Three teaching days left. Two goodbye parties more to go. One classroom to move. Several personal goodbyes to friends and students who I probably won’t ever see again. And then it’s summer. Conflicted and tired ‘yay.’
The end of the school year always comes with a unique kind of bone-aching tired for teachers. For many reasons, 2020 has made it even more emotionally and physically exhausting to bring a classroom full of kids to some kind of meaningful and exciting close. I taught online for four months and have done the last six weeks in a modified classroom set up that honestly makes me question staying in the profession.
There have been nice moments, sure. Some appreciative parent emails, yeah. Some belly laughs when kids finally put it together that everyone in the garden of Eden was naked and asked what Adam and Eve did for privacy. For like, you know, bathroom stuff, Miss Weight?
There’s a lot going on, isn’t there? Between coronavirus, political and social unrest in my home and host countries, it’s enough to overwhelm you on your best day. I’m glad that the murder hornets have decided to walk off-stage, at least. That was one plot line we definitely didn’t need.
I live in super safe Hong Kong, this virus started in China, which is an hour bus ride away from where I live, but I’m at more risk going back to California! Because my home country doesn’t have any national leadership or a plan to flatten the curve or protect their people from Covid-19. I hate it, but it’s working in my favor because with no mandatory quarantine in the States, I’m taking a risk and flying home for a month. I leave Friday and I’m excited to see my family but I feel bad because none of my friends here (from UK, Canada, NZ, Aus, S Africa, Europe, etc.) will be able to travel or visit home. Most countries’ borders are closed even to citizens, others all have two week quarantines. Only the USA is like “hey! Come in! We’ve decided to let a lot of people die, because the economy and it’s an election year and conspiracy theories are fun.” Or something. I honestly cannot articulate what is happening in my home country.
I will have to quarantine upon return, I’m already dreading the two weeks locked in my studio when I get back to HK. My students have been helping me brainstorm a list of activities to do during quarantine. The most promising idea includes starting a Youtube channel where I film myself playing games against . . . . myself, like chess or ping pong, while asking for donations to buy a pet llama. They all promise to like and subscribe.
I know the quarantine is going to be really tough, but I am hoping my love bucket will be filled enough by a month at home to make it worth it. I am currently buoyed by dreams of lazy afternoons with my puppies, crossword puzzles with Mom, Mexican food and backyard barbecues. My baby sister is pregnant and I will get to be a part of the baby shower. I’m ready to be an auntie, I think. I always have gum, have lots of good stories, and great taste in music, which I think are the prerequisites.
It’s been easier than I thought to get used to living alone, so that’s been practice. I think having my fish, Puppy, helps. Someone to talk to and worry about. I find myself googling things like “do fish like candles?” because I want to be respectful and for us to be on the same vibe.
Originally, I had planned on taking him to school to be a class pet as a reward for my nine-year-olds getting through four months of online learning, but I loved having him so much I went and got another one to have at school. I gave the students the choice to pick a name, and oddly enough they decided on Jeff, “Jeffrey” for long or when he’s in trouble. We like to yell at him to clean his tank and when he hides in his plant we say he’s socially distancing very well.
Having a studio keeps me busy, because everything is in like a five foot radius, so I can’t escape any messes I make. They’re all mine and I can’t go to sleep if I can see them, so there is a lot of cleaning to occupy me. I love coming home and puttering about on my terrace to water the plants and marvel at the random things that have fallen from the twenty stories of apartments above me. I’ve realized how absolutely optional clothing is now that I’m alone. And it’s possible I’m enjoying being alone too much. I have bought a LOT of plants. There have been deep desires to get a cat. Am I entering a new cliche phase of being single? It’s a bit troublesome. But my rooftop, a washing machine, having a security guard, not having to go blocks to the dump to throw out the trash, and a super easy commute has been amazing.
After countless years on a single bed, I can’t get used to the queen-sized this studio came with. I just stay in my little section. The other half has become my “laundry I swear I will fold or just wear before I have to fold and put away,” section, and where I put my phone and glasses and laptop at night before I go to sleep. I tend to talk in my sleep, but I don’t move a lot, so I have only slept in like 40% of my bed.
The one drawback to this place is I do have a possibly mentally unstable neighbor. Because I am just allergic to a normal living situation. My neighbor, or a possibly real friend he blames it on, likes to scream political slogans in Chinese every few nights from about 3-5am. Then I think they drop bowling balls for fun. It’s happened 13 times, and I know this, because I did what any passive aggressive person does and created a spreadsheet to document each instance and then sent a screenshot of it to my landlord and told him to deal with it, please.
One Monday, after having been kept awake most of the night, I marched over in all my afterschool tiredness and knocked on the door, determined to introduce myself to perhaps shame him into behaving better if he saw how wretchedly tired I was.
A cranky Miss Weight who announced her displeasure to flat 1A with a “BANG BANG BANG.”
A very small Chinese man with a mustache (interesting) pokes only his head around the door. I assume he’s otherwise naked, because he does not reveal anymore of himself through our conversation. And all lights are off. It is 4:30pm.
“I’m your neighbor, Rachel. I’m a teacher. I moved in just two weeks ago, the day after you. There have been a LOT of noises at night. I have called security, spoken to the landlord, it keeps happening. It’s scary and I’m losing sleep so please stop k thanks.”
HIs name is Ernest. He’s a phD student. He’s sorry. The noise is his friend, who has emotional problems.
“Okay, well. Your friend needs to stay home and have his problems there.”
Two days later he came over again with another apology and some foam tape he said to put around my door to help not hear the noise, which kind of implies the problem is not the fact that a crazy person is screaming at all hours, but rather that I have decided to be woken up from a dead sleep and hear them.
The situation reinforces my decision to head home for the summer, even if I’m wary of the way too relaxed manner in which America is “handling” the coronavirus. I will be masked up at all times if out in public, thank you. And if you need any good instructions or reminders about hand-washing, mask-wearing, or social distancing, having been giving them continuously to nine year olds with very short attention spans, I am definitely your girl for this.
Maybe what people need to hear is some of the unexpected positives I’ve found from the mask wearing? Because besides cutting your risk down to 1%, I have discovered the following benefits:
- I’m saving money and time on makeup and lip gloss, because I really only have to deal with the top one-third of my face now, as the rest is a pleasant pale blue.
- Something stuck in my teeth from lunch? No one, not even I, will know until I get home. So I go ahead and order that chia seed kale quinoa salad with confidence.
- I’m saving time and stress from the lack of necessity of upper-lip hair maintenance.
- I can stop worrying about my Covid double chin showing up in any photos – you can’t see my chin(s) at all!
- Endless comic relief is provided every time I enter a new climate (i.e. exit a taxi or classroom) because my glasses fog up immediately and I can’t see and stumble around for effect.
- I haven’t smelled anyone else’s bad breath in months! My own – plenty. But that’s manageable.
- Fashion! People are clever and inventing some interesting masks, containers to hold them in, etc. Something to shop for in these trying times.
- Probably the biggest benefit – a minor inconvenience making it possible to prevent contracting and/or passing on an almost completely avoidable yet potentially fatal illness! I’m finding that quite motivating.
Take care of yourselves and each other. Wear a mask. Happy Father’s Day to mine and yours and all. Black Lives Matter.