My co-worker told me at the start of a class last week that one of my students had thrown up three times earlier in the day, and she really wasn't feeling well so if she needed to go, I should let her head to the washroom. I stopped and said "Uhhh, ok. But, I really don't want to get sick."
My co-worker laughed at me.
"I'm serious, Cindy. The kid sits right beside me." and I nodded toward where the little girl sat with her hand clenched over her mouth. In the classroom I spend a lot of the time standing at the board or leaning at the bureau where the CD player lives, but I do sit when the kids are working on stuff or if I have to mark. I'm at the end of the table which is formed into a semi-circle. A small half circle - and I've usually got students on either side of me. They're as close to me as if we were sitting next to each other on a bus - but it's even worse because they're angled to exhale (or cough, sneeze or *gag* barf) directly into the airspace that I'm inhaling.
I feel like I'm turning into Jack Nicholson in "As Good as it Gets," (Hi, Mark?) but I really hate getting sick. I'm washing my hands all the time and using alcoholy sanitizer when I don't have time to hit the Ladies' between classes and still, I actually wish I was teaching from inside a plexi-glass box. Or an air-conditioned Hazmat suit.
Dr. Cindy said, "You won't get sick. Maybe she just ate something not good."
"Orrrr," I countered, "Maybe she's got a wicked stomach flu. Seriously, can we move her for today?" (To, like, home?) So Cindy got the girl to move to the far end of the table just for the day, which was fine. It got me thinking back to my childhood when throwing up throughout the night, before school, or (all over your most favourite red plaid kilt and white tights in grade two) in school automatically earned you a stay-home-from-school-and-watch-cartoons card. No questions.
That's not often the case here, and I resent it. I think many of my students' parents are working and I know that Koreans drag their own sick bodies to work all the time when by all rights they should be staying home and getting better instead of infecting their co-workers. So it stands to reason they're probably not going to take time off to look after their sick children - and instead send them off to infect ME.
Look at these kids:
They're tiny. I can almost fit them in my pocket. Both of them. In one pocket.
They could live in my shoes. Both of them. In one shoe.
Anyways they're in grade one. They're six years old. Tiny little humans.
And THIS is the girl's bag!
It's REALLY HEAVY and I'm surprised she can carry it without toppling over. This isn't her only bag, either - she's got another one with her Taekwondo uniform and a few more books, because apparently she can only fit EIGHTEEN books into the pink knapsack!
You know what I carried around in my knapsack when I was six years old? Nothing! Because I didn't have a knapsack. I had a Holly Hobby lunchbox with a sandwich in it. That was my homework. Eat the sandwich.
That little girl goes from school to an "all subject" hagwon, to our English school, to Taekwondo and then for a piano lesson. Her parents run a very busy sushi restaurant. They're very nice people, but I still feel bad when their little girl knocks her forehead against the desk because she's unable to keep her eyes open and stay awake. Today she was coughing and sniffling, looking miserable. And that made two of us. There's something going around. In the next class, both students on either side of me were sick. The one who kept coughing without covering his mouth got moved.
I had a very sore throat Sunday and Monday and I should have realized that tends to be the first symptom I get when I'm about to get sick - but I hadn't really thought about it. Sure enough,...my temperature is 102 right now and I've got fire face/lungs. Can't breathe. Still, my sneezes feel like sinus-orgasms.
When my eight o'clock class ended today I schlepped to the washroom and after, as I was washing my hands, I noticed something in the mirror. I brushed my hair off my forehead and panicked, "Oh man, I'm really sick! What the hell?" There were angry red circles about the size of the end of a cigarette from my right temple down to beside my eye. Typhoid? Ebola? Holy shit! I brought my fingers up to feel the spots.
They come off.
While marking my middle-school students' tests, I'd been tapping the side of my head with my thin red crayon.