When he returns home to Japan in a few weeks, Daisuke Tomita should have plenty of material for show-and-tell.
He can explain to his friends and family about training in a first-class American hospital, riding through the city in an ambulance, playing a round of golf for the first time and dining on three of the Souths basic food groups -- fried chicken, collard greens and black-eyed peas.
Allthough his name (pronounced Dice-Kay Tah-Meeta) sounds like something you might order from a sushi menu, Im sure our language is just as funny to him. He has been carted around Macon with the help of a translator -- both a human one and an electronic tablet that converts English to Japanese. He also can communicate with a notepad, pen and and ongoing versions of charades with his new friends.
If you see him in the hallways at The Medical Center of Central Georgia, you will notice the title of Observer on his name badge. He is part of the Macon hospitals four-week medical exchange program with Kurobe City Hospital in Japan.
We should probably call him our brother, since Kurobe is our sister city. Our other sister cities re Macon, France; Gwacheon, South Korea; Kaohsiung, Japan; Elmina, Ghana; and Ulyanovsk, Russia.
Not to play favorites, but our relationship with Kurobe is extra special. It is the international headquarters for YKK, which is Georgias first Japanese-owned factory, Bibb Countrys eighth-largest employer and the top supplier of zippers in the U.S.
The 3-ton, 8-foot statue in Macons Third Street Park was hand-carved by craftsmen in Kurobe 30 years ago as a gift to the city for the first Cherry Blossom Festival.
Daisuke is a male nurse who has been in Macon for 12 days, along with two doctors from Kurobe -- Haruna Kouno and Tatshuiko Ueno. When they arrived Oct. 8, along with several health care professionals from Kurobe, about 200 employees from the Medical Center gathered to welcome them.
He is 35 years old and is married with a 2-year-old daughter. He has been a nurse for 12 years. He was inspired to pursue a career in the medical field after surviving meningitis as a young man. His mother is a hospital receptionist, and his father is a truck driver.
As part of his observer duties, he has visited a local hospice facility, been on ambulance calls, made home health visits, kept watch in the emergency room, and visited the ninth-floor oncology ward and cardiothoracic surgery.
One of his hostesses has been Shelia Sanders, clinical coordinator with the Anderson Health Center. Shelia and another registered nurse, Sandra Broomfield, traveled to Kurobe in June as part of the exchange program and met Daisuke during their visit.
Everybody at the hospital welcomed us and knew we were there, said Shelia It was like the Super Bowl. We wanted to reciprocate and treat them like royalty.
Kurobe is a 400-bed hospital, smaller than the 600-bed Medical Center. It was spotless, she said. And it wasnt air-conditioned.
If she ever gets to go back, Shelia learned her lesson after packing 12 pairs of shoes for a two-week visit. It is customary for the Japanese to take off their shoes before entering private residences and buildings.
I guess when I have my guests over, Ill have to have a little box for all our shoes at the front door, said Mary Kay Williams, a registered nurse in oncology. She will host Daisuke and other Japanese visitors for supper at her house on Wednesday.
Daisuke has been on a diet and has dropped 60 pounds. We should probably feel guilty trying to fatten him up on cornbread, barbecue and potato salad.
He will leave Macon enriched and blessed. When he returns home, maybe he will even have folks in Kurobe saying yall.
That would be a nice cultural exchange.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.