Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Friday, May 02, 2003

It FINALLY got published!

My letter in response to the Hidden Minority in the Taipei Times FINALLY got published- even though I emailed my letter a day after the article appeared on March 30. I almost didn't even know that it got published! I had given up any hope of it getting published. Then one day when I was in the office of the English department at the college, one of my fellow teachers mentioned that he had read my letter, and the original article that I wrote in response to. It turns out that he's a pretty avid reader of the Taipei Times. Well I was speechless and embarrassed that I didn't know what he was talking about. LOL! My excuse is that it was midterm week and since I was swamped, I hadn't read the paper during those past few days. Fortunately, I subscribe to the Taipei Times, so I was able to look through recent copies and find it.

It's too bad that my letter wasn't published as promptly as I had responded. I wonder if my point got dilluted by the delay in publishing. Who would remember or even know what I was referring to almost a month later?! Guess the War on Iraq took precedence in the newspaper's reporting (in late March/early April) and the publishing of my letter was preempted. I posted my letter to the editor on this blog on March 31, but it always looks better in official print .

Friday, May 2, 2003

Almost overnight I noticed the change. Last night I was IM ing a friend in Taipei. Apparently Taipei is in a mass pandemonium after the case of Hoping hospital . At office buildings, sports clubs and other public places, they’ve begun measuring the temperature of everyone and anyone prior to admitting them. If you weren’t already paranoid about getting SARS- you will be after having your temperature taken five times a day and after the constant bombardment of news. They haven’t taken any such drastic measures here in Kaohsiung yet, I told her. But I did notice that since late February/March, bus drivers have taken to wearing face masks to cover their nose and mouth. In the newspapers there are daily images of face-masked people in Hong Kong and China and of people whose work requires contact with the public.

This morning I went to the college to enter my students’ midterm grades. When I arrived by taxi, I was stopped at the front gate for mandatory temperature measurements- for myself and the taxi driver. A fever is one of the first symptoms of SARS. Later I took the bus home and immediately noticed that the normally old, worn looking buses seemed conspicuously immaculate, with the floors free of dirt and trash, the seats wiped so clean they looked shades lighter and brighter, and every other window was open- it’s sad to say that these improvements could only be attributed to desperate attempts to prevent SARS.

SARS could be anywhere- it can be transmitted by touching surfaces touched by a SARS carrier (the virus can survive on most surfaces for 3 hours), by close contact with a carrier (especially in enclosed crowded public spaces), and some SARS carriers may not even display the textbook symptoms.

Beware of public transportation, public places crowded areas, communal areas or objects, enclosed spaces with poor circulation, any objects or places in which there is high exposure to human traffic. Wash your hands frequently with soap and rub them for at least 20 minutes…Be careful when touching communal objects with your hands, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth (all possible points of transmission). SARS is so highly contagious it’s hard to know how and when to properly protect ourselves, or who to protect ourselves against. With a disease of this nature it seems like the risk of exposure multiplies exponentially with lightening speed. It is completely mind boggling and obsessively compulsively distressing, and consuming, once you really start thinking about all the permutations and combinations.

I’m starting to succumb to sinister forces that have been gnawing away at me. Now I’m in super panic, paranoid mode, I feel threatened. I feel a heavy responsibility for my own health and the health of the people around me, especially my parents. I realize that being a teacher put me at high risk. Teachers are in a highly vulnerable position with all the students that they come in contact with- who knows where the students have been or who they’ve been in contact with… teachers are constantly in close contact with others and are exposing themselves as they speak in class, but unlike most professions, face masks aren’t an option- donning them wouldn’t be very conducive to teaching. The risk factor goes both ways- not only are teachers at a high risk, but equally dangerous is the risk to students if a teacher is a carrier. I can’t stop obsessing over this. SARS is not only a threat to our physical health but extremely crippling to the psyche- it feeds and ferments hopelessness, desperation, and our hypochondriac tendencies. Is it a losing battle? We can’t completely avoid going out in public. Will we grow weary and wonder if the precautions that we are taking protecting us at all? Are we being taken hostage by all of these preventative measures and the media’s reporting?


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