Natalie Goes to Japan

40 year old very married blonde woman having a midlife crisis who heads to Japan alone to follow her dreams. Be careful what you wish for ... you just may get it.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Well, my mother's condition is still "guarded". They had to put her on a ventilator for breathing and a balloon pump to keep her blood pressure up. Over a few days they have been able to take the balloon pump out and reduce the medicine to keep her blood pressure up. But they have had trouble taking her off the ventilator. They would reduce the amount of oxygen, and she wouldn't be able to tolerate it. But yesterday the nurse told me that she had stayed stable with the reduced oxygen for a while. My mother is quite a chatty person, so the ventilator is quite a nightmare for her. She is extremely frustrated and keeps trying to talk anyway, which is impossible. My little brother, Noel, arrived there a few days ago. Dad was really cute, he was afraid seeing Noel after two years would be too much excitement for her. I'll try to keep you updated.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Phone Call

I was sitting at my kotatsu yesterday when my phone rang. Only two people call me. My husband and my friend Rinako. Rinako and I had talked about going to lunch today, so I just assumed it was her. It was my husband. He said "I'm so sorry to have to tell you this. Your father just called. Your mother has had a massive coronary." I understood the words, but my mind just kept telling me that "it isn't supposed to happen like this." My mother is only 62. She had breast cancer a few years ago, and the woman has smoked her entire adult life. But a heart attack was just very confusing. Mark talked to me for a long time, while we tried to process what little we knew. My father was too upset and too confused to be able to give Mark any details. After awhile I called my Dad. He was still very shaken. But I just asked questions, he answered to the best of his ability. When she was admitted to the hospital she had two blockages in her heart, and while they tried to clear those up and third developed. She began to vomit, and there was quite a bit of blood in the vomit. I asked if he had called my little brother, or my Aunt Betty. No, he said he hadn't been able to do that. He could barely call Mark (and calling me overseas was way out of his capabilities). I asked what hospital she was at. He didn't know...and he started to get upset that he didn't know the name of the hospital. But then he realized he had the phone number to her ICU nurse and gave me that. When I talked to the nurse, she said Mom had been alert earlier and had agreed to be intubated "just in case". So she had to be sedated as well. I have talked to the nurses two more times. She is showing slight improvement, but is still on the breathing machines and has a balloon pump in her heart to keep her blood pressure up. She has regained conciousness and has indicated that she isn't in any pain. But the condition is still guarded.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Frankenstein Goes to School

Friday I got a call from Mr. M. He asked how I was? I told him I'm much better. He said "Really?" I said "Really." "I come over now to look at your face." Oh. "Sure." So, I thought he was concerned for how I felt, but he was really more concerned about how I looked. He looked at my face and then said he would go talk to the community center about it and call me. Great! They are having bilateral talks about the condition of my face. Well, my face is pretty terrible. I don't just have a small case of pox. It it rampant. I was surprised when the call came and he told me to report to work as usual on Saturday. As I am bored out of my gourd, I said fine. But it was not fun going to work looking like a monster. It's hard to tell if it bothered the little ones, as it is only the second class and many of them are pretty frightened anyway. There are only 3 students in LG1, and we played Bingo at the end of class and it got pretty silly. Which means a couple of things. They weren't all that bothered by my disfigurment. And it means they are coming out of their shells, which really makes me happy. In my LG3 class, the second year girls were curious and asked me about it. But the language gap never did get bridged. But class went on anyway. And then I came home and did a whole lot a nuthin.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Chickpea Pox

Some interesting things about chicken pox...and how it relates to me, because this stupid blog is all about me after all.

Chicken pox has absolutely nothing to do with chickens. The name is based on the Latin word cicer, meaning chickpeas, as the blisters were thought to resemble chickpeas on the skin!...Well, my pox look alot more like chickpeas than they do chickens.

It is most common in children between 5 and 9 years of age...I had it at 14 and 40. I just love to be atypical.

Crops of blisters appear for 2 to 4 days, gradually spreading over the entire body, including the scalp, penis and inside the mouth, ears, nose and vagina....yep, yep, nope, yep, yep, yep and a close miss.

