At my first question, several pulled out Japanese-American phrase books, a bad sign. It’s a fact that all Japanese study English in school, but all Americans study American history, and how much do they learn?…

    Answers to my questions were on the order of “please perform a diagnostic evaluation” or “the reading of the thermometer seems excessive.” I had reluctantly decided to call their travel insurer’s 800 number (phone interpreting is tedious) when the tour leader entered. His English was rudimentary, and, being Asian, he was too polite to tell me I was mostly incomprehensible to him, but I managed to confirm my suspicion that the young man had influenza. Most likely it was bird flu which, despite scary headlines, is no worse than regular flu but a terrible illness for young people who take for granted they’ll never be ill.

    Mike Oppenheim
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News Reporter

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