Imagine, once-bustling streets filled with a multitude of people and races now regulated to stragglers and strangers unsure whether they should greet one another. Imagine, going to dinner with friends only to be told you can no longer sit together, assuming the restaurant even allows you to sit there at all. Imagine, jubilant smiles and a love for life now hidden behind masks of white, black, or brown.
Imagine, shops that had long-standing clientele, bars that were the entertainment for the occasional Tuesday and weekends, gyms filled with people bettering their bodies, all closed and desolate.
Now imagine, being the owner of one of those establishments still having to pay 10,000 RMB ($1,500), 60,000 RMB ($9,000), or more (minimum) yet not having any hope to earn that money. What’s worse, imagine not knowing when the situation will end for every day something new may occur to change the situation. Imagine waiting on a higher power, only to receive no answer, and so you keep trudging on paying rent hoping to, at one point in time recover your losses, or you close the shop for good due to landowners who don’t want to work in unison with you; rather, they are just concerned about their own financial losses during a time when nothing was preventable.
Imagine, buildings that you could enter freely from multiple entrances now having one entrance. Now imagine being scanned at that entrance for your temperature in men wearing white hazmat suits, speaking a foreign language that you don’t understand and making you register in a program that you don’t understand because you can’t understand the language. Imagine this same thing being applied to city borders and at every city you need to get a new code to show that you are virus-free, instead of having a system that would function for the whole province.
Imagine having a curfew and being regulated when you enter or leave a compound. Imagine having to continue to buy food and household supplies, although those commodities are now more expensive. You have no choice or say in the matter, though, for you have to eat to survive.
Imagine continuing to work virtually during this time only to be told that your salary will be reduced significantly, or in some cases, your contract changes completely due to force majeure. You thought that you may be making 12,000 – 15,000 RMB ($1,700 – $2,000) only to be told that you are actually going to be earning 2,000 – 5,000 RMB ($200 – $600) and that some of the classes you’ve been teaching, you’ve been teaching for free.
Along with paying for rent and paying for food, how is this money going to be enough?
How would you feel? How would you live?
This, everyone, is China. This is Life in the time of Corona. (For those of you who get the reference, kudos to you :p )
The Coronavirus that started in December in the city of Wuhan when a man ate a bat bought from a local food market (you can find anything here in China). This was kept under wraps until middle January has certainly changed the way that we live and interact in the world.
I escaped the coronavirus for the most part, but that doesn’t mean that I escaped the prejudice of the coronavirus. As I mentioned in my last blog post here, I went on a cruise from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand from January 23rd to February 4th.
This was about the time that the coronavirus began disseminating itself in China and throughout the world. Always, whenever I meet people who asked me what I did, I would say “I teach English in China.” After quickly gauging their reaction, I specified “Not that area in China.” Soon enough, I just began to avoid mentioning China altogether and told them a number of things from being on a gap year to teaching in Asia to being an independent wealthy early bitcoin investor (yes, I said that once). In any regard, the strategy worked for the most part and I was able to avoid mentioning my Chinese employment history.
When it was time to return to China, I decided not to; instead, I traveled another month to Bali, Indonesia and Malaysia. You can see pictures of both places continuously from following my Instagram account, here.
At the time, February 7-February 25, these two countries weren’t so bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed my time in Indonesia and even met up with a good friend of mine who had been a roommate with me in Chile. I got to saw amazing sights, and most importantly, I got to write and read more and so I finished two of Gabriel Marquez’s books which I’ll be discussing in future blog posts, but I also read and edited a book for a friend who is wanting to publish her own novel soon enough.
On February 25th, I returned to China and since the two weeks that I’ve been back, I have seen the images described to you above. I spent a week in “quarantine” with my girlfriend, Daisy. I will mention, however, that the term quarantine is rather loose here. I actually was able to enter and to leave my compound quite frequently, but I always had to check in and get a slip of paper. Not only that, but because I am a foreigner and rather hard to miss, some Chinese people came and talked with my girlfriend about why I was leaving so much while in quarantine mode, but nothing ever came of it.
