Sunday, July 02, 2006


For this week's culture lesson, let's visit the inside of an ambulance and an emergency room.

Yes, that is what I did this week! And I'm still alive to tell you about it. Apparently I have been eating a lot more eggs than I realized because on Thursday night I had a severe allergic reaction to them (anaphylactic reaction) and ended up in the hospital.

I could write the whole boring story, but who wants to read that? Instead, I'll just give you some impressions:

  1. Just like everything else in Japan, the number to call for an emergency is the opposite of what you call in the U.S. Instead of 911, here it is 119.
  2. When my face was swollen up like a huge strawberry, I met the local owner of the school who rushed to the clinic to check on me. Nice impression, I'm sure.
  3. The ambulances in Japan are free. The ER visit, complete with IV drip and meds will probably cost me less than $100 and I have no insurance!
  4. If you say anaphylactic with a Japanese accent, they will understand you.
  5. Japan has no epi pens. I told my doctor he could keep it as a souvenir.
  6. Japan doesn't have benedryl, although the doc had heard of it. He called around to several hospitals to see if anyone had some. I finally got some tablets of something, but I have no idea what they are -- except they made me sleep for about 2 days!
  7. They had to use a triple dose of steroids to get my facial swelling to go down and even then, it didn't go away for about 48 hours.
  8. In Japan, they use REAL eggs in their cakes and they brush egg whites on the top of the bread to make it shiny -- so I had been eating eggs without knowing it.
  9. There is also egg in the chocolate.
  10. And the bread.
  11. If you tell someone in a restaurant that you're allergic to eggs and does the pizza have any eggs in it, they will rush back to the kitchen and ask. :)

I have been very hungry since Thursday night since there is very little I can eat in Japan. This makes the whole transition even harder and adds more stuff to do every day. But maybe I'll lose some weight! My boss is bringing 4 epi pens later this week and until then I'm pretty afraid to eat.

God must really have a sense of humor to send me to Japan. I can't eat eggs, rice, soy or chicken -- the staples of a Japanese diet. But it is a chance for Him to show his strength through my weakness. Tonight my students asked me how I can enjoy life if I can't eat anything. "How can you have any fun?" they asked.

"I have to find other ways to enjoy life," I answered.

I am learning that you can have fun that is centered on things other than food. It is a good lesson to learn. I wish I could eat anything I want, but I simply can't. And, although my stomach is empty, I am finding more pleasure in other things.

Well, I've got to go find something I can eat now. I'm STARVING! Bonnie just got done eating a bunch of chicken on a stick and my mouth is watering. I guess I'll have peanut butter or some cheese. Maybe both! :)