pergamond: ([Utena] Nanami // pout)

When I called my parents on Saturday night, I had had a headache for three days.

Or was it four? The details had become vague and I was cranky.

A heat wave has engulfed Sapporo for the last two weeks, sending the temperatures into the humid 30s which might have been tolerable if anyone had believed in air conditioning. 

The problem --I complained to my parents-- was that this headache wasn't bad enough to stop me in my tracks, but it was sufficiently painful to make looking at a computer screen or book genuinely difficult.

While I was deeply glad not to be rolling around in agony, it had become plain that if you took away my laptop and reading material, I had no other interests.

So far that weekend, I had cleaned the main room, bedroom, toilet and shower, brushed the cat six times and played dead on the sofa. In short, I was bored.

"Well, I think we've run out of our news," my Dad said after we'd been chatting for a while. "And I don't think much of yours."

"I have to whine to you," I responded, matter-of-factly. "I don't have the depth of vocabulary in Japanese to go on about it to anyone else."

"How about going to see a film tomorrow?" Dad suggested. "Cinemas are usually air conditioned and you'd be far away from a large screen, so it shouldn't hurt your eyes."

And that was how I ended up going to see 'The Avengers' on Sunday afternoon.

The arrival of Western blockbusters in Japan varies from that of 'Harry Potter' (released the same day as the rest of the world) to 'The Hunger Games' (still waiting). Both dubbed and subtitled versions are usually shown, so the trick is to: 

(a) recognise the movie title in Japanese

(b) get tickets for the showing with the original sound track.

Western words --which extends to foreign movie titles-- are typically written in katakana; the phonetic script for words not originally Japanese. The majority of these words are originally English but reading them is like walking into a parallel universe in which Samuel Johnson was a crack addict. Fortunately, it's an acquirable skill made easier when presented with a limited list of options... although occasionally, mean tricks can be played such as when 'The Iron Lady' was released in Japan under the title 'Margaret Thatcher'. Fortunately, the 'Avengers' was written as literally as possible:

(or 'abenjaazu' in roman letters: trust me, that's pretty good)

leaving me only to worry about subtitling versus dubbed editions.

At a 50/50 bet, the odds here were reasonable. Plus, 'Avengers' was a movie with an optional plot: there were special effects, a bunch of familiar looking good guys (none of whom you'd select for your side if the alternative wasn't Armageddon), a bad guy with a magic stick and a cube clearly stolen from the 'Transformers' movie. What more do you need?

In fact, I picked the correct showing due to a tip from a friend who told me to look for the Chinese character for 'knowledge' when hunting for subtitled movies. The same character is also in 'university' so it's an easy one to spot. 

I also therefore got the rather awesome one-liners from the bad guy, which can't have translated well into Japanese since I seemed to be the only one laughing. Alternatively, I was the only person present who was handling the heat quite that badly.

Mercifully, the cinema was air-conditioned. In fact, the multiplex resembled a cinema anywhere else in the world except that the popcorn and soda options on the concession stand menu were listed in katakana. In typical Japanese style, there was the odd, isolated sign displayed in bare English:

"Theatre 4"

Um. Thanks. 

Due to a love of order, you get to chose your seat at the ticket counter and the plastic cups of soda are more sensibly proportioned than their American counterparts. The number of trailers is also much shorter and you are not allowed into the theatre itself until five minutes before the time shown on the ticket. Still, since you already have a determined seat, there isn't the need to get there early.

I picked up a coke and examined the movie posters for the other showings that day. There was a mix of the usual Hollywood blockbusters alongside Japanese movies starring brooding hot Samurai warriors.


I need to work on my language skills.

pergamond: ([Shrek] Puss-in-boots // how can you res)
"You're scared because you're not from Yorkshire!"

No, I'm pretty sure it's because I've been physically strapped to a chair and now an IV drip is being fitted to my free hand. It was like the final scene in a death row movie where they administer the lethal injection.

But but but I only stole my Mum's sausage rolls once when I was 7 and I promise never everevertodoitagain!!

