ben griffiths
an insight into the mind of a genius

Posts Tagged ‘health insurance’

Give me strength

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

Another week passed, another “fill in entry” - a bit more to discuss this week, though not neccessarily more to type… this will make sense when i get to it.

Anyway, on with the show:

Saturday 3rd September

Saturday night was going to either be Ageha with Kaori (which I must admit, I didn’t really want to do anymore) or out with Seiko. Things were looking unsure however when I was woken up to the news that one of Shiho’s friends had died, so Seiko and Shiho had to go to the hospital (though I wasn’t at this point sure why…)

Later on (this entry is going to be short, i can’t remember too much - funny, i keep saying that… maybe Japan induces memory loss?) I received a mail from Kaori to say she would be working late, so maybe to leave Ageha until another day? This seemed like a good “get out”, so i mailed back to say it would probably be a good idea, what with the Seiko situation and all.

My consience (sp) was clear at this point, as it meant i was out of the situation in a nice way and i really was staying at home, so needn’t feel guilty I had gone out with her (Kaori).

Of course, my life is never that simple, and at about 10 o clock or so, Seiko called to say she had finished at the hospital and did I want to meet her in Shibuya with her friend Mika? After turning it over a few times in my head, I figured I might as well as I still wanted to meet up with more of Seiko’s friends, so threw on a T Shirt and headed out into the night.

Arriving at Roppongi station, I was mobbed by the usual army of promoters trying to get me into their club (who don’t even take “i am waiting for someone” as a reason not to enter… “you can call and tell them where you have gone…”) - Seiko turned up about 10 minutes later with gifts of alcohol from the Convenience Store :) - so we started the night off with a streetside drinkathon (I wonder how much I look like a nuisance tourist….)

I then felt the pangs of hunger hit, so we nipped across the road to the 7/11 to get some grub… however, something caught my eye (or nose…) - it was another roasted chicken place…..

Now remembering the nightmare chicken of the night before, i was kinda uneasy about buying another one, but as Seiko pointed out, the people standing eating it looked happy, and it was the start of the night, so might be worth a try…. I therefore duley purchased a 1/4 of chicken with the obligatory roast potatoes…..

All went silent as the chopsticks grasped at the first piece of chicken and it was slowly raised to my lips…..



IT’S GOOD! :) Ahah! Finally, the great tiki god has blessed me with some proper wholesome food. This chicken tasted wonderful (though perhaps the greatness was accentuated by the fact i have been eating miserable food for the last 3 weeks) prompting me to do a little jig in the street, much to the amusement of a group of passing girls - and aquiring me some strange looks from the bar owner who was touting for business opposite.

Now the night was set, all we needed was somewhere cheap (I only had 3000 yen - pretty desperate) so it was off to meet Seiko’s friend.

Entry to the club was 1000 yen, which wasn’t a good start, though we did get one drink. I was about to try and barter this down when seiko just paid and went straight in… doh!

Inside was playing your typical R/B hip hop that i have come to love since i moved here (oh yeah, and i live in a penthouse apartment in Ginza doncha know? :p) - however it wasn’t as rammed as everywhere else, so we were able to get a seat/half booth.

I was then introduced to Mika and her boyfriend (I’m not sure of his name, but for the sake of getting confused later, I will call him Bob) along with Bob’s brother Mike* (* of course his name wasn’t really Mike….)

Straight away Bob bought a round of drinks, despite my protest that i couldn’t afford to buy one back, followed by Mike doing the same. Mike seemed quite friendly and wanting to practise his English so kept asking me different questions and generally being quite pleasant.

It seemed obvious however as the conversation went on that he wasn’t entirely kean on the black race (I’m sure referencing them as “Niggers” isn’t PC anymore..) which was confirmed when he showed me a scar on his face, proclaiming the “Gipsies did it when I was a member of the Neo Nazis!!” - this struck me as kind of odd, seeing as he was Japanese (I thought you had to be white to join them, obviously not) - but also kinda left me a bit lost for words…

He then went on to explain he’s not like that anymore and can put up with other races, just would prefer it if they weren’t here…. riiiiiiiight…!??

Another round of drinks from Bob later and he sensed that I wasn’t having the best time, so suggested we move onto another club/bar called “Wall Street” which would play some better dance style music - this suggestion was met favourably, so we “bust a groove” and got outta there :)
Wall Street must be the narrowest bar I have ever been to. Whilst it was very long, the walkway could fit about 3 people down it at a squash. The DJ was playing an interesting style of music (half dance, mixed with hip hop…) - however the vibe was good, and thanks to Bob, the drinks were flowing, making it not very hard to get into the whole party spirit.

