Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ending Not With a Bang, But With a Sniffle

*sniff sniff*

It's like an interesting sort of chorus, and most of the students are participating. So am I. Actually, it's final exam week at Ye Olde Academy, and the kids are bent over their last exams of the school year. However, it's also hay fever season.

*sniff sniffle snort*

I've mentioned before on this blog that hay fever in Japan has nothing whatever to do with hay. The main culprit is the sugi, or Japanese cedar, and to a lesser extent the hinoki, or Japanese cypress. In early spring they dump their bloated magazine loads of pollen into the wind, which carries that insidious, yellow-green dust far and wide. That means weeks of sniffles and burning eyes (if not worse) for more than half the population. I'm aware that it's not spring yet, but the unusually warm winter (the warmest in 167 years, I've read) has caused everything to come bursting out well ahead of schedule. Even with the recent (belated?) return of the frost, there are blossoms all over the place that shouldn't be there yet. And late last week I noticed all the sugi and hinoki were already turning a very dark brown...the sign of imminent doom.

The "haze" and "smoke" in this picture of a sugi forest is all that evil pollen.


I'd say, "Bless you," or, "Gesundheit," but we're in the middle of an exam. A sneeze can't be stifled. Traditional superstition can.

Speaking of blossoms being where and when they shouldn't, there is actually one Blossom that hasn't been where it should. Neither has Buttercup or Bubbles. With the ongoing construction work on our house, my uncle-in-law had to remove our satellite antenna and hang it up somewhere else. It has yet to be realigned, which means Cartoon Network and all those music, movie, and Japanese soap opera rerun channels we usually watch are down for the count. Not being much of a TV fan myself, I don't really care all that much, but my wife and kids are suffering from withdrawal.

*sniffle sigh*
shakka shakka shakka (the sound of my failing to resist rubbing my eyes)

We're coming to the end of the current school year, and it's really starting to hit me just how much of a joy this 9th grade class has been to work with. They haven't always been. Last year, as 8th graders, they started out as a problem class, but then they suddenly started getting better. By the time they finished their 8th grade year people seriously wondered whether it was really the same group of kids. They really improved a lot...and grew up fast.

Unfortunately, the current 8th grade class started out as a problem and turned into a disaster. I was asked to be a substitute homeroom teacher for an 8th grade classroom yesterday, and I was shocked at just how rotten it had become compared with last year. It wasn't really noisy or threatening as some classes in the distant past have been, but it was just so negative. There was a general atmosphere of, "I don't know, and I don't give a f***. Look...if you're not going to entertain me, just shut up and piss off!" Either they talked trash or they didn't talk at all. Many of them just looked the other way and didn't respond when I spoke to them. Several of the boys tried to ignore me and have a (surprisingly quiet) group discussion during my announcements, and when I made it clear I wouldn't allow that they all promptly put their heads on their desks and took a nap. The girls weren't much better; they didn't cause trouble during the homeroom session, but when the afterclass cleaning session started most of them promptly bolted out the door and disappeared, leaving a huge mess which most of the few that remained refused to touch. I felt sorry for the five well-behaved souls (one-seventh of the class) that actually did their jobs AND everyone else's. Being a one-shot substitute, I wouldn't care so much except that I'll probably be assigned to this clutch of spoiled cretins next month when they become 9th graders. This is not looking to be a good year. Hopefully I won't have to throw another desk.

All I can do is enjoy the current 9th graders as much as possible during the last few weeks we have left together.

Oh, and sniff and sneeze a lot.

*sniff sniff*

That might actually have been a tear.

Good luck on your exams, kids! And thanks for the memories!

On a completely different note (C# or Bb?), do you pronounce it "broccolee" or "broccolai"? I say "broccoli," and it is a very special vegetable for a number of reasons...not just because it has a funny-sounding name!


  • I'm sure you will provide the new ninth graders with a fair level of discipline which they truly deserve.

    I hope you don't have to throw a desk either.

    Perhaps you should remove all the desks and chairs from the class room, and teach while everyone is standing up. That way they can't pretend to fall asleep!

    By Blogger Pa've, at 3:10 AM  

  • ...or remove all the students from the room, so YOU can fall asleep.

    ...or put 'em in the Matrix and go play some more music.

    ...or I hope you don't take anything I've said seriously.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 4:37 AM  

  • I say broccol -eh.

    Just kidding, I use ee.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 4:38 AM  

  • I say brok-kuh-lee, for what it's worth.

    Also, my Japanese sis-in-law (who lives her in Stumptown) has had less and less problems w/her allergies as the years go by.

    However, when my bro & she went back to get married in a "traditional" ceremony couple of years ago, my bro developed burning eyes, a hacking cough and all her symptoms returned w/a vengeance.

    This seems to happen whenever they go back for a visit too. They think it's because of the hefty amount of air pollution - and since PDX gets so much rain that any pollution is "rinsed away" quicker. Dunno, we seem to have a benzene problem.

    By Blogger Hypatia, at 7:19 AM  

  • Dude, when I think of Broccoli I often think of the old Dana Carvey sketch "Choppin Broccoli". Found a link:

    By Anonymous The Intrepid Adventurer, at 9:41 AM  

  • "Broccolai" is new to me.