There were multiple reasons why I was about to make the heart monitor they'd attached to my chest leap off the scale:

Firstly, there was really very little to enjoy in the prospect of being heavily sedated so your impacted back teeth could be cut out of your mouth. It was like the problem with the potentially painful typhoid vaccination: how do you prepare to be ill? People's accounts regarding their wisdom teeth varied from mild discomfort to rolling around in agony on the sofa for weeks and there was no way of knowing which way this cookie was going to crumble.  

Secondly, I'd arrived (as per my orders) with a friend who also happened to be a respiratory therapist (never hurts to have a back-up plan). This was not the problem. The problem was that she had brought along her five year old daughter. This little poppet showed me she had lost two teeth of her own recently but assured me they would grow back.

... whatever I might know logically about the situation with baby versus wisdom teeth, it was still like being told I'd have to repeat all this next year.

I was sent out by a rather brisk receptionist to use the restroom; not a particularly easy task since I hadn't been allowed to drink anything since midnight the night before. When I returned, I found mother and daughter reading together. I hoped this would be a nice calming story about fluffy bunny rabbits I could listen in on. But no. Out of ALL THE MATERIAL in the waiting room, this demonic child had selected a leaflet on wisdom teeth to read. By the time I joined them, they had reached the page on 'possible complications after surgery'. With pictures.

My friend took one look at my face. "You know, let's read this page after El's gone in," she suggested to her little girl, who shortly afterwards demanded to know if she could watch the procedure.

Finally, the dental nurse had come out to give my friend some instructions regarding my aftercare. Her voice was a low, calming pitch which DID NOT HELP AT ALL. It sounded like the kind of voice you might use when discussing something very very serious and terrible. What I really needed was for someone to clonk me over the head with that rolled up leaflet on wisdom teeth and tell me to get in there because it'd be over in about forty minutes. Instead, she talked about pain and swelling and passed over a prescription. I whimpered.

"I'll give you two some time alone," she said as she went back behind the door.


"That is not the voice you use when you're telling someone that you have to switch off a ventilator machine," my RT friend told me firmly. "Trust me. Now go in."

There we go.

I inched through the door and crept towards a room full of IV bags. One positive thing the wisdom teeth leaflet had shown was examples of the different problems that occurred with these late arrivals. Two of the pictures matched my own issues; one tooth on its side and decayed and the other stuck under the jaw bone. They really did have to be removed.

Two nurses helped me to get set up and they were super nice. They assured me that everyone was nervous and told me at frequent intervals that I was doing really well. Given the reading on the heart monitor, I think the standard for this comment was that I hadn't yet bolted from the room. There was a blood pressure cuff on my right arm which is why that wrist was attached to the chair (very gently, I could have pulled it free). Then the dentist came in to fit the IV drip to my left hand, after complaining I wasn't a Yorkshireman. He then started slapping my hand really hard.

"Owch!" I complained indignantly.

"It's your fault," he told me. "You've gone and made yourself all nervous and now your big veins are hiding."

I was still in the chair. I think he should be grateful for what he had.

Despite the fact this did make me laugh, I started to feel sick and dizzy. I attempted to call one of the nurses 'Mum' but it didn't really help. I was assured this was just nerves and indeed, a few minutes later everything eased. I suspect some cheating was going on here and an anti-nausea agent was added to my drip. Either way, I started to feel a hell of a lot better and relaxed. An oxygen mask was fitted over my nose which ten minutes before would have made me think:


but now I thought:

Bet that looks funny.

.... Then I was being guided into the recovery room and looking up at a five year old peering curiously at me and mercifully not reading a leaflet on wisdom teeth.

My mouth was entirely numb and there was a couple of rolls of gauze tucked in the back but I felt fine. It would turn out the local aesthetic was quite powerful since it didn't wear off until the early evening. The current side affect was that I couldn't talk.

"We can leave when you're ready," my friend told me brightly.

I sat up. "Mumble wumble dumble!"

"OK, we can leave when the nurse says you're ready," came the slight amendment. 

Damn small print. Still, it was only a few more minutes and I was finally free to flee the dental surgery ... the sort of fleeing that requires you to be propped up by one adult and one child.

I was tag teamed over to a second friend (this one a minister who could potentially forgive me for the sausage roll incident and send me in the right direction if all my original suspicions had proved to be founded. Never let be said I did not think this through) since the sedative meant I had to be supervised for the next 24 hours. The only real challenge was that I had to drink two glasses of water without being able to feel my mouth. In the end, I used my hand to pull my lower lip over the glass' rim and tipped. I also had a few tablets to swallow. I put one on my tongue and tried to swallow except...

