Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Chicken Pox Experience

After the 3-week school break, I headed back to Singapore. Then when I commenced work the following day, I started having back pains. I thought it was due to the extra load that I carried, as I added my full-sized notebook and lugged it every day to class. I did a bit of exercise, and the pain went off a while. I tried to look for an alternative so that I didn't have to carry that burden; I found the solution in my Nexus. I worked fine as I had a small class, and the bag wasn't as heavy. Yet, the back pain persisted. I thought: "Oh God, I hope it's not my slip disc making a come-back."

A week passed. One morning, I noticed two blisters on my back, and a few red spots in front on my abdomen. My girlfriend took a look and advised me to see the doctor as it could be chicken pox. I went immediately. Upon examination, it was confirmed that I had chicken pox. Apparently there were more than just two blisters; the trained eyes of the doctor spotted much more on the back, front and limbs. I have never had chicken pox, and I didn't know how bad it would be. Neither did my girlfriend.

Day 1-2:
I took the medication that the doctor had given. The antiviral pill had to be taken 5 times daily! Hours later when I took my bath, I saw something horrific - very red and vivid spots appeared out of nowhere, when just in the morning, I saw only two. When my girlfriend saw the spots, she freaked out and dared not get near me. The doctor gave me a week's medical leave and ordered me to stay indoors. There would be a review on the 6th day, The doctor hoped I could get well for Christmas.

Some red spot appearing
Day 3-5:
The spots got redder, and by now, the whole abdomen and the back were covered with blemishes, spots and small blisters. Even the neck was consumed by the infectious varicella zoster virus. The itch got a little worse, but still bearable.

Getting scarier by the day
Day 6-9:
Some rashes began to disappear, and blisters showed signs of drying up; the most noticeable was on the neck - it cleared first. I believe this is the most contagious period, so I had to stay away from humans at all costs. In my case, I have to face tenants in the kitchen each day - too bad if they get infected. It's not that I wanted them to. It was my first review at the clinic, and the doctor gave me another MC, which means, no work for another 7 days, and another 3 days of medication. If you think that's good news, it is - and it is NOT as well because I was still not allowed to go out. It was a self-incarceration. A second review was in store the following week.

The beginning of healing - blisters
with virus actively inside the bubble

Day 10-14:
It was on 23 Dec 2014, a day before Christmas Eve. Time for the 2nd review. The doctor checked my limbs, front and back with his flashlight. He was pleased to see scabs, which meant I was free from being a walking viral host... or as my girlfriend had aptly put it: "The Virus Headquarters". I could start work immediately after Christmas (yeah, that's right while everyone else is enjoying their year-end holidays, I have to work). That's good news as I didn't have to be worried about troubling my HR manager to get substitute teachers for all my classes. She had done a great job during my two weeks of absence.

What I discovered and learnt about having chicken pox (newbies, take note):
  • the older you are, the more difficult it is to heal
  • bathing is a very slow process as you couldn't scrub and wipe your body the way you used to - you might be afraid to touch your body while you soap yourself, as you could feel tiny bubbles everywhere
  • your self-esteem would take a dive instantly when you lift up your shirt and look into the mirror, but it will pass
  • stock up on food in your larder or fridge, as it would be difficult to get someone to buy you nutritious meals if you don't have anyone to cook or deliver food to you
  • you'd be in a dilemma as to whether you should adhere to the superstitions of the elderly about what food not to eat, or listen to the doctor's advise of eat anything you want
  • you'll feel like a leper, but then you know that everyone will surely have it one day, except for some very fortunate individuals who die without having chicken pox
  • if you have never had a full-blown chicken pox, you will likely have it the second time if the first one was "just a few spots". That's what a friend told me. As for me, this is my one and only. Full-blown, horrible looking.
  • when you have chicken pox, it's tests your friendship and relationship - are they genuine?

But don't be scared. As mentioned by my friend, "You won't die from it." 
You'll be back to normal two weeks later, though there could be scars.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Kids vs Old Kids on the Block

How different are kids these days? After teaching for a good two decades, I can fairly say that modern kids are so much more different than when we were their age in terms of their knowledge, their language and the things they do during their free time.

