Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the Coronavirus. Known as Covid-19, this virus causes respiratory symptoms and in severe cases can lead to death. Originating in Wuhan, Hubei Province, in December 2019, it has since spread to 115 countries and infected more than 114,000 people.
On the news we hear about Wuhan; its transport shut down, its 11.9 million population closed off from the rest of China. In countries around the world people are panicking; racing to buy toilet paper, face masks and hand sanitizer. The experts remind us of the correct way to wash our hands. Meanwhile, in China, life goes on for more than 1.3 billion people. What is life like for them?
Life in My City
I live in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province. It’s a smaller city halfway between Shanghai and Suzhou.
Its population is 1.65 million. To date it has seen 19 cases of Coronavirus. Friends and family back home must imagine me locked in quarantine in my house, unable to go outside, but this is far from the case. In reality, I am free to move around; go to the shop, take the bus, visit the park, so long as I wear a mask.
That isn’t to say that precautions aren’t being taken. Since the outbreak life in China has most definitely changed. Restaurants that I used to frequent have yet to reopen. Shops that I used to go to remain closed. A café that I used to sit and read in no longer allows the customers to have their coffee on-site. When I take the bus the driver takes my temperature before letting me sit down. When I go to the supermarket two figures in white protective suits take my temperature before I can enter. When I return to my housing complex the security guards read my temperature before I can go home. There is also now a requirement for all the foreign teachers to record their own temperature twice a day and report it on an online form. If I were to spike a fever it would definitely be caught quickly, and I would be treated with haste.
Life without teaching
The main difference between my life before and after the outbreak is that school has remained closed. It is now March, school was supposed to reopen at the beginning of February but it has not. Instead of attending school, we foreign teachers have been asked to produce short video lessons each week for our students. This has proved to be a challenge, as I struggled to produce high quality videos that weren’t too big to send via email. Apart from these videos I have also been tutoring two of my students over video chat. This has allowed me to maintain some semblance of routine and to flex my teaching muscles during the prolonged vacation
One of the problems I have to cope with during all this is loneliness. Before the virus I lived with two other foreign teachers, but both of them returned to their home countries due to the outbreak. This means that I am living alone, with my main source of company being regular phone calls with my boyfriend back home.
Another difference is that I am doing a lot more cooking. Before this I would frequently go out to eat (one of the many benefits of living in China – cheap food!) but as the restaurants near me have remained closed, I do not have the option anymore.
When I’m not tutoring or recording teaching videos, I like to read, watch TV or play videogames. All in all, the outbreak has granted me an extremely long vacation. For the most part I have actually enjoyed it. I hope and pray that all those infected can recover, and that global measures to contain the spread succeed. I look forward to the day that I can return to my students, refreshed and ready to teach.