Smoke before fire

9 Oct

Before launching into the story I was going to tell, I’d like to take this moment to monger some pity, because coming off of last week, I’m having approximately the worst week ever.  Last week, work was busy and tiring and generally unpleasant for reasons I’ll get to in the next few entries, and then this morning, despite yesterday being a holiday, I woke up feeling quite sick. My throat hurts, my nose is drippy, and I have a headache, but I dragged myself out of bed and strapped on a medical mask (Japanese people will expect anyone sick to wear one of these, out of courtesy to not get other people sick) to go to work… only to be hit by a kid not looking where he was going on his bike.  I was hit so hard that I was thrown from my bike and bruised and cut in a few places, and also that my bike was bent so that it won’t stand up with the kick stand anymore.  Today is clearly off to a good start.

BUT unrelatedly to that, last Wednesday got off to an interesting start when I was informed that my normal second period English class would be moved to third period. The reason included a word that I didn’t understand, but included a description involving children running away from something.  I didn’t know what was going on, but figured it wasn’t a big deal and kept myself busy at my desk.  When second period rolled around, however, I was surprised when children came to fetch me as per usual.  They said I would be participating in whatever it was with their class, and so, not sure what else to do, I followed them.

When I got to the classroom, I swallowed my pride and finally asked the teacher what was going on.  He explained that they had to practice running away from the building in case there was a fire– it was a fire drill.  Thus educated, I had about two minutes to brace myself before the fire drill started, all the children grabbed their hand towels, pressed them over their mouths, and bolted from the building.

We were on the second floor, so it was relatively slow going at first as we went along the balcony and down the stairs, but bolting isn’t really an exaggeration.  As soon as we got to the ground floor, the students literally ran full speed away from the building, and I was probably the last one to make it to the group… I wasn’t expecting full-on running, as I’ve never seen this happen in America.  I also didn’t have a hand towel with me, so if I wasn’t caught in the toppling burning building, I would have had a smoke inhalation problem.  Oops.

For the remainder of the period, some firemen put on a demonstration with fire extinguishers (which seemed to be filled with water rather than whatever they’re filled with in the states) and the fire hose.  They asked the teachers to demonstrate both, which resulted in some hilarity as teachers struggled to use the fire extinguishes or aim the hose, but generally, it was similar to a fire demonstration in the US.  But at least now I know, if there’s ever a fire at school, despite the usually neat and orderly nature of Japanese culture, I should drop everything and get the heck out of there.

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