"Did you loose it?" my friend asked with a grin.

It was somewhere in my mouth but where .... I felt it reach my throat. Gotcha!

We watched a movie and some lie was spun to me about it being several hours long. I was there and it was 10 minutes, tops. As was the second one. But by the time the evening rolled around I was de-numbed and feeling right as rain. I really wanted a cheeseburger but was offered an apple puree pudding instead. It's possible the next few days will still see me looking like a chipmunk but I'll take that look and make it awesome.

Then future cheeseburgers; they will be mine.

(Plus my friends are awesome. They can share the cheeseburgers.)

Pin cushion

Sep. 2nd, 2011 12:29 am
pergamond: ([Toy Story] Buzz // wibble)
After being randomly accosted in the streets of Sapporo by a man telling me to go to India, there was really nothing left to do but book my flight. Since I was circumnavigating the globe at the end of the year to go home for Christmas and then onto Canada before returning to Japan, I thought it would be practically rude not to stop off in Delhi.

In terms of flight paths, this actually makes no sense whatsoever but let's just pretend the Earth is flat and carry on with the story. Besides, the difference in cost was pretty small.

The only downside to this plan-of-awesomeness was that India is home to more exciting diseases that those found in your average Toronto suburb and requires an arm full of vaccinations. Canada deals with such things through specialised travel clinics where the only difficulty is finding one open during the summer since they tend to be populated by doctors who go to tropical parts for their vacation rather than Niagara Falls like everyone else.

"Which vaccinations have you had?" The nurse clicked through her computer system, bringing up the list of inoculations needed for India. The page seemed rather long.


The problem with moving around so much is that it's hard to keep a consistent record. I rattled off the few I remembered with their dates and the nurse ran a pen down the screen.

"How about tetanus?"

"Maybe 2007."

I'd found a slip of paper while sorting out my apartment before the movers came that suggested such an event. Since it came from the USA, it was naturally a bill. Oddly though, I had no memory of the proceeding at all.

"... maybe 1995."

That was the last one I was certain about. The nurse lifted an eyebrow and pulled out the appropriate medicine vile.

"How about hepatitis A, B, typhoid or polio?"

I shook my head and the viles stacked up. She swizzled me around on the chair so my right arm was facing her and loaded up three syringes.

"You don't have a problem with needles, right?"

My mind flashed back to my school days; to standing in the queue for my measles booster, becoming so completely scared that I refused it point blank and felt sick all day with guilt and the huge unused adrenaline rush. To anyone who knew me then.... I can hear your laughter.

"Nah, it's no problem."

I am all about denial. Besides, it was probably true; eight years ago I took a course of prozac for a boat of clinical depression. Not only did it have the desired affect of re-balancing all to where it should be but it removed my fear of needles. The only (non-medical, entirely guessed) explanation I have, is the antidepressant suppressed the overwhelming adrenaline rush, allowing me to stay in control. I still don't like injections but then, if I actively enjoyed being shot in the arm with a needle that would also be of slight mental concern.

We did the first two and then I asked for a break. The dual hepatitus A & B vaccine is double the size of a normal shot and makes your arm ache. It wasn't painful but you couldn't ignore it was happening either. The nurse plonked me on the floor for good measure.

"People are really heavy when they faint," she told me matter-of-factly.

Still, there was only typhoid left and it was the normal quantity. I started to sit up again.

"This one feels like you've been punched!"

... I lay back down.

"I always believe in honesty. Some people don't feel a thing but one of the other nurses here said it was like being kicked by a horse!"

So, for the record, this is a situation where I DO NOT BELIEVE IN HONESTY. I totally support telling me it'll be totally fine and I won't feel a thing and then adding in the correction after its done. I don't actually have a low tollerance to pain, but the prospect of pain? I don't do it well. My imagination is good and Dante's inferno becomes a scorching likelihood in less than a second per circle of Hell.

"You need a second shot for your hepatitis next week, so we could do it then," the nurse suggested kindly.

I considered it but the wisdom teeth were next week. There's only so much I felt I could sign my future self up for.

"It's fine," I muttered, sitting up and looking away.

