Well, my dears, last week I was simply overwhelmed by mostly good things – my daughter was arriving from the Tokyo area where she goes to college, and it was my FIL’s birthday and I was determined to bake him a cake before picking up my daughter in the evening. Work had been busy, and we got a blizzard. I really meant to post a picture or something at least, but the time got away from me, as usual, and the blog was the ball I dropped.
What a difference a week makes! I am still overwhelmed, but my daughter took herself off to the TV upstairs to watch Detective Pikachu. Yes, she’s a college student. That’s just the way kids roll these days, with their American live action/CGI movies. I’m just grateful for two hours to blog in peace.
My dayjob has suddenly become not busy. I don’t know if you heard this tidbit in the avalanche of news, but Tuesday night (Feb. 26), the governor of Hokkaido requested that all schools in our prefecture close. It was a request, but the kind of offer that you don’t really refuse. After going to school, we found out at noon on Feb. 27 that the schools in our city would be closed through March 4 (although the teachers would still come to work). The junior high school 3rd graders, many of whom would be taking tests and graduating soon, were supposed to come back on March 2.
The admin at the school was so cagey about the whole thing. One of my English teachers, who rarely entrusts me to a role in the classroom, told me I could have the leadership of the whole next class . . . I’m pretty sure he was sure that was a bet he didn’t think he’d have to see come to fruition. And so it was. I’d gotten half a “match the past tense clover leaves to the present tense” game cut out when they announced the news. We pretended life was going to go on as usual, until official word came.
All of the meeting rooms at the City Hall were booked up, so we were allowed to go to our schools instead of the germy old City Hall. We were to create teaching supplies and talk with our teachers and help with the disinfection efforts. I spent a pleasant half hour wiping down doors and windows on the first floor with a co-worker with alcohol and paper wipes. They provided the rubber gloves, and I had my own mask.
On Thursday night, several bits of news dropped. There was a 10-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus in our district (and any thinking person knows that a 10-year-old boy doesn’t just come down with the coronavirus out in the middle of nowhere – there’s got to be a few missing links who haven’t come down with symptoms or who have self-treated without going to the hospital in our area, too). (In Japanese; Tokachi area 10-year-old youth, boy, amongst 13 people. 2020/02/27 18:26)
The big hospital in the area closed to patients without appointments because about one-fifth of the nurses said they couldn’t find childcare (remember, the schools are closed? Yeah. Parents really had to scramble.).
And then, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo “thought about” requesting the schools nationwide to close until spring vacation begins. That’s about three weeks, or 21 days (the previous efforts at containment assumed the virus had an incubation period between one day and two weeks before people showed symptoms, but some reports said it took as long as 27 days to show symptoms. Twenty-one days is better than a week, anyway).
Well, it’s hard to refuse even a thought about requesting from a prime minister. Many schools on the big island of Honshu have decided to close. In my district, the principals will decide Monday morning whether or not to close all of the schools – but I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen. Nobody wants to be the Municipality with the CoronaSurge Because They Wouldn’t Close the Schools.
What does this mean to me as a writer? You think it’d mean lots of time to write! And maybe that’s true. But also, it’s a time to gather information for future stories – pay attention to the ways people react to this stress, the things they think are important (toilet paper hoarding, for example), the way they help each other and hurt each other. The unintended consequences are particularly interesting. I’m watching and reading and taking notes. (But maybe I should set up a schedule because this observation mode can’t be entirely healthy – two hours for writing in the morning, two hours for observing, and two hours for disinfecting and cleaning.)
Last evening in a news conference, the governor of Hokkaido, Suzuki Naomichi, declared a state of emergency for the island that will last until March 19th, and requested (there’s that word again) that people stay home, especially this weekend.
What I can’t do, and shouldn’t do, is go into hibernation mode like my cat, Kana. I really want to, but just like her, I cast a suspicious eye on the world, wondering where things are going next.
What a leap day – it’ll be one to remember, that’s for sure.
Stay healthy, stay safe, my dears. Wash your hands, get your sleep, and drink an appropriate amount of lovely, lovely beverages.
UPDATE: Our schools are cancelled until March 25, when spring vacation begins. Also, PM Abe Shinzo just had a press conference, and the request to close the schools nationwide is now confirmed.