S: Josh Goes to the Hospital
BC: About the Author Josh Williams is the author of Josh Goes to Southeast Asia and Takes Some Pictures, Japs Say the Darnedest Things, and 10,000 Dong Shave. He lived outside Tokyo, Japan for two and half years while teaching English for GEOS Conversation School. He currently lives in Chicago, IL. Visit the author at joshuasolomonwilliams.com | "Josh Goes to the Hospital is worth reading" raves his mother. "Written almost completely in English" extols Stephen Day. "I really liked the pictures" applauds Aragon Weekly. | JOSH WILLIAMS IS ONE OF TODAY'S MOST GIFTED AND ORIGINAL WRITERS. In Josh Goes to the Hospital, Williams, whose stories have been read by dozens, fearlessly depicts a hospital that is literally on the other side of the world. The story is unremarkable: An English teacher goes to the hospital after a nasty spill on his bicycle and has to undergo routine surgery to put his clavicle and life back together. As playful as it is lyrical, Josh Goes to the Hospital celebrates human hopefulness while good-heartedly poking fun at Japanese culture.
FC: Josh Goes to the Hospital | A picture story by Josh Williams
1: This book is dedicated to YOU for actually reading it.
2: While living in Japan and struggling with the language, I'd half joked that I'd enjoy a short stay in a Japanese jail. Not long, just a year or two. For some reason I picture Japanese jail being a clean, orderly place without the constant fear of getting beat up and raped like in the United States. It would be like an all expense paid full-immersion language program. Plenty of time to study, lots of listening/talking practice, and little to no distractions. An opportunity to see the Japan most tourists don't get to...
4: Well, I didn't exactly get my wish, but when I landed a stay in the hospital on November 4th, 2008, I got as close as you can get. At the beginning of the summer, one of my students gave me his old bike, and although it wasn't perfect, I gratefully accepted it and biked to work all summer. One problem (besides the mudflaps) was the fact that the rear brake basically didn't work. This led to a couple close calls, a lot of callous jokes, and finally a serious accident.
6: Japan, being a safety conscious country, is littered with pedestrian crosswalks and although they're not Nazis like it is in Vegas, it's still often necessary to go through the hassle of climbing two sets of stairs to just cross the f'n street. In order to avoid getting off my bike and walking it up these inconvenient overpasses, I tended to get a lot of momentum, peddle hard up one side, and glide down the other...
8: Being a bit late to work on this particular day, I didn't slow down enough going down, hit both brakes in a moment of panic, and only the front one caught. It's a situation that's hilarious when it happens to the jock in '80s movies, Super Dave, or people who aren't you. I flipped over my handle bars, skinned my palms/arm on the concrete, fractured my clavicle bone in two places, and was subsequently very late to work. Like, a week late.
10: Interestingly enough, Japan basically doesn't have many outpatients, so the doctor (he luckily spoke English) said I'd be in the hospital for about a week. He recommended an operation where they screwed a metal plate into the broken bone, guiding it to grow back together. When I voiced a concern that my health care coverage cap was at 20,000 yen* he just laughed and said this wasn't America. Even with the surgery, medication, and food/lodging I was looking at no more than half that, all of which my insurance would pay. *At time of publication 20,000 Japanese yen was equivalent to approximately 200 American dollars.
12: I checked in a day and a half before surgery and after a cup of hot tea I enjoyed a delicious lunch. I shared a room with two other people but there were a total of four beds in the room. Each had a privacy curtain, small closet, and, being Japan, a flat screen TV. Best of all, there was an actual bed. A huge upgrade from the futon I'd become accustomed to.
14: Like jail, the hospital enforced a strict schedule. The day started at 7 A.M. when nurses performed the standard medical checks (temperature, blood pressure, bandage changes, etc.) which would then continue at intervals throughout the day. Breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, and dinner at 6 with tea being served a half hour before each. Bedtime was at 8 and lights out at 9. Most people had exercise with a physical therapist sometime during the day, but other than that we adhered to a strict schedule of periodic napping.
16: As none of the nurses spoke English I got plenty of practice, but I never got the chance to use many of the new phrases/vocab I learned. For instance, I could never confidently answer how many family members I had, much less what they were like, but after my stay I could inform whoever wished to know how many times I shit/pissed the previous day and what the consistency was. Here are just some of my new vocabulary words...
18: chisaii (small, number one, pee)
20: ookii (big, number 2, poo)
22: chusha (injection)
24: tenteki (intravenous drip, IV)
26: zaiyaku (suppository)
28: I'd never taken a suppository before so when the doctor first handed it to me and said to take it when the pain got really bad, I thought to myself, "I'd rather just deal with the pain." Eventually the pain did get bad enough and I figured you can't get the real faux jail experience without having something shoved up your ass... It actually wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be. Not painful in the least, just a bit of an odd sensation, like you kind of have to shit but know you don't. After it disintegrated up there, my farts were those wet ones that make you nervous and prompt you to check your pants.
