The Journey Home..Part 2



The Journey Home


 

“I’m going to go home,” said with more certainty than the previous couple of hundred times as Heather and I discussed staying in China or going home.  Heather is my friend upstairs on 18.  I’m on the 15th floor of the apartment building.  She is the one with the little boy who rides the little truck who comes to my door with his music playing from the steering wheel mentioned in a previous post

I had decided to stay in China and help her as long as she stayed.  She couldn’t take the baby outside and go to the store, walk the dogs, etc.  So when she did those things, I watched the baby.  So, this certainty in her voice this time sounded like it was a done deal.  I replied, “Ok, if you are definitely going, then I will get my ticket, too.  We can go together and I can help you on the plane.”

We had talked about flights. I found one to leave on Friday, February 14.  I finally, after much indecisiveness and turmoil, hit the submit payment button and selected my seats.  Done! No more debate.

I messaged Heather the next morning and told her I had my ticket.  Did she have hers?  No.  The baby had developed a fever.  And a rash.  Of course, it was a terrible situation. It was frightening to think where she would go, what would she do, and most importantly what did he have?

Once she got him to a hospital, one that did not accept virus patients, she learned he had roseola.  Much better than the virus!  He was covered in a rash by now. She wasn’t going to be on a flight anytime soon. I felt so bad for them.

The day I left, it began to rain. I love the rain and it so rarely rains in Beijing.  I wasn’t excited about hauling my luggage in the rain, though.  I kept gathering my things and putting it all by the door trying to debate when I should call a taxi.  I looked back out the window and it had begun to snow.  And snow. And snow. 

Ugh. Will flights be delayed? or even cancelled?

I finally head downstairs having packed like I wasn’t going to return to China, though I still have quite a few things there. I had two 50 pound suitcases, a 75 pound carry on, and a 15 pound personal item.  I got them all on the elevator, down the elevator and out the door.  To get to the street, we must walk up a car ramp. It is the only way out right now as all other gates are locked.  By now, the rain had frozen and the snow was coming down in a very wet snow.  

From the parking garage I was able to push one suitcase up the ramp along with the carry on. 125 lbs.  I was slipping all over the place.  I left them sitting at the top of the ramp and walked back for the rest.  I pushed the next one up the ramp along with my bag that had two laptops and an iPad, chargers, a book, passport and everything else I could get inside the bag.  The wet snow was filling my bag with the laptops inside.  I stuffed a blanket over the top to keep them dry.

At the top of the ramp is a gate.  It is just short enough that my bags won’t go underneath it.  I can’t take them around it, either. Arrgghh… 

If I let go of the larger suitcase, it will fall over. Everything else is getting soaked. By now I was sweating and breathing heavily.  If someone comes and takes my temperature now, I’m doomed. 

Finally I was able to tilt the luggage under the gate, one by one and get it to the other side. But now, I had to lift them over a little one foot wall, or walk thru water that was quite high.  I chose to lift them. I got them to the other side. One 75 pound carry on is on one shoulder, my 15 pound bag is on the other and I’m lugging to suitcases behind me. There is now so much snow on the ground that as I pull the luggage along, the snow builds up under the wheels and I am pulling all the snow with me until I can not pull them any further.  

I have to stop and put my bags down. Anyone who knows me, knows I DO NOT put things on the ground or floor.  NO WAY!  So this was painful for me.

I kicked the snow off the wheels and move the luggages to a new path, pick up the other bags and start again.  Ten steps more. Repeat.  Ten steps more. Repeat.  I’m nowhere close yet. 

Finally, I stop and take one piece at a time, pulling the luggage with two hands while kicking the snow away.  I got it to the curb and walked back.  

I needed to call the taxi.  So I did that and it would arrive in 6 minutes.  Hopefully I could get the rest to the curb by then.  

Next piece of luggage wasn’t much easier. It  was still picking up snow. Finally a guard came over and pulled it to the curb making a new path. I was thankful. I Went back for number 3 and 4.  Finally, all were at the curb.

I mentioned it was a wet snow?  I’m drenched. My hair is soaked. My shirt is soaked and my jeans are well on their way to being soaked, too.

I hope the driver doesn’t turn into the McDonalds parking lot because if he does we won’t meet at the right spot, which would mean I would have to haul everything across the parking lot.  He turned into the McDonalds parking lot.By now,

I could not even think about pulling all of those bags over there.  I left all my things there and walked over and pointed to my luggage which had fallen over, so it was hard to see and gestured for him to drive around to the luggage.  Luckily, he gets my game of Charades and pulled around.  Finally, we got everything in his car. 

By now, I am at wits end and I’ve only just left the apartment. I got out my phone and messaged my friend, Shack who is dropping my car off at the airport upon my arrival.  “I’m about to lose my shit!”  And of course, Shack being Shack says, “Keep breathing, Cath. You got this. Think about your grandkids and Amy and Eric and all your friends. It’s worth it, keep your head up and keep moving toward Tulsa.”  Always a breath of fresh air. OK.  I can do this.

