Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I arrived on Monday - my birthday - at Aka school to find out we were all being required to wear masks. This was due to the flu scare that is embracing our communities. Major festivals have been canceled as well as almost everything non-necessary that involves more than a dozen people gathering.

[Teaching English is hard enough without wearing a muffler]

I think these are pretty strong measures during a flu, unless it's a huge outbreak. But when the flu isn't present, it's just crazy. This week there is ONE case of the flu (not H1N1) between the three islands in our community.

[Not only do we have to wear them, they're collecting money from us to pay for them! Do you think I contributed?]

I was not amused with this requirement but since I feel like I challenge a lot of ridiculousness, I tried to just be quiet. But it's so stifling when it's 32C (89F) and I keep breathing in the same breath. I kept pulling away my mask to wipe away the sweat/condensation that was dripping around my mouth while simultaneously biting my tongue about the absurdity of the situation. Eventually I appealed to the nurse that Zamami and Geruma are not wearing masks (I made this up, but figured she'd call me on it if I was wrong). But it turns out it's the principal's decision. There's nothing to be gained in appealing to him.

[We are allowed to remove our masks during lunch, but we aren't allowed to eat as a group in the cafeteria. The kids have to eat in their classrooms while the teachers spread out in the cafeteria (This picture shows the lone first-grader, whose teacher was nice enough to eat with him)]

On Tuesday I only wore my mask half the day - mostly around my chin - and some of the teachers relaxed about it in the afternoon. By today the novelty of 'saving the school year' wore off and most teachers were only wearing their masks in the classroom (but not in the teachers room). I didn't wear one at all and every time a kid questioned me about it I blew on him or her.


Chris said...

hey Dave,

I enjoyed reading through your blog. nice photos and good stories of Palau.


i'll look for you on zamami next time i'm out.

- Chris

nchan said...

hahaha. ok, the masks are probably a bit overboard, especially with only one non-H1N1 case (assuming that it really is a confirmed the US they only test severe cases that become hospitalized). BUT, as a public health professional, i have to recommend NOT blowing on your students, with our without the flu. :)

Dave said...

what about kissing them? should I stop that, too?

nchan said...

no, you probably shouldn't stop that. seeing as kissing is such a big part of japanese culture, i wouldn't want you to be culturally inappropriate.