The Salmonella Incident

As I stated in my previous vlog post, we had an unexpected week off school just before the week we had scheduled off for China National Day, and my holiday with my parents. This was not explained to us when we first found out about it. On Sunday night we were told that we would have Monday and Tuesday off work because the school was closed. There were sick kids with a fever and vomiting. None of us were ill, so we wished them all the best, wished we had known earlier so we could have travelled and got on with relaxing and enjoying the extra time off.

On Tuesday evening, Hannah (the head of English) told us that the school was closed indefinitely and we would be told when it would open again. As she had told us this late in the evening, we assumed that we’d be told at the same time when the school would be opened. We were also still not told what was going on. On Wednesday night, the agency contacted us and asked us if we were “safe.” Our response was “yes, why?”

At this point we were very confused and starting to think that we wouldn’t be at school until after the week long holiday, but we couldn’t be sure. The only extra information that we knew was that there were children in the hospital.

Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about this. I had had two days off school the precious semester with a very bad cold and Hannah had asked me if I was going to go to the hospital. The way that the Chinese react to any illness seems to be to take medicine and go to a doctor.

On the Friday, the school released a statement over their WeChat (China’s answer to WhatsApp, Apple Pay and other stuff) account and we found out that there had been an outbreak of Salmonella at the school. Please see below the poorly translated screenshot I took of this statement.

We were, understandably shocked, surprised, and thankful that none of us had caught it and we hoped that the kids would be alright. We also knew that we wouldn’t be at school at least until after the holiday.

Over the course of my week’s holiday, I kept an eye on the school’s statements as they showed the entire school being decontaminated but we didn’t find out anything more until we got back to school on the 8th October and found out the rest of the details in a meeting with Hannah.

That day at school was in and of itself a very strange day. It was a propaganda day to show how great and safe the school is, even if we didn’t know why. The kids didn’t have to come in until later than usual as they weren’t eating breakfast there. but otherwise everything at the school was back to normal. Except we ate at the nearby hotel. It was a huge operation, getting all those children 100m down the road in a safe way.

And then we had the meeting after school.

Two hundred children got sick. Ninety odd ended up in hospital. The teachers got sick too. It was caused by contaminated egg in the sandwiches that the children had as their afternoon snack. The sandwiches that I’d declined because I was full of Pringles (thank the Pringles god). I was very close to having Salmonella myself.

The parents had been angry at the school for not releasing any details until the midway through the week, when the school found out the details. A lot of parents pulled their children from the school. They protested outside of the school gates. The school ended up offering compensation and to pay for the hospital fees for all the children and teachers. and once the school was up and running, they hired some workmen, with some very interesting health and safety practices to add a foot of fencing on top of what they already had around the school. By interesting health and safety practices, the magnesium soldering was done with the main soldering guy wearing a pair of cheap sunglasses, while hanging off a ladder.

The kitchen staff were all fired. There would be no food cooked in the kitchen until November. There were very few kids back at school. No more children could be invited to attend the school until next year.

The effects of this were felt for weeks. In a way they are still being felt, although we are back to a new normal. We teach multiple classes again, in separate classrooms, when we had taught multiple classes in one room for that first couple of weeks. My KB3 class had had 1 student, Jonas, the first day, and 2, the second. It didn’t creep back up for a couple of weeks. Now there are sixteen kids. And in KB4 there are 22. Before the Salmonella Incident, I had had 28 in each class. BB went from 18 to 9 (although each and every one of those nine kids are the most adorable).

For a month we had to ferry them back and forth to the hotel twice a day. For a month we had to eat truly shitty take away Chinese food. There wasn’t a crispy duck pancake in sight. It was so bad that when the new kitchen staff arrived, they were applauded as they walked through the throng of teachers out to greet them.

Now, the food is decent, (as decent as mass produced canteen food can be) and we are back to teaching our classes as before, if slightly smaller. We may not have any new kids for a while, but things are a little more normal than they could be.

Here is a link to a local news article. It has as much information as we know.

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