Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fun, Germs and Studying Zeal

Everyone on the island seems to have the flu so the face masks are out in full force. I don't wear one because I like to think that since everyone else is wearing one, that frees up all the clean air for me. Flawed, I know. This line of thinking has worked out so far (find me a piece of wood to knock on, stat!). But I can't help but recoil every time I am within a ten foot radius of a child who sneezes or coughs without covering their mouths and then I have to sing the "Hello Song" with them. The "Hello Song" consists of marching around the room with about 12 first-graders and singing/yelling "Hello, hello, hello, what's your name? Hello, hello, hello!" At this point, you have to find the nearest person and say "My name is Ayami. My name is Erin." And then you shake hands as the music goes "hello, hello, hello" and you find your next partner/flu victim. In the last class, I told them that we were going to play a fun game where we pretend to shake hands but do not touch each other. Also, at the end of class, they all want to give me high fives. Afterward, I race to the antibacterial hand spray and practically hold it up in the air to shower under it to decontaminate, like some horrible lab experiment gone wrong.

With the high school students, it is just more difficult to understand them with a mask covering their mouths. A lot of the students wear masks as a form of prevention. It seems like the third year students, who are in the midst of heavy studying for university exams, are in isolation in a room in a separate wing of the school. I am sure that it's a very crazy time for them with exams. In Japan, the system for graduating students is much different than the system for American kids. American kids apply to three or four universities and then when they go to university, they have a vague idea of what they want to do and then actually decide their sophomore year. In Japan, they begin asking what you want to do with your life when you are in seventh grade and by the time you enter high school, you must know whether you want to go to university or not. If you decide to go, you enter the "alpha" class, which has a more rigorous study schedule than the "beta" class. And you cannot change your mind once you enter the "beta" class. You cannot take the exams for universities. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Their choices at 16 years of age are all a bit too permanent for my taste.

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