Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Broken Collarbone

Sorry for the extended absence. Sometimes you just don't have time to write about what's going on in your life because you can't use your right hand. That and I kind of forgot about my blog. I have so many things to write about, but I will fill you all in on my injury first. On September 30th I was biking in a Mountain Bike Relay. The format of this relay was 3 racers compete as a team to see who can make the most laps in 3 hours. It took place at Mt. Daisen, the same beautiful mountain I have climbed, skied, and adored during my time here. I was the beginner in the group and honestly, I hadn't been on a bike of any kind for over a year. I hadn't been mountain biking in years. We went and practiced the week before and everything went well, I was hitting the hills at full speed with no problems. I was really confident. On the day of the race however, there was a small typhoon. So it was raining the whole time. We started out great, my teammates were both experienced riders, so they were able to do multiple laps without a problem. I on the otherhand was not in riding shape and could only do one lap at a time. It was so tiring. After 2 and a half hours I had completed 2 laps and my two teammates had completed 10 laps. We were sitting in 2nd or 3rd place. I thought I was done for the day, but I had to complete one more lap, the last lap of the race....Before I took off I was reminded that we were in a position to be in the top 3. I took off and made the hard climb up the mountain. I was exhausted and covered from head to toe in mud, but I kept pushing. I got to the "fun" part of the course, or at least it was fun the first two times around. I was coming up on the first downhill spot and I was going full speed. All of a sudden I was sprayed in the face with mud. I couldn't see a thing. So imagine you are going full speed down a hill and you are surrounded by giant pine trees...Let's just say that I freaked out, panicked, lost my cool, got that feeling in your chest that means something bad is going to happen...and then I did the one thing that I had told myself not to do, I pulled on the brakes, hard, really hard. That stupid move sent me flying through the air like superman. I have a vivid memory of this moment. It all happened so fast, but I remember that feeling of helplessness. It is the same feeling I had two weeks before that when my buddies and I were cliff diving and I was attempting a running front flip and froze in the air and ended landing on my back, I think that hurt more than my broken bone...haha. It is probably one of the worst feelings ever. So there I am flying through the air, and I am blind because of the mud in my eyes when the impact occurs. For anyone who has been smacked in the head knows the sound, Boom! Then you experience a moment of complete darkness followed by some stars. Luckily I was wearing a helmet and I didn't have a concussion. I don't think my head could have taken another concussion. So there I was, laying in a puddle of mud, dazed and in pain. I turned over to stand up, but my right arm and shoulder were not working. So I rolled over to the other side and stood up. I immediately reached for my shoulder to examine the damage. I couldn't see it, but what I felt was disgusting. My collarbone was out of place, it felt like it was pointing to the sky...I shiver every time I recall that moment, the fall and the realization that I severely injured myself. After that I looked around for help, I was in the middle of the course in a forest on a mountain. Not the worst place to hurt yourself, but not the best. Immediate help was nowhere to be found. So I picked up the bike and started walking towards the finish line. Other racers began zooming past me and I was so dazed and in pain that I just kept walking without asking for help. I didn't want to slow them down..haha. After walking with the bike in extreme pain for about 7 minutes or so, someone stopped and asked me if I was OK. I didn't know the Japanese word for collarbone at the time (Sakotsu), so I said, "Yes, my should is DEFINITELY broken." He looked frightened and said he would get help. 5 minutes later a man in a little truck appeared. I got in the truck and he threw my bike in the back and then we took off down the mountain. Each bump sent a lightning bolt of pain through my shoulder. When we finally got back down, my teammates were waiting at the finish line for me with there backs to me. I said, "Hey Cian, I'm sorry I couldn't finish, I broke my collarbone." He turned around with a horrified look and yelled, "WHAT!" in his awesome Irish accent. After that we waited for the ambulance (free of charge!) and went to the hospital. I was still covered in mud, so the nurse spent about 10 mins cleaning me and getting me into some clean clothes that Cian's friend Ushi bought for me. They took the X-Rays and Dr. Okuno looks at me and starts to explain to me in Japanglish how I have to have surgery. I broke the bone in four different places and two bone fragments were detached. I went home and attempted to sleep. I usually sleep on my right shoulder or on my stomach and now I had to sleep on my back. I spent many nights struggling to sleep the first week. In