The 2020 narrative has gotten so far out of hand that I will accept anything you tell me at this point. It has gone or could go like this:

February 17th

“Rach – people are going to believe a rumor that toilet paper factories are going to stop producing TP in favor of masks, so there are going to be fist fights and robberies for WEEKS over toilet paper across the world.”

Me: “Um. Okay. Sounds fake, but okay.”

“Rach – Aliens are real! All those years watching the Xfiles are about to pay off.”

Me: *Shrug* “Yeah, okay. Sounds about right. When do I get a Mulder?”

“Raquel – koalas will cure chlamydia.”

Me: “Dude – that is adorable and strange. What a comeback after those bushfires.”

“Rachel – they’ve found a cure for Covid-19 – you just shine a light in . . . in your body somewhere, and drink some bleach, and take anti-malarial pills, and don’t take any tests, and just ignore it, and it basically goes away and doesn’t exist!” 

Me: “ . . . okay, you’re just paraphrasing trump there. That’s just stuff he’s said. He has actually said that and people actually believe him and it’s actually killing people. The other things were funny.”

“We – you – yeah, you’re right.”

Me: *sighs, puts on leggings, pours wine harder* “Yeah, okay.”

Admin: “Okay, we’re going back to school, but everyone is going to stay one meter apart, with constant vigilance over temperature, the slightest cough, hand-washing, masks, there will be no running around, students will be accompanied to the toilets, teachers will have to distribute and collect all supplies, sanitizing everything shared in between, no parents or visitors allowed on campus, two teaching sessions a day with supplemental online work provided.” (This paraphrases our actual instructions before we went back into the classroom for the last six weeks of school.)

somehow we made it!

Me: *Cries for a bit. Flails around classroom. Rearranges furniture. Lowers expectations on self to a realistic level.* “Um . . . okay?”

Then smashes it for six weeks like a CHAMP.

We just don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I am pretty sure I will be wearing a mask, trying to have a good attitude, and eating too much about it.

At my school in Hong Kong, we were able to spend the last six weeks physically together in the classroom, after four long months of online learning. It wasn’t the year we’d hoped for in many ways, but I’m grateful that I got to have that time with my students, to complete some writing and be able to show them how much they’ve grown, do some fun art projects, show them my favorite Disney movie “The Emperor’s New Groove” and watch their reactions from my desk, sign yearbooks, and be able to congratulate them all in person on a job well done navigating all the surprises and changes we’ve had.

we waited allllll year to open these!

On the last day of school we opened up letters we’d written to ourselves on the first day of school and everyone had a good laugh at how their handwriting had changed, or what goals they had set for themselves way back in August 2019. I think about that first day and all the plans I had. I could never have imagined the protests Hong Kong went through, with eight days off school. Covid giving us four months of online school. All the field trips we missed. The cool ideas for my class that never materialized. What a different person I was and what a different world there was back in August 2019.

This was our goodbye assembly to the teachers that are leaving this year. All the classes lined up along the balconies (my school has 8 floors) and looked out over the edge to say farewell!

I held back tears saying goodbye to some of my kids who are moving abroad or to different schools. One of the hardest parts about teaching is you are a major part of someone’s life for a year, and then you might never see them again. Part of teaching is being a crisis counselor for kids in need, a motivational speaker, a talent show director, behaviour therapist, social interaction mentor. You can pour all kinds of time and energy into kids and their parents and then never see what happens next. I get really close with kids and then have to say goodbye and never know what they do with their lives, always wondering what became of so-and-so and hoping in ten years they might find me online and send an email, like I’ve done with some of my teachers. It’s like starting 25 new books every year and never reading the ending.

surreal scene – an empty Hong Kong International Airport.

I’m returning to Hong Kong next year to teach fourth grade again, but with a new teaching partner and a new classroom, so the end of the year was hectic with packing on top of the emotions of goodbyes. Before I left, I stocked up on some dry goods to have ready for my return, when I will begin a strict two week quarantine (more on that later!).

pretty standard look for the airplane

Because of the state of the world, my flight options were really limited (unless I wanted a casual 20 hour layover in Beijing, which no thank you) so I didn’t fly home for a few days to secure a nonstop flight (which sits at 14 hours). It was surreal to walk through what is normally one of the busiest airports in the world and find it completely empty. I would say my plane was maybe at ⅕ normal capacity, which meant I had a whole row to myself! I found a way to buckle in while laying down, placed various masks and physical barriers around myself, and promptly fell asleep for 13 hours. I missed every food and beverage service, but managed to watch “Frozen 2” for the first time in 20 minute increments when I could be troubled to be awake. 

