Sunday, October 31, 2010


Not greatly perking but it is wonderful how the body responds when it has too. Yesterday I had some work that I could not bow out of and I managed wonderfully. Today... I'm back dragging around.

Yesterday I was helping with a seminar to train interpreters in medical situations. Great fun for me since I got to role play the mentally unbalanced foreigner who didn't understand the Japanese medical system nor have a handle on the Japanese language. Boy did I ham it up! Lots of laughs as I held my head and sobbed into my handkerchief.

Not so funny though are some of the real life situations.

About 10 years ago I befriended a woman from Iran. I saw her outside the neighborhood supermarket and spoke to her a few minutes, she being obviously foreign and with a small half Japanese child by her side. We exchanged telephone numbers and though our common language was only Japanese which she wasn't comfortable with, we became "friends" for the next couple months.

What a story of woe she had! She and her husband had met in Iran when he was working there. Her family disowned her when she married and she came back to our little town with her husband to make a life in Japan. Soon she was pregnant but ended up in the hospital with a threatened miscarriage. She stayed in the hospital 5 months and in the meantime her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He passed away two months after their son was born.

In the cemetery across the street from my house where Tetsu and I walked our dog, there was an interesting gravestone, at the time the only one in the whole cemetery with a picture of a man on it. Inscribed in the stone in childish Japanese characters were words,

"My darling *****. I love you, I miss you. You are my whole heart and will be forever."

So unusual to see such an expression of love and emotion from a Japanese family and Tetsu and I often wondered who the man was (he had passed away young) and what kind of wife would be so open in declaring her affection. Later I found out that it was the Iranian woman! So the mystery was solved.

The poor woman was with a baby in a strange country and no husband. He had left her a small house and money. His family disliked her. She could not go back to Iran because the child did not have Iranian nationality, only Japanese. With his Japanese nationality she was allowed to stay in Japan but without family, friends or work.

For the next few months we saw each other regularly but I wondered about her unorthodox behavior. She seemed to be quite at odds with her neighbors accusing them of spiteful actions and scorn. She was a real shopaholic and her house was FILLED to the ceiling with un-opened boxes of trinkets and clothing and appliances from catalog shopping which she admitted she couldn't stop buying. The child, who was by this time two or three went completely hysterical whenever I visited, and would scream and throw things and seemed to be on the oddest schedule of sleeping during the day and being demanding in the night hours. My friend was at her wit's end but when I suggested she try to adjust the boy's sleeping and eating schedule (he would eat nothing but potato chips) she would say that he was only a child and children could not be trained until they were in school. That is way~ too late in my book but I thought that maybe this was the Iranian way of child raising.

In the end, the woman ended our relationship with outbursts of anger when I tried to explain that I could not and would not take over caring for her husband's grave because the cemetery was so close to me. She accused me of being as hateful as her neighbors and out to get her wealth... A couple of weeks later she returned to Iran for an extended visit and I never talked with her again.

A couple of years went by and once our cars passed each other on the street. "Ah. She's back..." But I decided not to seek her out. She knew where I lived if she wanted to renew our former friendship. I didn't hear from her and sometimes wondered if I should see how she was. I guess by then I'd figured out that what she really needed was some psychological help.

Not too long ago I learned that for a few months she'd been hospitalized in a mental hospital and that her son had been placed in an institution and been diagnosed as autistic. Social workers had been called in but there were none in our area who could counsel her in Persian and she'd become suicidal. In the end the Iranian embassy provided an escort for her and her son to be taken back to Iran where I presume she is getting medical help.

A sad story of how people slip through the cracks. Maybe it is easier to slip when there is a language barrier also involved. I wish I could have helped. I don't think I could have. I hope other foreigners will benefit from the new interpreters who were being trained yesterday.

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