It was really snowing then.  The roads were so slick and we didn’t slow down.  There was accident after accident on the highway.  We were all over the place.  We finally made it in one piece. I went to get a cart for my luggage, but first wiped it down with bleach wipes and pushed it back to the taxi. I gathered my things and headed to the airport entry.  

Going inside they stopped me to take my temperature.  I’m wet and cold so I thought I would be ok.  I was.

Now the entry is a downhill ramp.  The cart and I were rolling quickly.  My feet just slid all the way down to the bottom.  The girl at the bottom of the ramp looked a bit nervous as I rolled toward her.  She was motioning me to go left.  I finally got the cart to slow down and turn.  I stopped for another temperature check. It was ok!

Ok, to the gate. I made it and got my boarding pass, unloaded two pieces of luggage and headed to security.  This was such a hassle this go round, as I had two laptops, an ipad, camera, phone, chargers, etc.  All of which need to be unpacked and placed into individual bins.  At least there was no one there, so I wasn’t rushed.  

Unpack, scan, repack. Lug that 75 pound carry on and 15 pound bag to the gate. I looked for my friend, Craig who was supposed to be at the gate near mine.  I could not find him. I called him and he said he had been kicked out.  Now he is a prankster, so I thought he was kidding, but…he wasn’t.  He had booked a flight to New Zealand where he is from by way of Australia.  Australia would not let him transfer through there because of the virus.   So he could not travel.  

I went and sat down to charge my phone.  I wandered around a bit after that. Then went back to my gate.  I sat down. There were quite a few people at the gate. waiting.  I heard “Flight CA 125 last call to Seoul.”   “What?”  Last call ! I never heard the first call.  I never saw anyone move.  Oh My Goodness!

I ran to the gate just in time.  Though it was not far to run as I was right there! How did that even happen?  Oh well, I’m on.  

I’m soaked, I can’t breathe in my mask, but I’m on.  A couple from Kansas and their two kids came on just after me.  They didn’t hear anything either until “Last Call.”  So bizarre.

We are given so many forms to fill out, all health related.  My pen didn’t  work. I tested it before I left, but nothing.  The Kansan gave me a pen from her bag.  I had to wipe it with bleach first.  She understood.  She had some interesting stories to tell, too.  Every region, it seemed had different scenarios playing out.  

An hour and a half later, Air China flight CA125, was about to land in Seoul, South Korea.  We made it out of China. What awaits us out there?  How will we be treated? We are all arriving from China, after all. The rest of the world isn’t accepting many passengers from China.  The nice Kansan husband helped me with my 75 pound carry on. He got it down from the overhead.  We disembarked.

We walk up the jetway and saw a person who could easily be headed toward Mars with his/her white space suit and helmet.  As we arrived to the top of the jetway, we were given a lanyard to wear around our necks identifying us as arrivals from China.  

Wait, who else wore this on their neck?  Ugh, too late, it was now on my neck.  I didn’t get to bleach it. We followed the arrow that read, “From China.”  Where would it take us?

The Journey Home, to be continued. 

I can barely keep my eyes open.


Dark Circles Go Away


 My friend Buster is teaching a class on the “Legal Aspects of Terrorism and Disaster Response” and looking at the legal issues that may arise relating to the Coronavirus outbreak. He has asked me to write about my feelings related to being right in the middle of this viral outbreak while living in Beijing.

I should begin with the first received  advisory from the US Embassy by email ,alerting US citizens of a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan China,

I didn’t really think much about it. Pneumonia didn’t sound so intimidating. After all, this advisory was about Wuhan.  I’m nearly 1000 miles from Wuhan.

Bold dates below reflect an email message from the Embassy.

 

January 7

Health Alert Update – Novel Coronavirus in China

Location: Wuhan, Hankou area

Event: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Watch Level 1 Alert (be aware and practice usual precautions) for an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, preliminarily identified to be caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.

 

January 15

Health Alert Update: Level 1 Watch regarding pneumonia

Location: Wuhan,  Hankou area

 

January 17 

Health Alert Update: Level 1 Watch regarding pneumonia

Location: Wuhan,  Hankou area

 

I wasn’t traveling to Wuhan, so I didn’t think so much about it.

Our last day of school before Chinese New Year was January 17.

Many teachers were headed away and out of China for the holiday.  I chose to stay in China to save money this holiday due to some unforeseen expenses that occurred at home.  Hindsight reveals not the best holiday to stay in place.

We (remaining teachers) didn’t really do too much outdoors, really.  We had gone to see Chairman Mao’s body, (not sure why) went bike skating on the frozen lake and ate at a very delicious dumpling place for lunch.  I went twice for lunch because it was so good.

