Monday, June 13, 2005

Drama on a Monday

I've just had the strangest Monday in a very long time.

Things started going slightly amiss when the first lesson ended five minutes early, which took me a little by surprise. It was a little annoying too, since the class was engaged in a highly competitive game of Reverse Jeopardy! for a pack of mini Aeros, and I was just about to whip out the final, killer question - "What is Lewis's shoe size?" (if you're dying to know, it's 27.5 centimetres in Japan sizes).

Anyway, I asked my "team teaching partner" what the reason was for the early finish, and she replied that all the lessons were being shortened today in order to make time for a fire drill after the last lesson. Oh, the things you miss when you can't understand the morning meetings... I asked her what I was supposed to do during the fire drill. She replied:

"Well, everyone's going to go and assemble on the school playing field, but you can stay in the teacher's room if you like."

"What, and burn to death?", I quickly replied, which sent her into fits of giggles.

Having established that my life was expendable in the event of the fire, I returned to the teacher's room to find an ominous post-it note stuck to my desk. It was from one of the English teachers, who was letting me know that this morning all the teachers would be having a medical check up. Yet another thing that I suspect was mentioned in the morning meeting, but fell on gaijin-deaf ears. The note continued to say that I could refuse the check-up if I wanted to, but that all the teachers would be doing it. I read this to mean that it's compulsory.

At the bottom of the note it said that the check-up would take place in the "nursery room", which my Engrish radar quickly translated to mean "nurse's room". Sure enough, upon arrival at the nurse's room I was presented with a paper cup and a command to pee. Unfortunately, I'd recently "been", so I had to make a quick trip to the school vending machine for a few cartons of fruit juice to "get me going". This took a little longer than expected - so long in fact that I was the last one to turn up for the health check, only to find seven (count 'em) impatient nurses waiting just for me. I tried to explain that I'd had trouble going to the loo in Japanese, but I was getting nowhere fast, and my desperate and embarrassed gesticulations in an attempt to demonstrate the trouble I'd been having were becoming obscene, so I gave up and sat down, submitting myself to a painful blood test from a rather amused nurse.

[By the way, I wanted to say "injection" there, but having a blood test isn't really an "in"jection is it? Surely taking blood out would be an "out"jection? But then again, you have to have an injection of a needle to have an outjection... There's got to be a word in the English language to describe it though - if anyone has any thoughts, please let me know. End of digression.]

Now, the day had been chaotic enough already, but things were about to take a turn for the surreal...

I've just realised this post has already become quite long, but it's going to get a whole lot longer, so please bear with me. If you're suffering from eye strain, please take a break and come back later. Remember, when you're using computers, take a 15 minute break every hour to save your eyes.

Back with me? Great! Let's carry on then.

At the end of the fourth period a disturbing message came over the intercom - all teachers were to report to the teacher's room for an emergency meeting. My team teaching partner dashed off, leaving me to helm a finger-biting game of English Bingo, this time for a prize of McVitie's Digestive Biscuits. After five minutes another message blared over the intercom - all classes were to be abandoned, and there would instead be a short homeroom period. "Blimey, it must be serious", I thought. I was also a little annoyed, since it was the second exciting English-related classroom game I'd had to abandon that day.

Back in the teacher's room it turned out to be pretty serious situation indeed - the school had received a death threat. This wasn't entirely unexpected - about two weeks ago someone had called the Fukui Board of Education and threatened to kill a teacher somewhere in Fukui-ken. The teachers had been put on alert, but nothing had happened.

However, this time the anonymous-caller (I'm presuming it's the same one) had specifically mentioned that he wanted to kill someone at Nyu High School. Which is a little, well, unnerving to say the least. Deep in my heart I'm sure that the caller is merely playing a cruel prank, but even so I found myself wondering if maybe my ultra-competitive games of Jeopardy! had provoked the ire of a student who failed to guess my shoe size.

I know it's bad to joke about stuff like that, but what can you do? I'm pretty sure that no-one's going to come after me, but now I'm terrified that one of my fellow teachers is going to be attacked.

My fears aren't exactly unfounded either: recently in Japan there's been a spate of attacks in schools by disgruntled students. Last week, an 18-year old student in Yamaguchi prefecture threw a home-made bomb into a classroom, injuring 58 people (read about it here). Then there was the 12-year-old girl who was fatally stabbed by a classmate last June, and, scariest of all, in February a 17-year-old boy fatally stabbed a teacher at an elementary school in Osaka.

As you can imagine, I'm a bit worried. The kids were all sent home early today because the school was so concerned about their safety, and when the teachers left they were all told to call the school to let them know that they got home safely. Scary stuff.

And to make matters worse, the fire drill was cancelled, so I still don't know what to do if there's a fire, aside from slowly burn to death in the teacher's room.


Blogger The Funky Drummer said...

Good thing you've been training in the way of the arrow then innit?

10:03 am  
Blogger Phoenix said...

Surely taking blood out would be an "out"jection?

I believe that's called having blood drawn.

11:08 pm  
Blogger Chris C said...

I used to be a nurse, and the best term for having blood taken is "venapuncture", i.e. having your vein puncture. Like a tyre it collapses. (How snotty do I sound?)

Also by way of helping, I have been through an elementary school fire drill and can inform you that the students do not have to change their shoes before leaving the building.

Stay safe! I thought issues in my ken were bad with one ALT arrested and one (allegedly) missing...
Keep us updated!

9:52 pm  
Blogger Phoenix said...

ve·ni·punc·ture or ve·ne·punc·ture (vn-pngkchr, vn-)
noun.     Puncture of a vein, as for drawing blood, intravenous feeding, or the administration of medicine.
(source: The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary)

You've had an ALT arrested? And you have another one missing? You really know how to set the bar higher for the rest of us. How are we supposed to compete with that?

8:51 pm  

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