29: Although I couldn't read the instructions, the descriptive illustration made it clear where to put the suppository.
30: When people talk about getting sponge baths from nurses, it's always with an air of perversion, but my sponge bath was nothing close to that. The nurse unceremoniously slapped on a rubber apron and got down to it in a business-like manner that didn't leave anytime for embarrassment or fantasies. She undressed me, sat me down on the plastic chair, and started hosing me down.
32: As she sponged my back we made pleasant small talk. Turned out her children had children, making her a grandmother... usually a precursor for elimination from The Spank Bank. She soaped me up and rubbed me down. I steered the conversation toward food, by far the area of Japanese I'm most comfortable chatting about. She helped dry me off and informed me that in Autumn, salmon roe (ikura) is in season and I remarked that, yes, it did taste especially delicious lately while she helped me get dressed. Arguably the biggest let down of my adult life.
34: Obviously, there was a down side to this mini- vacation where all your meals are served in bed, and that was the surgery. As I was laid down on the operating table I wasn't nervous. Instead, I pleasantly drifted to sleep on the operating table after trying to stay awake to enjoy the nitrous high as the room pulsated into nonexistence... "waa waa waa waa waa waa waa waa waa waa waa waa............................................................ " I woke up feeling like a horse was standing on my shoulder and a chopstick was shoved up my dick. Turns out that was just the bone being shoved back to its normal position and the tube that was shoved up my dick. After bitching like crazy the nurse eventually came, slapped on a rubber glove, gave me a zayaku, and I drifted back to sleep.
36: When I woke up early the next morning I was still in a lot of pain and really anxious to get the catheter out of my penis. I was able to easily explain this to the nurse but she, unfortunately, was unable to explain something after that. When I finally convinced her through gestures to take it out, she emptied my bladder by squeezing my urethra and yanked out the big deep tube. The pain was so bad I almost wished I still had it in. I was amazed at how big and long the catheter it was.
38: The next couple days were spent eating, reading, taking pain killers, napping, and repeating.
40: In true Japanese fashion, the food was nutritious and artfully presented.
42: Breakfast was simple but nutritiously well- balanced. Egg omelet with katsup, cabbage and carrot salad, a small tomato, bread with butter and chocolate, yogurt, and milk.
44: Lunch and dinner were similar but more hearty. White rice, Chinese-style dumpling soup, a red bean sweet, fresh vegetable salad, and seaweed soup. Rice is such a staple of the Japanese diet that the word for rice (gohan) and meal are the same. Breakfast (asa gohan) literally translates to morning rice, lunch (hiro gohan) translates to daytime rice, and dinner (ban gohan) translates to evening rice.
46: White rice, pan fried chicken thighs over shredded cabbage and a tomato slice, marinated shitake mushrooms with green onion, grated white radish, and fruit custard.
48: White rice, beef and vegetable stew, fruit salad, and chilled tofu.
50: White rice, assorted tuna sashimi, a traditional Japanese dish made of beef and root vegetables, miso soup, and drinkable yogurt.
52: White rice, grilled fish with grated radish, an orange, miso soup, and julienned root vegetables with sesame.
54: White rice, Japanese beef curry, strawberry yogurt, cabbage and egg salad with cucumbers and carrots, giant grapes with seeds in them, and pickled onions and ginger.
56: White rice with beans, grilled fish with grated white radish, cold potato salad on a single lettuce leaf, and natto, fermented red beans. My final meal was accompanied by a goodbye letter wishing me the best in my rehabilitation process.
58: Oishikata! Delicioius!
60: Not only was I continually amazed by what they sold in vending machines, but I was also amazed that I could still be amazed. I'd seen hundreds of vending machines that sold hot and cold coffee, French fries and corn dogs, used underwear, cotton candy, liquor, I-Pods...
61: Can you tell what these vending machines are selling?
62: At the time of this hospital visit I'd been in Japan for almost 2 years and was still taking pictures of vending machines. Here's one selling live flowers.
64: All and all, my hospital stay was enjoyable and good for my Japanese, but one week just wasn't enough. I guess you need to get cancer or something to become fluent. Personally, I'd rather just spend a year or two in the slammer for smoking dope.
66: 5 months after I was released, I checked back in to get the metal plate that was holding my collar bone together removed.
68: The hospital was just as good as I remembered it, a nice, relaxing get-away where you're not even expected to get out of bed.
70: THE END.