Thursday, 3 September 2009

Michael Jackson look-a-like competition next week

Developments at work.

A memo has been sent round to all branches of my company in response to the growing concern in Korea of the H1N1 virus. Whether English teachers like it or not, people in Korea are starting to get more and more worried. For what it's worth, I am not concerned myself. People get ill, people get flu and sometimes unhealthy people die from flu. I know it's more complicated than that but I look after myself and don't consider my lifestyle to be putting me at risk. However, working with kids all day changes the equation doesn't it.

A number of schools in my city, Daegu, have at some point closed for a while or have sent students and teachers home because of H1N1 worries. So far, so good with my workplace. Now though all the children are back at school after their long summer holidays and there are worries that somewhere and somehow the H1N1 virus will start to spread.

Today every student received a letter whilst in class informing them that from Monday they must come to class wearing a face mask - exactly like Michael Jackson used to wear in his later years, presumably to avoid something! And all teachers are to wear masks too - though not at all times in the classroom, mostly just in the corridors and stairwells where there are many people intermingling. I picture a scene of fifty minutes of mumbling in the classroom for 'as long as this lasts'. Indeed one of my students wisely asked me today how could the class go on if nobody could tell what anyone is saying. It won't be as bad as it sounds. At the very least it will be entertaining and something to talk about.

It could be worse. As I said some schools have has periods of closure where people don't get paid. All workers have been reassured that schools will not be closed, vacations will not be cancelled and there will be no quarantine of teachers who go abroad for the October holiday period - basically that would be everybody! I do not know for how long these measures will be taken but I am presuming for a few weeks at least. 'As long as I get paid' is the mantra that I am holding onto.

Prevention is better than a cure and I hope any changes are embraced by myself and my co-workers. So far it looks like we don't have to do much and I need to remember that this is going to protect my job. Hopefully this will make some parents feel that their children are 'safer' and hysteria will, as the seasons change be not be so manic nationwide. I'm pretty certain that if I was a parent I would be more concerned about things too. Roll on November time when the so-called vaccinations are due.

I am still not used to seeing people wear face masks, When I first came to Korea I was often surprised to see many people wearing them out and about the streets largely during the Winter months. I assumed that it was because of the polluted air but was once informed that it was the keep your face warm from the cold. In Korea face masks worn by children are often colourful. I look forward to taking some pictures of how this pans out and what colourful masks the children come up with.

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