Some new things Iearnt about Japan this week

A couple of nights ago I was driving home from the gym. My route takes me right past the hospital. While waiting at the traffic lights I watched an ambulance speed into the emergency bay. I'm pretty sure it's human instinct to want to look at the gruesome victim from a car accident or hapless heart attack patient. I was totally surprised to see the ambulance pull up alongside the emergency entrance while an attendant closed a huge curtain around it! I had to think "only in Japan!". I mean we have all watched hundreds of episodes of ER on television where the ambulances screech up to the waiting room and wheel bloody, gory, half-dead people in! Certainly no privacy curtains in use.

Of course women who have given birth in Japan are quite familiar with the curtain. Without going into too much detail, any examinations below the neck are facilitated from the other side of a curtain. You prop yourself up on the semi-reclined examination chair, the curtain is drawn in front of your face, then the faceless doctor or nurse does their thing. Sometimes, in a busy clinic, you don't even know who you are being examined by! It's kind of freaky and I know a lot of my friends did not like this particular aspect of the whole "giving birth in Japan" thing.

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In light of that and so many friends going through scares, operations and treatments for breast cancer I have scheduled myself for a mammogram. In Japan screening is offered to women over the age of forty, free or at a substantially discounted rate, by the health plan. I received my coupons a few months ago.

Now I cannot help wondering if there will be a curtain involved. Maybe something with a couple of holes cut out in front? I think I will die laughing if that proves to be the case.

Joking aside, ladies it is so important that you get your checks done. I was reluctant to do it because I am not confident enough to make the appointment (my Japanese falters with medical language). But I think I have a responsibility to my two children to make sure I am as healthy as I can be. I asked my wonderful friend for help with making the appointment. I can't say I am looking forward to it but I am sure it won't be that bad.

One last funny thing I learnt this week, a new experience for me. Also while driving home from the gym one evening, I was breath-tested. For the first time ever in this country. Japan has a zero tolerance alcohol law for drivers so I never drink and drive. In any case I was on my home from aerobics so hadn't been drinking. The police officer said something I didn't catch so I pulled on my wisdom from New Zealand and spoke into the breathalyzer. I said something like hello how are you? The police officer then had to demonstrate that you need to blow over the breathalyzer in order to get a reading. A little bit embarrassing. But at least I passed!

Hey did you catch my radio interview? What a riot! I was pretty happy with how it went. I hope I didn't ramble too much. I will post the link to the recording if I can later.


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