As the days went on over the holiday, we were starting to hear word about this pneumonia.  People were now dying.

Each day, more dead. Many infected. But what was causing it?

Bats and snakes.  People are eating bats and snakes?  Now, pangolins have been linked to the  spread of the virus. Some Chinese people believe the scales of the pangolins have healing powers.

We are starting to stay inside our apartments more.  We do however, walk the park that is across the street.  There are very few people there. After the walk, we retreat back to our apartments.

The death count is over 100.  WOW!  

Repeat. 

Eat, Sleep. Take a walk.

200 dead

Eat. Sleep. Take a walk

214 dead  

We see an ambulance driving down the street with its sirens on and lights flashing.  This is unusual. We never see an ambulance here.  

Eat. Sleep. Take a walk.

230 dead, thousands infected.

We now wear masks while we are outside.

I don’t remember the exact date, but our school said teachers didn’t have to return from holiday until later in February. So, the teachers who were on vacation, just got an extended stay.  The rest of us were left wondering if we should join them.

Nah, let’s save the money and stay here, we will be safe inside and “We have each other” was our mantra.

January 22 

Health Alert Update: Level 2 – referring to travelers to Wuhan

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Watch Level 2 Alert (Practice Enhanced Precautions) for an ongoing outbreak of pneumonia first identified in Wuhan, China, caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, the Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in Wuhan.Be aware that planned travel within China may be disrupted.

 

 

Ok, still not going go travel to Wuhan.  I’m ok!

 

January 23

Health Alert Update:

Same as January 22-see above

 

January 24

Level 4: Do not travel to Hubei province, China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China:

There is an ongoing outbreak of pneumonia first identified in Wuhan, China, caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, the Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in the area around Wuhan.On January 23, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Hubei province.

Chinese authorities have imposed strict travel restrictions in the area around Wuhan.Travelers should be aware that the Chinese government could prevent them from entering or exiting parts of Hubei province.Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Warning Level 3 Alert (Avoid Nonessential Travel) due to an ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person.

 

Still doesn’t concern me. I’m not traveling to Wuhan and I am avoiding non-essential travel.

 

January 26

 Relocating Personnel from Wuhan:

The Department of State is making arrangements to relocate its personnel stationed at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan to the United States.  We anticipate that there will be limited capacity to transport private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis on a single flight leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 28, 2020 and proceeding directly to San Francisco.  Interested U.S. citizens in possession of valid passports should contact BeijingACS@state.gov with the information listed below.  This capacity is extremely limited and if there is insufficient ability to transport everyone who expresses interest, priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus.

 

The Department of State is evacuating their people from the Coronavirus epicenter. Interested US citizens can jump on but you have to travel to Wuhan to get to that airport.  Travel has been restricted. Couldn’t go if I wanted!

 

January 27

Reconsider travel to China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

 

 

Well, I’m not traveling TO China, I’m already here and I’m staying inside. I’m limiting non-essential travel as they advised. 

 

January 29 

 Level 3 traveling to China

Level 4 traveling to Wuhan

 

January 30

Event: On January 29, 2020, the Department allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees.

January 30 issued a Level 3 Watch to travel to China.

 

February  2 

Level 4

Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

 

Travel restrictions?  I’m not going anywhere.

February 3rd comes and goes. Teachers did not return but we began teaching online from numerous time zones around the world.  This means for us who stayed, we are inside all day. Focusing on our work but still taking breaks to read about the virus.

February 3-8

These days all conversations are based on what are you going to do?  Are you going to stay?  Are you going to go?

We are going to stay.  Too much money to leave. The virus will be gone soon. School will open. Let’s just stay. We’ve got each other, we will be ok.

February 4

Travel Alert from the US Embassy:

Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

Those currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means. U.S. citizens remaining in China should follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Chinese health authorities’ guidance for prevention, signs and symptoms, and treatment. We strongly urge U.S. citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home. In the event that¿the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates¿to provide assistance to U.S. nationals within China may be limited.

 

By now, I’m following the advice of staying home, limiting contact with others and stocking up on what food remained at the time. Several teachers have decided it might be safer to stay here rather than board a plane with everyone leaving right now. Who would we sit next to? Would they cough on us? Are they infected and don’t know it?  People were leaving as fast as they could. Too much of a risk!

“Limit contact with others.”  

Feb 9-10 

More than 900 dead. Many are infected on cruise ships, people have been evacuated from China and quarantined. The virus is spreading to many more countries.

Now what? Major cities are on lockdown. Travel is restricted. Flights are limited leaving from China to the USA.

February 11

So how do I feel?

Frustrated. Frustration manifests itself into so many more emotions such as sadness, anxiety, fear, exhaustion and so many more emotions. I looked in the mirror today and saw a very tired looking person, dark circles, tired eyes. It is mentally exhausting. I don’t like to wear my glasses but now I keep them on to cover the dark circles.