The nurse administered the shot and I lay straight back down again.

It was totally fine and I didn't feel a thing.

The nurse waggled a finger at me. "Stay there. You're green."

There's no accounting for what you can do to yourself.
pergamond: ([Bleach] Ichigo // -.-)
"This is a lot harder now you're older. Really, 28 should be the maximum age for this procedure. Some people say over 30 is a problem, but I say 28."

28? 30? We were only talking about two years and more to the point...

"I was 31 last month. How can it make that much of a difference?"

"Oh, it does." I was assured. "The 40s are the same. 40 is always fine but 41... same with 50 and 51...."

Picture the most unamused expression imaginable and crank it up by a factor of ten. That was a fraction of the look I shot the dentist who was examining an x-ray of my bottom wisdom teeth. It was true that by North American standards, I was late to have these problematic calcified numbers removed. The logic goes that the teeth become progressively more difficult to extract as the patient ages and the roots cement more firmly to the bone. In the UK, the premise is that not everyone has issues with their wisdom teeth and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Regardless of the right or wrong of the matter, I had to have mine out next week. And I was being teased which was mean.

My dentist was a cheerful Yorkshire man who acknowledged our kindred roots by declaring that there were two types of people in the world; those from Yorkshire and those who wished they were from Yorkshire. He took unashamed delight in first describing the process in detail to me and then the after-care.

"You'll have holes in your mouth like the Grand Canyon! They'll be so big that ... "

I blanched. "Um, is it necessary to describe it so vividly?"

"Yes! Because the most common emergency call I receive on a Sunday afternoon is from people panicking they have holes where I took out teeth!"

Well, I guess that would annoy you. Apparently, the holes take four to six weeks to heal and they must be washed out to prevent food settling in there. I thought that sounded pretty disgusting.

"Oh, you wait till you see what comes out!"

I started to regret eating lunch. The swelling, I learnt, is likely to appear two or three days after the surgery and there were some who claimed they could see the inflammation come up in real time while watching in the mirror.

"... they don't really have very much to do," the dentist conceded after a moment's consideration.

I was also a little nervous about the recommended aesthetic, since the normal procedure involved an extremely heavy sedative. Then the dentist told me he couldn't really freeze with a local injection that deep in the mouth. Suddenly, I was all about sedation.

"Just don't make any important decisions that day," he recommended. "Could you be pregnant?"

"Hell, no!" I exclaimed in surprise.

"That's the answer I wanted to hear!"

Oddly, I was also told not to wear nail varnish the day of my appointment. It acts as a barrier for the pulse reader they clip on the end of your finger.

"Any other questions?" the dentist concluded.

I tried to think of something cool and calculating. Something to demonstrate that I had processed the information and was now calmly prepared to undergo this trifling event. "How long will it take?"

"The actual procedure, about forty minutes."

I felt relieved; forty minutes sounded short and manageable.

The dentist grinned as he left the room. "Good job we took your blood pressure before I came in," he said in way of a parting farewell. "Or it'd be through the roof!"

... Perhaps not so cool and calculating.

"Just tell them a Yorkshire man did it to yer!"

Everybody wish me luck for Tuesday.

Open wide

Jun. 29th, 2011 09:10 pm
pergamond: ([PoT] Kaidoh // not listening)
"Open really wide."

There are occasions for which such request would lead to great, likely unbloggable, things. This, however, was not one of them. I inhaled and squinted as light bounced from the mirror being inserted into my mouth. It was the day before I was due to leave for a month in Japan and I was having my first tooth filling.

This rather ill timed event had been instigated by a conversation with my advisors the previous Friday. They had pointed out that since I would no longer be their postdoc once I officially took up my position in Japan, all my employee benefits would cease. The most important of these, my health coverage, was exempt since Canada's socialized medicine meant that it was tied to my residency and not my employment. This would end with my visa in October. I therefore waved the information away... until it occurred to me I hadn't seen a dentist in about three years.


The reason I hadn't been to a dentist was because I hated them. All of them. They had drills and needles and scalpels and you couldn't even pretend it wasn't happening because they were RIGHT THERE in your face. Literally. What was more, I hadn't really needed much in the way of said drills, needles and scalpels and therefore I was irrationally scared. And there was really no point in trying to talk me out of that.

