Sunday, January 11, 2009

When things fall apart

Several components of my milieu conspired to prevent this last week from being relaxing yet dull. On Sunday the alarm system in our apartment spontaneously started letting us know it was there every time we opened the front door by emitting a loud and startling chime reminiscent of the chime that greets me each and every time I walk into a Seven-Eleven. Our alarm system had, prior to Sunday, kept absolutely quiet and let us alone to come and go peacefully. Alas, now we cannot come or go from our apartment without being reminded that we are coming (or going).

On Monday evening, we suddenly lost power to almost all of the electrical outlets in our apartment. The lights and other switches still worked but almost all of our appliances were rendered useless. After a while someone (not me) realised that we could just plug the refrigerator into the one outlet in the house that still worked, serendipitously located just an extension-cable length away from the refrigerator. The following evening we arranged for an electrician to come and have a look. He traced the problem back to the main power inlet for our apartment, located somewhere down in the basement. After the job was done he brought the evidence back to us and I cheerily stowed it away in the television cabinet in the hope that we could convince our landlord to reimburse us for the cost of the repair. Here it is:

So that was Tuesday evening. On Wednesday during my lunch-break I was at my bank close to my school on the other side of the city when I received a call from Andrea. She couldn't get into the apartment and was calling me from our friend John's cellphone in the lobby of his apartment complex. I decided to start home to see if I could have a look and perhaps fix the problem. Meanwhile, John helped Andrea to get into the apartment but shortly I received another call from her telling me that she was unable to open the door to get out of the apartment. When I got back to the apartment I managed to get the door open by leaning heavily on the door while putting pressure on the key as I turned it. But the problem persisted until I happened to notice a small object on the strike plate near the latch bolt. It turned out to be four very small magnetic discs that I recognised from an art project I had taught in my kindergarten class months earlier. How they came to be on the strike plate of our door latch I have no idea but once I picked them off the door returned to its usual cooperative state. Here they are:

That evening I was feeling a little worse for wear, particularly my throat. I had obviously contracted some kind of viral or bacterial infection and it concentrated on making my nose run, the excessive mucous from which ran down the back of my throat, inflaming it, which in turn affected my ability to speak. I was losing my voice again and that is one of the last things you want if you teach kindergarten children. It was bad enough that I sought some kind of convenient medicinal relief and remembered that I had a small bottle of medicine on the shelf next to our bathroom door. My manager at school had given me the medicine last time I had a sore throat, some months ago. It was actually intended for her six-year-old daughter but with the blessing of her doctor husband (given over the phone) she gave it to me to use. On this Wednesday evening I couldn't remember much about it, particularly relevantly, how much to take. I got a soup spoon and poured out a measure of the syrup and tried it. It tasted fine and so I poured and consumed three more doses. Soon afterwards I started to feel very sleepy and decided to call it a day. By the time I was climbing into bed I was already half-asleep. When I awoke on Friday morning I was unable to break out of a strange mental fog that robbed me of the ability to think or act properly. After fighting the retarding fugue long enough to get ready to go to work I had to accept that I was unfit to do much of anything and promptly called in sick. I spent the rest of the morning in bed and woke up to go to work in the afternoon although I suffered some residual effects of the weirdness of the morning. It only occurred to me later that the strange sleepiness that had overcome me was most probably the result of me overdosing on the medicine I took for my throat. In the course of events I did, however, have the best and most restive sleep I have had for a long time and I have since considered taking a bit of that wonderful stuff again to help me sleep.

So that was Thursday.

And then on Saturday, for the first time in a long time, I went to work on Saturday morning and taught all day. Strangely (for me anyway) the Taiwanese government had given us two weekdays off for the new year but expects us to make those days up later by working on the following Saturdays. Luckily for some of us, we were obliged to work only one Saturday. However, the Taiwanese co-teachers must duly attend to their work for a second Saturday which will be next Saturday.

It is now Sunday night and after a two-hour bike-ride around the city and a wonderful chili dinner cooked by that empress of the culinary prerogative, Andrea, I am mentally preparing myself for the Monday that will shortly be dawning upon me. I guess it has been just one more week in Taiwan.

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