#COVID19 Cat Lady Chronicles — March Onwards
Here is what started as the “Self Quarantine” diary, which later became #COVID19 Cat Lady Chronicles.
March 1st, #COVID19 Cat Lady Chronicles, Day 23:
New things spotted today… Since the roll out of a digital health declaration app, restaurants have started posting their staff’s green QR codes, along with the usual notices requiring masks and explaining services offered (online delivery and take-out in this case).
I myself haven’t gotten a 🚦QR code, as I’m a little put off by the facial recognition aspect of it… Cue panicked police state questions in the comments.
And the last photo… Behold, the classic Shanghai Granny Panties shop, now also offering a #VirusChic collection of hats to go with their heavy duty shape wear 😂
March 2nd, #COVID19 Cat Lady Chronicles, Day 24:
Went to an “open mic” tonight. Except it wasn’t open at all. Okay it was just a gathering of standup comics and a microphone. As venues are slowly opening again, a lot of the local comics (mostly foreign, this is an English standup open mic) have been itching for some stage time. The mic-rust is real.
This must have been what speakeasy’s felt like during prohibition. I hadn’t been in a social situation with more than a couple of people since I got back to Shanghai, and here we were, about a dozen comics, all trying out new jokes again. Predictably, a lot of coronavirus bits.
The epidemic has been hard on the performance arts scene all around the world. Shanghai has essentially canceled most shows and exhibits. I had tickets to a Nathan Sawaya LEGO sculpture exhibit that had just been refunded today. And in this context, it almost felt a bit naughty to be gathering in a group and workshopping joke, but it felt wonderfully normal, just with a dimmed bar sign and some medical masks.
March 3rd, #COVID19 Cat Lady Chronicles, Day 25
One side effect of the coronavirus: I hadn’t been to the gym since late January. I had been doing small (2–6 people) strength training classes pretty consistently since last March. If you had asked me 2 years ago if I would ever MISS the gym, I’d laugh. But I have been CRAVING a workout. See, these days my back hurts if I don’t work out. 33 hit me hard y’all. I’ve been trying to do some exercises at home, but I’m just too lazy. I much prefer having someone else set my program and tell me what to do and make sure I don’t hurt myself.
So when my trainer asked if I wanted to help me with a training video in exchange for a 1-on-1 class, I said yes immediately, thinking I’ll be holding the camera.
Did you know they make tripods? Yep. I didn’t get to hold the camera. I did get a workout and a half, which, after 2 months of couch potato-ing, was quite the challenge.
Trainer: Vickie will now be doing 5 reps of…
Me: Vickie will be doing 2 reps because of reasons.
Shanghai is slowly creeping back to normal. You can even get a haircut these days, or go to certain gyms, if you make a reservation beforehand and present your travel history/health declaration. That’s where the apps and the QR code’s come in.
Now that the virus is affecting the rest of the world, I’m seeing friends posting online about hand soaps and sanitizers selling out. The panic seems to be spreading faster than the virus. A few have commented that they are worried because most countries can’t restrict people’s movements as thoroughly as China, when just a few weeks back, others were criticizing the quarantine and forced closure and lockdowns as inhumane and authoritarian. I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on the internet, so my opinion on the matter really doesn’t have any significance at all, but I don’t think the measures taken in China are necessarily the ones that would work for other countries.
So what CAN you do? Take all of the precautions as you would with the flu or measles: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, don’t be too close to someone who’s sick, wear a mask and/or stay home if you are sick, sanitize your phone and other surfaces at home regularly.
For those of you who have been reading some of my posts, I hope you’ve seen that this is doable. That life will be disrupted and different, but it’s not some sort of terrifying, dystopian reality. This is a stressful time, and it would be more productive for us all to acknowledge that the situation IS unclear and therefore anxiety-inducing. There’s no need to dismiss someone for being anxious about it, just as there’s no need to shout someone down for thinking the virus isn’t a threat at all. Make a point to stop obsessively checking the news about the virus. Knowing how many new cases there are each day will do nothing except stress you out, and it only encourages the media to continue publishing more sensationalist stories. And for your own sake, don’t indulge in worst-case-scenario, zombie-apocalypse fantasies. Focus your effort and energy on taking good care of yourself and those around you. We’ll get through this.