Even if I had written this entry the next day, I still can’t tell you what went on there, as I really can’t remember, but I left the place with more money than when i went in, 2 unopened packets of cigarettes (i dont smoke) and some very bizarre photos on my phone…… a good night then :)

Sunday 4th September

Aha! This is an easy entry to write… slept most of the day, then started to write the last entry.

The idea had been to order pizza at about 10:30, as i had eaten quite a lot of scrambled eggs at about 5pm, so got on the phone to Gowry and Zak for a few hours until that point. However come 10:30, Seiko had gotten quite ill and was lying sick in bed.

As I had to be up early for my first day at school, I hit the sack about midnight… back to school tomorrow…. wow :)

Monday 5th September

Alarm goes off at 8:15 - argh.. off damn thing, comes back on at 8:30….

Why am I up at such an ungodly hour? Yup, today is my first day of school (woopee!) and i have to get in a little bit earlier to hand in my enrolment forms and actually sign into the place.

So it’s a quick jump into the shower, muffins in the grill, clothes on, muffins buttered and out the house by 9:00. Quite impressive I think :)
As I walk out into the street to begin my walk to the station I feel somewhat enlightened. It’s a nice morning, I feel quite awake and am already looking forward to learning something :)
By the time I had finished the 5 minute walk to the station, my earlier optismism had someone decreased and i was fighting the urge to go back home to bed :) The clock on the station showed 9:05 (I remember this as the train was just leaving … doh!) - however it wasn’t long until the next one showed up (and pretty crammed it was too) so I was able to start my communiting journey.

Now you always read that Japanese trains always run on time, etc etc… stickler for time, run military time etc… Well maybe most do, but certainly the train from Setagaya to Shibuya doesn’t always being a few minutes late (which i guess is still good, just when you are a little late - is quite infuriating).

I got to Ometo-Sando at about 9:25, and as I had not known the correct fare, had to queue at the fare adjustment machine to pay the difference. Of course, this meant I arrived at college a little late (9:40 or so) - much to the amusement of everyone there, but after quickly going through all the forms, i was ready to be sent to class…..

My class is very small (4 people: Bob, Jean, erm an indian woman and ME :)) which I think should be good for learning. The way they teach is vai repetition (so teacher says something, then we go around class repeating), so if the class is big this can take ages.

One annoyance though is the Indian woman who asks so many questions…. The idea is that no English is spoken in class, so we just have to work everything out. Except this woman keeps stopping to ask in English… ho hum….

I can’t even remember what we learnt (more on this later) - however it seemed we got through quite a bit and I think this will be quite a beneficial course.

At leaving time (which couldn’t come too soon) - the heavens had decided to open (due to the typhoons going on in Kyshu) so I nipped next door to get an umbrella, before braving the cold and heading to Shibuya for some lunch.

I had wanted to try a Yoshinoya, however with them all being full up, Subway seemed like the next best bet… so subway it was :) I decided to eat out as inside seemed quite hot, but couldn’t seem to cool down outside (despite the rain) and now rather worryingly, the hearing in my right ear had got decidedly dodgy.

Now this has happened before and usually means I am getting a cold, so it seemed the best thing to do would be to head home, not before making a quick stop at Citibank to remove my UK money and then nip down the road to the Shinsei bank to deposit it all.

Back home i was feeling decidedly worse so hit the bath computer to run me a nice hot bath (39 degrees…) and 10 minutes later or so it was ready. Not having been in a bath this deep for a while, it was great to be able to get my head right under the water - however on coming up for the umteenth time, my hearing suddenly didn’t return, regardless of how much i tried to prod it (** notice ** never try and do this) - plus the heat was now making me feel rather sick.

Tonite was Arnauds last night and he wanted to go out, so although i wasn’t feeling the best, i did want to say goodbye, so went off to the bus stop to get to Shinjuku (the train is starting to cost so much) - by now we were in torrential rain and on finding out the bus would be 30 minutes, a trek back to the station was in order and the many changes that came with getting to Shinjuku.

Arnaud had been going to a particular restaurant everynight and he really wanted to show me it, however first stop was an ATM so I could get some money out.

Houston, we have a problem.

Now I really cannot understand why a country so technologically advanced as Japan can’t get something as simple as a cross bank ATM system working… comprende?

No, well it’s simple. Out here, you can use your ATM card at your own bank. And that’s it… possibly a 7/11 if it supports your bank (there are quite a few banks, and ATMS can choose who they like) - why they can’t be like the UK and let you use one bank card anyway, I just don’t know.

To top it off, you actually have to pay for withdrawals too if outside a certain time (?!?) - though not with the Shinsei bank (which is why I chosen them).

So anyway, of course, none of the bank machines will accept my card, nor will Citibank let me use my UK account due to me withdrawing the maximum earlier (to put in the Shinsei bank). After about 30 minutes we finally find a Shinsei bank (inside a Starbucks!) and I can withdraw my sacred 3,000 yen.

