The month of May was filled with good and bad news. In China, I am able to start seeing friends and coworkers regularly, as well as go out more for food and good times. Unfortunately though, as China continues to get better in terms of the Coronavirus, the rest of the world is still trying to recover and get back to normal lifestyles.
The month of May has been a very warm one! We have started to rely more heavily on our summer clothing and had to buy a mini air-conditioning to help cool off the family area. The bugs are out in mass! The green area in the middle of our courtyard has chrome-blue beetles and black and white insects covering the plants. They are actually more beautiful than creepy so we don’t mind too much. However, we can not open our windows anymore because the mosquitoes are small enough to get through the screen and that does bother me. The summer weather has also brought freak thunderstorms randomly throughout the month. It will be sunny in the morning and early afternoon, then hours later there will be a downpour with thunder and lightning. One day, I didn’t notice until it was almost completely dark at 4:30 pm and I looked out the window to see where the sun went! Being from the desert, I love watching that change in weather! I will say though, the weather has been almost picturesque during this time period! Not a lot of humidity and warm enough to wear shorts/t-shirts.
With the (mostly) great weather comes chances to continue to go out into the city. Things seem almost completely normal as throngs of people cross the street and jump on the subway. The streets are clogged with cars and buses as the people and students of China get back into their daily routine. With the exception of everyone wearing the face masks, things are getting back to normal. We are going out to dinner at restaurants, tours in the areas outside Beijing, etc. At the beginning of May, we were informed that 9th grade (12th grade went back in April) would be going back to school midway though May. We were later informed that 5th-8th and 10th-11th would be returning to school June 1st. These 2-week increments were decided by the government to ensure that schools were assembling safely. I was so excited because I had not seen my students since the virus started in January. We spent the rest of May finishing up online schooling and getting ready to go to school! Both the kids and I were more than excited to be heading back to school.
After the school announced to the students and teachers the return dates, many of the local teachers began to return to Beijing from their hometowns. I was so happy because I got to see my friends and catch up with many of them. Most of the local teachers had spent the entire break with the families all over China and I had not seen them in over 3.5 months. When they did return, they had to go through a 2 week quarantine in their dorms before I could see them in-person. It has been great having them back and we have been having a lot of fun! There have been lunches, dinners, trivia nights, etc. The camaraderie here has always been a big part of my life in China and it was hard without all of the social interaction for so long. My husband and I even had an amazing anniversary dinner at a fancy restaurant that had been closed up until this point. Everything is open, although some places can only have 30-50% capacity. I have been able to go out at least twice a week this month to go shopping or out to eat and it has been amazing. Especially considering how much we had been confined to the home for months before.
Unfortunately, it is not all happy because many of my international teachers friends are still not about to get into China due to travel and visa restrictions. Many of them had left for the Chinese New Year break and then remained outside of the country until school was announced to start. As it turned out, the country closed the border to even those with the proper residency visas. We were fortunate to get back a few weeks earlier from an impromptu vacation otherwise we would have been in the same boat. We have no idea when these teachers are going to be able to return and many of them have their belongings and money here. Even now, China has only one flight going to the USA from Beijing every week. It seems that these restrictions are going to keep going until October and we won’t be able to go on our European cruise vacation we had planned or return home to the USA this summer. We miss our friends and family, but can’t risk being locked out of the country. We have been in contact with almost all of the teachers that are out of the country and hanging out with international teachers still in the country.
The last week of May, the teachers were at Kaiwen getting ready to welcome back the students. It was exciting since some high school grades were already there and most of the teachers were there. We were printing out our work, making preparations for teachers that wouldn’t be back on time, and learning how to open under the government’s preventative measures. I have never been so excited to head back to school and I can say that with 100% honesty. The Party was also meeting the last week and there were soldiers everywhere! I mean at subway entrances, crossing the streets, and even camped outside my school in tents. They were guarding the communications tower that lies on the edge of our campus and were there all week. I know that many would be intimidated by the thought of uniformed soldiers walking around, but it was the complete opposite. They didn’t carry guns or any other noticeable weapons, it seemed they were just meant to be a reassuring presence. I managed to get a few photos of them in different places because they weren’t hard to spot!
All in all, another good month in Beijing! I am still trying to figure out a bunch of stuff like storage fees and dog care because we won’t be able to head back home to Arizona this summer. We are hoping to make it for Christmas as long as something else doesn’t prevent us from getting there. This worldwide pandemic has taken all plans and thrown them out of the window. There is so much we still don’t know and the next few months are going to be crazy, but I have a great support system in Beijing to keep me sane. Right now we can only take one step at a time and enjoy the ride.