Wednesday, January 23, 2008


As in, I have a cold and I am cold.

And I'm very grumpy about it.

It seems like I'm on some sort of six-weekly cold cycle. That's how often I've been catching them lately. Other than the obvious I-feel-crappy-so-I'm-grumpy grumpiness, I am grumpy about the fact that I am cold. All day. Every day. Well, at work at least.

The staffroom I sit in all day when I'm not in class is really not comfortable, and most of the time, it's downright freezing. I rug up as much as I can taking into consideration that the classrooms are warm and if I dress too warmly, I'll sweat in class. At my desk, I wrap my bottom half in a blanket, wrap a pashmina around my shoulders, wear disposable toe-warmers in my shoes, drink hot tea and still I get waves of cold shivers running up and down my back. I swear it's because I spend the day feeling so cold that I get sick.

Today is the first time that all of the heaters in the room have been turned on. There have been days when only two of the five heaters are on and we've sat and shivered all day long. I know it's not just me, two of the other foreign teachers I work with feel it too and they are from cold cities.

I wonder, do the Japanese teachers feel cold as well and just not complain? Is it a matter of the Japanese ideals of gaman (perserverence) and shoganai (it can't be helped) being at play here?

I don't think it's a Japanese thing. Wayne has said that the staffrooms of the schools where he teaches are lovely and warm. I don't believe it's even a (my school name...) thing either. The high school teachers rooms are also very cosy. It's this room. There is one person who decides how many heaters can be turned on on a given day and everyone else has to live with his decision.

There are official heater and airconditioning turning on days in the year and that day is abided by regardless of the temperature. Last year, the heating-turning-on-day was December 1st, so when I came to school on the third and fourth, I was dressed expecting the room to be warm. It wasn't. There were no heaters on at all, a day or so later, sure enough, I was sick with a horrible 'flu that included loosing my voice and having to take time off work.

So not only do I get to be uncomfortable all day at work, I then get sick and get to be uncomfortable with those symptoms at home too. And then, top it off with the stress of possibly loosing my voice.

If I wasn't drinking tea in an effort to try to warm myself up, I would not drink at all here. Going to the bathroom is almost like torture. It's outside, freezing and the water to wash hands is so cold it's painful. Sadly no Japanese heated toilet seat for this school. And I won't get started on the lack of availability of anything warming to eat for lunch......

I really enjoy my job, I like teaching, I like my students, I like the teachers and staff I work with. It's just such a bummer that it is such an uncomfortable place to work in for parts of the year.


Ralph & Cynthia said...

Get well soon love

Mum and Dad

Contamination said...

I was about to bash into writing my reply to your post when I saw the comment from your parents. Aww, how sweet. I wish my mother was still around to comment on my blog.


Okay, back to the comment.
I feel for you, I really do. Where I work I have a constant battle with the Japanese staff over control of the air conditioners. There's one girl who always feels the cold and turns it up to some godawful height and does so for every unit. Then I have to leave the class, complain that things are too hot and turn them down myself.

It's a good thing I learned enough Kanji to operate the AC controls.

But it's not as bad as what you seem to be dealing with. Do you get sick pay?

tornados28 said...

A specific day of the year when the heaters are officially turned on. I have heard that before and it sounds rediculous. It's like certain rituals in Japan are done but nobody knows why they do it anymore. They just do it because that is the way it has always been done.

What would happen if you asked the person if more heaters could be turned on?

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Thanks Mum and Dad

Hey Contamination, yeh, that would have been my dad that left the comment, but I am lucky to still have them around. Sorry to hear about your mum.

I do get sick pay and luckily the staff are very sympathetic if we do get sick. But, taking time off puts a lot of extra stress on the other teacher I teach with, they have to take my half of the class as well as their own and 46 overly genki students can be a bit much to handle.

Hey tornados28
Asking would be pointless. It wouldn't get the temperature changed, but there would be a fuss about how it would have to be explained to "the foreigners". We had an issue once with an airconditioner and rather than just telling us that we couldn't turn it on, there was a lot of teachers going back and forth mediating. Quite silly really.

Badaunt said...

Melanie, I don't know what it's like at high schools (is it a private school or a public one?) but at private universities I've learned that the only way to get the heating on (in winter) or the airconditioning (in summer) before the 'appointed time' (i.e. by the calendar, not the weather) is by getting the students to complain. If YOU complain, you're a difficult gaijin, but if THEY complain something gets done fairly quickly. They're the ones paying the bills!

The speed of response seems to depend mainly on how many complain. If you have a good relationship with your students, you can explain this to them and they'll complain en masses.

I'm lucky at two of the places I work because the classrooms have individual controls for the heating/aircon systems. Only at one place is it controlled centrally. If things get unbearable there I get the students to complain, and it generally works.

Badaunt said...

"En masses"?

Sorry. (SLAP!)

(And I call myself an English teacher.)

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Hey Badaunt

No worries about the mistake, it happens to the best of us, my English is getting worse each year I spend here, scary stuff. Even scarier when I go home!

I work at a private school and actually the classrooms are lovely and cosy. Probably because the students would complain otherwise. Or rather, the students would complain to their parents, who would then complain to the school.

It's actually the teacher's room that's horribly cold. I only spend just over 3 hours a day in classrooms and the other (almost) 6 hours in the teachers' room. Part of my job requires just being here in case students or other (non-native speaking) English teachers need any help.

We don't have anywhere else we can go, no teachers' lounge, not even a lunchroom, we have to eat lunch at our desks while the Japanese teachers hock up phlem (sp?), spit in the kitchen sink and brush their teeth..... GROSS! And they wonder why the gaijin complain!

Em Butler said...

Sorry to hear about how cold it is! If that bothers you, you might want to reconsider your ambition to travel to Spain. (At least in the winter.) It's the same way there: someone is responsible for deciding when and for how long the radiators will be turned on in the apartment buildings. Interesting that it's not just a Spanish thing. I lived there for a year and thought I'd freeze to death! When you can see your breath INSIDE your apartment, it's too cold! Love your blog!