Japan they are very cautious. I had to go to the hospital a whole day before my surgery. So I arrive at the hospital on Tuesday October 2nd. I ended up just sitting there, reading my book for a couple of hours. Then the fun started. They came and got me and said that I needed a shower, I hadn't showered for 3 days, so I was on board. I told them that I could do it myself, but they insisted that they give me a sponge bath. My friends and I joked that the nurses probably drew straws or played rock, paper, scissors to see who would get to bath me...haha. They treat foreigners once every blue moon, so I thought they would treat me like a king. They did sometimes, but for the most part they ignored me...haha. So back to the sponge bath. I walk into the bathing area and the nurse said get naked. I paused and said, everything? The nurse responded with, "Are you embarrassed?" I was, but decided to just go with it and dropped my boxers. I then sat on a bucket while she cleaned me. Now you would think that she would be careful around the injured shoulder, but she went to town and scrubbed my shoulder. I made an animalistic sound and she apoligized. I mean, how do you not see the football sized bruise on my shoulder?!?! It ended up being an interesting experience. One I hope not to have again anytime soon. I went to bed or tried to and had dreams of the crash..It is one of those experiences that play over and over in your head and then they end up in your dreams. I woke up and was starving, but of course I couldn't eat. I sat around until 1pm when they began to prep me for surgery. They put me on a gurney. Right before I was going to go into the operating room I had to piss. I was all hooked up to an IV, so this was a headache for the nurses. They rolled their eyes and told me to they would hold the IV while I relieved myself. So picture this, one nurse is holding my IV, the other one is talking with her, and there I am in a hospital gown pissing with an IV in my arm. While I was working up the courage to piss in front of two women they were having an interesting conversation about me in Japanese. I had been speaking Japanese for two days at the hospital and yet they still acted like I was just another dumb mute foreigner. They were discussing my "long" nose (big), my blonde hair, my height, and my white skin. They did say that I looked like an actor, so that was a nice compliment. After finishing, I was wheeled into the operating room. For those of you who have never had surgery, it feels like you are going to be the subject of some weird science experiment. The metal walls, the 6 people surrounding wearing masks, the lighting, the strange instruments lined up next to you, it all adds up to an overwhelming feeling. I like to act like I am tough, but that was a scary moment. You can't help but think, what if something goes wrong? what if I'm given too much anesthesia. Luckily they soon put you under and you sink into an foggy abyss. The surgery took about 2 hours, longer than expected because he had a hard time drilling one of the bone fragments back into place. I woke up and had an oxygen mask on my face. I hate those things. They make you mouth and throat all dry and you are not allowed to drink any water for a couple of hours. My boss and the school district's super intendant were there when I woke up. I apparently talked to them and the doctor in Japanese for about 20 minutes before falling back asleep. I vaguely remember this, it was such a surreal experience. I wake up and people are asking me all these questions in Japanese and I am responding in Japanese naturally like it was not a big deal. Looking back on that makes me laugh, I wish I had a video of those 20 minutes. I was all drugged up and yet I was carrying on multiple conversations in Japanese. I had to spend another 24 hours in the hospital. I read and was uncomfortable for most the time, but I also dozed in and out of sleep the whole time. Every time I asked one of the nurses for help they would roll their eyes at me like I was a hobo or something. I just wanted some water from time to time and they acted like it was a big inconvience for them. I only rang the help bell 4 times in 24 hours. I think that is pretty good. I tried eating breakfast the next morning and immediately felt sick. My body does not agree with anesthesia. I puked up the little water I had in my stomach and then dry heaved for about 20 minutes. I began to sweat profusely and asked the nurse to turn on the air conditioner. She said that was not allowed and she handed me a towel. Talk about service!haha. I ended up going 2 days without eating, I have never felt so weak in my whole life. I finally returned home on October 4th. I was so relieved to be out of that furnace of a hospital. I now have a plate and 7 screws inside me. That was my surgery experience. Below are some pics.
The Initial X-Ray. You can see the bone sticking up, that is what I felt at first.
Laying in bed waiting for surgery.
Notice how bruised my chest was as well. The Doc says I bruised my sternum badly too.
Post op X-Ray. I am offical part robot. 7 screws, 16 staples. They took the staples out after a week.
1 week post op. I am doing much better now so don't worry. I had surgery exactly 3 weeks ago. JB

