Well, things from this end are not looking hopeful for my return to China as scheduled.
School announcements are (as of yesterday) listed below.
- The school year will begin Feb. 24, not Feb. 17 as planned
- Students are not allowed to return until Feb. 22 to start up classes
- Teachers are required to begin on time, in the office and attending meetings, on Feb. 15.
I am guessing this will change in the next week.
Cases in Luzhou
We now have 3 cases of coronovirus in Luzhou. The first 2 came from Wuhan by train and then bus to the city so who knows how many they infected along the way? I think all are guessing there will be more as the days progress.
N95 face masks in Need
N95 face masks are a design category mask that is to help with dust pollution and germ spread. I have been asked by three Chinese friends so far if I can bring those back with me when I return. I immediately went to Amazon to order in bulk and …. So many sold out!! Also a problem is that none I saw are listed as Prime (2-day) or will arrive in a timely manner — between 2-4 weeks.
I have already asked my local doctor, Doctor Turner, if he can supply me with enough at least for myself and he immediately shot back, “I will get them for you.”
It certainly pays to have connections, doesn’t it?
My Travel Plans Requested by the School
My WeChat (equivalent of Facebook) texts have been flying back and forth from my school, which requested (in detail) my travel arrangements from start to finish for my return. I had already provided these before I left but with the virus, the school is now requiring a very detailed form to be filled out regarding anyone returning to the campus and where they had been. Here is what I sent them:
- January 9: Leave Luzhou for Chongqing, overnight in hotel
- January 10: Fly from Chongqing to Shanghai to Seattle to Indianapolis, Indiana; 1 1/2 hour car ride to hometown, Marshall, Illinois
- January 11 – February 10: Marshall, Illinois (no travel)
- February 11: Indianapolis, Indiana airport to Detroit to Shanghai to Chongqing;
- February 13: Arrival in Chongqing airport; airport bus 4 hours to Luzhou, arrival about 5 p.m.
As many have read, the CDC has given a Level 3 for China, meaning suggested no travel to that country unless it is essential. That might be raised to a Level 4, meaning no travel to China at all.
I am now assuming that our Peace Corp volunteers will be evacuated at some point. That would be so sad for me because our school’s Peace Corp Volunteer (PCV), Lindsey, was such a wonderful teacher, a very good friend and a great asset to our school. Because the Peace Corp is discontinuing their China program as of this year, she was to be the last PCV our college would ever have. If evacuated, I’m assuming she will not return but be offered another placement in another country to finish off her 1 1/2 years left on her service contract.
My School’s First Overseas’ Students: From South Africa
My college just received their first overseas’ students to study microtechnology at my college. There are 23 of them, on full scholarships with a China-South African Friendship Exchange organization. They have had classes on our campus since October, studying cell phone design, assembly and components. Their classes were in Chinese but several of my department’s teachers (The School of International Studies department) translated for them and helped with all aspects of their daily lives. The Africans also had Chinese language classes twice a week to help them communicate on a basic level with others.
Their course of study lasted 3 months, studying on our campus in the classroom, and then, on Feb. 3, they were to start a 1-year internship at a local cell phone factory. They were to live in the dormitories with other workers, bond with their Chinese colleagues and learn team working strategies. Their on-site learning experience was to be mainly in the assembly line.
When our school year ended, they continued to stay at the school until their February 3rd start-up date. During the holidays, the campus cafeteria remained open for them as workers stayed to prepare their meals. They were having a wonderful time until recently. I have seen pictures of them playing ping-pong outside and walking the campus but other than that, they are to remain in their dorm rooms. They are confined to the campus, not allowed to leave.
I am wondering if their South African colleges, which have partnered with our school for this study, will ask them to return home or even if they can return home. I am sure our school leaders are concerned for their safety and health. Being the first overseas’ students for us to have, it is a huge responsibility to make sure their needs are met and they are well-cared for.
They are still at the school and I’m sure they are bored stiff, wondering what will become of them, especially as their internship was to begin this coming Monday. I am certain the factory in which they were to be will not be opening. Factory workers are from all over Luzhou and surrounding areas. It would not be wise to have them all congregate together, after traveling from different locations, in one place to do assembly work in such closed quarters. Most government edicts have asked people to stay at home, keep public parks, recreational facilities, shopping malls and local businesses closed (Factories would be included in that category, I’m guessing.)
Thus the plight of the South African students at our school remains up in the air.
Other Chinese Students on our Campus
Chinese students pay tuition and housing for an entire year, including holidays. Some of our students did not return to their hometowns but stayed on campus. Most get jobs in Luzhou (restaurant servers, teaching at private schools, serving at McDonalds, salesperson at any one of the stores, malls or shops in the city) to help receive money to help pay for college costs.
With so many restrictions about what remains open and closed, I am certain these students are not able to work in Luzhou. I have been told that coming and going from the campus is restricted to just grocery shopping, which would be mostly aimed at our teachers and their families, living in my 11-story housing building on the campus.
For the Chinese students who opted to remain for the holidays, I imagine they are not allowed to leave the grounds. The cafeteria is still open, giving them 3 meals a day. We have a supermarket on our campus as well the sells all the basics dormitory-living things and more, such as fruit, refrigerated yoghurt, household items, goodies and snacks, roasted hotdogs and so on.
How frustrating for them because, as with SARS, if they leave to return home, they might not be able to return if the school decides to delay classes even longer than currently announced.
Praise and Good Wishes for my Leaders at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College
I will include a note of praise to my college’s school leaders. I know them well and they have always put the students first. Their care and concern for both Lindsey and myself, their foreign teachers, has constantly been utmost on their lists. The same goes for our overseas’ students, the South Africans. I am sure they are getting very little sleep, are in the office daily and late into the night, checking government updates, reviewing new updates concerning public education and when schools can resume, and frantically evaluating plans how to get students in and out safely to continue their education.
Please keep them in your thoughts as you go about your day today. It is all such a huge burden to bear.
My Parting Thoughts
Before leaving Luzhou, I had my faithful printing shop copy, bind, package and deliver all my sophomores’ Lesson Design textbooks for the new school year. I use my own books for this course as there are none available in China on this particular subject. I have those printed, along with my freshmen Oral English textbook which I likewise create on my own. All 235 Lesson Design books are sitting in my home, ready for distribution, along with another extra 35 first year textbooks for those freshmen who change majors. We always have about 30 who apply to switch majors to English Education that second semester after they feel their initial choice didn’t suit them. I always look forward to seeing those new, eager faces sprinkled throughout the old, familiar ones.
My “ready-to-go” prep work, of which I am always so proud, seems for naught.
It is such a mess. I’m so sad to see all this happen to the country and people I have loved, admired and respected over the past 24 years I have been on the mainland as an Amity Foundation teacher. (See amityfoundation.org, if interested)
During my time in China, seems I’ve been through it all: Earthquakes, flooding, SARS, economic worries….
Like all the above, I know that this, too, shall pass but it will take time.
Closing Off: “The best laid schemes of mice and men,..”
I leave you with my favorite Robert Burns poem, “To a Mouse”, in both original and translated verse. So fitting, appropriate and true in this escalating epidemic happening in China, just entering The Year of the Rat.
To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
Below: Translated into readable verse for those of you who are not English majors!
To a Mouse
Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!
From Illinois, here’s wishing you Peace, Safety and Health for your day.