I haven`t really got much time to go into detail about everything that`s happened since I last updated, and I haven`t been feeling particularly great anyway lately. Check Dave`s or Heather`s journal for notes about the Christmas Party with Pauline Hook last Sunday. Hopefully there`ll be a more positive update after Christmas.
At the moment Jess has her family out here and will be going to Tokyo Disney with Lizzie and Christine on Christmas Day, so our shifts have been changed around a bit. I`ll leave you with the reports Jess and I had to write for Kataoka-san. He`s sending them out to previous volunteers as a newsletter with updates from the Cheshire Homes.
Shiso and B Living
I’m perched quietly here on my apartment bed, listening to the constant rattle of the air conditioning unit, and trying to think how life at Shiso must have been for all those before me. This year marks the first boy-girl placements in Japan (one here at Shiso and the other at Hanshin), so I felt a lot was riding on my performance and ability to get along with my partner, Jess. Now approaching three and a half months already into what, frankly, had the potential to be a disastrous setup, I feel I can say I’ve settled in. But, enough with my situation – I’m sure you’re much more interested in whether Toyozumi-san has ruptured his voice box yet or whether Hinakura-san has found a pastime for his busy, busy hands…
I work primarily in B Living with the likes of Kuriyama-san, the aforementioned Hinakura-san, Hanai-san, Yamaguchi-san, Yamakado-san, Shigeru-san and plenty of others. Kuriyama-san still has his personal office with the latest newspapers and recycled cardboard boxes, although today, much to my surprise, I found he had the pleasure of gaining a retired cardboard grandfather clock from deep within the Shiso Program vaults. I’m sure you’re all pleased to know he hasn’t yet given up his hair-pulling hobby and is still ecstatic to the point of drooling (literally) when he sees dogs or rides on the minibus.
Hinakura-san is hard to become frustrated with, with his slightly bumbling nervousness and captivating grin. As one of the volunteers before me wrote in the resident’s file, he responds to `Oiii…Hinakura-san` (among just about anything else you choose to say to him) with that already nostalgic `Haiiii` you often hear ricocheting around the corridors. The restless hands, alas, haven’t found their destination yet but continue to leave their fingerprints on magazines, in pockets and all over various body parts. Nothing quite beats the dawning sensation just after he has grabbed your face having sat, fiddling, on the toilet for a while… This is even more the case in the male bath time duty that I do, though I’m not sure if anyone before me had to help with that…
Due to his unacceptable behaviour of attempting to `play` with the female staff, Yamakado-san has had a list of promises pinned to his bedroom wall of what he must not do; basically, keep his hands to himself. Hanai-san and Shigeru-san act like a real couple, and seem to have constant short-lived arguments. He admitted she was his girlfriend the other day and it’s sweet to watch her trying to catch his attention and him mumbling away to her (even though she is, unfortunately, deaf). Yamaguchi-san is here a lot of the time, and her much-repeated vocabulary of words has extended to include my name – `Michael-san` – that Jess spent the best part of a day teaching her. It seems to amuse the staff whenever she strings it into a sentence with `kawaii-na?`
Moving upstairs to the program hall, we probably see a sight nearly everyone will remember. Most days we have four tables out with the large plastic sheet covering it and making various collages with the coloured paper we dye. Recently we have been creating Christmas decorations and, every Wednesday, we have our planned GAP Program; almost always consisting of cooking in the morning and crafts of some sort in the afternoon.
Hashudo-san is invariably the centre of much laughter most days. Recently sporting a large purple golf ball by his right eye in addition to his paper boushi, he has taken to demanding of me my bag and camera, which I sometimes carry around the home. He spends much of his time groaning in his pseudo-philosophical way on the sofa of A Living, as I sometimes pass through, or dancing/banging his drum along to whatever music is on.
In hot competition for the centre of attention is the caterpillar-eye browed Toyozumi-san. I don’t think he’s once had those furry things cut in all the time he’s been here! His genuinely sad circumstances aside, it’s hard not to laugh along with the rest of the staff when he gets angry these days. `Trampoline time` might be better likened to one of wrestling`s special matches – the `Royal Rumble`, at least when he’s present. On the receiving end of Toyozumi-san`s signature move – `the fit of rage` – is usually Hinakura-san. Today the two titans met again in fact: Toyozumi-san attempting a bite (while screaming – so he hasn’t yet lost his voice) on Hinakura-san`s lower leg while his perpetually-grinning opponent used the old `eye-gouge` he often practices on me in the toilet. It’s probably a good thing Kaminishi-san and Hashudo-san weren’t in the ring on this occasion, as they are both frightened by Toyozumi-san. Poor Kuriyama-san wasn’t so lucky though…
In all seriousness however, it has been a very rewarding time so far and just writing this brief report has once again reminded me how much I’ll miss it all when I finally return to England. Looking back at all the events we’ve had packed in so far, from first seeing the nasty fat black and yellow spiders around the apartments upon arriving, the Shiso birthday party and bowling with a few of the staff, and even, though I’m saddened to mention, the damage and tragic death of a rescue worker right outside Shiso from the huge typhoon `Tokage` (Lizard), it all seems too much like a blur.
Depicting residents as professional wrestlers is perhaps a good indication of how the attitudes of the staff and Home itself have affected me – learning to lighten up and see beyond the disabilities in them. I have to admit, it’s sometimes difficult to draw a line between good-natured humour and respecting each resident’s autonomy, so I do wonder how all my predecessors also found this. I’ll continue to do my utmost to make a good impression while here however, and wish you all well in whatever you are doing. Take care all! ^_^
I have been working at Shiso now for three months and the residents still surprise me everyday. It’s hard to say how things may have changed in A Living as I have know idea what they were like before I came. So I will just tell you about the things which have happened since I have arrived. Omaesan has been given her own room next door to Kajisan although she does not seem to have noticed just yet and spends all her time in every other room in A living although her favourite at the moment is Yamakisan`s as she likes to curl up in his bed. Hashudosan is recovering after slipping over in the bathroom and banging his head (suspect that Toyozumisan had something to do with it) he has a purple lump the size of a ping-pong ball over his right eye, the nurses keep on poking it making him wobble his head and grumble.
Most of the time while I am working in the home I look after Mikisan, and I think for her life has not changed very much recently. She is still obsessed with trains, cars and buses (especially those going to Harima). She still watches the same children’s videos every day and of course she still loves to draw. Aisan is in her element at the moment due to Omaesan being evicted from their joint room. This means she can doze away every day without being disturbed. Looking at pictures of previous Gapsan`s with the residents I`ve seen Aisan looking happy and chatty while posing for the camera. I hope that one day she will find her confidence again as it is so sad seeing her so withdrawn. During my time in A living Kajisan has taken to acting as a sort of alarm system. If Hashudosan tries to steal my lunch Kajisan screams, if Omaesan starts running around with no clothes on Kajisan screams and if Yamakadosan wanders into A living up to his usual tricks Kajisan screams.
Finally I would just like to say thank you to Nicky and Anna for all the little notes they left in Mikisan`s room, they really cheered me up when I was finding things difficult at the beginning.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
I`m hoping we will get snow soon, but it`s still so warm out here during the day… Chris, I recieved your letter today – thanks! – but I`ve missed the Christmas post and quite probably the New Year`s one as well, so letters and packages arriving in the U.K will probably be a while – sorry.
So…unless I get a chance to say so before, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone ^_^.