It’s inevitable, a part of being human and just plain annoying. That’s right, I finally got sick for the first time since moving to Japan. Since the classes started for the Japanese students last week, everyone has been exposed to all sorts of nasty germs and as a result, most of the students on campus are feeling under the weather. I thought I managed to escape through the cold season scot-free, but then I started feeling a familiar tingling in the back of my throat which was a clear signal for what was yet to come. The next day I slept for 14 hours and was running a nasty fever. Luckily it was the weekend so I didn’t have to don a face mask and go out in public.
The hardest thing about being sick in Japan is how it’s hard to read the labels for medicine! There is so much kanji, which I am notoriously bad at reading, so it took me a looooong time to figure out which medicine matched my symptoms when I finally mustered enough energy to trudge down to the nearby convenience store. Luckily I ran into a Japanese friend at the store and she helped me pick out the medicine that she thought was best-suited for me. In one of my intermediate Japanese courses at UF we had a whole chapter about health (we even did a skit in front of the class where one student was a patient who was describing their symptoms to another student, who was a doctor and had to give them medical advice) so I knew enough vocabulary to get the notion across that I was not a happy camper.
When you’re in a foreign country and you’re sick, the littlest things can throw you off. For example, whenever I get sick, I like to drink green tea and eat chicken noodle soup. Green tea was super easy to find, this is Japan after all, but finding pre-made chicken noodle soup was out of the question, so I had to compromise with miso soup. Also, I like to call my mom and whine about how gross I’m feeling, but I couldn’t do that easily either. Nowadays, I usually have to wait until 10PM until I can call her, assuming that she doesn’t need to leave for work early in the morning. Time differences suck. Also, just having friends in general to check-in on me was a privilege that went unnoticed when I was back in Gainesville. Everyone in my Japanese class got along great and we were like one big (slightly dysfunctional) family that looked out for each other. Not having that support group in Japan really affected me and made me a bit homesick.
However, the kindness of everyone here definitely made me feel better. After all, having a friend at the convenience store to pick out medicine was really helpful, and it was nice of her to take some time out of her day to help me like that. Plus, whenever I mentioned in passing that I was sick, most of my friends offered to bring me food/water/medicine if I needed it, which was touching. Another small win for me was when I managed to find a package of cough drops that was labelled in (mostly) English! To top it all off, my parents sent me lots of pictures of my favorite family member, Gator, who is the Greatest Dane. I’m glad that technology can still keep me connected to my family (mainly Gator) and I;m grateful for the friends that I have here, because it was nice to feel supported during such a vulnerable time, especially in a foreign country. I’m feeling better now, so hopefully I will be able to go out and see Japan this weekend and make up for lost time!