Friday, June 30, 2006

Back to Work

Sunday 25 June 2006, an idyllic Sunday. My wife ran the vacuum cleaner over the floor then watched the Sunday art program on TV, while I sat with my two-year-old daughter in the garden as she blew bubbles, then kicked the ball with her, then did jigsaws, then read her books.

My wife put me on the scales and I weighed in at 70.7 kilos, a kilogram down from last time. We've all three been ill with some kind of virus and, consequently, off our food.

I continue to sort through my personal room and to address the issue of what to do with the archives of my life. Most of this stuff I'm simply throwing away.

I have kept, for example, the records of my weight from May through August 2004, at a time when I was losing weight and nobody could discover why. In 2004, my weight dropped from 68.2 kilograms on May 2 down to 62.1 on August 15.

I had never been in a household which had a pair of accurate bathroom scales until we went and bought a set following the birth of our daughter. That was when I was finally able to test the ridiculous proposition that, immediately after you finish eating a meal, you are lighter than you started.

Someone confidently asserted this when I was in high school, and I knew immediately that it was a logical nonsense, but more than twenty years had gone by without me putting the hypothesis to the test, because never before had I had access to a set of household scales.

Finally, it occurred to me to run the experiment. So I weighed myself, ate a meal then weighed myself again. I was, naturally, heavier. Roughly one kilogram heavier.

And so another schoolyard myth bites the dust.

I've consigned the list of weight measurements to the bin. If it no longer holds my own interest then it's highly unlikely to be of interest to anyone else.

Nevertheless, some of my surviving archives still hold at least a little interest for me, and I had hoped to do some work on sifting and sorting these in the week starting Monday.

However, that proved impossible, as I was busy for the first three days doing full-time training for my new job, which started on Thursday 29 June.

I was dubious about my prospects of getting through the full-time training, as I have stamina issues. But, as the job I was heading for was only three hours a day, Monday through Friday, I figured I would be okay if I could only get through the training.

The first day seemed endless and I seriously thought about just walking out.

But I was encouraged by a cheerful young woman from the British isles who told me "On my first day I wanted to be sick".

My reaction, then, was not entirely idiosyncratic, and this perception helped me get through that first day, after which things became easier.

During training I taught actual students and, on one occasion, found my mouth getting horribly dry as my lesson started to hit rocky ground and the stress got to me.

During the day I made a point of drinking a lot of water, as my body seems to require it, more these days than formerly.

Some time back, I was with my wife and she said "Your mouth is really dry."

"Yes," I said. "But how do you know?"

"Because the inside of your mouth is white."

Physically, I'd rate myself at thirty percent at the moment.

That's okay with the prospect of a regular three-hour working day ahead of me, but I don't think I could cope with the viciously busy schedule I was working back in 2004.

By the third day of training, I was into the swing of things, and was actually starting to enjoy teaching English, although enjoying teaching had not been part of my game plan.

After the last lesson which I taught, the teacher who had monitored my performance complimented me on my obvious confidence. I didn't say, hey, I've done this a million times before.

The first time I taught at a conversation school in Japan, I realized, later, that I had put people's backs up by letting a sense of superiority leak out ... the professional amidst the amateurs. So, this time, I'm deliberately toning things down, trying to be a quiet cog in the machine.

So, after a rocky start, training went well.

Early in the week, my wife phoned Dr Gunma at Meijin Hospital, and discussed with him the two-millimeter node he had discovered in my "shono", the cerebellum. (The vowel in "sho" is long as is the vowel in "no".)

Checking my dictionary, I find the brain divides into a front part, the cerebrum, and a rear part, the cerebellum.

The cerebellum maintains balance and also coordinates muscular activity.

Obviously a lot of potential for fun and games here if your lymphoma decides to run amok and trash your cerebellum.

The next MRI, scheduled for 1 September, will say if this node is a recurrence of lymphoma or just radiation damage.

Dr Gunma told my wife that if the lymphoma has recurred then I may start feeling unsteady, and, if so, I should report to the hospital immediately without bothering with an appointment. But not Wednesdays because he won't be there on Wednesday.

The node showed up on my latest MRI scan. We went to a private clinic, had the MRI done and took physical film to the hospital.

My wife phoned the clinic. Could we get the MRI scan on CD-ROM? Yes, that was technically possible.

My wife and I discussed the possibility of getting such a CD and sending it to New Zealand, where the hospital system has my last MRI which they could use for comparison. But we also supplied Dr Gunma with copies of previous scans on CD-ROM.

I decided, no, I don't want to divide my diagnosis between Japan and New Zealand. If this guy in Japan doesn't know what he's doing then that's just too bad. But, as it is, I happen to have confidence in him.

My wife discussed delaying going back to work until the 1 September result, but I was negative on that idea.

Assuming that I live, my brain will continue to change and morph for the next ten to fifteen years as the radiation does its work, and my feeling is that we can't keep putting our lives on hold every time something odd shows up on an MRI scan.

So, all going to plan, as of Monday 3 July, our lives will be back to normal, or as normal as they are going to get.

My wife will be going to her civil service job. I will drop the child off at the daycare center at 0830, go to work, work until shortly after 1300, come home, check my e-mail then pick the child up at 1800. And that will be the pattern of our lives Monday through Friday.

So, at this stage, it seems I have a life.

It's a return to the past. The company that I've rejoined is basing me at an English-language conversation school that I'll choose to call Waniguchi Gakko, ie "Crocodile Mouth School", for the simple reason that the true Japanese placename always sounds to me, for some reason that I can't explain, like a large crocodile yawning.

I was most surprised when I found that the company was going to be sending me to Waniguchi Gakko, because Waniguchi was the place where I worked for the same company for two years in the period May 1997 through March 1999.

Finding I was going to be going back was a bit like finding out that I was being unexpected enrolled in my old high school.

I rejoined the company for a number of reasons. First, I'd worked for them before, so they had a file on me. Second, they always have jobs. Third, they always have students.

I fooled with the idea of getting my own private students, but my tentative exploration of that market did not encourage further effort. The response to advertisements posted on the community notice board and in the post office was zero.

(Locally, you're permitted to place a notice on the community noticeboard for ten days, and on the post office noticeboard for a month. The post office has two conditions: your message must display your phone number and, if you are a foreigner, you must show your ID card, which, as a foreigner resident in Japan, you will have.)

And, looking at the ads in METROPOLIS, I find that people advertising for private students do not seem to take out repeat ads, which suggests to me not that business is booming but, rather, the reverse.

The remuneration for this part-time work is not exactly princely, but it's enough money for our present life. We're obviously not, this year, going to take another overseas trip. Nor will this be the year in which we go buy the humongous high definition plasma TV which, back in 2003-2004, was a definite "we will buy this soon".

However. By the standards which most of the rest of the world endures, we're rich. Clean water, unlimited, straight out of the tap. So we can't complain.

Sidebar to close with: someone recently sent me a recommended reading list which included the science fiction writer Jack Vance. And, coincidentally, I got a communication recently from someone who told me that Jack Vance is continuing to write and publish in the face of blindness.

So I punched "Jack Vance blindness" into Google, and, sure enough, a bunch of hits popped up.

An example setter, obviously, hanging in there.


Blogger James said...

Glad to see your back at work. Hope all goes well.

4:22 PM  

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