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

God Bless America

Happy Birthday America. It is funny, being abroad makes you realize what a great place America is. Our culture extends around the world. Wherever you go, you will see our influence. Whether it is downtown Tokyo or small town Nanbu where I teach. Our presence is felt. I went to see Spiderman last weekend with some friends. We saw it in English with Japanese subtitles. Can you imagine all of the greatest movies being in a different language? How annoying would it be to read subtitles while watching all of the best movies? Seeing a movie in Japan is kind of funny because a lot of the humor gets lost in translation. My friends and I were laughing at parts in the movie while the rest of the Japanese audience remained silent. After watching that movie I felt proud that my country makes all of the greatest movies. Then I thought about how we basically run the entertainment industry for the whole world. When you go to a club or a bar, you hear American club music, not Japanese club music. Japanese people seem to love America, whenever a random person asks me where I am from, they always respond by saying cooool. I am a conceited American and I'm proud of it. Confidence breeds success and that is why America is number one. Enough about America. I joined a new gym this past week. It looks like something out of a 1970s boxing movie. All the equipment is ancient and they building itself looks like it hasn't been touched in 30 years. This is however fine with me, they actually have some heavy weights. This gym does not max out at 20 kilograms (45lbs) like the other gym. The downside is, I am no longer the biggest guy around...This gym has actual body builders... I guess I'll just have to use that as motivation. At school, nothing new here. The kids all seem to be disinterested, but that is to be expected. I can't imagine having to go to school year round with only a 2 week summer vacation. I told my students that American students have 3 months off in the summer and they all gasped in envy. Just another reason why America is amazing...and lazy....haha. Lastly I want to talk about the Japanese work ethic. I really respect it, but most of the time it seems pointless. I think that most of the time they 'work' late just to gain respect. I heard that some of my teachers were working until 9pm the other day...This is in addition to being coaches and having to work on Saturdays...This leads to a bunch of people who are extremely boring and irritable. They need to work less and play more in my opinion. In the Japanese work place you don't want to be the first person to leave unless you are the boss. So for example, no one will leave my school while the principal is still here. Even if it is 7pm and they don't have anything to do, they will stay to gain respect. Japanese people don't complain, so that is why this practice is still going on to this day. If this was happening in America, one of our Unions would step in to set things straight. That is all for now. I am always on skype, so if you have skype let's chat. I am usually on in the morning your time during the weekdays. And I usually go on after drinking on the weekends, so that would be like 10am-1pm your time. (Julia...cough) JB

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summertime is so fly.

Summertime in Japan is my favorite time to be here. There aren't any waves, so surfing is impossible, but snorkling and laying out in the sun is awesome. This year has been especially nice because the rainy season hasn't been all that rainy. Last year it seemed to rain everyday and that can get depressing. Next weekend we are having a 4th of July party and I can't wait, I brought my American Flag Tshirt just for this moment. I am also going to sing my own rendition of 'America F*** Yeah.' I feel that these Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans and Japanese people could use a dose of good ol American Patriotism. I got some amazing news about 2 weeks ago. One of the most important people in my life is coming to visit me August! I was talking to Becca on skype and told her that she should come in August, I told her which days I have off (July 24-August 28...oh yea) and the next thing I know she had purchased her ticket over here. It is going to be so much fun. We are going to meet up in Tokyo and then travel to Kyoto and finally we are going to go Yonago where I am living. I love showing people the amazing shrines, temple and castles. I also love chilling out on a beach, so that is also on the agenda. This means that I won't be going to the Philippines, but that is OK with me. I would rather travel around Japan and show Becca a good time anyday. Other than that, not much is going on here. I am playing guitar at a charity event tomorrow for my school, it will be my first time playing in front of an audience. Ahh. I am playing, 'Ue o Muite, Arukou' or 'The Sukiyaki' song by Kyu Sakamoto. It should be pretty interesting. I feel like that even if I mess up, they will love me because I am a foreigner. Wish me luck. JB