Incubation is usually 14 – 17 that means as much as I would like to blame Thailand for my current misery, the truth is I probably caught it from my much beloved students (aka disease factories).

Ninety percent of the world's population will contract chicken pox within their lifetime...that doesn't exactly ease my current situation.

Some researchers speculate that sunburn and other, unrelated stresses that can affect the immune system may also lead to the viral reactivation of chicken pox known as shingles....Wait a minute. That's me. So the little disease carriers may not have given it to me.

People with shingles frequently suffer from spontaneous pain (or pain for no explainable reason). This pain can be characterized as stinging, tingling, numbing, or throbbing, and can be pronounced with quick stabs of intensity....well, that would explain the feeling of pins and needles I had during the worst times.

Shingles almost always presents on only one side of the body...Gosh darn it! I have it everywhere. So do I got Shingles or Chicken Pox?

Well, I hope you found it all very informative. It confused the crap out of me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Chicken Pox, Yes, No, Yes, No, Yes!

The day after my sunburn I noticed a few pimples on my chest. I just thought they were blisters. A few days later they were still there and I had a few pimples on my back. Neither of these events, sorry to say, are particularly unusual (even though I am 40 years old). Then Sunday I had plans to spend with the Suzukis. They took me to the History Museum and then over to see the cherry blossoms at the "Flower Park". By the time we found a place to picnic I was absolutely exhausted. I ate a few bites of lunch and then laid my head down. After everyone was done eating I was still too tired to go looking, so I sent them on their way and took a nap at the picnic site. When I woke up I was pretty sure I had a fever and my back was starting to itch. When I got back to the aparto I looked at my back and it was covered with red welts. So I looked around on the internet for things it could be. Didn't look exactly like chicken pox, and I had already had those when I was 14 (I was teased about having a kiddie disease). I was starting to suspect something like scabies. Lord knows I was getting massages all over the place in Thailand, and they could be hanging out in the same places I was. I checked on measles, but it absolutely, positively didn't look like measles. So, Monday I called Mr. M. and told him I needed to see a doc. He jumped in the car and was here in no time. Well, the first doctor was only an internest, so she couldn't really see me. But she suspected chicken pox. But I had chicken pox. Oh, well then, she didn't know. So Mr. M. drove me to a dermatologist. He diagnosed chicken pox. But I had chicken pox. Oh, well, then it can't be chicken pox. Must be an allergic reaction to a bug bite, or something. Here's some pillls. Just take 'em. So I go home, take the pills. Next morning the bumps have spread. Even onto my face. I call Mr. M. He says I should do the morning classes, and if I would like he would take me to another doctor in the afternoon. No, I say let's give it some more time. I was just afraid of scaring the new toddler-type students. So I finish out my day. This morning the bumps had continued to spread a little. So I called Mr. M and we do the Doctor Shakeup one more time. This doctor says, he's sorry but it is absolutely positively chicken pox. Were my chicken pox bad when I was a kid? No, not really, I thought I got off pretty easy. How is the inside of your mouth? It seems kinda sensitive. Do you have any bumps in your ears? Uh, yeah! Yep, dahrlin' you'se got dem chicken pox. Damn! They were very atypical chicken pox, probably because I had them before. But the onset should have been much quicker. I should also still have a fever and a headache. Oh, and I shouldn't have gotten them twice. Supposedly I should have them cleared up by Saturday and be okay to work. But until then I have to lie around in my apartment, trying not to scratch the buggers, watching videos and keeping myself entertained. I expect lots of ecards, and funny jokes and little cheery up things from the cyber world. And I want them now!

P.S. Yahoo is working again.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Yahoo Sucks!

All of a sudden I can't access anything I have on Yahoo!. That includes my homepage, the help desk, or my email. It's been this way for over 24 hours, and Mark has no problem with his Yahoo. I'm completely confused. So if you are trying to get ahold of me, you will have to try a new account I set up. It's the same as before, but the extension is I'm really baffled.