Prior to this particular Tuesday, the only time I had needed more than a clean at the dentist was when my top two wisdom teeth were removed. That procedure had been triggered by an infection in one of the teeth and --after a transatlantic flight where I failed to perform the extraction myself with Virgin Atlantic's plastic cutlery-- neutralized all concern regarding drills and needles and scalpels. Plus, each tooth only took two minutes to remove.

I actually needed two fillings. One was so small that no anesthetic was needed. The other was going to require more work. I shuffled along the corridor at work, expressing my highly legitimate concern to those I met.

"It's not really a drill, it's like a sand paperer." One of my friends assured me.

Clearly this was lies. It was going to be a HUGE PNEUMONIC DRILL probably supported by two other dentists as it was lowered into my mouth.

.... I'd had all weekend to think about this, can you tell?

It was probably a good thing the dental surgery was only across campus. If it had been further I'd probably have run for the hills and even now be living a life as a toothless hermit in the foothills of the Rockies. They were also extremely kind to me. The dental nurse held my hand while they gave me the injection (I might be 30, but at that moment I felt about three) and after that I couldn't feel anything so it really didn't matter what they were doing. In fact, the hardest thing was to hold my mouth open for half an hour, but the dentist gave me a block to bite down on so I could rest my muscles.

The anesthetic wore off after a couple of hours and the following day I wasn't able to see or feel where the work had been done. Pretty amazing really.

Oh and the drill? Totally a sandpaperer. Didn't actually require multiple people to lift it. I knew you were wondering too.


Feb. 27th, 2011 06:45 am
pergamond: ([Blackadder] You cannot be serious.)
'Hotch, hotch, hotch."

There is a good moment to watch the movie 'Teeth' but right before a Pap (UK: smear) test is not one of them. Especially since the above verbal direction from the gynaecologist to shift my hips lower down on the exam table was the exact wording used in the film during the protagonist's own cervical examination. The outcome was the doctor loosing four of his fingers to the teeth in her vagina.

Well no, perhaps there is never truly a good moment to watch a film that involves the unexpected castration of almost every male character. I mulled this over and grimaced at the ceiling. Still, there was no denying that this test was a good idea and it'd been part of the lightening-quick orders issued to me in this post. Also yes, if you found that entry too-much-information, you're really not going to like this one!

Apart from her rather unfortunate instruction above, the doctor was a cheerful individual who did her best to set me at ease. A Pap test isn't usually painful, but it's not exactly dignified. I was sitting perched on the exam table with a blanket flung over my legs when she rapped on the door.

"Is it safe?" she enquired as she opened the door. "You'd be surprised about some of the things I see in this job! Oh yes!"

I watched nonplussed as she arranged containers on the counter. What exactly had she seen? I mean, I was about to show her basically everything I had. We did a brief run-through of my medical history and the doctor asked if I had any questions about the leaflets I'd been given to read. The one I'd worked through had informed me that I might unknowingly have HPV, that I would probably be upset to discover this but ... tough. It wasn't curable. I didn't feel there were any obvious questions one could have to this, so I shook my head. I did get big points from her for having had the Gardasil vaccine against a couple of different types of HPV. This started a mini-rant about people who refused to have vaccinations that ended abruptly with:

"... well, at least I don't need to tell you about their worth!"

At this point, all my questions were now directed at the sort of the people who came to this clinic. Apparently, they were annoying the medical staff.

"My aim is to make this as easy as possible for you," the doctor told me once I'd manoeuvred myself into the required position. "So this will be a test you won't fear coming back to."

"Sounds good," I replied through gritted teeth as I waited for the expected discomfort.

"Breath, Elizabeth. If you faint, this has not gone nearly as well as it might have."

The undeniable truth of this statement caused me to start laughing and the resulting few minutes were entirely painless. As a reward for showing up (apparently another uphill battle with the local populous), I got a year's prescription for the pill, rather than just a three-month batch, with instructions to take a few packets back-to-back if I was still experiencing a lot of pain menstruating.

"It won't do your body any harm to skip cycles," the doctor said. "A hundred years ago, you would have missed continuously because you would have been pregnant ALL THE TIME."

Pregnant all the time?! Now there was a concept even more scary than vagina dentata.


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