Frustrated with whom? Frustrated at what?

Frustrated with myself for not leaving? Frustrated with the messages and the advice to restrict travel to Wuhan? Frustrated that I (and others) were trying to do the safest thing? limit contact with others

Each day is a bad game of tennis in our heads with the back and forth of should we stay or should we go.  One of us decides we are leaving and the other says, now just wait a minute. It is going to be costly to get out of here and as long as we stay we still have each other. Plus it seems safer to stay in our apartments than it does to board a plane. The Embassy advised us to limit contact with others. Being on a plane does not follow that directive. Plus several of the other teachers were traveling with children and an infant. I don’t know how the infant would have or will keep a mask on his face during a flight. 

Recently, after weeks in the apartment, I noticed I was pacing back and forth. I must have looked like a caged lion walking back and forth looking for a way to get out. I sat down and looked at flights out of China. One Way!

Again, the next day we talked ourselves out of leaving.  Is it really worth spending the money and subjecting ourselves to what MIGHT happen on the flight? We would spend that money and might get sick, spending even more money, plus our insurance plan is good everywhere in the world EXCEPT the USA. If I get sick, THEN WHAT? I will be bankrupt! I will have spent the last two years in Beijing for nothing. I was trying to get ahead as I don’t see that ever happening as a teacher in Oklahoma, getting ahead that is.

Feb 12

This has been the worst day so far.  

Why?

Dark circles are worse!

I woke to many messages from home. What is happening? What do they know that I don’t? 

Three people have been investigated by the health department in Oklahoma due to the coronavirus.  This may be why people are contacting me since I am from Oklahoma. “Investigation” sounds kind of harsh and somewhat scary. But it is required now.

The author of the book, The Coming Plague, has stated the virus is out of control and is bigger than SARS and the HIV outbreak.

I probably shouldn’t have read that.

It is really difficult to know what to say or what to do. I tried to be safe by staying inside, not traveling and exposing myself to others on a plane, train, or vehicle. Should I have followed the first part of the directive of Feb 4 “leave by means of commercial flight” or the second part “limit contact with others?”

Wuhan was far away and I didn’t travel there. Did anyone on the flight I may have taken travel to Wuhan?  I guess they had to “sign a paper” stating they didn’t travel to Wuhan but anyone can lie. I’ve certainly learned that lesson in life. 

Will I die like so many others?  Will I not die? Either way, I have children in both places, Heaven and Earth. So I will get to see them wherever I end up.

I honestly don’t feel as though that is even remotely possible considering the precautions I have taken. These are just some of the thoughts that enter my head while being caged up inside day after day. I just wanted to share what it is like to feel so many emotions throughout a day when the unknown surrounds me.

If I fly home now, I would imagine there will be fewer people on the flights. (limit contact with others)

Friends who have left from Beijing Airport have described it as a “ghost town.” So maybe now is the time.

Did I make the right decision? 

 

(We recently received a message from our school stating that if we contract the illness and need to be treated, it would be covered under the plan.  I immediately replied, “Even in America?”  The response, “YES!”  )

Dark circles can start to go away now.


Will the Fear of the Unknown break us?


Will the 5 positive reasons for staying in Beijing that we mention every time we walk the park keep us here through the virus outbreak or will the virus eventually break us, due to the fear of the unknown? Riding this wave of the unknown is mentally exhausting.

Are we living our lives to the fullest by being locked in our apartments day after day? We do take a stroll around the park once or twice a day, but then we retreat back inside to check the death toll and watch and read what we can about the virus. Healthy?

Friends are beginning to leave Beijing now, one by one, two by two….we aren’t going to be able to have our walks in the park any more and come up with our list of 5 daily positives about being here.

This is sad, but understandable.

We walked the park today and it is becoming more active with people as many are starting to filter back into the city of Beijing, though there were very few people wearing masks.

I dont understand. Ting bu dong (that is about the extent of my Chinese)

Maybe they haven’t heard the news?

I do know there is a shortage of masks world wide so maybe they don’t have masks. So why not stay inside? Perhaps they don’t think the masks really work. 

There are different types of masks that may be more effective than others.

N95 masks vs surgical masks

There is the N95 mask which is a three dimensional mask that is supposedly ideal for protecting against the coronavirus. 

Surgical masks are two dimensional and allow for air to get through, in and around the gaps since they don’t fit securely on your face, so maybe they deem them pointless. Ok.

Is covering one’s face and nose necessary if there is good ventilation? I don’t know.

The death rate is rising daily, as of this writing more than 900 have died and the infected are 37,000 worldwide. Most are dying here in China. This death toll exceeds the SARS outbreak of 2003.  

With so many dying and infected, why is there so minimal protection? Not only no masks, but no gloves or glasses are seen on the people at the park.  Some of these people are children.