First Days of Class

This week was the first day of each class. I knew that the BabyKids class would be kinda a drag. You have to start at the very beginning. You have to do everything 3 times so that they get it. And you can't really do any "jokes", cuz they don't know what the norm is, so they can't think it's funny if you do something outside the norm. What I had forgotten to anticipate was the "Fear Factor". Not only do I look different from anyone they have ever met before, but everything is different. So many kids just cried. And cried and cried. Every class had at least one. And I had to put on this exceeding dorky "Isn't everything just so sweet" face for every class. I'm just not used to that. The 4 and 5 year old classes had a different set of problems. Most of them had never done a class without their mothers before. So even outgoing, spunky kids were confused by their own emotions. Then there is the LG1 class. On Thursdays I have 17 kids in that class, and on Saturday I have 3. How am I supposed to adapt a lesson plan designed for up to 20 kids to 3 kids. And one of the three was a crybaby and wouldn't leave her mother. I let her get away with that this week, but next week I put my foot down. I haven't had my first LG2 class yet, but I'm very hopeful...even though I lost my best students. My LG3 class was very interesting. I have 5 students left over from last year. Four of them will do well by taking it all again. But Toshitaka was the best student in the class last year, he's miles ahead of all the other students. I'm going to have to come up with separate things for the 2nd year students to do after they complete their assignments. I figure I'll teach them cursive. The girls will love that. But I'm going to have to come up with something more advanced even than that for Toshi. Oh, and the only 2 kids to graduate from my LG2 class to my LG3 class were the worst students in the previous class and are no way ready for this class. And I plan on making them both work their butts off. This week has been exhausting. It'll get better. Right?

Friday, April 07, 2006

La Gon Thailand

My flight out of Thailand didn't take place until 8:00 at night, so I had plenty of time to do a little more sightseeing. Once again I took the shuttle into town and hired myself a Tuk-Tuk for 4 hours. I asked to see some temples and do some shopping. The first temple I asked to see was closed, so it wasn't much of a start. Then he took me to the Chinese temple in town. That was very interesting and a little odd. Then he suggested I go to the park at the top of the hill, which has a nice view of the city. That was the prettiest part of all of Phuket. Next I let him take me to one of those shopping emporiums that pay the drivers to talk tourist into going there. But as it was the same one I went to a few days before it was a bit of a bust. I wanted to go to another temple, but he wanted to take me to another emporium first. I thought it must be on the way to the next temple. Boy was I wrong. And I got ticked. So I spent about 5 minutes in really didn't have anything I was interested in. So I demanded another temple. And it turned out to be a good move. It was very touristy (about 50% of the visitors were obviously foreigners), but it was very colorful and big. I walked around for ages. It also had a row of market stalls behind it selling all sorts of goodies, for much more reasonable prices than I had seen anywhere else. So I picked up some more clothes and souvenirs. Had smarmy Tuk-Tuk man take me back to my hotel. Had some lunch on a chaise under the palm trees and a quick last dip in the ocean. Took a shower in my room before I had to check out and then went to pay the bill. My Visa wouldn't go through! I had to pay in cash, which with the lousy exchange rate cost me about $60 extra. And then I had to sit around for 2 hours before my shuttle to the airport fuming over it. It was a pretty crappy way to end my vacation. Then at the airport I stood in line for an hour to check in (they were very inept there) and then as you head for your gate they charge you 500 Baht ($15) cash to get there. It's such a scam. I just got to the gate in time to get on the airplane. As I was hurrying through the lobby I noticed a Burger King. It's been ages since I have seen a BK. And the woman behind me on the plane had a BK Veggie Burger. Oh my God! I coulda had a Veggie Burger. Well, the good news was that the flight was pretty empty and I had a row of seats to myself. I was able to lie down and get some sleep. It was not good or restful sleep, but it did make the flight much shorter. We landed in Nagoya at 7 am and I caught the bus back to Hamamatsu and was home by 11. I don't regret going, but I don't think I would go back to Phuket, nor recommend it to anyone else. If you want to go to a beach in Thailand I think Krabi would be much nicer (and I hear it's cheaper). I do still really want to go to North Thailand - Ayuthaya and Chiang Mai - and to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. But you have to go in the cool season, and I don't know that my schedule will allow for that anytime soon. But I WILL be going! Got it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Island Hopping

