Greetings again, folks!
Here are a few updates from those on-the-ground (my students, friends and teachers) in China who are experiencing lock-down measures.
Masks are in very short supply. All cities are now asking residents (some requiring it) to wear masks if they go out. In my 11-floor, teacher apartment complex on the campus of my college, I have already been asked by one of my colleagues if I can send masks to him by post. As mentioned before, so many Internet sites here in the USA are sold out due to Chinese relatives buying and sending to China. I have been fortunate enough to have been given 2 boxes (50 count each)of hospital-grade surgical face masks by my local doctor. Those I will hold onto until I know for certain when my own return to China will be.
As of an hour ago, the Who (World Health Organization), in an emergency meeting, announced this virus as a “public health emergency of international concern.” Chicago has confirmed its first person-to-person transfer of the sickness. The number of confirmed cases has now exceeded those of SARS in 2002-2003, although the death toll is still much lower. 171 are confirmed as having succumbed to the virus as compared to SARS, which was over 800, although that number was from start to finish of the outbreak. Coronavirus is listed as just beginning, although at present, it seems that mostly those with compromised immune systems and previous health issues are dying, not healthy individuals, which was the case of SARS.
The PCVs (Peace Corp Volunteers) have been evacuated from the country and are currently in Thailand to “wait it out” until Feb. 27, which is to be their return date to China. There are 143 PCVs who are quarantined in a Thai hotel with about 30 more traveling internationally. Those who left China for the holidays are not required for an immediate return but will gather together in Thailand with the rest of the volunteers after a few weeks.
In Luzhou (loo-joe), my city of 5 million, there are now 5 confirmed cases of coronavirus, as opposed to the 2 I reported before.
My college has announced that teachers are required to return to work on Feb. 17, a week before Feb. 24 when students are to begin the 1-week delayed spring semester. However, I am still wondering if that might change as the virus spreads.
In the past few days, there has been talk within the US government circles of canceling all flights in and out of China from the US. That is yet to be implemented.
What about Me?
Obviously, all of these raised level-alert announcements will impact my Feb. 11 return to China. I will definitely be changing my flight status but I am not sure to what dates. I am waiting to see what transpires during the next week and make decisions, along with recommendations from the Amity Foundation (my sponsoring organization in China) and my US sending agency.
Increasing Anxiety and Fighting Boredom
During the Spring Festival holidays (what we call the Chinese New Year), it is the custom to visit relatives, have weddings, travel to scenic spots and enjoy reunion gatherings with former colleagues and good friends.
But due to the coronavirus, edicts all across China have called for people to stay at home. Short ventures outside to buy food are to be limited to as few family members as possible. Masks, at present in short supply, are always to be worn.
What do people do all day? Mostly watch TV and mess about on their cell phones.
My students have a WeChat text group called English Corner Extravaganza which Lindsey (the PCV at my school) organized and put together for those interested in practicing their English. Both Lindsey and I have been adamant about “no postings in Chinese” among this group of over 300 and it has stuck. Students share only in English.
What has been the most prevalent topic at hand? Boredom!
I leave you with the last postings from my students in our shared English Corner Extravaganza WeChat group–
Chris: I am bored.
Yiyi: Me, too.
Chris: Bored from head to toe.
Yiyi: Ha, ha.
Chris: Even my nails. They’re screaming I AM BORED!
YiYi: You can find something fun to do.
Chris: Yes. Cut my nails and shut them up. Then I’ll be happy.
From Illinois, for your day, here’s wishing you 平安 (píng ān), Peace, …. and quiet nails.