When the foreign teachers go outside, we are protected up! We have our N95 masks, gloves and I even sported a pair of goggles on top of my glasses today to avoid any cough and spittle entering my eyes with the addition of so many people now in the park. Plus it is a practice for a potential plane ride. 

I do have two pieces of luggage packed to 50 pounds each, sitting by the front door. They have been in my living room for two weeks, just in case. I’ve packed and repacked. I put things in and take things out, replacing items with something else that might be more important. I have packed all my winter things as I’m not going to need those for much longer, but then I pull out all of the winter-wear  and pack all my better clothes in case I leave and don’t come back.  All electronics are packed along with anything of value.

On the other hand, I’ve washed the sheets on my bed so when I go to bed tonight they are nice, clean and smell fresh, or did I wash them so they will be clean upon my return to China should I  leave? It’s always nice to come home to clean sheets on a bed. 

I’ve sorted the cabinets, thrown things out, given stuff away and am ready to leave China, or is it just Spring Cleaning and I’m going to stay? 

 I went to the grocery store twice this week and stocked up. With 8 million people returning to the city of Beijing this week after their extended Chinese New Year,, I thought I should get a few things before the crowds descend upon the stores. With two trips to the store, maybe I am going to stay after all and I can unpack the luggage at the front door. I certainly have enough food to last a while.

I’ve put chicken in the fridge to thaw. It is a big package and it will take several days to eat it. So I have plenty of food for the week. Or, did I get the chicken out of the freezer because I’m cleaning it out before I leave?

It is a constant battle, and a continued conversation between the remaining few foreign teachers here.  More and more people are becoming infected. The WHO director is tweeting “we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.” and they are sending their top experts to China to learn about the virus.

How many of you have masks, gloves, and alcohol wipes at your front door?

Is trying to save money a good reason to stay here with so many unknowns?  What would the flight be like on the way home? Will I be quarantined upon arrival? Is it still a self imposed quarantine of 14 days in my own home?

I have no fever, I have no cough, though I coughed several times on Saturday and panicked for a moment. But I was only cutting up a very strong, red pepper and some onions. I couldn’t help but think, “Oh no, I hope no one hears me cough!” I was doing everything I could to conceal my coughing spell.  I didn’t want the government to pound on my door again and ask, “Are you sick?”  There was no way I could hide my watery, red eyes and continued coughing spell should that happen again.  I would only be able to bring the pepper to the door and let them have a deep inhale and hope for the best. Difficult and costly decisions lie ahead. 

Stay Strong Wuhan-Stay Strong China (written on one of my student’s papers on Friday during online learning)


Should I Stay or Should I Go?


 

Stay in Beijing   VS    Fly home

Continual Debate in my head:

 

Go Home:

Expensive

No Internet

Work From 10pm-5am (online teaching 14 hour time difference)

14 day quarantine

It’s cold there

Who would I sit next to on the plane? Where have they been?

US Embassy says go home

No Medical Insurance

Stay Here:

Cheap

Can take the DK’S (daughter’s kids) on a fun trip (maybe Disney would be fun) with the money I save by not going home

Safe in the Apartment

Listen to the kid upstairs all day long

It’s cold here, but I don’t mind it

I have medical insurance

Help Heather with the baby

Daily walks in the park with friends

Risk temperature being high, becoming the first older, white female quarantined due to hot flashes and can’t explain otherwise : )

 

Back and forth everyday, it’s like a tennis match in my head.  It’s boring being cooped up all day, but is that any reason to fly home?  I chose not to go anywhere for the Chinese New Year Holiday this year to save money.  I was originally going to go home for this holiday, but those plans changed back in September, so I decided to go to Italy during this holiday, but those plans changed in December. So, here I sit.

 

It’s hard to explain the feelings and emotions of being in China right now.  Yes, it is a tragic turn of events for the thousands who have been infected and those who have died leaving their families behind. I understand the pain and suffering that goes along with being the bereaved.  Nothing compares to the anguish, desperation and sadness of losing a child, nothing!  So I wonder why I have this debate knocking around in my head?  I can do this.

I have a decent pay check each month and a gratuity at the end of my contract so I just need to keep my eye on the prize and stay put!  I only have 181,188 minutes to go!

But tomorrow when I wake up, I will be looking at flights home again, and so the debate continues. 

life sucks if you let it, but I have options so it’s not all that bad!


Addendum (to Fever)


Addendum:

(to Fever)

I wasn’t going to take any chances tonight.  I was wondering how I might get back inside the gate after my walk in the park with the remaining teachers who are here.   I didn’t want a repeat of last night at the gate. 

I decided an ice cube might work!  I wrapped an ice cube in a washcloth and headed out.  We took our lap around the park, talked about our first day of online teaching, and of course listed our “five positives of staying and being in Beijing” before we headed back. 

As I was headed to the apartment gate, I placed the ice cube on one wrist, then the other, followed by dabbing my forehead.  I just couldn’t risk being taken back to “that building” again. 

