Beijing Expat: April 2020

It seems that things are really starting to get back to normal here in Beijing. As of the last day of April, there are less than 1000 documented cases of Coronavirus in all of China. High school seniors have returned to school and we hope the rest of the grades will follow in May. It has been a long 3.5 months, but I think we are finally reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

Spring has sprung!

Being from Arizona, there were few examples of Spring flowers. We have these awful yellow flowers that grow in the thousands and then drop all over your car and become a nuisance. Spring in Beijing is completely different! There are flowers everywhere, of all different colors! Some look like carnations hanging right off the tree branch, some look like flowers within a flower, etc. I find myself stopping every 20 ft to take a picture of a new flower I haven’t seen before. We had our first rain at the beginning of the month, first time in over 4 months! With all these flowers, I figured my allergies would be out of control. But so far, I have been able to breath just fine and don’t have any problems of that nature. What is super crazy about Beijing right now, are the little fuzzy cotton ball things flying around in the air. There are so many of them that it appears to be snowing in the middle of spring. They are actually seedlings that come off the poplar tree and are thought to reduce air pollution (not sure about that). Seriously though, they are everywhere! I open up my windows on the fourteenth floor and find these fuzzy cotton seedlings flying around my living room and in my hair. I tried to get a good picture of them but the wind in Beijing is strong. With the mix of wind and small fuzzies, a picture was practically impossible. It is not supposed to last long, but it has been going on for more than 3 weeks and is kind of cool to see.

Courtesy of the Beijinger because I couldn’t get a good picture

During this month, Calvin and I have really settled on an online school schedule. We wake up early, participate in our classes, do homework/preparation afterwards, etc. We both still excitedly await our return back to Kaiwen, but right now there is no return date for middle school. Schools all around China have already been open for several weeks, but Beijing has been one of the last provinces to open. It is not the choice of the school, but of the Beijing government. The high school seniors and their teachers returned to school on the 27th, obeying all of the precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19. If all goes well, the 9th graders and their teachers are supposed to go back to school mid-May. Hopefully Calvin and I will find out our return date is sometime in late May or early June. Because schools back in the states already said that they were closed for the year, I am wondering if it will turn out the same here. Still, I think that the students want to come back as much as I do. A lot of them are only children and self-isolation has been tough on a them emotionally and socially. Even if it is just for a few weeks, I think they would gladly go back to school before summer break begins. I will be honest, I miss them too. Those middle schoolers wormed their way into my heart and I had hoped for the chance to see how much progress they have made over the year.

When the virus first broke out, everything but grocery stores closed and people here had to make major changes to their lifestyles. For many it was a struggle, especially when businesses began opening up and had to adhere to many sets of rules and regulations. Things got better though! People learned to live with our new way of life and it has become normal to us. Sure, wearing a mask everywhere was tough, especially when all the pharmacies were sold out! Now, it is commonplace to wear a mask except when eating and almost every store sells 50 packs of the face masks. In the beginning of the crisis, deliveries took a long time and were inefficient…but that got better as well! Korey and I were walking past a park that had a bunch of shelves made to hold packages and there was no one to guard it! Honor system of the highest level, I guess? Sure, there is still concern about the virus. However, I feel that the people of China did what they were supposed to. Most were under self-isolation from late January to March/April. They allowed the numbers of infected to drop to where they are now and have made a huge sacrifice. As April ends, the stores and mall plazas are crowded! The subways are full and many people (other than schools) are back to work. No, China will not return exactly to the way it was for a long time. But I am happy to say that it is starting to get back to normal and I hope the rest of the world will see that change in the appropriate time.

It has gotten to the point where the family and I are making an effort to eat out at restaurants every weekend. It pumps some money back into the economy and gives us another opportunity to leave the apartment. We have gone as far as to travel across the city to get us some tacos and margaritas. This feels almost like my weekly reward, if I don’t have a meltdown during the week I can have a margarita! 😉 Now, a few expats have made it known that they have been experiencing bouts of discrimination in the past month when they go out. I will admit, I have also experienced a few examples of this as well in the month of April as well. The reason for it is because almost all new cases of COVID-19 in April have come in from abroad. Keep in mind, foreigners have not been allowed in the country since March…but the idea that foreigners may be carrying COVID-19 is still a popular one. I have had to wait 15-20 minutes to go into a restaurant because I needed to prove that we had been in Beijing the past 3 weeks. I have been sitting with my family on the subway and have people get up and move once they realize that we are English speakers. The incidences are few and in no way reflect all Chinese people. I try not to get too offended when seeing these things happen, because I understand that fear has a lot to do with it. I know that this exact same thing has been going on in the USA, but against Asian-Americans. We just need to remember that COVID-19 doesn’t care about your race or what language we speak. Anyone can be carrying it and you need to do what you feel is right to protect yourself.

As things get better here, it pains me to see that things have not improved too much in America. I am often in contact with my family members and are glad that most of them are self-isolating. They say that they have trouble getting items such as masks, etc. I actually mailed my mom 55 face masks so that she, my dad, and sister would have some to get them through the next month. It cost a bit, but she had no other way to get them! Amazon cancelled her order and stores are sold out. I could get them here in 30 minutes via delivery, so it made me feel better knowing she would have them. The cases there are over a million now and I have concerns that it won’t slow before July. I really want to go back home and see my family, but we will just have to see how it goes. It will depend mostly on whether or not China will open its borders back up and let us in. I am going to keep holding out hope that we will be able to see our family!

Mask delivery

Staying healthy during quarantine hasn’t been the easiest. We have been eating a lot of homemade pasta dishes and have noticed the pounds gained. We are trying to get ahead of it by continuing to work out online with a few of the other teachers (headed by the PE coach). With that clearly being not enough, we have scheduled a few hiking trips outside of the city to really get us out and about. We went to Longqing Gorge last weekend and it nearly killed me. My post-quarantine bod was not ready for that rigorous a hike, but I was proud of how far I had gotten. We are heading to another fun outing next weekend to Gubei Watertown with a few of my teacher friends from Kaiwen. The walking around will do all of us some good and creating a few memories at the same time will be nice. I created a post about Longqing Gorge so check it out if you are interested in visiting there one day!

I am looking forward to the month of May! I hope that my next post will tell you that Calvin and I are back to school. Everything has been going so well that I can only imagine that things will continue to get better here in Beijing. We continue to cope with everything as best as we can and hope that this summer gets off to a great start!

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