Grr… just thinking about this annoys me. If I had gone somewhere with no Shinsei bank, I would have been completely stuffed - I wonder why this system is used…. hmmm….

/rant over

So we go to this restaurant of Arnauds. It’s a pretty cool looking place, you sit up at the bar/table area and they give you what looks like a pottery kiln. On top of this is a grill and as you order the food, they give it to you on a silver platter (raw) and you get to cook it yourself.

No, whilst this is all well and good fun, these type of restaurants always strike me as just money making schemes, why? Well it’s simple.

They generally cost a bit more than a normal restaurant because of their “uniqueness”, ok, but then if *I* am cooking the food and not a chef, surely the prices should be cheaper? All the staff are doing is getting some meat out of a fridge… In fact, come to think of it, why didn’t I just stay at home and save myself £15?!?!

I must admit, it was quite nice… but in the back of my mind, all i could think was we were paying too much… :D Especially funny was when Arnauds piece of pork (we had bought pork and chicken) dropped through the gaps in the grill top and ignited, causing quite a large flame to shoot out the top of the “cooker” :) haha…

After the meal, we spend a pleasant hour or so browsing the local arcades, trying to win various toys, whilst also conconting a cunning plan to defeat the sex club owners who kept trying to get us in their bars.

Basically the way it works, they come up to you trying to be all friendly and everything, then trying to direct you into their establishment. This can get so annoying when all you really want to do is get across the street, but as soon as they know you speak english they are onto you. Last year, I tried to get the better of this situation by talking in French, however being from Nigeria, a lot of them spoke this too.

So this year required something special, we shall call it the “Akbar Language Deception Technique”

Akbar Language Deception Technique - A very simple technique that allows you to walk freely around the street without being jumped apon by various dodgy touts. This method requires a like minded friend and works as follows:

Whenever you are in an open area and likely to be targetted, simply strike up an animated conversation with your designated friend in a completely made up language. For further effect, talk very loudly and laugh extremely crazily along with making wild hand guestures. Believe me, no one will come near you :D
Finally, it was time to go back (as my health had seemed to deteriorate again) so we headed back to the station where we said our good byes (*sniff* lol) and made our seperate ways home.

Tuesday 6th September

Getting up seemed a lot easier today as I had gone to bed on time the night before, so I had time to check my emails before I set off. 20 minutes later, I realised that of course I didn’t have time at all so had to rush for the 9:05 train.

Catching that on time, but then missing the next one meant I arrived at college at 9.40 - ah well…

Today was the first reading/writing lesson and would introduce us (well not me, but everyone else) to the wonderful art of scripting that is Hiragana and Katakana (not Kanji, that comes after we have learnt the first two).

Basically the two ‘Kana’ languages are the way of phonetically making any Japanese word (If you think of Kanji as being the picture way, the Kana allow you to make the same sound) and have about 90 characters each. The first lesson involves learning the first 30 of each (nice and easy start to the session then) and was basically the teacher drawing one on the board, and us copying it down. Every 5 characters, we would stop and have a miny test, making words from what we had just learnt.

Whilst normally this wouldn’t have been too bad a lesson, i was feeling decidedly worse than yesterday and now properly had complete hearing loss in the damn right ear. Everytime there was a break, I wanted to get up and leave, but I must admit i was too scared :)
So after enduring 3 hours of pain, it was finally time to go (and go and sort my ear out) - however i really wasn’t sure what i was supposed to do. First stop was to ask the teacher, who then redirected me to another student named Greg who had been here for 10 months so knew the score.

Basically it seems you have two choices: 1) go to a hospital or 2) find a local clinic.

Luckily he knew one near by in Harajuku and was walking that way so offered to show me the route. This he told me, was a good clinic as they all spoke English and that is much more reassuring, especially when they are working on something as delicate as your ear…

The place seemed good enough, however we soon hit a snag… insurance… of which if of course had none.

We get it so easy in the UK. You are ill, you go to the doctor. Simple.

Here, you are ill, you try and grin and bear it until you can no longer, then you PAY to go to the doctor.

To keep the costs down, every Japanese citizen is expected to take out medical insurance (which is based on your previous years salary) which then takes the costs down by 70%, however as I had only just got here, I wasn’t yet enrolled on a plan.

The cost to see me … £150!!!

EEK! Not having that sort of money (and even if i did, not wanting to part with it) - i politely declined treatment and staggered back dazed and confused into the street :)
Catching the train back, I wasn’t quite sure what i should do, but it seemed like a good idea to ring Shimpei to ask. This I did and he explained he knew a clinic near that should be a lot cheaper, but he couldn’t pick me up until 4, would this be ok? Fine.