March 5th, Day 27 (Yes I skipped Day 26)
The saddest news today: Disney’s live action Mulan’s China release date has been postponed… It was supposed to come out the day after my birthday, and I was sooooooooooooo looking forward to it… Is there anywhere I can fly to end of March that won’t require me to quarantine?
That was the most daunting part of choosing to come back to Shanghai. I had booked my ticket right around the time when several countries started imposing travel restrictions on visitors coming from China. It felt like if I decided to return, I’d be stuck here for a WHILE. Anyway, I’m back now, and I’m happy with that decision. Yes, even with the quarantine and the face mask and thermometers everywhere.
Went to the office today and actually worked from the office for the full day. I gotta say, while there are some perks to working from home, I much prefer working in the office. Our office is still near empty, maybe 5 people in there today? Same drill, temperature checked upon entering the building, then again at the glass door of the office, sign in, etc. I asked the cleaning lady if her workload is heavier now that they have to sterilize everything everyday, she said it’s not bad as long as not too many people are in the office. Clearly, we the people are way more work the germs.
By 6:15, building management kicked us all out to sterilize the office. Makes me wonder if and how will this epidemic impact future building designs. After the massive earthquake in Taiwan in 1999 (over 2,000 dead), building codes came under serious scrutiny. Perhaps some innovation is in order for building ventilation. And door handles. Maybe just let me shout my floor at the elevator controls? HEY OTIS, the 11th floor! 😅
There was rush hour TRAFFIC on my way home today, and I actually let out an excited “woaaaahhhhh” as my scooter hit the asphalt, with a sea of red rear lights in front of me. But then as I passed Nanjing East road, usually the busiest shopping/tourist street in Shanghai, there were still only a sprinkle of people. So we’re working, but not playing yet.
Just when things are inching back to normal in Shanghai, the rest of the world is feeling the effects of the virus. Yesterday, instead of the update, I asked my facebook friends where they’ve been reading my updates from and what they’re seeing in their community. Most of them seem pretty calm? Some of them are seeing stores selling out of virus essentials like hand soap and hand sanitizer. And toilet paper, somehow. But I’m also just watching the same mess play out on social media again. False information. Hoarding. Profiteering. Conspiracy theories. Blaming. Memes. OK the memes are great.
It seems the one thing spreading faster than the virus is panic. Guys, I’m not an expert on these matters, but even in WUHAN, the center of the epidemic, no one has actually starved. Strained medical resources, yes, and that’s the biggest challenge with this virus. Because it’s mild in most people, many will be infected and go about their daily lives as normal, putting the vulnerable population (the elderly and those with chronic illness and compromised immune systems) at risk. Rapid spread could lead to hospitals being overwhelmed just trying to screen for the virus while maintaining appropriate levels of care for everyone.
We’ll get through this, not by bickering on the internet (although if that keeps you at home instead of shouting and spitting at someone in person, GREAT), but by taking sensible precautions, and maybe preparing more home entertainment and workout gear in case you need to isolate at home.
March 6th, Day 27:
I had to race my water delivery home today. Just a fun game I like to play where I order my food/groceries and then see if I can beat the delivery driver to my door. I won.
There was officially enough Friday night rush hour traffic tonight for me to ride my scooter through the streets of Shanghai like an obstacle course again. The traffic was so legit I almost crashed twice, which is close to the normal amount of times I endanger myself while zooming around on my e-scooter at 45 kph.
To illustrate the legitimacy of said traffic, I was about to go onto the sidewalk (yes I know) to avoid red light traffic, and there was a 4-scooter queue at the handicap ramp up to said sidewalk. Method to the madness, I tell ya.
