Sunday, May 23, 2010

Japanese Sign Language, Ooku no Hito, and Vash on TV!

So Monday night was exercise, which was excellent. I then went to the Jusco, where I purchased Hoi Hoi traps to kill roaches. I had left the sheet which told me what roach traps to buy at Higashiyama (of course) so I ended up just going to a person who was working at the store and saying “Gokiburi wo koroshitai...” (I want to kill cockroaches!) and the nice lady took me right to the section and recommended some great products including the Hoi Hoi traps I've got scattered around my apartment now. Since I've put them out, I haven't seen a roach! I also purchased a Bento sushi for dinner (under $5 for a Sushi platter that would be almost twice that much in the States) and some milk. Suffice it to say, I was dead tired by the time I finished eating.

Even so, I didn't really get to bed until 12am, so I was tired on Tuesday too when I went to work. But biking woke me right up, first because of the exercise and second because I accidentally took the wrong road and had a real panic moment that my usual lack of direction would make me late for work. This was especially problematic because I also had to leave early to attend CPR training. So being late and and leaving early, BIG problem in any country.

Luckily, the road I was taking to Homi was roughly parallel to the road I should have taken (155, going to Seto) so when I realized after about 10 to 15 minutes that none of the landmarks I recognized were appearing, and that the Chome I was in was not on my map (they all aren't listed, alas) I asked for directions to Josui Station. That's the closest large thing that I figured people would know if I asked for directions. Then it was a quick left turn and lots of downhill riding, and I was actually not only right back on track, but I was actually right at my school! Turns out the road that I had taken to get to Josui station went right PAST my school!

So I was on-time for Toyota Yogo! Phew! It was also a real reminder that even if you've successfully walked or biked to a place once or twice before, that's no protection against being lost in Japan. At least if you're me. But while I'm still getting lost, my ability to handle it and get back on track is also definitely improved. And I am much more well able to deal with biking on hills, and getting better at understanding the Japanese road system. So yay!
Classes went well. Having made it my mission to greet and say goodbye to every student (or as many as I can) is beginning to show real signs of paying off. The kids now remember me, and some even pop out with a “good morning” or a high five unsolicited! It's very exciting!

I'm not sure how much of it is that they're learning good morning and the like from me, or that they're just getting over their shyness (it's incredibly hard to tell here--) but either way, I feel really great because it's beginning to feel more and more like my presence at this school (and all of them) is making a positive difference! And I'm getting to know the kids better, and they're getting to know me. It's great! I'm still terrible with names though at Toyota Yogo because I'm there more often, and I have more free time in which to talk to students individually, I'm probably doing the best of all of my schools with remembering specific children and teen's names.

Another exciting thing about working at Toyota Yogo is one of my coworkers, (name a blank, as usual, but he says his first job is fishing, and second job is as a teacher, really great guy) a nice older gentleman who worked at four schools for deaf children before coming to Toyota Yogo, is teaching me Japanese Sign Language. We have a great time chatting in the staff room about all kinds of things, and I usually pick up between 3-6 new signs every day I'm there, which (since he teachers me most of the signs in Japanese and English if he knows the English word – his English is really pretty good, so our conversations drift between the two languages) provides a great grounding for new vocabulary in addition to giving me a new language, and something else interesting to share with the kids at my various schools. The sign language helps me ground my Japanese, so I figure (like with any gesture) it will help them ground their English a bit as well. It's also totally fun!

I had to leave early for CPR and AED (it's a machine that shocks the heart if it's failing) training so after volunteering (inserting myself) into the third period songs class (far better than spending another useless 45 minutes in the staff room) I headed back to my neck of Toyota to go to City Hall. I also stopped at a 7-11 and treated myself to an American Dog, which is the Japanese version of a corn dog. It's about as healthy for you here as in the States, which is to say not very, but I loves me a corn dog. The corn dogs here are extra special because instead of having a thin layer of cornbread, they are thic like a fist. The hot dog is the same size as a standard hotdog, but the cornbread layer is about as thick around as the dog itself. It's made of delicious (though having tried 7-11's version and the Sankus version, I totally recommend Sankus more. The cornbread is a bit fluffier there, at least at the Sankus next to VITS Karaoke, where I buy my karaoke snacks. Of course, this is a wild generalization, so take it for what it's worth).

CPR training was fun because I got to hang out with some folks from my company that I hardly ever see because we're all off living our own lives and etc. (and the training was basically in English, though we ended up drifting into Japanese a lot because we had some very experienced Japanese speakers in our group (Lem) who could translate the more complicated questions and answers) We learned what to do when we see someone lying flat on the ground, clearly not moving. First, tap their shoulders vigorously and say in a loud voice “wakarimasuka!” (do you understand/are you okay enough to understand me?) and if they don't wake up, then call for help “dareka kite!” (da ray ka keetay)

After that, you check for breathing, and if they're not breathing, start CPR. Checking for a pulse takes too long, so we're not supposed to do that. Depending on how panicked I am in a real situation, I'll probably automatically check the gums though to see if they're blue, because that's what we do for cats. Blue is BAD, because it means the tissues aren't getting oxygen (probably not breathing); pink is good, it means that the tissues are at least getting O2. White is also bad, because it means that for whatever reason, there's blood loss or anemia (check for wound). But this is an aside. If they aren't breathing, start CPR.