I took a motorboat cruise of the bay. And it was really beautiful. The tour guide was pretty useless. I realize that as a past tour guide I can be a pretty tough customer. But as we stopped at one of the major island stops on the cruise her imparted wisdom on us was "This is shicken (chicken) head island, because the big rock there looks like a shicken." I do expect a little more than that. But the islands were amazing. We stopped at one in the morning to do some swimming. We went to another with a shrine in a cave, with a pile of phallic totems next to it, and some more swimming. The next stop was for lunch on a private beach inside a big wooden shed. Lunch was mediocre, but the company was delightful. This is when all the guests finally started chit-chatting amongst one another. There were couples from Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and China. And the weather was nice in the shade, with the breeze and the sounds of the surf. We were all very content just sitting there. But it was time to see some more islands. The next stop was a teeny tiny island where the real interest was the snorkling. I don't think I had actually ever snorkled properly before. But it was wonderful. The fish were amazing. Every size and shape and color. The crew on the boat would throw bread into the water and the fish would just swarm around us. Although I thought I stubbed my toe on a rock. Later I realized I actually had the teeniest, tinyest cut from coral. I don't think I'll die or anything, but it has been much more painful than that small a cut should be. Next stop was an overcrowded small island, where they wanted you to pay for a shade umbrella and chairs. I just sat in the water in the shade of a rock, feeding fish the whole time I was there. Not nearly as spectacular as the snorkling, but still interesting. Then we headed back, as it was 4:30. I was back at the hotel by 6:00. Even though I completely slathered myself in sun screen three times, with an additional 2 times for the tops of my feet and my shoulders and face, and on top of that doing my nose an extra two times, I still came back to the hotel with the beginnings of a sunburn. I treated my sunburn in my usual fashion - a warm bath, no aloe and no air conditioning. I also decided I needed to use three additional tactics - Aleve, alcohol and denial. So I decided to hitch onto the shuttle to Patong Beach again and to have dinner and go shopping. It was better than sitting around thinking about my sunburn. And it worked pretty well. And I had the best meal yet in Thailand - some beerbatter like deepfried vegetables. And booze of course. And shopping therapy. I took a lot of money, but ended up not spending a whole lot of it. By the time I was sick of shopping I had almost an hour to kill. So I found a place that would give me a half hour foot rub. I slept soundly that night, that's for sure.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Glimpses of Thailand

So, I was tempted to write off trying anymore adventures after yesterday and sitting on the beach and doing nothing. But if all I wanted was a beach I could have gone to Okinawa for a lot less with probably better beaches. I wanted to explore another country, another culture. I wanted to visit a nearby national park. So I walked up the hill to a taxi business and got them to agree to 5 hours of service for 1000 baht. Not exactly a steal at $30, but reasonable. And unlike the Tuk-tuks, the taxi was air conditioned. So we headed for the park. First on my agenda was visiting the gibbon rehabilitation center. It’s a fairly good rehabilitation center trying to do an impossible job. They are trying to reintroduce these animals after they were hunted to extinction on the island. The monkeys still surviving on the island at my hotel are macaques. But it wasn’t much to look at. The other thing I wanted to do was hike to the waterfall. So I headed up the path after visiting the gibbons. It took maybe 25 minutes to walk there. And it was hot. And as it is the end of the dry season it wasn’t exactly Niagara Falls. But there are pools underneath and I was able to wade in one of the shallower ones and cool off a little. When I reached the falls there was already some Thai teenage males talking on there cellphones already there and a young male westerner as well. I thought he was French. But the Thais left and the young man offered to take my picture in front of the falls. We struck up a conversation, he’s actually from Israel where he is a dive instructor at a resort on the Red Sea. He was sooooo cute. And I felt sooooo old. After we exhausted our conversation resources I headed back down to wake up my taxi driver and asked him to take me to a temple I had read about. He said it’s very, very far. I said, no it’s not. So he took me. I thought the temple was really beautiful and very real. There were people praying, and monks lounging and some sort of event for children. I only stayed for about half and hour, but it was a really nice half hour. I feel like I saw a tiny glimpse of the real Thailand, and not just the “let’s take the tourists for all they got,” capitalism-at-its-fullest Thailand I have seen. I let him take me to another jewelry and souvenir emporium. I bought a pittance and came back to the hotel for another nap. Went down to the beach for another massage. Unfortunately I think I'm becoming immune to their charms. But afterwards everyone was looking at some large bird in the sky flying over the ocean. The waitress told me it wasn't a bird it was a giant fruit bat. And I mean giant. He was larger than a hawk. And swooping and flying around. It was amazing. Later I walked up the hill to a little restaurant with a lovely view of the cape and had some vegetable concoction that I never did get the name of. It was nice. I was tired and walked back and went to bed early.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Not Exactly a Day in Paradise

