Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas all!! I love holidays, mostly because of the parties that are involved. Since I couldn't get home to see the family, I spent Christmas Eve with some friends and went for yakiniku. Unfortunately, the meat overload did a number on my stomach, not to mention only the day before was I released from my teetotaler status. After dinner, a few of us headed to another izakaya for a second party, and finally Tracey and I headed to our favorite Sunset bar to celebrate midnight arriving.

Tracey couldn't control herself and opened all her presents on the 23rd. It's a good thing I didn't do my shopping til the 24th, so when we got back she actually had a present to open. Same for me, though for a different reason, I think the presents from my family got stuck in customs. Dad must've slipped something illicit into the package. I'm hoping for persimmon pudding, but it's probably a small monkey.

So to welcome Christmas, let's all start off by reviewing how Canadians can ruin even the best things, like AC/DC:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I can see clearly now....

Well, at least mostly clearly. More clearly than I've ever seen in my entire life. Yesterday I had my lasik surgery. Friday night was an end-of-year party for an English society that I occasionally attend, so I ended up drinking too much and singing lots of karaoke, then waking up early to go to Tokyo.

The clinic has to be the most relaxing place I've ever been to. There are lots of people coming and going, the nurses come to the waiting room every few seconds to call a patient, but still, the atmosphere is so entirely calming that I just want to close my eyes and fall asleep. Probably this is partly an effect of the aforementioned party, but most definitely the very soft lighting and music box sounds did most of the work. Coming off the streets of busy Tokyo, with cars roaring by and people shoving every which way for Christmas shopping, I stepped off the elevator and into napland. The lighting wasn't dim, but very diffuse, so you couldn't look at a fixture and think, boy, that's bright. The nurses were all very sweet and cute, and of course wearing matching pink outfits. It wouldn't be Japan without that. They didn't speak much English, but they managed to get a doctor whose English was passable to examine me and explain everything about the operation.

First I was gowned up and given dilation drops. Then they took me to a room where I lied down and the English-speaking doctor cut the corneal flaps. They put pressure on your eye, to pin it down, then the sight in that eye goes dark, and stays that way for a bit. It wasn't bad when they did my right eye, but when they did the left one, I knew what it felt like to be blind: you know your eyes are open, but you can't see a thing. Afterwards, the vision came back and everything was really fuzzy, understandable since I'd just had my eyeballs sliced open.

I was a bit off balance, so they guided me into the next room for the lasering. After lying down again, and being sternly warned not to move by myself, they positioned my head directly beneath the laser. After taping my eye open and flushing it with some liquid, they put a tube or something over it to hold it in place and line it up directly with the laser. There's a red light shining in your eye, and it refracts just when it hits your misalinged cornea, so you see this weird refracted circle hovering in that position. It was strange. Then they peel back the flap and tell you to look directly at the green light. Then the laser goes.

I'd been warned about it by someone else, but I wasn't really prepared for the strange burned/ionized smell that came out. It was rather strange thinking it was my eyeball that was causing it. My vision went black, but I could still make out the green light in the center of my field of vision, with 2 red lights that would flash on and off on either side. Eventually it stopped and my vision came back. Then it was time for the left eye, which took a little longer. I was starting to get nervous, but they said later that it wasn't anything bad, just took a little longer. Which would make sense since my vision is worse there. Well, I hope that was all.

After all was said and done, they took me back to the waiting room and told me to take care on my way back and gave me some sunglasses (that weren't half bad - I'd been expecting to have some bug-eyed coverings taped on) and sent me on my way. I was starving, so I stopped in at a Yoshinoya at the station and had a quick lunch, where I was constantly interrupted by some old guy who wanted to ask me questions. Normally, I could strike up a conversation, but after that experience, it was the last thing I wanted. I grunted answers and pretty much ignored him, which probably contributed further to the national dislike of foreigners, but I didn't care at that point. By the time I got on the train, the anasthetic had worn off and I was in agony. My eyes wree stinging like no tomorrow, I could hardly keep them open to see in my bag for eye drops. It was at that point that I realized I had absolutely no idea which of the five or six eye drops and one pill were the painkillers. Yay. I tried the pill and one kind of eye drops, to no avail, and sat there with my eyes shut all the way to Hitatsuka, at which point I called my friend Miwa and made her come down and meet me, so she could read the instructions and tell me which one I had to take. Within seconds, I felt totally better and could actually begin to realize I could see everything around me. It was amazing!

Now that I knew what medicine did what, and Miwa had helpfully translated the other parts, which nobody thought to explain to me, like I had to wait five minutes between drops and do them in a specific order. I took the bus home and from that point, about 5pm, until I went to bed, I had nothing to do. I couldn't watch TV, read, or use the computer. And I couldn't take a nap because I had to put eye drops in every hour, so I was basically trapped. Mercifully, my parents called and I was able to talk to them.

Sunday (today) was basically the same, although I cheated (not really, I realized later I could) and watched a movie. I went for a follow-up checkup in the early evening, and I have to go back in a week to make sure everything's ok.

Besides a bit of a halo/glare effect at night, which should wear off in a couple weeks, my visual acuity is 1.5. What that means, I'm not entirely sure. The doc said anywhere between one and two is good, so I'm going to accept that. If anyone knows of any information about it, like what's considered average or normal, please let me know.

I'll let you know how it goes. I have to follow a strict regimen of eye drops, not getting water in my eyes, no alcohol, and taping these stupid-looking plastic shields over my eyes when I sleep.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Well, glad that's over

I took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) today. I went for level 3 this year, despite passing level 4 with a 65% (60% is passing). It has no real meaning or conesequence for me, besides dropping 5,000 yen on it, but I hope to use it to spur my lagging studies. The bad thing was that I've been very busy up to and including today, so it really ended up being just another headache.

My weakness is grammer. Japanese adds all sorts of little post-positions (like prepositions in English, but, you know, post) and combine them with various verb forms to give a particular nuance. I suppose I could learn those faster in a class, but I'm too cheap to pay for a class, and the free lessons offered by city hall aren't that great. But, gift horse and all that. It's funny because it contrasts with my learning Spanish, where I had the grammer down pat, but didn't have the vocabulary to actually say anything.

Coming on the heels of Sam's visit, evidently my social calendar is filling up with end-of-year parties. The schools have them, the gym (even though I haven't been in 2 weeks) is having one, an English-discussion group I visit occasionally has invited me. Looks like I don't get a weekend off for a while. Not that I'm complaining.

Big things coming up this month are, especially, lasik surgury on the 16th, and beginning some semblance of apartment hunting. My lease is up at the end of February, and depending on my work situation next spring, I'll decide if I want to stay in Hiratsuka or move to Fujisawa, where I'll have easier access to Tokyo if I decide to try for a graduate school up there. Then there's that little matter of what to do for the week on either side of New Year's. I think I'll take it easy, go to the gym and work on that six-pack (hah!), and visit an onsen or 10 and unwind, all while trying to catch up on the backlog of reading I haven't been doing.