Now, please understand if I really DID have a fever, I would truly not do this. But I do know my body gets hot and most recently, at the wrong time!

But as I get to the gate, I notice the guards are gone, the table is closed, the tent is down and I have carried an ice cube around the park for nothing. 

It’s 28 degrees Fahrenheit here! 

Somewhat diligent in the day time taking temperatures, but after 5? forget it! You are inside! You don’t even need to jump over the fence as nobody cares at night.

Awesome! The menopausal over 50 aged woman with hot flashes that cause an increase in the temperature of my skin won’t go to the fever hospital tonight!!!

Trying to explain menopause and body temperatures at the gate to young men would prove to be a futile attempt in getting them to believe I don’t have the virus fever.  Thank goodness the google translated conversation didn’t happen tonight!

That there, is another positive!


Fever


 

Are the Chinese “saving face?” It seems as though saving face is the first thing the Chinese think about before acting. This is hugely a part of their culture, often leaving the foreigners shaking their heads and thinking “Boy you just can’t make this stuff up!”

With the outburst of the Novel Coronavirus are they trying to make things look good? There have been changes over here in Beijing, Daxing District to be more specific.  If you look around outside there are new visuals that you see in place now due to the virus but are they helping to combat the virus like they seem to want us to think?

It looks good! 

For instance, prior to the outbreak we could have food and grocery delivery to our door.  Now we can not.  I understand that.  That is clearly a change for the positive in trying to contain the virus by less contact with the public.

There are guards stationed at the entrances to our compounds now.  Our particular apartment  complex has 7-8 entrances.  We can only enter through two of them now. The gates are locked. 

Fire hazard? yes! Virus Control? Doubtful.  

If you look over at the fence people are jumping over right in front of the guards and getting inside, anyway.

Currently At each entrance, there are guards stationed with a thermometer, and a sign in sheet.  They stay out there for most of the day. I wonder if they are out there at night time? and are they awake?  Today was a bit colder as it snowed this morning, so I know they were cold, perhaps allowing more people to enter without proper measures as their hands were too cold to pull out of their pockets to use the thermometer. I saw many people just walk past the guards without a check.  Often times though, when they see a foreigner, they don’t want to risk trying to speak to us, so we get off the hook quite frequently.  

 My luck finally ran out.  They did make me stop for a temperature check this afternoon. My temperature was 24.8 celsius.  They took it again, same.  That is a severely low body temperature. They let me go after looking at it and tapping it on their hands a couple of times. I did not have to sign in. It appeared I did not have a fever.

Later in the afternoon, they stopped me again. This is good, they are becoming more confident in their jobs I guess, or at least they are taking it more seriously.  This time, the temperature would not register. It only said LO.  They took it again, LO.  So they told me to sign in.  I didn’t want to touch the pen so I held it with my jacket sleeve and signed my name and apartment number. I walked on inside.

This evening was a whole new ballgame!  They have become a bit more diligent in enforcing stops, temperature checks and registration.  They even had a tent set up with their table sitting beneath it.  They took my temperature.  37.8 celsius. He took it again, 37.8 celsius.  

I was quickly trying to calculate the fahrenheit equivalent in my head.  

The guard translated on his phone, “Do you have a fever?”  I quickly said, “No!”

He took my temperature again.  37.8  

Are you sure you don’t have a fever is what translated on his phone.  “No, I do not have a fever.”

He took my temperature on my wrist.  He tried my other wrist.  37.8  

He took my forehead.  37.8

“You have a fever, come with me.”

YIKES!  My heart started racing, palms started to sweat, my bag became extra heavy and by then I knew my temperature was rising, but not because I had a fever.  I remembered I had sneezed twice today. No coughing, no, I’m not sick.

Where were we going, I wondered.  I just followed along.  We got to the community center.  He told me to go inside.  I said I didn’t want to go inside.  There were many other people in there and probably because they had a fever!! 

He went inside the building and in the meantime, I’m pushing up my sleeves, taking off my gloves trying to cool by body temperature.  I knew I wasn’t sick and I knew I didn’t have a fever.  My temperature stays higher these days anyway, but not because of the virus. 

A lady came out and asked if I have a fever.  “I do not have a fever.”  

“Where have you been?” she asked.  Amazingly she spoke English.  

I pulled a few vegetables out of my bag so she could see I had been at the store and not returning from Wuhan.

She asked if I had traveled out of Beijing recently.  Of course, I had not. She brought her thermometer over to take my temperature.

LO is the reading on the screen.

She shook the thermometer and tried again, LO.

She hit the thermometer on her hand and tried again.  32.4 C on my wrist.  29.7 C on my other wrist. 26 C on my forehead.  She hit the thermometer on her hand, tried to warm it up by putting her hands around it, and even tried taking the temperature of the guard.  His temperature was LO.

