Yesterday afternoon, we did something that was unique and fun.
S.G. has a pool. Unlike many schools, this pool has an enclosure. It’s glass, so that means its always bright and sunny inside (even to the point where you’d want to consider sunscreen if you were going to be there more than a couple of hours – glass blocks some UV, but not everything), and it’s where swimming will be taught and day care time will be spent – it just seems like a fun, happy spot.
This pool, though, also serves a serious purpose – in the event of a fire, the pool water is to be used as a cistern. In other words, the fire engine would pull up beside the pool, and the firefighters would fight the fire using the pool water.
The weight of the water also helps safeguard the pool against frost upheaval.
For those reasons, the water sits in the pool all winter. There is no filtration, and no treatment is applied during this time.
So yesterday afternoon virtually the entire school (save the very youngest years, who were relegated to weeding and sweeping) gathered at the pool with scouring brushes, buckets, steel wool, and even rulers, to begin the Herculean task of cleaning up the now-green pool.
The pool was partially drained shortly before we began, so everything was still moist and the green water was about shin-deep. The workflow began with the older grades scraping the crud off the side walls. Some did a better job than others. Meanwhile, D. and M2 used long-handled scrubbing brushes (kind of like brooms, but with very hard bristles) to scour the bottom of the pool. I did this too, at least when I wasn’t taking pictures of other people working. The green guck was layered – there was a “nice” easy layer of loose stuff on top that was easy to lift off, but the stuff that made little circular stains on the bottom – holy crud! (pardon the pun) It took serious power scouring to get it off, and our progress was painfully slow. The stuff was also extremely slippery, but more on that in a second.
Things started going faster when the kids stopped scraping the walls and turned their attention to the bottom of the pool – now we had more than 30 people working at it instead of just three. They got down on their hands and knees and powered everything off by hand. I might have done this myself had I worn swim trunks instead of shorts; I was starting to get tired of the long-handled brush.
The cleaning took all afternoon (and even when we quit it wasn’t quite finished; it needed a little more attention with professional tools, which it will be getting sometime this weekend – thankfully not from us foreign teachers), and claimed relatively few casualties. One Year Four student who was helping to rinse the loosened green stuff from the pool floor (once we’d drained the remaining water after we’d mostly finished scrubbing), took a tumble – his feet slipped out from under him while he was running with a bucket full of water, and he hit the back of his head with only the thin liner separating him from the unforgiving concrete. He walked to Sick Bay under his own power.
D. says that this year is a huge improvement over last year, when the pool was drained a day or two prior to the cleaning, allowing all the algae and crud to cake on hard – it was beyond the strength of the children to scour. Also, people could feel their feet tingling much more than they felt it this year (I did, but just a little). I mentioned the possibility of getting a pressure washer, but he pointed out that would cost money – the children, on the other hand, were free. (Beyond free; they’re paying for the privilege of being there.)
On Tuesday afternoon there’ll be an opening ceremony, complete with Shinto priest and probably also the local media. =) And then the fun begins!