First post and explanation
So I'm sick again.
I seem to get sick easily in this country. Maybe the extra resources I'm devoting to functioning in a foreign language are being diverted from my immune system. Or maybe it has something to do with living with a nine year-old and an especially touchy-feely four year-old.
Anyway, I've got a cold. My nose is stuffed up, my throat hurts, I'm coughing a little, and I'm achey a little. Just your normal cold.
My host family, bless them, is interpreting this as some kind of catastrophic medical emergency.
I wasn't even planning on informing them of the cold except that I was sniffling at lunch and my host father asked me to describe my symptoms. When I'd finished listing them off, my host father put on a worried look and immediately went in search of medicine. Admittedly, some sudafed would've done me good, but I don't know if pseudoephedrine is even legal in this country, so I didn't bring any with me. In any case, while I wouldn't have said no to some decongestant, there was no dire need for medical treatment.
Unable to find medicine, by host father then asked if I needed to go to the doctor. The conversation went something like this:
"Do you need to go to the clinic to see a doctor or anything?"
"A doctor. At the clinic. Or the hospital. Do you need to go to the hospital?"
He whips out the dictionary.
"No no, I understood what you said, but... I mean, it's just a cold. I don't have to see a doctor or anything."
"Are you sure? You sound very sick! I could take you to a clinic after lunch."
"Uh... thank you, really, but it's just a cold. I'll be fine."
"But colds can be very serious!"
He whips out the dictionary again.
"No, no no no, I know what both of those words mean, but it's only a cold!"
"But you sound very sick!"
Etc. In the end we settled for him cutting me half a grapefruit to eat so I could replenish vitamin C or something like that. Then he filled me in on all the reasons he thought I'd caught a cold. One of which was that I'd taken a shower the evening before and then a few minutes later went outside to buy a new notebook at the konbini. Apparently exiting the house directly after taking a shower gives you colds. Something about my hair still being wet:
"Very bad for your health, going outside while your hair is still wet."
I have, like, an inch of hair.
So this evening, after going through the same drill with my host mother when she'd come back from preparations for a picture book festival, I studied for a few hours and then decided to take a break. Exercise and a little time outside is good for me, so I generally take my breaks by walking around the neighborhood listening to my iPod and letting my thoughts drift. It's a habit my host family finds inordinately weird, but they've gotten used to my crazy gaijin ways.
Tonight though, I apparently crossed the border into outright, commitable-class insanityland by telling my family I was going to take a walk while also having a cold. Holy shit, I might sneeze or something while I'm crossing a street! The sixty degree weather will give me pneumonia! My stuffed sinuses will so confuse me that I'll never be able to find my way back home and I'll get eaten by a bear!
Both my host mother and my host father flailed me with questions as to my state of health and with Extremely Concerned facial expressions. I finally convinced them that I'd somehow survive the harrowing ten-minute trek through suburbia, but it took a lot of insisting.
For god's sake, it's a cold, not the consumption. I appreciate that they're worried about me, but let's wait until I've caught something that actually incapacitates me before we start talking bed rest and industrial strength antibiotics.
Of course, the day after I write this I lose my voice. Boy did my host father ever give me an "I told you so" expression at breakfast the next morning. I maintain ten minutes of walking outside did not, in of itself, rob me of my ability to say anything above a whisper, but I've lost the battle of American thoughts on colds vs. Japanese thoughts on colds as far as my host family's concerned.
I'd recovered enough by evening that I could convince my host family I'd survive a fearfully dangerous and thoroughly taxing trip to a restaurant all of five minutes away from the house. It was a Japanese chain restaurant called "Tonki" where everyone who worked there, waiters, cooks and all, yelled "HAI!!!" every time someone walked in (this is on top of all the standard Japanese screams of "irasshaimase!" that accompany the mere entrance of a customer).
My host family asked what I thought of Japanese customs in the service industry and I explained that if the staff of an American restaurant did that, people would be, to put it delicately, freaked the fuck out.
Alright, so technically there's Coldstone, but can I just say that Coldstone freaks me the fuck out? Man, that bell...
Anyway, my host mother then noticed, to her considerable bemusement, that different waiters and waitresses were coming by to fill our water glasses at least every three minutes. "They've never come that often when we've eaten here before," she explained, which was fairly often. Our glasses were obviously still full, but, regardless, along came a parade of staff members asking if we were in any further need of liquid refreshment.
Yes, that's right, the staff of Tonki were playing our favorite game: "Holy Shit It's A Gaijin!!!!!!1!111!11110101!"
People of Hakodate, you're welcoming and fascinating and very patient with me, but it has to be said: you guys need to get out more.
izu is now back stateside. this is posted in retrospect.