So my plan was to take in the Thai village and the Butterfly Garden today. Phuket isn't very easy to get around on. So I took one of the two scheduled shuttles into Phuket Town and planned to do a little shopping around there first. I walked a couple of blocks in the melting heat and found squat for shopping. I was run off the sidewalk by a particularly territorial stray dog. This ain't Kansas, Toto. This ain't even Japan. Stray dogs, scraggily looking cats and threadbare roosters everywhere. Including the middle of fourlane busy roads. So I got tired of walking and accepted the next Tuk-Tuk to yell at me. He agreed to take me to Thai Village for a very cheap price. When I got there it looked very quiet. There was a reason. It was closed. The Tuk-Tuk driver talked to the outdoor restaurant owner next door and confirmed it. I said "It's closed today?" and he answered "No, everyday". What? Seems like the folks at the hotel should have known this when I asked them for directions on how to get here. Okay Tuk-Tuk, take me to the Butterfly Garden. Okay. He said he'd wait for me while I went in. That should have tipped me off. It was sweltering in there. And more than a little run down. There were about 6 types of butterflies and there were hundreds of them flitting about like butterflies do. One even decided to land and hang upside down from my nose. Butterfly legs tickling the inside of your nose is a very strange sensation and I had to try very hard not to sneeze. I'm not a hit and run sort of tourist. When I go somewhere I like to see every inch of a place and sit and absorb the ambiance. Well I completed all that in 30 minutes. So I hopped back in the Tuk-Tuk and allowed the driver to take me to a store. He gets paid for just having me go in, whether I buy anything or not. So, since my whole day adventure had turned into about an hour and a half, I agreed. It wasn't bad. Mainly they sold jewelery at price more than I was willing to pay. But they also had some interesting porcelain. So I bought a bunch as souveniers for the folks back in Japan. It'll be interesting getting it all on the plane, but what the heck! I got back to the hotel and took me a bath and a nap. I then wandered down to the beach had lunch and a blue drink and then had another massage. The cheese sandwich was pretty bad and the massage took place in the garden where they were doing construction. So instead of listening to birds, I listened to an electric saw. But it was still a nice massage. After my massage I sat at the beach bar and watched the water and ordered another blue drink. 20 minutes later they come back and say sorry, they are out of Blue Curacao, would I like to change my order. No thank you, I think I'll go for a swim instead. But as the tide had gone out and you can't swim at the beach then I went up to the pool to swim. I had waited till the sun went down behind the building so I wouldn't have to oil up. The pool was out of towels and didn't seem to care. They told all newcomers just to grab a towel out of the used bin. Now, this pissed me off. I'm not paying $100 a night to be towelling off with used, wet towels. Oh, and the internet hadn't worked for over 24 hours. I thought I had handled the days disappointments fairly well, but this just made me crazy. After my swim I shivered all the way back to my room, dripping water everywhere. I was not using a used towell! I took another nap and took the shuttle over the hill to eat dinner at the other half of the hotel complex. But I wasn't hungry. I haven't been hungry since I got here. So I just ordered soup and a salad. I didn't even order myself a cocktail, I just wanted water! I hate water! The staff was nice if slightly inept and the restaurant was delightfully cool. Afterwards I walked to the minimart and bought some sodas and some M&Ms. And then I walked over to another massage place and got myself a foot massage. It was nice, but as they use cinnamon oil on you it deadens your skin a little. I took the shuttle back and turned in for the night. I'm not gonna get down. I had a less than perfect day. I'm sure tommorow will be different.