I never thought I’d find Shanghai traffic EXHILARATING but it’s just exciting to feel the city buzzing with energy again.
And I actually have social engagements this weekend. A dinner tomorrow night, and a women’s day brunch on Sunday. Yay.
March 7th, Day 28:
4 weeks since I came back to Shanghai from Taipei. Taiwan has kept the number of cases at 44, and Shanghai is slowly returning to normal, albeit very cautiously.
From the chaotic piles of boxes and handwritten notes when I first returned, today the streets of Shanghai have all kinds of official communication and signage, with designated “contactless” drop off areas for deliveries.
A new addition spotted on my neighborhood gate today? This 10-language sign stating: Personnel returning to Shanghai are kindly required to register. While many communities still don’t allow visitors and quite aggressively enforce quarantine for those returning to Shanghai, mine has been thankfully mild and reasonable. I hope I’ve done right by them by not abusing my freedom too much.
Another happy sight today, With Co. Coffee, just around the corner from me (see February 11th entry, my one refuge) was packed. Ok, that coffee shop can be described as “packed” with maybe 8 people. But goddammit it was busy, and that’s a delight to witness after the quiet.
Small business owners and non-salaried, part-time workers have been hit the hardest by the virus. For a city like Shanghai, and probably most of the world in the next few months, where the number of people actually infected with the virus have been mercifully low and reasonably under control, the impact have been largely economical. My 30 RMB lattes probably won’t save that little cafe, but I choose to believe that every little bit counts.
So if you must hoard, hoard local. Buy out your local coffeeshop’s beans. Clean out your local bakery’s bread. And for god’s sake order Chinese take-out. I’ve been eating literal Chinese take-out IN CHINA for a month. You’ll be FINE.
March 8th, Day 29:
Had my first group dinner in a month, and it was every bit as lovely as I had hoped it would be. The ladies (hailing from Russia, China, Canada, and the US of A) shared stories of self quarantine home workout struggles, mainly that it’s hard to focus and find the motivation; stories about online teaching, mainly that students find it hard to focus and find the motivation… 😂 We traded recent Taobao (online) shopping conquests. Ya know, as ladies do at brunch, just with hand sanitizers and thermometer guns. And lipstick stains on the inside of our masks.
The restaurant, Heritage by Madison on South Bund, had the perfect 90’s girl power playlist, and there were plenty of sing-along’s spontaneously occurring around the packed restaurant. We talked travel plans, cross our fingers and hope that many of the restrictions will lift in time for our respective destinations. It felt amazing to just eat and laugh in a group again.
After brunch, I scootered back to my neighborhood with one expressed mission: to spend some money at my new favorite local coffee shop. It feels auspicious and appropriate today to spend my money on a woman-owned cafe that’s felt like a little slice of normality. Pre-paid for a membership card and got a cute pin for my loyalty.
Support your neighborhood small businesses y’all. They need it more than Sam’s Club and Costco.
March 9th, Day 30:
Back in the office today. There seems to be a new wave of restrictions in Shanghai. Neighborhoods with suddenly stricter visitor/quarantine/exit policies. The businesses are opening up and more people returning to work, there’s also palpable anxiety. Are we ready for normal yet?
Now China’s the one imposing travel restrictions, but instead of canceling flights, they’re requiring 14-day quarantine for travelers from Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. That’s probably enough to deter most people from traveling, since this is a police enforced quarantine, not the community, self-administered “casual” quarantine that I had had.
And as I’m getting used to office life and commuting again… I think I have a weird kind of (hopefully temporary) social anxiety??? I’m no longer comfortable socializing all the time. I went to brunch yesterday, hot pot dinner, and then tonight met up with a friend before heading to “closed” mic… Now I just want to be left alone. I forgot how annoying people can be 😂
March 11th, Day 32
Today, Chinese social media’s playing a game of relay reposting versions of an article on the whistleblower. Mirrored. Translated. Gif-ed.
A glorious cat-and-mouse game with the censors.