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cultural Differences/headaches

When you live in a foreign country, especially one like Japan, you can't help but notice all the small cultural differences. A lot of them are harmless, but some of them either confuse you or drive you crazy. I intend to cover the peculiar facets of Japanese culture that I have noticed. I also intend to rant about how great America is because being away from the land of the free and the home of the brave makes you appreciate how great Americans have it. So if you're an American, appreciate the awesomeness of Ammerrrrica. I am going to sound like a typical stupid conceited American, but I can't help it. Ask anyone who has lived abroad and in America, no matter how hard you try, nothing can compare to the American lifestyle. You can easily obtain anything you want with ease. I decided to write about this topic because I was at a restaurant the other day and my friend and I were wondering if the waitress would bend the rules so we could get chicken in our salad. We thought about not even to bother asking because once something is decided or a rule is made, it is impossible to bend it. All I wanted was for them to add chicken to my salad and the waitress looked at me as if I was crazy. She said, 'we can't do that because it is not on the menu.' Hmm, in America, people bend the rules all the time. Sometimes it is great sometimes it makes thing fall apart. The fact that in the good ol US of A you have options! That brings me to another rant. At school, we have to teach what is in the textbook because it is going to be on the test. For example, last week we taught, 'I have lived in Japan for one year.' I said, we can also say, 'I have been living in Japan for one year.' The head teacher looked at me and said, oh we can't teach that because it is not in the book...hmm can we make a quick diversion to acknowledge that there is more than one way to say something....nope. I think a lot of that is because Japanese people are so set in their ways that change is so hard to accept. I'll admit that most Americans are the same way, I definitely don't like big changes, which is obvious because I'm writing about how I am failing to adapt completely to Japanese soceity. BUT, I think I am right in saying that Japanese people need to learn how to be more flexible. A funny thing that a lot of Americans who drive over here will notice is that Japanese people almost always back into parking spots. Even when it is completely unnecessary, they will do a 90 degree reverse into the spot. I asked a Japanese friend why they do it and they said, 'it is easier to get out.' I totally agree, but it is also 10 times harder to get in and backing out of a spot is a lot easier than backing into one. This is one of those small differences that are pretty funny to an outsider. I have refused to conform, so every time I go to the mall or a crowded parking lot, my car will be the ONLY one that has not backed into the spot. Another thing that I have come to really respect about America is all the space we have. I never thought that I would miss grass, but man, I miss grass. Space is limited here, so they don't have many grassy fields. Nobody has a lawn, I'm pretty sure they don't know what that is. If someone is rich enough to have a garden, they are Japanese style. I really like Japanese style gardens, but there isn't any room for kids to play. I can't imagine not having a backyard. The next thing I've noticed is that the portions here are so small. Maybe we should make our meals in America smaller, that might fix our current fatty problem. Americans have gotten used to devouring large portions and it shows when you go to a public event. I went to a baseball game here in Japan and I can confidently say that maybe 5% of the people were overweight. Compare that to America, where it seems like 50% of people are now overweight and 15% are obese. When I returned to the States last year, I was absolutely blown away by the fat people walking around. I left Osaka airport and arrived in Seattle, not only were people fat, but man they all seemed to be obese. Japanese people are smaller, but they don't develop the massive appetites that Americans do. I think we could learn from them and stop feeding our children like they are pigs at the trough. The funny thing is, in America, among my friends I probably eat the least. Here I by far eat more than everyone. I went out with some Japanese friends and had a typical American sized meal and they were shocked. I told them that I was a weak eater and I have friends who can eat 3 times as much. The next thing that I have talked about earlier and I'll approach again is the way people treat foreigners here. I get it, we are rare, and you don't see us every day. My American attitude makes me want to punch people in the face for staring. They don't glance, they stare for as long as you are in their peripheral. I was shopping the other day and a woman who was probably 50 did a full 360 degree turn as she stared at me. I don't care if you're intrigued, that is rude. I have gotten used to it and usually don't have a problem, but that was absurd. Aother thing that is great about America is the cultural diversity. There is a mixed girl in one of my friend Katyana's schools and she looks 100% Japanese to me, but she is half white. She lived in America with her family for 2 years and speaks both languages fluently. Because she lived in America and is half, she is not considered Japanese. Kids at school bully her and tell her, 'you're not even Japanese' shut up. She has told her mother that she wants to go back to America. People here need to teach their children not to be racist and be more accepting of 'outsiders.' It is 2012 and they act like it is 1850 sometimes. America is not perfect, but from my experience in public school I can safely say we were way more accepting of 'outsiders.' Lastly I would like to touch on the Japanese open discrimination of people who have tattoos. In the old days, only Japanese gangsters had tattoos. They have rules that don't allow tattoos to be visible when working and when you are swimming at a pool. When I joined the local gym, they asked me if I had any tattoos and I said yes. They grimaced and said I couldn't swim without a shirt on because my tattoo would show. I said, 'I'm not a Yakuza.' They responded by saying Japanese people don't like tattoos. Sometimes in Japan I feel like I am in the twilight zone. Recently I was watching the news and they said that in Osaka they are requiring all governmental employees to take a survey and say whether or not they have a tattoo or tattoos and to specify the exact location. People who have tattoos are going to get fired I would bet....This all happened because some guy who has a tattoo beat up some old woman. So once again, everyone who has a tattoo is a criminal.....deeeedeeeddeeeddeee (twilight zone music). So that is my rant for today, I'm sitting at work bored, watching the NBA finals game tracker on my computer. Not being able to watch sports is so hard sometimes. I need my crack!! ahhh. I went to a Firefly festival last night. It was pretty amazing. It was along this small river and it was completely dark with the exception of the fireflies. There had to be thousands of them flying around. sorry if there are any typos, I just write this without looking back. Miss you all, catch me on skype and let's talk:)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thomas Kennedy

