Apple Country

Stories of rural life as an ALT in a northern Japanese fishing town.


The piggy back that went a bit wrong

My next post had intended to be about my parents’ visit to Japan and our adventures in Kyoto and jumping-spider-infested cabins in the middle of a forest. But things took a slightly different route when I went to Hakodate 2 weeks ago and made the life-changing decision (well in the short term anyway) to give my friend a piggy back. The first time it didn’t quite work; she didn’t quite jump high up enough for me to get a good grip on her legs. So we tried again but the slippery ground was not on our side and we just stumbled face-first into the ground.
We groaned/laughed until I realised something was amiss.
“Where’s my arm?” I asked in confusion, as I tried to retrieve it from what felt like a vortex that had opened up in the ground and pulled it under.
“Your arm’s right here honey…” my friend looked at me worriedly.
I sat on my arse and looked at it dangling over my leg. “I can move my fingers so that means it’s just a dislocation right? Right?!” I looked around hopefully.
Everyone stared back in alarm. Apparently I had a huge graze on my cheek as well but that was the least of my worries.
So I got carried away in an ambulance to the hospital where I learned I had badly broken my humerus and would require surgery to put it right. Goodbye snowboarding pass! At least I was able to enjoy a morning in Hakodate…
I thought I’d get surgery asap but for some reason hospitals in Japan aren’t open for consultations/procedures at the weekend so I was there for 2 nights, then had to spend 2 nights in my apartment before being hospitalised in this swanky new hospital an hour from my town.
After a week of living with a painful floppy arm, I finally had surgery on Friday!! They made an incision at either end of my upper arm and inserted a metal rod, fixed in place by a couple of screws.
This is what I had to deal with for a week:


Having now experienced my first major operation, it’s not something I’d like to repeat in a hurry… Although I don’t have much choice as I’ll have to have the rod taken out in a year!

I was led into the operating theatre and they began dosing me up with the general anaesthetic. I could feel myself going under as I lay on the table and the surgeon said “Can you heaaaar meeeee..?” as my vision started to sway and yes it was exactly like how they do it in the movies! Going under the anaesthetic felt like I was sliding down a black rainbow that took me on a magical mystery tour, where I was riding a roller coaster through another dimension. I spent what felt like the next 15 minutes on this acid trip, colours and shapes shifting before my eyes, before I actually opened them and saw the surgeon through the blur of my oxygen mask. I became aware of the sound of roadworks going on by my right shoulder and realised they were drilling screws into my arm. I started humming my favourite Chopin piece to myself as a distraction and the surgeon told me I was a good singer. Very bizarre experience.
Anyway it was over after about 2 hours and I was wheeled back to my room and had a pretty painful night, not helped by the nausea I felt from the anaesthesia every time I got up.

But I’m now on day 4 of recovery and it’s going well I think! Sometimes when I move a certain way my shoulder makes a sound like when you squeeze a ketchup bottle and there’s an air bubble in it. And my right arm is really chubby from the swelling and it just looks awful. But my occupational therapy lady is lovely and all the staff are as well, so I am being well looked after! Sadly my favourite nurse works the night shift so I don’t see him very much, except when he comes to check my IV in the night and in the mornings when he comes to my room for a chat. I’m just wondering when we’ll get married…
It’s quite nice being fed and having my room cleaned etc but obviously I would trade it if it meant I could go back to normality! I don’t have a wheely thing for my drip anymore so I’m free to climb stairs and get my fitness back to an acceptable level, woohoo. Can’t believe I’ve been here nearly a week! I think I’ll actually miss being here… I’ve had lots of lovely visitors come to visit me, including my other ALT friends, teachers and BOE colleagues who all keep bringing me cake and other nice things just to help me get even more fat while I’m in here.
As I have to come back in 6 – 12 months to get the rod taken out again, I can enjoy being looked after for a little while then. But for the next 3 months, I’ll just have to accept the fact I won’t be able to do very much… Driving included but I don’t think it’ll need that long really.
I’ve also decided to stay for a second year so my snowboard will have to wait for me until next year!


I’m a quarter of the way through already?!

A few weeks ago my supervisor handed me the documents regarding my decision to accept or decline reappointment on JET.  I’d barely been here for two months and already I was having to start thinking about my future in Japan.  But now that I’ve done exactly a quarter of my year-long contract, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to come to a decision about staying or leaving.  I don’t have to decide until January at the very latest, so I still have some time to think, but I thought it’d be worth considering my experience so far and how it might change in the future.  Last week I was 80% sure I wanted to stay, and since my parents have been visiting that’s gone down to 50%!  Maybe they made me realise that I do miss home quite a lot (even if I don’t show it) and that there are other options I could choose instead of staying here another year.

Why I want to stay:

  • Japan is so completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced and I love the challenge of living here.
  • I’ve made some great friends already and I really love hanging out with the other ALTs.  Next year I’d get to meet even more new Aomori JETs!
  • I will never eat such amazing Japanese food for so little anywhere else.
  • There hasn’t been one day where I’ve seriously questioned my happiness here.
  • The job is not very demanding (see cons!)
  • I worked hard to get on this programme and it was such a long (and expensive) process I feel like I should make the most of it by staying.
  • I don’t want to go home, end up in a boring job and wish I hadn’t left Japan.  I’m worried that I’ll feel really comfortable here and then have to leave when I’m still having a good time.
  • I want to become a master of nihongo.

Why I want to leave:

  • I miss my family and friends and dog.  I know everyone I grew up with is moving on with their lives as well, but it’s hard knowing that it’s impossible for me to spend any time with them.
  • The minority of my time is actually spent teaching, and even then I’m not always used to my full potential. While I enjoy the job, because I’m only an assistant I have little control over what is taught and how.  2 days a week in an office with no atmosphere is also fairly dull.
  • Eventually I will have to move on and find a permanent job which I can grow in, so maybe the sooner the better?
  • This year has been fun because everything’s been a new experience.  Next year everything will seem normal and routine, which might make me lose my motivation.
  • Living in the middle of nowhere has its drawbacks!
  • Knowing this is only temporary makes it hard to settle in my apartment.  I want to make it as ‘me’ as possible but I know I’ll have to abandon it soon!
  • 5 months of living in an igloo.

So what do I do?? Someone decide for me please.  If only there was an extra 6 months option instead.  Honestly I’m kinda leaning towards leaving at the moment… but the main reason is because I don’t want to be bored next year and feel like I’m wasting my time.  However I will (most likely) never get this opportunity again…

Hopefully I can come up with something by January!