Saturday, July 25, 2009

Swine Flu and Midterms

I got to school later than usual on Friday. As I arrived, I noticed a line of about 50 students wrapping around the parking lot into the main entrance of the school. There was a teacher with an ear thermometer taking the temperatures of each student.

Those students with a high temperature were separated from the rest of the school and forced to take their midterm exams in the cafeteria or outside of their classrooms. Midterms ended at 12:40. We usually send the kids home early on our two midterm days and teachers follow an hour or so later. This year, the school has decided to keep the students in school until the normal end of school time, probably as a babysitting type of arrangement for many parents who would have to take a few hours off of work to pick up their students.

Anyway, since the kids were still at school after their exams, we followed the normal Friday class schedule. Apparently the 30 or 40 students who were "quarantined" outside of the classrooms for the exams all healed because they were let back into their classes for the last three hours of the day. Kinda funny. I went back to my class to grade some exams and the sick kids were running around with the not-sick ones, sharing a bag of potato chips and a package of tamarind candy. The perfect mixture of slimy hands, runny noses and cooties in our tiny little classroom.

Oh yeah, and two of my fourth graders are twins, one of whom has been sick for the past three days, but came to school for her midterm. She was "quarantined". I asked the homeroom teacher, when I went to the class to proctor their exam, why the twin was in the class with the rest of the students when her sister, who she lives with, sleeps with, bathes with and probably shares half eaten Tootsie Rolls with, has been sick and was separated because of a high temperature. The teacher told me that she was not put out of class because her temperature didn't hit the "danger" cutoff point. Brilliant. I told her, "Teacher ****, they live together and she's been sick for three days." She tried to reassure me that everything was under control with the typical "Mai ben rai" which has a range of translations such as "never mind" and "don't worry about it" but has the feeling of "aaaaaah, whatever dude". "Mai ben rai" is another whole cultural blog in itself!

I saw a woman today at the market trying on medical face masks, you know, the cute ones with cartoons and such on them...The store had the packaged masks on the shelf and ten or twelve samples hanging on nails. This lady had tried on several of them, perhaps trying to see which one matched her skin tone the best or which went with her eye shadow, before the shop keeper noticed. The shop keeper looked at the lady as if she were mental and told her that it wasn't in her best interest to be trying all of the masks on. She told the customer that many other people, in probably the most crowded weekend market in Bangkok, had been trying them on too. The customer took several moments to process the information, then responded with a wide-eyed, "Oh!"

I'm having a hard enough time not holding railings when I go up and down stairs...but I'm not rock enough to go trying on face masks in the midst of a flu pandemic! My hands are drying out from washing them so often...I guess I could swipe one of Pae's many hand lotions...

We went to the national stadium right around the corner from our apartment the other day with family to see the Thai National football (soccer) team play a friendly (exhibition) with Liverpool from the British Premier League. That means nothing to many of you, but it was a huge thing here as half of all Thais idolize The Kop. It was nice to see that they were scanning all ticket holders through the turnstiles with some second hand SARS temperature scanners. I guess they were refunding tickets of those who popped positive on the thermal imaging machines and not allowing them entry. They're trying.

Well, there's your update from here. Everyone we know has been pretty healthy so far with only a couple bouts with the normal flu, allergies and spicy food reactions...all of which make people on a crowded bus scooch a little further away from you fearing contracting H1N1.

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