The long awaited winter break was eventually here. My first semester results were in, I had passed and the only thing left for me to do was enjoy the break. What better way to do it than visit a friend in another city, make new friends and have a good time? That is exactly what I did.
Everyday was a chance to try out new food, learn more cultural facts and enjoy drinks in an environment saturated by curious smiles and laughter. As the Chinese New Year approached, the very first Chinese friend I made extended an invitation for me to spend it with him and his family.
In a few days, I was part of the most populous migration on earth. I left where I was in the morning, got to my place and caught a speed train to my friend’s city.
The welcome was so warm that I got instant reassurance that I made the correct decision to visit. A few days later, there was news about the corona virus gaining traction across Chinese and global news platforms.
The Chinese New Year was over even before it started. There were warnings that flights were being canceled, roads to certain places being shut and other measures to contain the virus being implemented. That was my queue to get back to my place. Therefore, a few days after we had the cherished New Year dinner, I relocated.
After the Chinese New Year, there are family gatherings to exchange gifts. That tradition had to be sidelined given the situation, even weddings had to be postponed.
I got back to my place before the peak of the virus. After about a week, there were checkpoints at the community entrances. I possessed three masks I had gotten from my friend which I wore when I knew I was going to possibly hazardous areas.
One such occasion was when we went shopping at a nearby supermarket. We got on the bus and entered the supermarket. While moving around the aisles stocking up our trolleys, an elderly Chinese man coughed as I passed next to him. Although he was wearing a surgical mask, I rushed holding my breath until I got to a safe distance then laughed at myself.
The lockdown intensified a few days later when there was one case discovered at a community close to ours. We registered our passports and addresses. In addition to temperature testing, we had to produce our identification documents wearing a surgical mask whenever we had to go out.
The community entrance was manned day and night by community members who exchanged shifts. There was a point in time that only one person per household would be allowed to leave for shopping after every two days.
During the week the virus was expected to peak, the number of days was increased to three. Given how bohemian I am, I felt like my soul was given a death sentence. Amidst all this, shops close to the community were opened at designated hours, which made it easy to get daily necessities once in a while.
To this day, I still think the Chinese government handled the outbreak the best way possible given the versatile circumstances.
How did I survive?
By reading books on subjects I was interested in. There was a clarion call for people to use their lockdown time productively in various ways including playing online games such as chess, pursuing an online course, to mention but a few.
Furthermore, Chinese entertainment applications offered access to movies and television series. I ignored the news because I noticed my friends get scared and depressed.
On mental health, there were also websites and online communities offering relief and advice. I followed safety procedures which included eating healthy foods, regular exercise and practicing proper hygiene.
I must admit that communication with family and friends, in and outside China came in handy. The funny memes and videos about the virus went a long way because any given day, I would rather laugh than panic and stress. This is not to be in denial of reality, but to handle it calmly and strategically.
As I write this, things are almost back to normal in my community. The take home message is that we have to obey suggestions from experts for our safety and the well-being of those we care about.
Facts keep getting discovered about COVID 19 and one article is obviously a tip of the iceberg. What is most important is to take care of our minds and bodies so that we survive this challenging epoch. Even if hands look clean, they can still be dirty!
Remember, even if hands look clean, they can still be dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. And, always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze!