Apple Country

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


A bruised bum is not a happy one

If I had to sum up the past three days in one word, it would be “pain”.  Immediately after writing that sentence, I felt the surge of pain in my tailbone just from shifting to pick up my mug of coffee.  I went snowboarding for the first time this weekend, spent the majority of the two days falling on my arse, and now must master the act of moping around the office with minimum effort whilst trying not to look like I’ve got a stick shoved up there.

The last and only time I’ve ever done a snowsport was when I went on a school skiing trip seven years ago and fortunately came away unscathed.  Evidently I hadn’t washed my snow jacket since then either, I realised when I put it on, pulling two slightly disintegrated tissues out of the pockets.   It was a bit muddy on the outside but at least it didn’t smell, and that was the main thing.

We set off for the mountain on Saturday morning, about 40 minutes away, and were greeted by a lovely blanket of fresh powder from the night before.  The snow has been in unusually short supply this winter, so I was glad I wouldn’t have to deal with hard icy slopes on my first day.  I exchanged my pass from last year that I couldn’t use, bought a helmet and we shuffled off to the bunny hill for my first lesson.

After three short runs down the “hill” with the help of Alex and Sam, it was decided that we all take the gondola to the top so I can try the real deal.  I was reluctant to leave the safety of the baby slope, but I had to move on at some point!  Even after half an hour of practice, I seriously felt the burn in my upper legs already from constantly being in a half-squat, so the twelve-minute lift ride up to the top was very much welcomed.

We got to the top and I looked down into the snowy abyss in horror, Sam reassuring me that it wasn’t as steep as it looked.  I strapped my bindings on, pushed myself up and summoned the confidence to begin edging down the slope, keeping my board horizontal for optimum braking power.  The only problem with doing it like that was that my muscles got tired extremely quickly, so I had no choice but to try picking up some speed and do more of a zig-zag pattern down the slope.

I faceplanted and stacked my way down the hill, until forty-five minutes later I was reunited with the bunny slope at the bottom, finishing with style by veering off towards the side of a building and breaking my fall on a nice patch of ice.  But I did it!  I knew it would be a mistake to go up for a second time because my legs just weren’t capable of holding me up like that anymore.  The more tired I got, the more I fell, and the more I fell, the more frustrated I got, so I called it a day and went for a nice soak in the onsen.

The next day I woke up to a sore neck but was surprised that my legs were actually ok.  All that yoga and cycling must have paid off!  I went down the same route on my first run, finishing in half the time than I did the day before.  We went up again and tried a different course, which was fine but I was already tired and found myself falling over a lot, more due to muscle fatigue than loss of balance.  This is when I started feeling the effects of falling on my arse so much and I had to make an effort to try landing on my side to even out some of the pain.  It was too late though, and hauling myself up after each subsequent fall was a serious struggle!  Then I ruined it by going too fast because I was too tired to brake properly, tried to stop myself at the last second and was flung head first into the snow, arms outstretched in front of me instead of bent at the elbows like they’re supposed to be.

“That was my arm…” I groaned into the snowy ground.  I wondered how long it would be before I did something bad to my broken one.  It hurt but I could still move it like normal, so I held it to my chest and gingerly made my way down the rest of the mountain for twenty-five minutes or so.  I was tired and pissed off, which slowed me down and made me fall even more, but I went slowly enough that I could control how I landed and managed to save my arm from any more impact.  After I eventually made it down to the base for lunch, with lots of encouragement from Alex who was kindly spurring me on, I stared glumly into my bowl of steaming ramen, wondering if it had been a mistake to snowboard knowing that my arm wasn’t 100%.

Yesterday was a national holiday so I had originally planned to snowboard again with the others, but instead decided to use the time to heal my poor behind at home and not risk further damage to my arm.  I was so sore that even trying to fart caused an outcry of profanities, so I treated myself to a day of chocolate and Playstation.  Then at around 4pm (Japan time) while I was listening to the radio, the DJ said the words “David Bowie” and “death” in the same sentence.  I couldn’t believe it, and I still can’t.  You just don’t imagine someone like that ever dying.  I burst into tears at the total shock of it, especially when I realised he’d kept his suffering a secret from the public, and for the first time I felt a genuine loss at the death of someone I hadn’t personally met.  I mourned by drinking gin and belting out his songs for the rest of the evening.

Now my physical pain is slowly fading and I think I’ve convinced myself that my arm is okay, probably a muscle thing rather than bone, but it was a good reminder that I really need to be careful.  It doesn’t hurt when I squeeze it, only when I outstretch it to the right.  I’m glad the metal rod is still in there in case I did end up doing something to the bone… I’ve been wearing a helmet, but I’ve just ordered wrist guards and impact shorts because I think I’m definitely gonna need ’em, and I’ll wear my upper arm brace next time.  I’ve been feeling worried about getting on the slopes again, but it is really fun and as long as I don’t get carried away I should be ok!!