japanese boys are always sick in the summer time.
they don’t air condition the schools here. sometimes the teachers’ room will have air conditioning but they don’t often turn it on. the reason they’re apprehensive of using the AC in the teachers’ room is that it inevitably attracts a gang of smartass boys between classes. they come in complaining of being ill so they can have the opportunity to sit in the somewhat cooler air for a few minutes until they are deemed well enough to suffer further with the rest. each one of them comes in and dives for a chair claiming to be sick. each one is then entitled to their own thermometer to test the validity of their claims. they sit huddled together racing to raise the temperature of there respective thermometers by rubbing them vigorously with their thumbs…out in the open of course. there is no attempt to conceal their shenanigans or even convincingly play sick.
when i was in high school i didn’t have to play sick. although it didn’t happen very often, when i wasn’t well enough to go to school i would just tell my mother and she would commiserate immediately. maybe she trusted me. maybe she was just too tired to fight me on it after years of pretending and poor performances on the part of my three playacting predecessors, personified by my older siblings.
no, i would be granted the day off with noted disapproval. but as i said, it didn’t happen often. that’s because i would always get the exact same note written each and every time. and when i say exact, i mean right down to the letter. it started to become embarrassing…
“Scott was (absent from/late for) school on (date) due to a stomach virus.”
i could have my leg amputated and i’d still get the same note. whether my absence/tardiness was due to a bona fide illness (not likely) or from my friends and i mixing several assorted airport bottles of liquor with bong hits the night before (probably), i was always nervous to hand over the note which the office lady had seen exactly as many times as she’d seen me. i feared that the school suspected me of having the ability to forge my mother’s handwriting in only those specific words…or just a weak stomach.
those fears were substantiated when, one day late in my junior year, i was summoned to the office to speak with Assistant Principal Stephen Frederick (pictured above). my absences that year, which included a rather lengthy suspension for use of a controlled substance, had put me dangerously close to not meeting the minimum required amount of school days in attendance to be certified as “educated enough.” i remember it clearly as he said mockingly, “one or two more, ahem, stomach viruses, Mr. Kollar, and you won’t be able to graduate,” as he slowly shuffled a pile of my mother’s notes from a file folder.
i don’t know where i was going with that. anyway, the heat in japan…to say it’s hot as balls wouldn’t do it justice and it’s just downright crude. no…here…it’s so hot, you could wrap your balls around a cow’s neck. i know back home there was an intense heat wave this summer that had temperatures in the 100s, but it’s nothing compared to a japanese summer. to be honest, the highest temperature i’ve seen here all summer barely broke 90, but the humidity here is worse than any other place i’ve been.
showers are useless. i’m drenched in sweat before i even begin teaching a lesson and it just gets worse once i do. thanks to the lovely humidity, there is no drying off either. my clothes and i are wet until i take them off in late afternoon. it’s been like that since early May and i’ve been assured i can look forward to it well into October. they’ve actually developed a separate system of measurement just for japan that allows for 167% humidity. it’s true. it’s science.
it’s a miracle that the schools have off for the month of August or i would have come home by now. my junior high school just held an opening ceremony on September 1st to welcome the students back for their second term. during the assembly, not one but two children passed out from the heat. i actually saw the second one fall. it’s a good thing most of these kids have thick skulls because he went down like a sack of potatoes. they had to be carried out by teachers. i mentioned to one of the japanese teachers that it’s cruel to make students endure this. she quickly responded that students today have it easier than in her time, when they didn’t get any time off in the summer. i was quick to respond that, likewise, it seems that teachers have it easier now too…a comment that didn’t improve my popularity. she also went on to mention that this summer has been much milder than normal…a claim that has been confirmed by numerous others as well.
as if the heat weren’t enough, the better part of the summer is also the rainy season. it rains…a lot. so it’s not just a clever name. it wouldn’t be complete without typhoons. there are so many of them that they don’t bother naming them like we do hurricanes. they just give them numbers. the last one to roar through was typhoon #1112 and as luck would have it, my town was right in it’s path. school was still in session though. i think the roof has to be ripped off the building for them to cancel school. it wasn’t until it was declared a state of emergency that they finally sent the elementary students home for fear they might get blown away by the wind. the junior high kids weren’t as lucky, that is, until a couple hours later when the threat level was escalated. this time it was the teachers who were left behind. we all had to finish out our day in the teachers room as they sealed off all the giant steel doors that protect the school.
the japanese are very proud of their seasons. they refuse to believe that any other place in the world enjoys four season as japan does. photographic evidence doesn’t convince them. instead they’re offended by the claim. i first arrived here at the end of winter. spring lasted a week and a half and otherwise it went from freezing to sweltering. i don’t have the heart to tell them they barely have four seasons, but rather two, each with a short intermission. i hate to say it, but i can’t wait for the weather to get cooler. although, if autumn is anything like spring it’ll be a disappointment and i hear the winters are brutally cold.
oh, they don’t heat the schools either so stay tuned for my complaints once i get what i wished for…