Getting home and with the pain still not letting up, I decided the internet was my friend and I would ask it what i could do. A quick Google returned a few pages that suggested “Garlic Oil” put in the ear should do the trick.

Well, I still had some garlic left over and a new bottle of Olive Oil, so this was worth a try. We don’t have a garlic masher, so I used a fork to try and squash it up as best I could, before filling the glass up with olive oil, then putting it on the stove. When it was all melted, I used a spoon (we have no dropper) to pour it in my ear (plugging it with a clove of garlic for good measure) before tilting the laptop on it’s side and settling down on the bed - my head swimming with oil.

After about 2 hours of this and feeling no different, Shimpei came around, so i emptyed my e in the sink and went outside to meet him. First stop was the local ward office to see if i could actually get on the government health insurance scheme (and thus save myself a load of cash) - so 10 minutes later we were sitting at a desk answering all sorts of questions.

Luckily it seemed, I *could* join, but my premium would dependant on a few things.

How much did I earn last year? Nothing
How much do I earn now? Nothing
What is my job? Fulltime Student (and I had my card to prove it)

I dont think the woman fully believed me, as she went off for quite some time, however on her return she jotted a load of numbers down and finally informed me my premium would be ……

800 yen (£4) a month!!

I think perhaps luck must have been on my side, as the average cost is £70 a month…. Shimpei was also a bit put out I think (”you are SO lucky!! it’s unfair!”) as he pays quite a bit more :) hehe… but it seems it was due to my no earnings last year…. w00t!

So now armed with insurance, it’s time to go to the local “ear doctor” - arriving at the place doesn’t look promising, everything is turned off, however the doctor wakes up (!) when we enter and hits the various switches flooding the place with light.

I kinda wish he hadn’t - this must be the most dodgy surgery ever seen. I wouldn’t even let Beavis come here for a checkup. It wasn’t even clean and just seemed so dark ages. The doctor didn’t even have one of those cool ear looking in devices, but had to rely on a bright light and one of those circular mirror headbands…!! Could have been the scene from an old horror movie…. (Or that Cypress Hill music video, I can’t remember which…)

Anyway, after about 20 minutes of looking around and applying various things to the inside of my ear, he was finished. I had an allergic reaction to the air conditioning which had caused something in my head to swell; this then caused the air pressure in my ear to be thrown out, making it feel like my ear was blocked. Finally, me poking around in my ear trying to stop this feeling had caused me to get an ear infection (which was causing the pain).

So i was given a batch of tablets to take (antibiotics - we think… they have no writing on them) and some drops for my nose. On telling this to Seiko back home, aparently the doctor is not allowed to do this and I should have received a prescription…. hmm….

Come dinner time I was still not hungry and having received a mail from seiko telling me she wouldn’t be home, best thing to do seemed to be to go to sleep.

Wednesday 7th September

Even I can’t make today sound interesting:

In bed all day feeling awful, watching movies on the computer (yes, ALL day!) :)
Oh no wait, except for when I got hungry and due to the stupid ATM situation, had to make a 45 minute round trip to get some money out from Shibuya……

Thursday 8th September

Already knew I wasn’t going to go in to college today, so had turned off the alarm. Woke up to no pain, but still not full hearing and Seiko and Shiho watching TV in the front room.

I got up to say hello and get some water, when, POP - my hearing cleared! Everything seemed so loud :) Hurrah! Dr Frankenstein DID know what he was talking about!

Today is still a boring story, in bed on the net and watching movies, but I should be well enough to make college tomorrow… i just hope I haven’t missed too much.

Now…. i realise this entry definatelly hasn’t been the best, but i have been feeling groggy all day, but really couldn’t miss writing any more or i would be much too far behind.

I think from now, entries will be shorter as I am settling into a “same same” routine, with maybe a bit more to say on the weekends (which hopefully won’t be same same….)

Anyway, anything else… hmm… ah yes!! Fruit…

Crazy Fruits - the name of a popular 5p arcade machine (remember that Nan? Always played it at the Burstin (sp) and Brighton) but also rather a good name for the fruit situation here.

You want an apple? Sure, no problem, £1.50 please. £1.50 for a single apple!!! Yes they are quite big and individually wrapped in a nice packet, but seriously…. Oranges are a bit cheaper at 80p, with Lemons cheaper again at 60p… but sorry mum + dad, if you want me to eat more fruit, you’ll have to transfer some money over… :D

Rather more astonishingly, I have found a shop that sells 470g of chicken for £1.25!! I think it’s chicken breast (I can’t confirm this) but even if not, it tastes quite good and is cheap as chips :D So will bring the price of my pasta and chicken down… hurrah!

So there you go people, finally an up to date blog…. tomorrow if i feel ok, I’m going to Club Pure with Chizue and her friends which should be good, just wish Arnaud was still here to come too… :(