It was the kid’s version of a drug pat down at an international airport.
“Do you mind opening up your milk carton?”
The command came from Miss Kindermen, my second-grade teacher, her hair spun into a black beehive while my eyes were mesmerized by her psychedelic dress. She looked like she belonged on Laugh-In, not a classroom. Her blue-shadowed eyes narrowed as she waited.
I peed my pants a little when I showed her the contents carefully squished inside.
Miss Kindermen pulled out half a tuna fish sandwich, cut as a triangle, the white bread smeared with pink mush.
“You must take a bite before you go out and play.”
Trust me. The only thing worse than tuna fish sandwich is a soggy one. Actually, there are things a bit worse.
The smells and lunches at an international school in Asia.
I look around the lunchroom cafeteria in Kunming, China. With students and staff from over twenty-eight countries, there is an array of entrees with smells beyond what Frebreeze can handle.
Malaysian and Indonesian students bring tiered lunch boxes, containing an assortment of dishes that must to be assembled. Others bring Halal safe meals. Mars—a seven year old who wants to go to his namesake planet and build a playground—eats spaghetti, causing a permanent ring of tomato sauce around his pie hole. Koreans trade their homemade kimbap and kimchi for classmates’ dumplings. Some bring their own vendo food.
There are also two lunch lines—the Chinese and Western. The Chinese serves two dishes—noodles or stir-fry with rice. The Western line is a far cry from Old Country Buffet. Pizza, a top seller, is a triangular piece of dough with vinyl like cheese and orange discs of pepperoni. Then there’s this white soupy stuff that resembles melted ice cream but kids swear it’s mashed potatoes. Others order from Meituan and have meals delivered, like my student Rain (who is not related to Umbrella). As for me? I bring my food from home.
But on Fridays, there is one special item in the Western Line that all kids devour. Donuts. Donuts as big as these their heads.
The sugar rush wouldn’t bother me except that I teach second graders after lunch, in other words, my classroom becomes a twisted sequel to the movie Trainspotting, with seven-year olds coming down from sugar highs instead of heroin. This means handwriting is shaky, that is, if students can sit down long enough to write. One kid will cry and there will be a squabble about who hands out erasers.
Last Donut Dazed Friday, I had a big activity planned—one that involved 870 ping balls, the amount counted and verified by Mars.
Let’s just say the activity didn’t go as planned.
Ironically, I also teach second graders the first thing in the morning. Half are still asleep as they didn’t eat a balanced breakfast, not even an unbalanced one.
Snap! Crackle and Pop would be appalled.
While I can’t eat a tuna fish sandwich to this day, my mom would do weird things for a tuna fish sandwich than what folks would do for a Klondike bar. Once, in her colorful years (I’m not limiting the palette to golden), she requested my sister bring her to the Emergency Room at Lake Charlevoix Hospital. After the medics did their checks, and found nothing was wrong, my mom admitted, “I just wanted a tuna fish sandwich. They have good ones here.”
There’s no moral or point to this post. Eat a good breakfast. Take a bite of all food before hiding the contents in a napkin or milk carton. And beware of seven-year-olds who eat donuts the size of their heads.