Life in the time of Corona here, for many, has become boring. People are getting restless, but that restive feeling is much better than the anxiousness felt going out, having temperatures scanned, and dealing with the annoyances of the system. Is this the price we pay for safety?
In the two weeks that I’ve been back to Suzhou, China, there has been no new cases of the coronavirus. In fact, we are now coronavirus-free here in Suzhou and the whole province, Jiangsu, has three cases total. Look at the images below.
As the weather shifts to higher temperatures and more sunshine, the cityscape is shifting as well from one described in the apocalyptic terms I put earlier, to one that is finding new life and new strength. People are going for more walks in the park now. They are gathering with friends. At least, this is my city. It varies city-by-city. Wuxi, for example, is still in an apprehensive, apocolyptic lockdown mode that makes me want to avoid the city at all costs.
My school may open by the end of the month, although I believe it will reopen again in April just to be sure no kids get sick from the coronavirus and thus avoid problems with teachers, students, and parents. Gyms are beginning the process of reopening, meaning their employees are putting themselves in quarantine and checking into the system daily to make sure they don’t have the virus when the gyms actually reopen.
I’ve been contacted by many friends in the United States and elsewhere wondering if I’m doing okay. They are worried about my situation. To be honest, though, China has passed the worst part of the pandemic, now I am worried about the rest of the world. All across the world, no matter if the country is infected with 1 person or 1000 people, life in the time of corona has bred the disease of uncertainty of what the future holds.
In fact, I recently just told one of my friends that for the first time since he’s been engaged, I am unsure whether or not I’ll be able to be in his wedding. He plans on getting married in August, but at this point, I do not know what the situation will be like in the United States; moreover, I do not know the relationship between China and United States and the airlines. I do not know how China will handle missing days at school. I do not know what the quarantine procedures will be like come summertime. In essence, I feel like Jon Snow right now knowing nothing for certain.
Numbers around the world are blowing up, especially places like Italy and Iran and South Korea. South Korea, is rather obvious, due to its large amount of Chinese immigrants and also its proximity to China. However, countries like Italy and Iran are a little more unexpected, yet I feel as though I have a reason as to why they have become the most infected and also why they have had a surge in deaths.
This theory is based upon the perception of masks in China compared to elsewhere in the world. It is common and colloquial to wear masks in China. People do it all the time, mostly for the pollution, but also it has even mainstreamed into being part of a fashion statement here in China. Now, western countries, for example, have a different perception of masks. If I was to wear a mask in America, I would wear it because I have some sort of cold that I didn’t want to give to other people. Hence, when we wear masks we are telling other people that we are sick. Thus, this is the big difference. I believe many in America do not wear masks because they don’t want others to perceive them as being sick or feel anxious around them; instead of wearing masks for self-protection.
To validate this point further, my girlfriend recently showed me a friend of hers in Italy who sent her a video. Only now are people starting to wear masks in Italy. My friend in Norway mentions that cases are doubling daily and that he doesn’t even know where to get a mask. I talked with my parents about whether or not they even have masks, and they mentioned they don’t but that they’re safe, and it isn’t in their county yet in Wisconsin. My other friend who is going to be an MD told me that masks don’t protect against the virus. While they don’t protect completely against the virus (as it can still get in through the eyes), a mask certainly reduces the risk of it, just like a condom reduces the risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases.
At the end of the day folks, this is Life in the time of Corona. For me, this has allowed me so much more freedom in terms of fulfilling writing and reading goals of mine. This is how we turn lemons into lemonade and how we learn to dance in the rain, for we should never look on the negative side of things but try and see a positive side.
Life in the time of Corona has definitely been a new experience for me, and one that will stick with me for my lifetime I believe. Moreover, living in the country where the worldwide pandemic started is also quite the experience, and something I’ll be talking about (along with other new activities done over the past year) in future blog posts. Make sure to subscribe to the blog to keep up-to-date on these weekly posts.
Until next week, be smart. Be safe(r). Buy a mask. Even if you don’t wear it yet, make sure you have one on hand and ready if it should spread to a location near you.