Saturday, January 25, 2014

Nago Sakura Matsuri and the Flu

On the weekend of January 25th, the Okinawa chapter of the Association for Japanese Exchange and Teaching  (OkiAJET) coordinated an event to attend the さくら祭り Sakura Matsuri (Cherry blossom Festival) in Nago City. January seems like an early date for cherry blossoms to bloom, but because of the Okinawa's unique and comparably hot weather, the cherry blossoms bloom between late January to early February. Moreover, the colors of Okinawan cherry blossoms slightly differ than the ones found in mainland Japan, which display a light pink as opposed to Okinawa's dark pink cherry blossoms (although light pink can be found as well).

In Japan, cherry blossom viewing parties or 花見 hanami are fairly common with friends and families meeting at parks to enjoy each other's company underneath a cherry tree. However, in Okinawa such cherry blossom viewing parties do not exist (or so I've been told). Instead, grand festivals are held where one can enjoy traditional Okinawan performances, eat a variety of food and wash it down with Orion Beer. The phrase, 花より団子 Hana yori dango or "food (lit. dumplings) over flowers" really described the situation perfectly as people were more interested in food and beer than the scarce cherry blossoms in Nago.

After our fill of food, I and my fellow OkiJETs were guided by a string of Orion Beer lanterns up to the top of Nago Castle Ruins Park, where we relaxed and enjoyed an incredible view of Nago.

The following day, I began to show symptoms of a cold and I spent most of the day resting. Four days later, on a Thursday, my cold was still present but I also began to shake with sudden chills. I found it very odd because it was a particularly hot day with highs up to 75℉. The schools librarian saw my failed attempts to warm up in sun and directed me to the nurses office to have her take my temperature. As I sat in the nurses office, I thought back to certain animes, but my reminiscing was cut short as I wondered why we didn't have school nurses at any of my schools in the U.S. Weird, huh? 

The nurse asked me to place a thermometer under my armpit and later it read 38.6℃, which meant nothing to me as an American (almost 102℉). She told me that I needed to go to the hospital to check whether or not I caught the flu. My usual hospital was closed for the day, so she called another clinic and informed me that they would not reopen until 2pm (it was almost lunch time). She advised that I go home and rest until I could go to the clinic. She informed the vice principal who practically pushed me out of the door.

Influenza is a big deal in Japan with school shutting down due to outbreaks. My school had all the 1st graders sent home for 3 days because of the flu.

At the clinic, the nurses and doctors worked quickly and efficiently. I was seen in a matter of minutes and after all the initial test, such as blood pressure, the doctor performed the despised influenza test.

For the influenza test, the doctor collects mucus by inserting a 6-inch long Q-tip up your nose and into your nasal sinus cavity. 

Yes, it hurt. It also tickled and made my eyes water. The doctor performed the procedure as quickly a physically possible, but I was stunned and now slightly (not so slightly) traumatized. Shortly after, the nurse informed me that I had influenza type A and inserted an IV to pump the medicine directly into my veins. Afterward, I was given medicine for my fever and runny nose. I informed my Board of Education and they were so worried that they sent water and Japanese Gatorade. 

JET Program side note: You don't (and should not) take any personal time off (年休) for sick days, instead take sick leave (病休). 

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