Friday, August 16, 2013

drinking barium and pooping white

I didn't think much of the health check, except that there were certain things that were a little different this year. The stool sample was also collected last year but they did not provide the "soluble paper" then. There was also some additional tests, some were compulsory, some optional for a fee.

One of the compulsory ones this time was the barium test. I've never heard anyone having to go through it, so didn't think much when I went for my health check, assuming it was just like any other tests.

There was a short paragraph in the explanation sheet provided by HR (they had to translate from the original given by the clinic). Sure enough, it was as stated - drink some thick white liquid, and get your x-ray done to check the linings of your stomach and intestines.

What I didn't expect was the awful feeling of gulping down the chalk-like substance, and having told not to burp. It's as if someone had pounded blackboard chalk into a lassi texture. It was rather tasteless, and gave my stomach a bloated feeling. If it was vanilla flavoured maybe it could have been more palatable.

What I expected was to stand still and have the machine send x-ray particles through the body, and I'm done. So I was a little surprised at having to lie down on a large metal plate, holding on to the side rails while the machine tilt me to various angles. There's even one angle which reminded me of being on a roller coaster going downhill. All these while very conscious of the white blob moving about inside my body.

When I came out of the test, I bumped into one of my colleague who was about done. I told her that was the weirdest test I have ever had to do in my life. She warned me that was not the worse. Wait till I go to the toilet, I'd have white poop. =.=

After completing the other tests, the nurse gave me some laxative tablets. I was advised to take 3 pills first. If it still didn't come out, to take the remaining 2.

I happily went for lunch after the tests, thinking that was the end of it.

Now, I also don't know anyone who has taken laxatives nor heard of experiences other than "it makes you poop out everything you've eaten" from articles on anorexic grrls. All I can say is I'm glad I live nearby, and I didn't "let go" while on the train going back.

Just as I stepped into my room, it almost immediately came out. I will spare you the details, but suffice to say, that experience was worse than the whole barium test itself!

It's like having diarrhoea for nothing. Don't ask me what the colour of the poop was, all I wanted to know was how long my misery would last.

When I recalled my ordeal to my Japanese colleague the next day, she said she wished she had gotten the opportunity for the test. (She's a contractor, so is not entitled for similar tests as other employees.) I told her, I'd gladly forfeit mine and ask her to take my portion!

Apparently, this is a common test during health check up in Japan. I later found out that stomach cancer is one of the top 10 causes of death in Japan.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

the genki obaachans and ojiichans

Every now and then, I (and some former students and lecturers) would get an email from my former lecturer back in MMU. He was a visiting professor sent by NTT from Japan. I still keep in touch with him after he and his wife returned to Japan. I had the pleasure of being hosted by them at their retirement home some years back.

He showed me pictures of the plants, vegetables and flowers he had grown in his garden. Some of these pumpkins, onions, sweet peppers and yam would be their food; some would be exchanged with neighbours for milk or other necessities.

Recently his wife started a baking business; though it was difficult but it seemed to provide them with some form of income. They have found a suitable place to open shop and are now renovating it.

In my reply, I said it was great to know that they had activities to keep a sustainable lifestyle, and have something to keep them occupied. This was something I admire about the Japanese. I notice many elderly people still work in supermarkets, cleaning services and at bus terminals.

In Malaysia, these are regarded as "lower ranking" jobs which most young people shun away, and hence we end up having to hire foreigners to do these jobs. However, it seems the Japanese do not mind at all, and take it as any other jobs.

It's even more admirable they look more genki than me! It's not surprising that during mountain climbing season, many elderly people bypass younger people when going up the slopes. These senior citizens also seem to have more energy going about their work.

There was even a special programme which featured this 80+ year old granny who does her exercise at the local playground. She has been going there faithfully almost everyday, climbing up what looks like a monkey bar. Instead of rails that you need to hold on to with your hands, this is like horizontal abseiling where you hold on to the hoop and use your might to swing yourself across to the other side.

I shudder to think what kind of senior citizen I would be if I continue with my sedentary lifestyle. Fat, lazy and unhealthy?!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

off to see the queen p1

I got so excited about my London trip that I think maybe the health check post doesn't sound so appetising anymore. Initially I wasn't because I did not expect I'd fly again so soon after returning from Malaysia, but I told myself not to complain since I have not been to UK before. I bet most everyone else I know have been there, so finally this is my chance!

It was late evening by the time my Japanese colleague and I reached the city from the airport. Don't let the sky fool you, the sun set pretty late in Europe in summer. Here at almost 8pm, we decided to get a cab to the hotel from the nearest station. So this is the famous London black cab! It didn't look too fancy from the outside, but the inside is spacious and passengers sit facing each other, unlike normal cars.

One of the evenings I decided to meet up with an ex-colleague who happened to be in London for work too. We wandered around Knightsbridge, but were too late to visit the famed Harrods. Since we were hungry, and not too sure what would be good in the area, we decided to have Kids Meal at McD's! We were joking how Malaysians we were, converting currency and stinging on basic needs.

For the project, my colleagues and I were based at the vendor's office near Holborn. For the first 2 days they fed us, but the generosity stopped after that when the COO stopped visiting :/ So I decided to venture out to try some local breakfast. I had my impression of what a porridge should be, coming from Asia. So I was quite surprised this is what the Brits called their "hot porridge"! Rather than savoury with watery rice, theirs is more like warm oats topped with bananas and syrup.

One of the must try while you're in the UK is the fish and chips. I'm sure all of us have had our own versions before, so I was keen to try the "original". I was glad I decided to share because the huge fish and abundant fries were more than what my tummy could take. The Brits love their chippy with a dash of vinegar, squeezed lemon and some salt and pepper (somehow I still like having tartare sauce on the side, helps balance the fried-ness).

I didn't realise what a big commotion this was until I read news that everyone else have been camping either outside the hospital or the palace, waiting for the announcement. I was secretly hoping I'd be able to meet the Queen (or rather, Prince Harry!), but a bonus would be to meet the youngest prince. You can almost sense the relief in the air when the big news came. Bookies and punters were having a field day with bets on the date of birth, and the name of the prince.

Walking along Oxford St was quite an amazing experience, because you'd see 2 or even 3 shops of the same brand along that same street. I saw about 4 Zara's there, though unfortunately there wasn't anything nice from their summer sales. Was glad to see Uniqlo, Muji and ASICS too.

Before visiting London, I thought the double deckers were open air at the top deck. I wonder where I got this impression. It was quite fun riding these to work everyday. Similar to other metropolitans with limited space like Singapore, HK and Tokyo, London depend very much on public transportation, so I appreciated the efficiency and choice of these while I was there. Makes me wish our government could have the foresight and vision to plan ahead too >.<