Losing a loved one is always difficult, especially when that loved one was such an amazing person. My grandfather taught me a lot, the main thing that I will learned from him is to love life, do what you love and aspire to be great. I first learned of his passing when I was on the golf course yesterday. I had been worried about his health and being over here in Japan it is hard to stay in the loop. I basically checked facebook every hour to see if there was a message from my family. So at the half way house yesterday I checked my phone and there it was, a message from my sister, saying that our beloved grandfather had indeed passed away. It is strange that he would pass away as I was playing golf. I found it appropriate that I would be golfing when his time was up. He was the person that sparked my interest in the game of golf. I have vivid memories of going to the Lafayette club with him and practicing at the driving range for hours. He would always tell me, “you need to teach me how to hit it like that.” I would respond, “you need to teach me how to hit it straight!” One of my favorite memories I have of grandpa is from the Father-Son-Grandson Lafayette Club tournament. My mom dropped me off at his house the night before and of course we went to his favorite spot for dinner, Snuffy’s. And of course we both had a cheeseburger and a chocolate malt. Anyone who has ever spent any time around my grandparents will know that Snuffy’s is the Mecca of restaurants for them. After that we went back home and sat in his den and we explored the various books in his library. It was at this time that I discovered his love for history. Being a 12 year old at the time my only interests involved sports and girls. However, after that night I developed a fondness for history, especially UK/Irish and Scandinavian history. We went to bed at 9am sharp. Of course I sat awake until about 10:30 and fell asleep. That next morning I was suddenly awoken by grandpa. He turned on the lights in the room and said, “time to get up.” I got up in a daze, looked at the clock and responded, “but it’s only 5am, we don’t have to be at the course for another 3 hours! Let me sleep in a little more.” To which, he countered, “I already let you sleep in, I’ve been up since 4:30.” That is just the kind of guy he was, always ready to go and he always kept a joke in his back pocket. We went to the course and had a wonderful time with my Uncle David. I’ll never forget that day. Growing up in the city, we didn’t have the opportunity to get lost in the woods or really lose ourselves in a fantasy as children. Luckily for the Kennedy-Budge Petri dish (a nickname for Charlotte, Stephanie, Liane, Colleen, Conor, Timmy, myself, and Julia) we had our Grandparent’s house out in Minnetonka to fulfill our needs. They had this great white house, a stereotypical white house in the boonies that you see in the movies, with a backyard that went on forever. We would wander into the woods behind the house and spend hours playing our favorite game, “Gnomes and Trolls.” I won’t go into details, but basically the old kids were the Good Gnomes and the young kids (Julia and Colleen) were the Evil Trolls. We would come back from a long day of exploring and throwing sticks at the Trolls and we would wander into Grandpa’s Den for a story or a history lesson. He had so many stories, so many books, so many ways to enlighten us. I remember getting pulled into his stories. He took me to distant countries, race car tracks, dirt bike mountain courses and to the 1950s. I will never forget him sitting in that patented leather chair with a book on his lap. He was such a calming presence at family events, even in his final year. He had a hard time speaking in his final year, but every once in a while, he would surprise me with a rant about some historical fact. I was talking to him about this shrine in Japan where the famous Emperor Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried. He responded by telling me, “oh I know him, he was the one who united Japan and moved the capital to Tokyo.” I kind of giggled in response and that is exactly right. Only my Grandpa would be able to recite such a historical fact in his final year while battling the awful Parkinsons disease. In the end, a guy couldn’t really ask for a better Grandfather. He showed me to do what you love and do it well. He was a golfer, runner, race car driver, dirt bike racer, history buff, bookworm and a world class dude. He was amazing at all those things because of his can do, no complaints attitude. When I sit back and reflect on my own hobbies I kind of laugh at the correlation. Golfer, runner, hockey player, water skier, history enthusiast, bookworm. I can’t help, but think that a lot of what I do and who I am is a reflection of my grandfather. As I was playing golf on Sunday and I had just found out that he had passed, I thought to myself, this is exactly what he would want me to be doing.
I think this picture represents our crazy family well. I'll miss you Gramps JB

