You know how when little kids lose it, they go limp noodle, swing their arms around like they’re boneless, and look up at the sky and just start having a fit? I’ve an adult version of that – I come home, take off all my clothes, flop like a starfish on my comfy chair, face the Heavens and wail quietly “WHY?!” Sometimes I get upset enough to cry. Sometimes I just take a quick accidental nap. I’m a 37-year-old toddler.
I’ll have lots of days in a row where things are pretty decent and pretty good, but as my cousin so accurately put it during our last video walkie talkie session, “the universe looked at the calendar and realised nothing weird had happened to you in a while. So then a bunch of weird things happened.”
Yeah. Yep. That tracks.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been living my best life. I have been smashing life. But there have been a few moments of absolute WHAT these last few weeks. Let me ‘splain.
So after 14 days quarantine in a hotel upon arrival in Hong Kong, I was able to break free at midnight. Lots of people ask what this whole adventure cost – a flight home ($1600 USD) plus two weeks in hotel ($2000 USD, which included a treadmill rental for two weeks and ordering food out because I could tell it was making me sick) plus the loss of my sanity (priceless), while my apartment sat empty down the road at a cost of $1000USD for those two weeks, means that the summer home was a grand total of $4,600 for 28 days (if I can math) with family and approximately three friends. I got to meet my nephew and see my grandma and snuggle my dogs, so we will call it a win, espesh when so many of my friends have no option at all to go home. But ’twas an expensive win.
Out at midnight, I eagerly taxied back to my apartment, only to find a moldy, bug-infested hellscape. I cannot really describe how disgusting parts of it were; all I could do was drop all my luggage in the doorway and laugh so as not to weep. The humidity in Hong Kong is terrible, and with the summer heat and lack of air flow and the devil against me, nearly every surface in my house was covered in a light fuzz. Shoes, clothes, pillow cases, all food was spoiled, etc. The bathroom was the worst. I did what I could; I had to put sheets and a duvet cover on, set the coffee machine, and peed in the shower, and then I sent myself to bed about 3am, because I had to go to work the next day.
I sent pictures to my landlord and he sent suggestions of different bleach products. So I suggested I burn the apartment down. It was fun. I wanted the entire bathroom replaced, but I ended up just layering bleach on it for a few days, hovering, and deciding I’d done harder things. Luckily, a few days later, the toilet started alternating between not running at all or flooding like crazy and most of it had to be replaced anyway! While my landlord came over to supervise that, I struck a deal to get a new fridge/freezer that actually worked, so two birds, one stone.
Going back to work was actually fun . . . I was so excited to work with my new teaching partner and assistant, see my friends, meet my students. Life in Hong Kong is actually completely normal except we all wear masks. And they work because we don’t have a great vaccination rate, but in a city of 8 million, we haven’t had a case since August. Teaching is still hard and we attempt social distancing measures, but the risk of Covid is just so low here I never actually think about it anymore.
Except when I had to go to the ER on the second day of school.
I was in hospital for a week last year and diagnosed with stress-induced diverticulitis, which is a fancy way of saying I was so emotionally and mentally compromised at the time that my intestines and colon revolted and I had a big infection and after hospital, had to make some big changes and stay more aware of my system.
After a really hectic summer at home, intense experiences, traveling back, the stress and lack of nutrition due to two weeks in hotel, a bathroom that looked like a carpet threw up on it, and then starting the school year, apparently my body decided to stage another revolt to get my attention to take better care of myself. I woke up in extreme pain the second day of school, and called my VP sobbing saying I couldn’t walk properly, was taking a go-bag to the hospital, was sure I was due for another week in hospital, maybe the surgery they’d threatened me with last time.
The good news is – I didn’t have an infection! I was in extreme pain, and then extremely embarrassed, when after some x-rays the doctor called me in to reveal what we’ve all always suspected – I am full of sh-t! Yeah, I was severely constipated. I was like, “Oh yeah…I think it’s been about 10 days since I’ve had a poop?!” (the fun part of this exchange was when he asked about the metal object in the middle of the x-ray, possibly thinking he’d solved the mystery, but actually I’m just a 37-year-old with a belly-button ring she hasn’t taken out since she was 20.) (literally. It’s the same one.)