Round 2.  Different readings this time, with a rap on the hand to get a reading, but still not in the fever range.

She  finally said,  “I think you are ok, but if you have any problems or get sick call me at this number,” handing me a card.

I told her I would and suggested she get a new thermometer.

They yelled over to the gate to let me in.  I walked over bypassing the registration area and walked inside.

I went inside and messaged Heather to ask her if she had a thermometer.  Of course she had one for the baby.  I asked to borrow it.  I took my temperature because now I was curious.  

98.2 F on my forehead, 96.3 F on my wrists. Twice, the same reading.  Perfect!!!! almost…

People’s tempers are beginning to flare.  Just yesterday, I watched a guard and military personnel taking people’s temperatures.  One man became so angry.  He was yelling at the guards. The more he yelled, the easier it was for him to get inside without a temperature reading.  So, in he walked, without a temperature check.   

The guards, thermometers, military, sign in sheets and tents look impressive but are they really keeping people with fever out of the compound?  It doesn’t seem like it!


We Have Each Other


grey skies in Beijing

“Let’s look for something positive,” we say as we stroll around the park while the skies are blue.  Good thing we strolled then because the skies are now grey as I look out over the subway into the park from my Beijing bedroom window.

Jayne, Simon, the boys and I think about the positives as we walk around the park.  It takes a while to think of something but we come up with the following:

  1. The skies are blue
  2. The birds are chirping
  3. There is new growth on the rose bushes
  4. Not many people are outside
  5. We have each other

We have each other!  There are a handful of us (teachers) who stayed in Beijing for the Chinese New Year for various reasons and now often times feel “Stuck,” which is hard to explain and understand unless you live here, I guess.

We talk about leaving but then where do we go? The virus is spreading beyond China.  As long as we avoid crowds, wear our masks and wash our hands, maybe we will be ok. Besides, is it safe to fly with other people sitting next to us? Have they been to Wuhan? Have they been near people who have been in Wuhan? Did they eat bat or snake?  

If we leave, the smart thing, (maybe?) would be to go somewhere in the same time zone as we will be E-Teaching beginning Monday February 3.  If I went to the USA, I would be working online with the students from 10pm-5am due to the 14 hour time difference. But it is an option. Though it may be a time-limited option as flights are being cancelled out of Beijing.

All teachers are supposed to be back on February 10th for a 14 day quarantine period in case school starts again.  So if I left now, I would have to return by the 10th. So, I’m not sure going home is the smart thing to do at this point.

But on the other hand, we are not allowed into the school to get supplies unless extreme precautions are taken, such as: wearing a facemark and goggles, disinfecting hands and shoes, narrowing the area we will walk to and when leaving follow the same path as we used when we came in. The cleaning lady will sterilize the area behind us as we leave.

I can’t imagine school opening any time soon if they have to go to these extreme measures for just one person picking up a few things. So will we report to school anytime soon? Too many unknowns.  From what I understand, Beijing Public Schools are closed indefinitely. We are not a public school. 

If I do go home there are some positives:

  1. I’m home
  2. I can work on the house 
  3. I don’t have to listen to the people above me in this apartment
  4. Braum’s milk 
  5. So many good things!

No, I didn’t list seeing family and friends or most importantly, my daughters kids (the DK’S).  I wouldn’t want to risk seeing anybody without a quarantine period. I wonder how all the people who were evacuated from Wuhan are doing?  They were right in the center of the outbreak.  If they seem to be ok, then maybe I can go home, too.  

Or, maybe I will stay here and wait it out.  As mentioned earlier, we have each other and that is worth more than the price of tea in China.  I’m thankful for my friends here who are experiencing the same emotions and feelings as me.

I am running short of masks, so I guess this is an option

I will continue to ponder these things as I listen to the ambulance pass down the street with the sirens blaring, which is unusual. I don’t think I have ever heard an ambulance siren here.  I can’t help but think….is that number 214? 

life sucks if you let it….find a friend and think positive thoughts!

 


Expats Surviving the China Virus


Being on self imposed quarantine/lockdown is quite boring but several of us who remained here for the holiday are making the best of it!

IMG_9856

The air quality has been in the “very unhealthy” zone, I guess due to the factories firing back up to mass produce much needed masks, so in addition to the virus, that adds to the frustration and confusion of people (mostly westerners) living here. We are able to see internet reports of what’s going on in the rest of the world, and I can see Good Morning America on Hulu but it is two days behind.

I’m on the 15th floor of building 36, my friend Heather is on the 18th floor.  We spend

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locals stocking up on vegetables

 a lot of time going up and down in the elevator, some times in our pajamas.  She has a one year old little boy and I get to watch and play with him while she goes and walks her dogs.  I know they are on their way to my apartment when I hear loud music in the hallway because he likes to push the buttons on his little red riding truck.  Often we will go down to the lower level and push him back and forth on his little red truck until he becomes bored and lays his head on the steering wheel. Even one year olds are bored here.

empty shelves at the market

Beyond that, I have been baking and cooking, both of which have been disastrous.  It is  difficult to convert ounces to milliliters , teaspoons to grams, etc. not having the proper measuring utensils and trying to bake in the little toaster oven makes it a challenge.

