekend I had a trip booked to the island of Iriomote in Okinawa, so I packed my meds and headed south.

The five nights I spent on Iriomote were relaxing enough, but I didn’t quite have the energy to do quite as much as I had hoped to do. Despite the beautiful weather and restful vacation, I still wasn’t feeling great by the time I returned. My fever had broken though, so I didn’t feel the need to return to the doctor and instead just took decongestants to deal with the lingering chest congestion. That’s where I am now, although it’s mostly cleared up.

Especially helpful during the whole ordeal were two members of the office staff who alternately took me to the doctor, and stopped by my apartment to check up on me. Things would have been even more miserable without their assistance.

Today is my first day back at the office, and I don’t have much to do until classes start next week. I’m ok with that though, since it gives me a few more days to fully recover before I get thrown in front of a classroom again. I am looking forward to classes though, since I’ll get to work with the second year students and teachers for the first time. The third year students are now too busy preparing for various exams to spend time playing with the foreigner, so they’re moving me to the second years.

The trips themselves: first, Kagoshima. Seventeen of us from the BoE caught a bus from Ibara to Fukuyama to take the newly operational Sakura shinkansen (bullet train) all the way to Kagoshima. As had been predicted by the senior ALTs, everyone started drinking the moment we got on the bus at 6:50 in the morning, and didn’t stop until we were back at 7:00 the next evening. I held off on the alcohol since I wasn’t feeling well. In Kagoshima we stayed at an amazing hotel, easily the nicest I’ve ever been in. The room I shared with the two other guys was easily twice as large as my apartment in Ibara. The adjoined hot-spring was a huge bonus as well. In the evening we all did group karaoke, with the highlight of the evening being a foreigner group rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” as our coworkers reenacted the Jack/Kate ‘front of boat leaning forward flying’ Titanic scene. Much good times.

Then after a week of sick leave (I still don’t know exactly how it was reported; sick leave or paid holiday) I flew south to Okinawa. I took a plane from Okayama to Naha, then from Naha to Ishigaki. From Ishigaki I took a ferry over to Iriomote on Christmas Eve. The place I stayed at is called a Minshuku in Japanese, and is somewhere between a Bed and Breakfast, and a hotel. For a very reasonable price I had a small room with TV and futon, and two good meals a day.

On the second day there I was feeling fairly good, and walked for about an hour to get to the Urauchi river. I took a river boat up a fairly large river lined with mangrove trees, to the head of a trail that lead to a beautiful view of a waterfall. On the way I met a nice German couple and talked with them in Japanese for a while.

On another good day, I went out to a very nearby island called Yubu. The water between the two islands is shallow enough that I was able to cross on a cart pulled by water buffalo. The island itself is a bit of a park, consisting of nice trails leading past a few zoo-like enclosures, and various gardens. The butter-fly garden was quite nice. I spent most of the day relaxing on Yubu island and the various restaurants there, where I met a couple from Ibaraki that were interested in talking to me.

All in all, the winter break wasn’t a total loss. I’m definitely glad I was sick when I was, and didn’t need to take even more time off work. Now I need to find a way to keep busy for the next few days until classes resume.



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