I went into my classroom this week to regroup and set up for a return to face-to-face learning for the first time since January 13th. It made me sad to clear away the desks of the students that have left my roster during this lockdown. They moved to the USA, Australia, Taiwan, and the UK. A class is like a little village, really. Sometimes I am the chief, and sometimes I am the village idiot. This was one of those times.
As I’m coming off of two weeks of straight indulgence for my Spring Break, I decided with the return to ‘real’ school I was also going to return to healthy living! Yes! Ordering nutritious meal delivery, competing in daily step-counts, using my kettlebell for something other than a toe-stubbing doorstop. In order to really set myself up for success, I naturally had to go through all my desk drawers and rid myself of any temptations. Werthers that had gotten to that old, melty part of their lives, marshmallows from some science experiment gone by, just mindlessly chewing anything I came across, including something that had been a gift from a student, wrapped in cute paper, looking like a sugary pineapple gummy. Oh, goody.
I took a substantial bite and looked back at my screen and then – well, this is a bit weird. But I chewed on, thinking maybe it was some local candy that started out strange (was this durian?) and then got better but then the chewing made the bits in my teeth get all waxy and embedded and it felt like there was foam and then I realized – oh no – I am eating soap.
I ran to the bathroom making all kinds of noises and just started scraping at my tongue and trying to wash the flavor out, but it seemed to make it worse. I was foaming at the mouth and felt truly betrayed.
I finally managed to rinse most of it out and then went back to my room to look at the offending object and figure out how dumb I was for biting into it so recklessly, but several people on instagram assured that it did actually look quite candy-like so I proceeded to wash my mouth out with four mini-Twix bars. Well on my way to a new healthy regime.
It has been suggested that this was karmic revenge for the very mean April Fool’s prank I played on my work wife (still so sorry!) but I honestly think it was just God trying to help me since He can’t literally smack all the sweets out of my hands like I wish He would.
We’ll be doing daily RAT testing and temperature checks to go to school, all of Asia is still wearing masks, maintaining a lot of social distancing, probably over-sterilizing ourselves with all the hanitizer we’ll be using each day, but I’m really glad cases in Hong Kong have dropped enough that we can get back and see the kids. It’s just so much more fun to teach in person and get a few sneaky high-fives and hugs in when the girls get excited about an art project or a new song I’ll teach them and forget we’re not supposed to. And my friends! I get to see my friends! Oh, happy day. And only 65 more of them until I’m coming home. :)
It feels like it’s the first day of school again. Tomorrow morning I get to see my kids for the first time in over three months! Today the whole staff was back on campus and it was so nice to eat some snacks and air out our classrooms and plan for the return of the students. We caught up a little bit with each other, but I’ve seen most of my good friends quite a bit since we went online, and living in a social media world, it’s weird how much I know about people’s lives without them having directly told me. I’m sure they feel that tenfold about me, since I’m allergic to secrets and enjoy an audience reaction to every weird thing that happens to me (and there do seem to be a lot of things) so am on the ‘gram quite a bit. Got lots of inquiries about how my fish was and what soap tastes like.
I dipped back into my desk for a snack today, but managed to avoid anything soapy. #healthqueen. The parks and gyms opened up today and I got unexpectedly emotional looking out the window from school at the nearby park and seeing kids playing basketball and soccer, and then the old lady dancing crew in full force when I took my evening stroll on the prom. I’d meant to go back to the gym for the first time in three months and see what kind of cross-training my knee can handle, but accidentally fell asleep in my chair after school (mouth open, holding a glass of water which did not spill, full grandpa status) and then it’s just such nice evening strolling weather I popped on my favorite murder podcast and went for a stroll. Saw a giGANtic rat, several shadows that looked like murder, and then ran into my friend and her foster pups for some slobbery love.
And now I’m full of nerves, worried I won’t wake up to my early as alarm tomorrow, that my Covid test will come back positive for some reason and send everything into chaos, that I have forgotten how to teach in person. The first day of school was always such a big deal growing up . . . I still remember the thrill of back to school shopping, picking out a perfect outfit, getting shiny binders and those cool pencil boxes with secret compartments, wondering who would be in all your classes and who you’d sit next to, hoping for a cute boy, taking extra care to pack an awesome lunch. It’s a lot the same as a teacher, but now we pass text messages instead of notes and meet at happy hour instead of the park when the day is done to overanalyze every moment. And we’re in bed by nine because we are on the verge of collapse, not because mom said so.
My problem is that I’ll get into that bed with all kinds of good intentions about being well rested and then say “just one more scroll through Instagram reels” and then fall down a deep hole watching the internet’s entire selection of dogs that can communicate using buttons. But hopefully the twenty stupid minutes today has helped empty my mind a bit better so I’m going to pour some CALM tea on it and hope my eyes stay sweetly closed until that 6am ring.
Second first day of school = complete! It was just so good to be with the kids again. A bit chaotic, a bit sad because some of our friends have moved, VERY loud since they are all used to being on mute at home and able to just talk out loud to themselves, but now we’re back in the class and need to remember how to raise hands and actually listen to each other. They were full of stories to tell me, as if we’d spent the whole last term off and hadn’t been seeing each other everyday on Zoom.
I foolishly added to this hyperactivity by scheduling two tasks that they wouldn’t have been able to do very well online – a debate and acting out skits. One girl gave her debate presentation as a dolphin and I almost cried laughing. It was just so good to be able to interact again.
After work, about 15 of us descended upon the new location of our version of Cheers and got to catch up a bit more. We are still technically only allowed four people at a table, so we all kept kind of rotating seats whenever someone visited the bathroom, and people came and went and the drinks kept flowing. We can finally be out past 6pm, but were all so tired that I was home and in bed by 8:30.
I think one of the ‘gifts’ of Covid is that I have really learned how to be alone and enjoy it, find peace in my own company. I had never lived alone until two years ago, and because of the harsh restrictions in Hong Kong, have spent a lot of time just in my home and in my head. But I’ve been able to do a lot of reading, processing, rearranging of priorities and now I really like it. I’ve started a lot of new hobbies, too. Last Friday night was an ideal evening – baking bread, art project, Fleetwood Mac on high, wine, and just me. Sometimes I choose it over social activities.
However, today reminded me that I really, really get energy from being with others. To be able to be in groups together, laugh out loud, tease one another, get reactions in real time was such a gift. I looked around the table at one point and was just like “this is THRIVING, baby.” It’s been very hard for the last three years in Hong Kong, but I get to work and play with some really lovely people. Keeps me going. So thanks, friends who you are. I love you lots and lots.