    Oh dear, another desk to bite the dust? Hope not. Who knows, things might change for the better.

    Spring is in the air again. Atchoo.........

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 4:49 PM  

  • Brock - o -lee.
    Sneezing - in Melbourne the other day a driver of a huge truck had a sneezing fit on the Tullamarine Freeway (the airport road) and did something stupid to his montrous truck, and held up traffic for five hours. What a shamozzle and thousands of angry commuters.

    I used to have hay-fever, but thankfully it only comes and goes every two or three years. I really sympathize with you.

    Re kids. If you have to have this bunch of spoilt kids next year, show them one or two of those films about teachers and get them talking about them. Dead Poet's Society, sort of film.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 7:37 AM  

  • Oh finally - Firefox hasn't shown verifications codes all evening, but IE does. darn.

    Hay fever is the pits. I hope I don't get any allergies this year - for me they start out as allergic rhinitis, then advance into sinusitis, and then clear up. So it may be time to start picking up Clarityn again.

    It was lovely Houston that gave me allergies. I never had any here, or in Dallas, but when we were living north of Houston in the dense pine forest - well in March and half of April everything is coated in a layer of yellow pollen. Huge granules, it's so Jurassic! Puddles get a yellow skin, black cars look green...

    You drive downtown and everyone knows you come from up north...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 1:18 PM  

  • Brockolea makthe me sntheeeze!

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:37 PM  

  • Do you teach English to these Japanese kids? Seems a bit of a challenge, huh? Still you should be greatful.

    Imagine if you had someone like me in your class... No, I don't want to give you nightmares :-)

    By Blogger shlemazl, at 12:17 PM  

  • Pa've
    The main problem with the 8th graders is the grade chief. He has a standing policy with his staff of "No matter what happens, don't scold, don't criticize, don't enforce." He's one of these teachers that confuses love with indulgence (like Mr. O) and is basically following the example of the grade chief of that class that drove me to throw the desk.

    Things have gotten so bad with his class that the kids' parents no longer trust him and keep asking the principal to replace him.

    Well, one good thing is that a few months ago the Ministry of Education and Technology officially ruled that teachers are legally entitled to remove disruptive students from the classroom. For the past twenty years or so that has been flatly prohibited. I'd call it a step in the right direction. They're finally realizing that the other students, not just the problem one, have rights, too.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:48 PM  

  • Hypatia
    Hay fever tends to affect people in waves here. Last year was a peak year, and it was nasty. This year hasn't been nearly so bad, and it's looking to end as quickly as it started.

    Justice has been served! Thanks for the link!

    I got off easy with the first thrown desk. I won't push my luck next time, especially since my school is bringing in another native English teacher next year.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:51 PM  

  • Wendy
    Perhaps they should make "driving under the influence of pollen" a crime? ;-)

    That's an interesting idea, but the biggest problem with this year's 8th graders is that they're just so insular. As I said before, I've dealt with far noisier and even far more violently aggressive classes. It's like these kids are socially autistic or something. They are so totally wrapped up in their groups of friends that the surrounding world simply doesn't exist for them. You talk to them, and they neither look at you nor respond in any way. Sure, most Japanese kids nowadays are like that to some extent, but this year's 8th graders are a bizarre extreme. They were like that from the very beginning when they entered as 7th graders, too. It's driving everyone nuts.

    Well, you know what they say! Everything is bigger in Texas!

    Pine allergies? Coming from Oregon, I couldn't imagine that...

    What about Brussels' sprouts, then?

    I'm mainly an English teacher, though I also do a lot with music, too.

    Uh, oh...were you a classroom terror? Strangely enough, I often get along with the problem students fine. It's usually the "moderately bad" ones that give me fits.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:00 PM  

  • Brocoli :P I love eating brocoli :P
    Sauteed with garlic and olive oil or in chop suey.
    Raw with dipping sauce :D

    By Anonymous angele, at 1:33 AM  

  • Actually, I eat a lot of broccoleeee.

    Brussels' sprouts. To bitter for my taste, but when in Belgium...

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 3:07 PM  

  • i pronounce it brock o lee :)

    the kids sound just like the ones from that movie Babel. have you seen that? i asked about this earlier on your blog but i don't remember where... so thought i'd shoot he question out again. all the kids from that movie seemed like brats or little spoiled rich kids.

    i can't imagine the pollen there. it definitely does looks like smoke. very interesting.

    when you say the browning of the trees spells impending doom... what do you mean? is that a myth or what? i'd be real interested to hear about this.

    By Blogger tooners, at 5:33 AM  

  • when you say the browning of the trees spells impending doom... what do you mean? is that a myth or what? i'd be real interested to hear about this.

    I mean just what I said...very literally. As sugi trees approach the pollen season they bear hundreds and hundreds of small, globular cones. These make the trees appear brown from a distance, darkening as D-Day approaches. Then, finally, the cones pop open and release their loads of potent, yellow allergen, often in such massive quantities that it looks like a blast of smoke.

    After the sugi pollen season ends the hinoki (Japanese cypress) one begins...adding insult to injury.

    Sugi and hinoki allergies can be a serious problem in Japan, but both species of trees are widely popular because they are beautiful, historically significant, fast-growing, and produce wood of very high quality.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home