In terms of knowledge

In the good old days, knowledge was learnt from teachers, as our parents were too busy with their work, not highly educated and not kiasu. The job of parents those days was to work to support family – it’s still status quo now – and to produce offspring as they don’t have as much stress as we have now.

In modern times, kids as young as 10-years-old could tell you the formation of planets, can explain what gravity is, have dissected animals and learnt the parts and can tell you why their country sucks big time. These were things we never knew before, and never bothered to comment on, as we were happily playing “chap tey”, “gasing” and “hantu galah” with friends in our village. Life was so much simpler back then.

As kids, we were exposed to works by the Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll and Hans Christian Andersen. We enjoyed watching Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street and The Electric Company. Today, stories like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and the ever-famous Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be met with the word “LAME” by modern kids’ standards. Many would give you a blank stare when you mention those titles. Talk about modern animated movies like Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc. (now Monsters University) and guess what else – Spongebob Squarepants too - and their eyes would light up the darkest room!

They read magazines like the National Geographic, Young Scientist, and books by Percy Jackson, Geronimo Stilton and Adeline Foo (who?). I even have a Primary 4 student who proudly announced to me that she reads Shakespearean stories like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Twelfth Night (the abridged version I presume, but still… ), and when asked the reason for reading, the answer was apt: “There’s romance and love.” Can you beat that? Some of us in mid-life crisis don’t even know what these stories are about.

Talk to them about English grammar and creative writing, and they’ll literally yawn in your face. On the contrary, if you want to be in their GOOD TEACHERS list, talk about World War Z, Angry Birds, Blackshot, L.O.L and Mindcraft. They will salute you as if you were the General, and they’ll blabber non-stop about the levels they’ve achieved; suddenly you realize that your quiet class has transformed into an active one with the noise level of a Chinese restaurant.

In terms of language

Students still speak English. However, they use language that we never dreamed of using when we were in the primary school. Profanity seems to be the norm, so you’ll hear words like fuck, faggot (I honestly donno what it means), shit, bullshit and some Chinese expletives being liberally used in class and at home. Parents would just ignore and say: “It’s alright, daddy uses those words too.” – hello, they’re in the primary school, for Christ’s sakes. It’s the best time to mould them into tactful and restrained citizens when they could still be moulded. Once the bad habits are solidified, it’s too late to reverse the effect. If you think I'm talking crap, ask my 10-year-old student. He innocently declared: "Teacher, you know what my father calls me? An asshole."

In terms of what they do when they’re free

We played traditional games, we visited friends, we invited them to our houses, we went for extra-curriculum together. We watched TV or just read Enid Blyton’s works and the Hardy Boys' stories. Try asking what our little ones do in modern times?

In Singapore, it’s “study, homework, tuition” while in Malaysia, it’s coming to that too. My students are bored with holidays except for the lucky few who could travel overseas to some Western or Asian countries. We used to look forward to holidays, as it’s time to have fun with friends, but modern kids don’t do that anymore. Instead they spend hours paying close attention, literally, to their X-box, 3DS, iPad, iPhone, or i-Idiot for hours without much supervision, sleep, eat and eat more. Family time is a bore, and if they have to be dragged with their families, they need to be accompanied by their closest friend – the iPad or Samsung Galaxy, fully loaded with apps. Then you could take them anywhere including Timbuktu, and the kids are not even aware where they are. It's what I call a modern-day pacifier. Any parent who forgets to bring the devices on a long journey – or even a short trip to the eatery would have to face the “Wrath of Tantrums” from their tiny 6-year-old kids.

Come to think of it, what free time do kids have these days? After school, they go for one academic tuition after the next. Then on weekends they have their own CCAs like ballet, art, drama, dancing, singing, drumming, swimming, baking, piano, guitar, violin, creative writing, computer literacy, robotics, church meetings and the list goes on. Well, it’s the survival of the fittest, you know.

Only time will tell if things will work out well for these modern kids, and for the country in which they reside. By then, many of us would be watching from the heavens above.