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thinking about Grandpa back home

I think the hardest part about being over here in Japan is not being able to be there for the ones I love when the going gets tough. After hearing about Grandpa being hospitalized, I realized that I can't be there for him, my nanny or my mother. This creates a pain inside that I haven't felt for a long time. I desperately wish I could just hop back to Minnesota to be there for my family. Grandpa is a strong man and I know he will pull through, he always has. He has that competitive race car driver spirit. Some side notes on life over here. My rib is finally all healed and my knee stopped bothering me so much. I ran in a 5K race last weekend. I ran it in about 23 minutes, not a great time, but respectable, especially with a bum knee that started to act up half way through. The next 5K is in about 2 weeks, I am hoping to finish in about 21 minutes. I also have been working out daily at the gym I joined, it feels good to put on weight. At school I am adjusting to the different lifestyle. Junior High School kids are either really awkward and shy, or big noisy comedians. I prefer the comedians, they are really interested in learning English. Here are some pics from the past 2 weeks or so.
Mt Daisen and the rice fields that are famous in Japan.
The bridge that connects Tottori Prefecture and Shimane Prefecture. It is a beautiful area.
Hakuto Beach. An early morning surf session with my bros. Everyone please let Grandpa and Nanny know that I am thinking about them. JB

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Example of what I do at school

Sign languages 手語 are used            使用されている around the world.        世界中の each of them          それら各 is a separate language      別の言語である For example,          例えば the Japanese sign        日本手話 for ‘Thank you,’        ありがとうのために is different          異なっている from the American sign    アメリカの手話とは Any information,       すべて情報や idea,             考えや or feeling           感情 can be expressed       表現することができる in sign languages,       手話で just like in oral languages   音声言語の場合と同様 A sentence is         文は made with          で作られる a combination of signs.    符号の組合せ What does          何を Figure 3           図3 show?            見せる Can you guess?       あなたは推測できますか。