And then I had 29 days of vacation. I’m halfway through it now, at “home” at my mom’s house in California, where it’s ironically much more dangerous (in terms of violence, drugs, gangs, Covid, all things, pretty much) than the Hong Kong I left two weeks ago. This summer was going to be a challenge, I knew, but I’m still glad I chanced it. I was so burned out of Hong Kong and starved for social interaction and physical affection . . . I was ready to come home. 

But it’s obviously quite different than any summer I’ve had before. My grandma went to hospital the day I landed, and we couldn’t visit her for five days, and then she had pacemaker surgery. I’d booked my tickets expecting to see my baby sister, who is pregnant, and throwing her a shower on the fourth of July, my favorite holiday, but that all wisely got canceled. This does mean, however, I won’t see her for at least two years. Won’t see her pregnant at all. No idea when I’ll meet the baby. 

an early morning walk when the jetlag was bad.

I normally have a few trips planned each summer to visit friends and family around the country, but this summer’s highlight was just a family girls’ camping trip to Gold Country, which was a privilege, as basic as it was. We got to drive somewhere, be outside, stare at a fire, play games, share food, get dirty, share memories, harass and heckle each other in the nuanced way only family can.

I went to visit Traci in the city and we had White Claws for the first time and bumped 90s rap and slow songs from middle school dances at 4 in the afternoon, much to her housemates’ delight, I’m sure. Then we watched “Hamilton” for the first time and omg I can’t stop singing it. 

aint no party like a bestie party cuz a bestie party is in pajamas by 9pm watching Sister Act.

The other fun thing I get to do at home is have a baby tooth pulled. Yes. I am 36 and still have two baby teeth. They don’t have permanent teeth behind them, so they never got pushed out. I think it’s an indicator of my subconscious reluctance to move from childhood to adulthood. I had to get it extracted and I have major dentist anxiety after three root canals in Brazil and other various problems HOWEVER – this baby tooth came in when I was 2, so it’s 34 years old. So . . . what do we all think the going rate is with the Tooth Fairy? My hopes are HIGH.

hair net, iodine swipe, xray jacket on top to quell my anxiety, ready for my jawbone to be drilled.

I’m actually going to miss this little guy . . . we’ve been through a lot together and it hurts in a kind of good way to wiggle it all around . . . but I’m also taking my fingers and just sticking them directly into my mouth to do so, just like you totally should during a highly contagious pandemic situation, so it’s probably for the best that it has been extracted. 

The operation was somewhat traumatic – my pain tolerance is very low and the drill he used felt like it was just going directly up into my brain and there was quite a bit of blood. What I found distracting was when they tried to have me look in a mirror to show what was going to happen, and all I could think was “oh my gosh . . . my pores are huge! What?!” and then get irrationally angry at a tiny hair coming out of the mole on my chin that had somehow escaped my constant vigilance. Then I noticed how dirty my glasses were, and wondered if I had boogers or what my breath smelled like, when my real thoughts should have been directed at the several thousand dollars worth of titanium that was being screwed into my jawbone.

But this got me thinking – has anyone combined a dentist office with dermatology clinic or Botox? Because if there had been a little spa or esthetician next door to my dentist today, I would have walked in and said “take all my money.” I was feeling vulnerable and sorry for myself because of the pain and had also seen what several people had looked at for hours – my face close up under a light. I think it’s a great idea. Skin care attached to dentist. I am a genius and you cannot convince me otherwise. 

silver lining – i’ve never had to take so many meds I required something like this to keep organized.

Instead of any facials, I ended up at Target, just magically my car went there, and I bought some Rainbow Chip cake in a mug, which I’ve never had before, sunglasses, and a pill organizer, because I am that old now. I have to take meds for the pain and also to make sure I don’t get infection and I just don’t trust myself to remember to do it at the right times. 

“Adulting sucks!” she says, as she spoons chocolate syrup directly into her mouth.

just a week left of puppy love.

I have a week left and then I’m headed back to Hong Kong, where I will go through what I’m sure will be a well-documented process to be tested for COVID-19 and then quarantine alone in my apartment for two weeks. I’m kind of terrified to spend that much time alone in my 150 sq foot studio, so have been coming up with things to do during this time. Please feel free to send suggestions:

….and then pretty much whatever you guys think I should do! Maybe I could write down all the suggestions on paper and pull one out of a hat any time I get bored.

Sending love and light. Wear a mask.