Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cover Of The Rolling Stone

This story is nothing to sneeze at.

In March of 1991, I had to spend the first four days of my week teaching at Wakakusa Chu Gakko (Wakausa Junior High School) in the small city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken in Japan.

I was feeling fine. The weather was warn and sunny. Wakakusa is a very nice school with friendly smart students and equally cool teachers. Tomura-sensei (Mr. Tomura, teacher) was the head English teacher (eigo-no sensei) there, and always came to my apartment at Zuiko Haitsu to pick me up and drive me to school.

Arriving at the school, I went in to the teacher's lounge on the second floor of this modern, and clean institution and made my greetings to the principal and vice-principal, and all of the other teachers there. Almost before I could sit down at my desk, one of the female teachers would always have a piping hot cup of o-cha (green tea) to hand to me, while bowing graciously.

It's always a great time. The weather outside is so nice that all of the windows on the far side of the lounge are wide open letting in the fresh air. It's a nice change of pace considering how cold it had been just a few weeks previous.

Sitting at my desk and examining my teaching schedule, my nose began to get runny. Then my body began to get achy. I felt tired. I had chills. I had a fever.

I was sick, but had never been hit so hard or so hard in my life.

Tomura-sensei was alarmed and quickly drove me back home. I had only been in school for five minutes.

I got into my apartment  - with help from Tomura-sensei - said good-bye and that I'm sure I would be fine tomorrow... and here's the funny thing... within minutes after he left, I was fine.

World's greatest actor? Perhaps. But I wasn't acting. I was genuinely feeling ill. And now I was genuinely feeling better.

Not wanting to be fooled, I took some ibuprofen (Aspirin), drank a bottle of orange juice and went to sleep for a few hours.

I awoke having to pee, but otherwise still feeling great. No runny nose or body ache - nothing. I watched some television, did some laundry and vacuumed the apartment.

The next morning, I'm still feeling fine - but again upon arriving at the teacher's lounge - 2nd floor - at Wakakusa, I began to feel ill again.

Someone - and I'm unsure who - thought it might be an allergy. They asked me if I had any allergies. I told them I had none that I knew off - but that was in Canada. Through frantic translations with Tomura-sensei, it was indeed determined that I was allergic to something at Wakakusa.

That's when it was pointed out that the Japanese Black Spruce tree was in full bloom at this very moment - and with the windows wide open on the second floor, and the trees being at that height and taller - I was getting a real good dose of pollen. Apparently I wasn't the only one suffering, but I was suffering the best, or worst, depending on your own view of these things.

While Monday was indeed the heaviest day of pollen at Wakakusa, it was still heavy enough for me to go home again on Tuesday. As a precaution, Wakakusa had a gaijin-free week until the tree stopped dropping pollen. In fact, the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) over the next three years refused to allow me to teach at Wakakusa during heavy pollen times. Other schools were fine, because none of the others had Japanese Black Spruce all over the yard.

Somewhere my nose is running and my feet smell,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog was written and performed by: Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show - TAKEALLKINDOFPILLS


PS: Back in Canada, I later found out I was allergic to cats, goldenrod, and molds. I wasn't tested for Japanese Black Spruce, but it's safe to say I can add that to the list.

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