Monday, 11 May 2020
Drive thru fast food....banking...COVID-19 testing...
2nd Sunday of May in Japan is the day to say "Thankyou" to the okaasan in your life for all her lunch box making and worrying about you. It's the day to give carnations, take her out to lunch and buy her a cute, pink cake.
Not in 2020.
Here we all are, not actually in lockdown - but in the Japanese version of Stay Near Home and Don't Travel Too Much. For me and DS this day would usually be a visit to the care home with flowers and small cake, a sit and a chat...or a wheelchair trip out to a local park to enjoy fresh air and cherry blossoms.
Yesterday we did a Drive Thru visit.
I sat in the car, he ran into the care home entrance area with a card and a small cake in a bag.....and 1 minute later we drove away.
Hoping Okaasan enjoyed it.
The care home is still, of course, under No Visits From Non-Staff limitations. Which we, totally, support. I pressured DS to think what he could do...and finally he agreed to make up a card using old photographs from the family albums - he spent an hour or more on the computer making it and printing out better and better versions.
Looked lovely. I even got to use the rose sticker things I once bought for Okaasan's room decoration, but was unable to use due to the thumbs down from staff worried about sticky-things-on-walls rules.
We HOPE that a kind care home staff person will sit with Okaasan and look at the card with her, ask her questions about the photographs - prompt her to remember who these people are: "Is that your husband? Is that the son who died and you don't know about it?" (last one is a black joke...cos THEY don't know either about THAT :-)
On the way to the care home we bought some tiny cakes, and delivered it all in the Drive Thru. They will spray down the envelope and package and take it upstairs.
Families doing this kind of thing.
Thankyou for comments on earlier posts - I still can't find out why I am not allowed to comment on comments on this blog...something has changed in the setting and it's beyond my computer ability find out what...maybe I have to go onto Zoom to do that? Is this all a united-cross-platform thing now?
I WISH Okaasan's care home was more 21st century and proactive about setting up some kind of screen meeting system for families and residents. But they aren't. I guess there will be the usual photograph in a newsletter format. But no online, real time meeting. Japan is so frustrating in regard to that - a system doesn't change.
I see it in DS' response too...he doesn't think about/want to do it himself and tell the care home staff to start using it with his mother - he doesn't want to give them extra work, be different, force a situation...
His thinking is that as there are 15-20 residents on that floor of the care home, if EVERY family started putting in electronic gadgets for communication and asking the staff to wheel the elderly in front of the screen at the necessary time...then it would really be troublesome and disturb their routine of mealtimes/medicines/physical therapy/cleaning/bedding changes/report writing.
Better to let the system, however bad it is, to plod on in its way. To accept a bad situation.
I can imagine in the UK or America, maybe many other cultures in fact, the families would be agitating for online communication - either telling the care home to set up a central system, or sending in iPads by the truckload to ensure direct communication with their particular elderly.
But not in Japan.
Okaasan hasn't been off the care home premises since November 2019. Apart from wheelchair visits 3 meters outside the snowy door of the home for fresh air, she hasn't been outside for SIX months.
Just writing that now. Makes me shocked.
Is that true? Did we take her out in the car this winter? We must have done???
Even in normal times she wouldn't have been out much, only from the care home door to breath fresh air...or a struggle to get her into the car and then we'd have driven her somewhere to be inside. A covered shopping center. I guess we did that?
But, if the weather was okay enough...by March we'd have taken the wheelchair beyond 3 meters and got her OUT. Somewhere.
Not in 2020.
Last night I talked to a UK friend and heard about two of her friends, whose mothers had died last week - sad, sad tales of last conversations by screen from a Covid-19 isolation bed and midnight drive across country for a final meeting. My friend herself recently travelled to Spain where her mother was dieing (not Covid) and it was a trip involving official letters of permission-to-travel, airport interviews and endless health checks. It was a depressing conversation, made me realise that the Covid-19 experience here in Japan is SO different. So free.
I don't know WHY Japan doesn't have the awful situation of many parts of the world. They aren't testing at all at the rates of other countries. But, even so, there aren't cold storage trucks parked outside hospitals and mass graves.
We can walk and shop....work (mostly)...home school...
New case numbers in my part of Japan (vast Hokkaido population 5 million) are down to under 10 a day now. In Japan it is 70 new cases and in Tokyo (9 million people) 22 new cases.....
If the numbers stay so low here in Hokkaido, I expect local government will relax restrictions later this week. Allow businesses to open again. Schools next month.
But. Care homes? When will they/we feel that is a safe thing to do? So many of the deaths are among the elderly. When will come the time when we can, happily, go and meet Okaasan again - laugh with her, hold her hands, sing karaoke, share rice balls?
Sunday, 3 May 2020
Another month...we haven't seen Okaasan.
My area of Japan is currently in our 2nd State of Emergency, much stricter this time with department stores and many restaurants closed. Schools closed. New case numbers in the double digits and scary clusters in care homes and hospitals.
Hospitals are such bad places to be at the moment.