Once someone comes, get the first person to call for an ambulance “kyuu kyuu sha wo yonde kudasai!” the second person gets to get the AED (heart shocker machine) “AED wo motte kite kudasai!” and then last person is charged with bringing as many people as possible: “ooku no hito yonde kudasai!” We all had fun with “ooku no hito yonde kudasai” for two reasons. First, nobody (at least sitting near me) had heard the phrase “ooku no hito” before. And most of these folks (with the exception of Justin, who has been here for 7 months, and me, getting on 7 weeks) have been here for at least 1-2 years. Lem's been here for 11 years. He may have heard it before though; but he's also taken the class before when he got his driver's license. So first we had to define “ooku no hito,” definition: lots and lots of people. I assume that the 'ooku' is some form of 多いOoi (many) though which one and why its being used this way, I have no idea.

The second reason for confusion revolving around “ooku no hito” was the question that two or three of us asked in various ways? Once you have all these “ooku no hito” gathered around, what do you do with them all? I've always heard that as a passserby, if there is an accident, and there are people gathered around (and someone is clearly handling the situation), the last thing you want to do is add yourself to the mass. Too many people can make a bad situation worse. But in Japan you want “ooku no hito” because they'll help you with the CPR. Apparently, people in Japan (according to my trainer) are very likely to know how to do the chest compressions as a matter of course, and since it takes six minutes from the phone call for the kyuukyuusha (ambulance) to arrive, you're going to need those extra hands to keep you from getting exhausted as you do the CPR. But if nobody comes at all, then you do two minutes of CPR and then run off and call for the ambulance. (Dial 119 for ambulance here. There's a different number for the police and fire department.)

The next part of our training was on proper use of the AED. I'd never seen an AED before. It's basically a machine about the size of an old Mac laptop (ie: thick as a brick, about a square foot around) that checks for heartrate and then delivers (if necessary) a shock to the heart. There are leads that stick to the chest, one over the upper right side of the chest (across from the heart), the other diagonally to the left, just below the ribcage. For a child under eight, you put one lead on the front of the chest in the center of the ribcage, and the other on the back. You also really need to take any metal off the chest and dry the area, otherwise it's bad things. The shock is pretty tough.

If the heart isn't beating at all, the AED doesn't give a shock, as unlike in the movies, jolting a flatline doesn't do anything useful. Our very important phrase that we learned here was “hanarete!” 離れて!It means, back up, get your hands off, etc. (separate/detach/release). This is actually a word in a song I'm trying learn for Karaoke, The Mass Missile's 愛の讃歌(あいのさんか)which is all in Kansai-ben apparently; this explains a lot about why I couldn't find a lot of the words in the dictionary. I'll never forget the meaning of this word though, because after Hanarete comes the shock. “Shoku shimasu!”

Like me, everyone I've talked to since the training has had some sort of experience with the word “hanarete” running through their minds or dreams. The AED is quite straightforward (though its all in Japanese) and none of us has any trouble learning how to use it.

During our training, there was also a news crew (TV and newspaper) taking pictures and videotaping us for TV and the paper. I did a short interview (in Japanese; it was me and two others of our group) about how I found the training to be useful which turned up on the six-o-clock local news! (including in Nagoya). I never got to see it, but throughout the week fellow teachers and one student, as well as a friend online, have mentioned that they saw me on TV. I wish I could find an online link to the interview so I could see it, but who knows. The nice people at Kosema however did clip the newspaper article out for me. I'm taking a picture of it to post online. I'm right in the center of the picture used in the article. This also gives you an indication about how stress-free life here is as our CPR class was actually newsworthy.

It's also, I'm sure, because we're foreign. Being foreign here in Japan, especially in school with the students, is a little like being a rock-star. People always want to talk to you and ask you questions, etc! Even so, in school, I still have some residual nervousness from my own Elementary School experience (where I was about as popular as a roadkill skunk). Sometimes I have to fight a diffuse fear when approaching students at random “oh god, they're not going to like me...!”

This is especially true with the fifth and sixth grades (where I was about as popular as a roadkill skunk that had been left out in the sun for two days) but with a bright smile and an energetic hello, everyone's around me chattering and giving high-fives etc! Just entering a school, often kids will wave at me from the windows, and I'll here in excited tones “it's Vash! Eigo sensei!” or some permutation of this. For a ham like me, this is ridiculously exciting! (it's also allowing me to exorcise some old demons.) Even so, I do tend to find myself drawn to the unpopular kids (or those with learning disabilities) though I try to spread myself as evenly as possible. As a general rule, the kids here are incredibly kind to each other. Any horsing around is not meant in a mean spirit that I've seen, though I'm only getting a very narrow window into this world, so I can't make any generalizations as I really don't know.

So that was my exciting Tuesday!

Phew these entries take a long time, especially when one has a backlog!

Hugs to all :)

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