Other than that, I’ve walked to the grocery store(s) mostly out of curiosity. I have picked up a few things (to stock up) just in case.  Fresh produce is flying off the shelves quickly.  I could not find chicken today but beef was plentiful.  I must be careful of refrigerated items, as my fridge is a tiny little thing and I can not buy too much, or it won’t fit inside.

I had considered purchasing some veggies but didn’t want to wait in the line that was snaking around the produce department and was getting longer by the moment. (see video below)

The fruit line wasn’t as long so I got bananas and blueberries.  I filled my bag with other items as well.  Again, being careful because whatever I buy, I have to carry home and it is about a mile walk.

I ran into other friends who were scoping the area and trying to escape the boredom of being cooped up inside.  Our faces were covered with our masks which looked like it could be a memorable “kodak moment.”  I gave my phone to Steve for a selfie. 

expat selfie at the market

A nice Chinese couple walked by and gestured if we would like them to take the photo.  Steve started to hand the phone over and the rest of us were waving our hands back and forth saying, “NO, NO, NO, NO.” 

They stood there staring at us for a bit and said, “Ok, ok, ”  and walked off.  Normally, I would have wanted someone to take the photo. But not with the virus.

Who knows when they washed their hands last? What if they sneezed on my phone?  Anyway, we got the photo without their help but it was a nice offer.

Getting back into our compound is becoming more of a challenge as only two entrances are unlocked now. They are limiting access to delivery people and are taking the body temperature  of everybody who comes to the building. My temperature registered 24.8’c as opposed to the normal 37’c so I wonder if the thermometers are even working?

Once inside, I immediately wash my hands and put all of my clothes, including my coat into the wash.  Shoes stay out in the hall. Then I settle into some Netflix or Hulu and just wait until I hear the little red truck outside my door.  Until next time, be healthy and happy, life sucks if you let it, so don’t let it!  If you have any updates on the virus, please feel free to share with me.

 


Shopping during a deadly virus outbreak is like shopping when it is going to snow in Oklahoma, kind of


-60 million people on lock down

-The Beijing Education Commission has postponed the start date for the spring semester for all public primary, secondary and universities to try to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus until further notice 

– The USA, France and Japan are arranging transportation home for personnel in Wuhan       

– Hong Kong is providing temporary housing for quarantined people, 

 Hong Kong and Shanghai Disney are closed

 Taiwan suspended Visa applications for Chinese applicants

–  Chinese authorities are punishing vendors for trading wild animals

–   Masks are sold out across the globe

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no vegetables at Sam’s Club

–   and Sam’s Club is out of vegetables.

My friend Jayne and I braved the elements, (the virus and the horrendous air quality) and walked to Sam’s Club to ready ourselves for our continued “quarantine.” 

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baskets are full

Baskets were full and shelves were empty. Shopper’s faces  were covered with masks.  I had already decided I wasn’t going to touch a basket with my bare hands, but it didn’t matter as there weren’t any empty baskets to use anyway.  There weren’t people distributing samples this time.

A virus in China is like saying its going to snow in Oklahoma and Oklahoman’s know what that is like!  Everyone rushes to the store and buys up all the bread, eggs and milk. In China, all the vegetables are gone.

How long will it take to get this situation under control?  How many people will become infected? Is it going to get worse before it gets better? Travelers will begin returning to China soon with the end of the holiday upon us.

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Nothing here…..

Our school requires all teachers to return to Beijing by February 2 so that a 14 day quarantine period can be initiated before the current start date of February 17 where we are scheduled to return to school. We are just watching to see how everything unfolds, I guess.

This holiday I did not travel, of all holidays, this is the one where I would have loved to get out of China.  I had planned on a trip to Italy but things transpired at home that cost more money and heartache than I was expecting, so I put the Italy trip on hold. I had considered going home for Chinese New Year but the tickets were too expensive and the tax laws are too strict.  So here I sit, right in the midst of a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Things happen for a reason, so they say. Life sucks if you let it, so maybe I should count my blessings that I am not traveling with hundreds of people coughing and sneezing on an airplane.  I know that I wouldn’t have had a mask with me and apparently they are sold out across the globe.   

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freezers are empty

So for now I will sit and watch the news wondering if it is real or fake, keep bleaching my floors, leave my shoes in the hallway, wash my clothes as soon as I walk in the door, count how many times I cough in a day, take my Vitamin C, sip on my Ther-a-Flu, watch Netflix and Hulu, and will keep looking for messages from home.

 

 

 


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