The main hospital for cancer treatment in Sapporo has an outbreak of cases...care homes...call center...it's "only" 25-33 new cases a day in an area of Japan with 5 million people...but when they said on the local news that there are only 30 special beds left for isolation in this region...the situation looks bad.
One of my students has to go into hospital for a gyno operation this month. Should only be there a week..but with all the news about infections in theses places which we usually think of as safe... Last month a famous Japanese actress died of Covid-19. She'd had breast cancer operation in January, and was back home recovering - must of felt glad to have come thru the cancer scare....and then in March got Covid19. Awful.
So, we just sit tight and hope that the staff in Okaasan's care home are doing all the right things. NOT going to parties with friends and their sports gym (yes, some of THOSE are still open!)...hoping that they won't bring the virus into the building with 10 floors of elderly people.
When the phone goes, I dread that it's going to be "that" call, the care home staff telling us she isn't so well....and all that will lead to.
I'm also a little disappointed that they haven't set up some way families can interact/see their elderly - after weeks and weeks of this situation. A computer screen...a plastic sheet wall between us - just 5 minutes of waving and shouting"hi!".
The only reassurance is that Okaasan almost certainly doesn't know we haven't seen her in 10 weeks...
Our life is quiet and ongoing. My mood goes up and down.
Mainly ok...specially now there is good weather and cherry blossoms. Yesterday we did bbq in the garden....just the two of us.
I have mainly online classes now. Easy to do with private classes for an adult. But this kind of communication is more intense and after a few hours I am exhausted. But, glad for the work. The Japanese government will pay everyone about $900 as an emergency support payment....which will help.
I hope where you are has some signs of a return to some kind of normal?
Allowed outside yet? Can go in a car beyond 50 km? Allowed to eat out?
It's strange the things you really miss - the incidental things.
We've done two take out meals now - one a week. SO AMAZING to have food we didn't plan, shop and cook ourselves.
We've walked miles and miles in the local streets...round and round residential areas...keeping away from people by walking in the middle of the street, veering around a guy washing his car...a woman and her dog...
I guess we won't go back to the carefree times of Before Coronavirus...the big events..the travel...for age and ages...
Ha. Sorry. I'm depressing myself reading this. We need an uplifting ending.
Here is a wonderful short video of the cherry blossoms in my part of Japan. It was made by Hokkaido Nature Tours, the tour company I work for (will I ever work as a guide again????)...just lovely and soothing....
enjoy! And stay safe and happy.
Wednesday, 8 April 2020
Tuesday, 7 April 2020
Wherever you are in the world. I hope you and your loved ones are doing ok.
Whether it is a lockdown, an advisory of stay home, a stay-near-to-home...or, of course, if you are one of the wonderful people going to work every day and battling this virus for the rest of us.
Winter and spring 2020....we never knew how these months would be.
But, we will emerge the other side of this. One day.
Until then, we connect with the world thru this computer technology, even more than usual and hopefully try to be kinder to eachother.
Here in Hokkaido, north Japan...winter is turning into spring. I got out for my debut kayak trip this year, by driving with DS to a lake about an hour from home and while he ambled around the tiny village area at a safe distance from about 20 other people...I enjoyed the quiet and the calm of this view.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Japan announced State of Emergency in 7 big urban areas. Non-essential buildings and businesses should close, but it isn't a lock down. Restaurants can stay open????!!!!
Totally strange. What the fuck is the difference?
Izakiya, maybe, is a small eating and drinking place..with tables close together? Oh, hang on, maybe that's a restaurant?
If the Japanese government was really serious about this they would just say: ALL eating and drinking places should close. You don't NEED to go an eat or drink out in the coming month. Go to work. Buy food. Go home and eat it. Supermarkets and convenience stores are open.
Anyway. I'm glad they are finally doing something. Now they have got the Olympics off the table, now the financial year has ended, and the schools have had their graduation and entrance ceremonies and new staff have joined their companies....now all of THAT seasonal stuff is done...
Ok. Let's try and stop the virus spreading and killing people.
My blog. My venting....
Well, okay. Quiet time at and near home. About 2/3 of my regular teaching work. Skype lessons. Days at home to walk locally and watch too much TV. Baked a cake.
No tour guide work for the foreseeable future.
We still can't go and see Okaasan. The care home called yesterday and and said they will ask a doctor to come and look at her foot skin condition. Better than taking her to a hospital.
Maybe we can go and see her later this month? Happily, she won't know when she last saw us. Good weather is coming and it would be nice to take her wheelchair out in the sunshine.
I keep in contact with friends and family in other countries. But I am so SO glad that my parents have already died and are not stuck thousands of miles away from me, where I can't help. A friend here...her father in the UK is in the middle of cancer treatment...or rather his treatment is on pause...so incredibly hard for her as she tries to go on daily life here of Japan. Of course, I still have family members in the Uk. But more distant family.
So, when the British Embassy in Tokyo sent out a video message saying "if you want to leave Japan now, time is running out" and when British Airways announced they are stopping direct flights, a little British sad feeling went thru me. But not so much, because here...this house, this city, this country IS my home now.
Oh, and this man. And his mum.
And here we are...April 2020....a strange time.