My last report gave an inside look into Chengdu from my former student, “Jason,” who escaped to the countryside just in time. He currently resides in his farming community with his parents in the areas new apartment complexes.
Countryside Living for Jason’s Village Folk
About 10 years ago, the farmers in surrounding villages were offered to leave their plots of land and homes located in village clusters. Many of the homes were made of sod or had a traditional set-up of concrete with courtyards with pig stalls and chickens wandering about, outhouses, wood-burning ovens, no showers, make-shift pipes to pull in water or using buckets to bring in pond water from local outside sources.
The government was encouraging farmers to buy into newly built high-rise (6 stories, no elevators) apartment complexes which had all the amenities of in-city apartments. For more money, people could purchase or rent space on the buildings’ first floors to open small shops and groceries for convenient buying of the basics. The cost was low for the buy-in (I believe around $3,000 US as a downpayment) but more was required for ownership. Also, the apartments were empty cement shells, meaning that $10,000 US and up would be needed to install all the pipes, electrical outlets, lights, toilets, decor and furnishings. Loans from the bank were required for most since their income was so low, or borrowing money from distant relatives, or doing steady migrant work where monthly salaries could be as high as $600-700 US a month.
Jason’s parents took up the offer as the living conditions are so much better. With Jason’s help as a China and overseas tour guide, which brought him a substantial amount of money, he was able to add to their ability to upgrade and make a very nice home for themselves.
They still farm the land, which is about a 15-minute walk up the road, but that doesn’t bring them much income. The two did work in a local factory for awhile (stuffing feathers into cheap duves) but that company has since closed. At present, they have no income with Jason’s current employment (the online overseas limousine booking service he provides) being the only financial assistance they receive.
Moving On: News from Chengdu
Jason reported that news from Chengdu concerns the below map of the city, 21 million people.
- No one is yet allowed to leave the city nor allowed to enter the city, but in the green district areas, people can move about freely.
- Masks are required everywhere you go.
- The white area is where Covid cases are still being detected. Close-contact people and positive cases are required to stay in quarantine centers. No one is allowed to stay at home if positive — they must go to the makeshift quarantine center for 2 weeks, after which they must test negative at least 3 times over a period of 5 days.
- Stores in the green are allowed to open but the government has encouraged people not to go shopping. Driving about in cars is also not encouraged. Schools still remain closed as well as gymnasiums, theaters and malls.
- Stores in the white area cannot open. People can only order online for food delivery and pick those up at the barriers when contacted by the carriers.
- No one from the green area can cross into the white and vice-versa
- Barriers and volunteer “guards” in hazmat suits have been set up to make sure green and white do not mix.
- No one knows when the restrictions will lift.
Needless to say, Jason is VERY happy he’s where he is in the countryside. He left just before the full lockdown, anticipating Chengdu would soon close itself off to the entire country. He is currently able to enjoy freedom with his family, walk about in the fresh air and not have restrictions about where he can and can’t go.
News from Luzhou
My city still remains on lockdown with everyone required to stay at home. The emptiness of the city is shocking! The above were sent by a Luzhou colleague. Shops are not allowed to open except if they are designated grocery stores.
One family member can go out shopping every other day for only 2 hours. Everyone must go out every other day to be tested, standing in long lines which does give at least some fresh air but with masks on, not so much so.
My friend, who has 5 very big dogs, said she is allowed to take them out to do their business only and then immediately head back upstairs to her apartment. Her report was 4 days ago, however. It might be that she can’t even do that now.
In strict lockdowns, such as Chengdu’s white area, residents are only allowed to leave their homes to pick up food at the barriers which they ordered on their phones . Walking pets is not allowed, nor walking outside to stretch your legs.
One of my former students, feeling bored, decided to volunteer at his neighborhood’s testing site. He wanted to be of use, rather than sit inside his home all day. (On the left)
My above former student is at present a teacher at the elementary school level. His principal decided to hold off on online classes as it’s too difficult for children to sit in front of a computer or cell phone all day to receive lessons. There’s too much of a burden on parents to make sure their kids stay put.
Instead, there are numerous Apps for different required subjects which schools are encouraging parents to use to keep their kids busy. The lessons are created by experts, professionally done, with activities, video inclusions and fun special effects to hold the children’s interest. These are truly a Godsend for elementary teachers and parents of that age-group alike.
But for junior high and high school, many teachers are required to teach virtually, all day, Monday through Friday, and create their own lessons. Those who are motivated and gifted teachers will spend hours doing their PPTs or researching how to help the students learn. But others just lecture, putting in the hours required without really caring if the students learn or not. They are just buying time until in-person will return.
From my friends, I hear the same laments: “We are so bored!!”, “I can’t make any money. It is very worrying.”, “When will this end??!!”
That last is a very good question, especially when China’s 1.3 billion people last received their virus boosters almost a year ago, or rather that is what my friends have reported for themselves personally. The entire country is extremely vulnerable to an unimaginable explosion of illness and deaths, especially as very few have been exposed to Covid due to the strict lockdowns. They have no antibodies, stimulated via vaccinations or other means, that are currently of use.
In the meantime, I have continued to post on my WeChat moments of my life in America for all to see and read about: Pictures of me and my mom, our flower garden, my swimming ventures, my brother’s birthday celebrations, Walmart grocery shopping, Rural King outings, our county fair, the Fall Festival parade, my recent trip to Detroit . . . . All have us unmasked, in close contact, laughing, hugging, walking, talking . . .
These posts bring a lot of conversation among those in China who follow them. The one outstanding remark is this: “All the world is opened up. When will we?”
Sorry to say, I have no answer.