I was sent off with some laxatives and suppositories (WOW those are fun) and bedrest. Took about two weeks to feel a bit better after that. Anyways, that’s my poop story. Fast forward.
School’s been so good this year…I love putting my natural bossiness to work and leading the year group, teaching with someone who is so similar to me, so full of creative ideas and wants to hang out and be weird, and have an assistant who is so sweet and prays for me. I only have 16 students, which I’m taking for the gift it is after 26 last year.
This isn’t to say the class isn’t full of mischief. My word. I’ve been inventing behaviour management left and right to figure out what works. They’re just constantly on to something and a bit shameless. For example, a few days ago, we had this exchange:
It’s lunchtime, we’re lining up, beginning the whole “sanitize and mask on and march back to class” dance. But there was something afoot. I turned around and pinned down the source. “What’s so funny?” I asked; a dangerous question for a teacher to pose to a group of giggling 9-year-old boys.
“Nothing,” they answered in unison, immediately arousing my suspicion.
“No, really,” and I could hear my voice lowering to that level that gives you goosebumps, and I was both impressed with and bothered by myself. “What’s sooooo funny?”
Dead silence. One boy spoke up. “Um, we were just teaching the girls a bit of a, you know, a phrase.”
“Oh, cool. Can you teach me, then?” I challenged. This is when you could see some of the smarter ones going “Yeah….time to back away from this if I can.”
But there were a few not quite there yet. “Well, okay! Repeat after me – ‘I hate happiness.’”
“Okay. I hate happiness.”
“Right, now say it again, but without using the letter h.”
I got as far as “I -ate” before I had to put on my “I am so disappointed in you” teacher face. And this was even harder to do because all I wanted to do was laugh. Like, did a nine year old boy really just trick me into saying “I ate a penis” in front of my class?? Pretty close, he did. I’m not even mad, I’m impressed.
Part of teaching this age group is also the responsibility to educate on the circle of life, sometimes through the joy and wonder that is a class pet. We have a fish named Skipper, a betta fish I bought in March 2020 to keep me company during all the lockdowns, so we are pretty close. I have taken excellent care of him – decorating his tank with a plant to hide in, singing songs to him every morning in baby voice, referring to him often as an example in grammar exercises. I even bought him special prop houses from Walmart in Nashville this summer. I love that fish.
And then one morning, the universe said “Rachel’s due.”
I was having a rare nice morning. Felt cute (was wearing yellow) and had nailed a taxi quickly. I walked into my classroom and looked up to say good morning to Skippy but couldn’t see him from across the room, assumed he was hiding in his Spongebob school. When my learning assistant came in, I walked towards the tank again, peered in, couldn’t make eye contact, and then chatted to her for a minute, all good mood and happy feels, and then looked harder for Skip to sprinkle his food accordingly. He has a legit eating disorder – his mouth is too small for his pellets, so you have to choose smallish ones or he gets frustrated and bangs against the tank. Couldn’t see him, he was still hiding from morning (I get it) and so I went to walk to my desk and – squish.
I stepped on a cockroach? At 7:45am?
I picked up my shoe and noticed the cockroach was blue? and hey – that’s weird. And full of blood all squished in the grooves of my Birkenstocks and also has fins and oh God.
It was Skipper. I had murdered my fish.
I guess at some point he had jumped ship, so to speak, probably flopped on the counter, then on to the floor, and out of all the places in the room he could have landed as his final resting place, he chose one where I would murder him to start my morning.
The students were at the door, I was not-so-quietly whispering bad words and crying, and had to ask my assistant to keep the kids outside so I could scrape his remains off my shoe, wipe ineffectually at the blood on the ground, try to hide the tank. The students noticed right away, of course. I didn’t tell them the full extent of the story. Too traumatic.
It was awful and I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered – I still look to his tank every morning to say hello – but I can see the unfortunate humor in the situation. I’m not sure if my heart is ready to love another just yet, but probably in a few days. Name suggestions welcome. Previous ones include Puppy, Mulder, Frank the Tank.
Stay tuned for next time – book clubs, the Filipino volleyball team, and the case of the smashed glass ceiling – just not the one I wanted.
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