And this one—a picture of rape blossoms (?) field that I took from my car window. It shows how high the sun still is at 8 PM.
The highs top out at around 27ºC (81ºF) here, but I hope that everyone suffering in the blazing heat of the Japanese summer right now is taking care to stay cool! If your body gets overwhelmed from the heat, you’re likely to suffer from heat fatigue or catch a summer cold. Actually, I’d like to talk a little more about health conditions like these.
The first year I lived here, I of course made sure to sign up for health insurance. Because it was my first year, I made sure to take care of myself and mostly avoided getting sick. Now, I don’t have very good insurance coverage (I should, but I don’t), and I’m much more careless (I should be more careful, but I’m not). And guess what? I’ve been sick so many times this year! LOL
In Japan, prescription medications are much more effective than over-the-counter drugs, so they help you get better really quick. But here, the cold medicine you can buy in the drugstore is really potent. It’s nice that it works so well, but it also has intense side effects and makes you really sleepy—so I have to be sure to adjust the ingredients I use during the daytime and at night. You can get by without any issues if you just have a regular cold, so people very rarely go to the doctor. But ever since the beginning of this year, I’ve been several times because of all these strange changes in my body (don’t worry, I’m fine—I’m just getting old LOL).
The clinics here aren’t set up like Japanese clinics with their detailed specialties (there, the ear and nose department is separate from the throat department and the internal medicine department, for example). Instead, they have general practitioners—physicians they refer to as “GPs”. Now that I think about it, they’re kind of like the “town doctors” we have in small villages or the islands. Once you’re seen by the GP and you tell them what’s going on, they’ll order further testing and send you to a specialist if needed. It’s not like Japan where you have to walk around with cards from all kinds of clinics, so it’s convenient in the sense that you have a family doctor available if anything goes wrong. That said, you can wander around forever trying to find a GP that’s a good fit for you.
Situation #1: Visible pain
Twice since I moved to Ireland, I’ve experienced a throbbing pain in my left ear. The fear that it would affect my hearing made me visit a GP for the first time. I told him about my symptoms and he checked my ears. He then spent two seconds looking in my left ear and two seconds looking in my right. “There’s nothing wrong, so if it hurts again just take some over-the-counter pain medication,” he said. He saw me for less than five minutes and charged me 60 euros (that translates to 8,500 yen, which is shockingly expensive—but all GPs charge the same price).
Case #2: The endless wait
The next story comes from this past February. The area around my thyroid started swelling up like a balloon and I didn’t feel very well either, so I was sure the two things were connected. I went to a different (obviously lol) GP. This time they did a urine test, palpation, and a bunch of other stuff, but in the end they couldn’t figure out the cause. They were concerned about a tumor, so they wanted to check for that just in case and sent me to a nearby hospital for testing. Let me remind you that all of this happened in February. And I still haven’t even gotten a call to schedule the exam. And the swelling? It’s long since gone away.
My roommate (who is Korean) also had a terrible experience at the doctor. She went to get an MRI of her neck, and the machine—it was probably ancient—made a terrible noise. Not only that, but they told her that the images would be blurry if she created movement by taking deep breaths (MRIs take forever you guys!), so she had to force herself to breathe shallowly the whole time.
I’ve been writing about a bunch of negative experiences, but a lot of it may be because I’m a person who gets anxious when I’m not used to things. Western medicine and Eastern medicine have entirely different approaches to illness, and I don’t claim to know which one is the right way. And I do get the feeling that things are more medically advanced here when it comes to fields like obstetrics and gynecology, for example. If you’re thinking about going abroad, you should obviously make sure you have insurance coverage, but the best thing is to make sure you don’t get sick at all. Pay attention to your eating habits and daily rhythms so that you can stay healthy and enjoy your life abroad.