Sick in Japan

It started last week, with 2 consecutive days of “mountain” climbing (large hill climbing).  I was pretty worn out and had a bit of a sore throat when I returned to work Tuesday…

Now I know all about how important it is to conserve your voice and not to overstress it when it is showing signs of strain – but knowing and doing are two different things.  I worked at a preschool that day, singing and yelling, and then taught more classes afterward.  By the end of the night I had a very hoarse voice.  I was doing my best Fran Drescher impression and these poor Japanese students didn’t even know it, because they haven’t been subjected to Fran Drescher movies.  Maybe I’ll recommend the Beautician and the Beast to them sometime, to further their exposure to the delights of Western civilization. 

Wednesday my voice was terrible, but I could still force out wheezy voice-like sounds between the odd squeak of a word lost in mid-air.  My last class was a group of four girls who finally awoke from their cram-school-induced stupor just in time to excitedly spill tea all over and share some very interesting stories with me.  You know, it takes a lot of talking and positive reinforcement to wake someone from a stupor.  Thursday morning I’d lost my voice completely and had a terrible cold.  There was only a wheeze – no words.  I had to take two full days off. 

A kind soul brought me my first bowl of okayu (translates as “rice porridge” but it was more like a delicious soupy rice with vegetables and egg cooked in with it), Povidone throat gargle, and three packets full of magical yellow powder…was it a rub?  Was I supposed to drink it?  Was it sacred goat urine?  (private joke there)  I guessed I was supposed to drink it and mixed it into a cup of hot water…but there was no smell!  My nose was plugged but shouldn’t something that yellow smell like lemon, or honey, or anything edible?  I quickly loaded up Google, and to my relief discovered that this concoction was not only a drink, it was chock full of vitamins and a bit of cold medicine (similar to the kind I had to leave behind in Canada because of Japan’s ridiculously stringent import rules, even though I already had a year’s supply of cold tablets…and yes I am a little bitter about it!)  Anyway, I drank the stuff.  It tasted disgusting – possibly how a super-concentrated grapefruit peel tea might taste.  But it sure worked.  I was slowly regaining my voice and by Saturday night I taught 3 classes, but still with a terrible voice.  After having Sunday and Monday off, my normal voice returned!  Hooray!  Despite that, the cold lingered.  I was still tired and had sinus headaches, making classes difficult simply because it’s hard to concentrate when you’re miserable. 

Povidone iodine throat gargle solution and Paburon Gold-A packets

Povidone iodine throat gargle solution and Paburon Gold-A packets

As I was leaving a preschool, a bunch of tiny little boys I had taught ran after me to the gate.  Their bright yellow caps bobbed up and down like bouncy balls as they yelled “Sensei!  Eigo no sensei!  Tanoshikatta!!! Tanoshikatta!!” (Teacher!  English teacher!  I had fun/it was fun!)  Well, the rest of the evening I had a nasty headache and kinda wanted to die, but that was really sweet and made my day.  It was a memory to hang on to (especially for other days which I’m sure are coming when they’re bored out of their minds and want to get rid of me ASAP).

From now on, I’m going to be very paranoid about voice strain.  I never, never want to lose my voice like that again.  The only thing scarier than sounding like Fran Drescher is having no voice at all.


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