Read the English translation here, if it’s still up: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/cG9oP6VlT2GiyARfFYMyfA
March 12th, Day 33:
Just as Shanghai has gone a week without new cases, the world seems to be going nuts over COVID-19. It’s frankly exhausting to see the rest of the world going through nearly the exact emotional pattern that China has just gotten through.
At this point in Shanghai, the mood is resigned, exhausted, but calm. All of the epidemic containment procedures have become habits, with once fluctuating policies solidifying into well-worn practices. What Western media described as “eerie” and “dystopian,” of people in hazmat suits and mask covered faces, I’ve seen as acts of solidarity.
What I’m seeing now on social media is basically exactly what I saw a month ago. Panic buying. People shouting each other down in fear. People looking for someone to blame in the face of uncertainty. Conspiracy theories that fit nicely with existing biases.
The internet has a way of making it seem like the whole world is constantly on fire. Do you catch yourself saying things like “everyone’s panicking! This is insane!”
Who’s this “everyone” you’re speaking of?
A couple of people IRL, maybe, but most likely you’re sane (don’t we all love to believe we are), and so are most of the people around you.
Back in late January, I had to constantly remind myself that social and mainstream media tend to amplify the extreme voices. Sure, the amplified, extreme voices of fear or indifference or even cruelty can lead to real life consequences (like everyone buying out toilet paper). But we can do our part by not amplifying those voices further by simply NOT reposting sensationalist things. Share facts from trustworthy sources, and have patience and compassion, for yourself and others.
And if you have people in your social circle who consistently *only* post things that upset you, consider muting them for a while. I did. They’re stressed and scared, and maybe posting things help them unload some of those emotions. You don’t need to be the receptacle for all that. What you consume can be as important as what you eat, especially at a time like this.
In volatile times, our minds tell us to find certainty. In lieu of certainty, our minds obsessively look for more information.
But this thing isn’t new. We already have all the information we need to make the lifestyle changes that will keep most of us safe. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask if you’re ill, stay home as much as possible and avoid big crowds.
You don’t need to know how many people are quarantined in Italy right now, unless you live in Italy. You don’t need to know if this virus was grown in a lab as a bio weapon (guess what! You’ll definitely find a post somewhere that confirms that it was most definitely manufactured by that ONE COUNTRY you detest!) to keep your family healthy. Get the information you need, then get away from the screens.
This pandemic is a waiting game. It’s gonna cost us all a lot, and create tons of inconveniences. But it doesn’t have to tear us apart or overload you with anxiety. Be sure to find sources of distraction and entertainment. A good novel or a great show to binge. Use the power of the internet for good.
March 13th, Day 34:
“Local woman makes all reasonable preparations for self quarantine, has an ok time working from home, a little bored”
That’s not a headline you’re gonna click on. So no one is writing that article (except me, har har), and no algorithm will promote it.
But for a large number of us, the lucky ones, that’s what’s ahead.
There’s a lot of not-nice going around right now. Your job may be at risk. School has or hasn’t been closed. Working from home may or may not be an option. A lot of things seem wrong, scary, or plainly unfair (hello trillions spent on Wall Street). Social media is 🔥 🔥 🔥
You don’t need me to repeat what you’re “supposed” to do for the virus. You already know. You’ve likely had the time to make some preparations. All you can do now is stay home and minimize outside contact as much as possible.
If you want my unsolicited advice… Make social media your friend. That’s what got me through quarantine. Writing these updates, talking to friends around the world, social media kept me connected while physically alone. So curate your feed now. Mute or delete people. Unfollow the news. Other people will repost things. If you *need* the news? It’s online, go find it. But your feed is going to be your *feed*. Your consumption. You’re gonna be passively consuming it. While stuck at home.
Be mindful of what you fill your head with. Because most likely, the world is a lot less shit than the worst of social media algorithm wants you to believe.
A couple of friends of mine with anxiety have told me that they’ve felt calmer than they would have expected during this time. I have two theories as to why:
1) They always felt the world had been on fire. Now they’re just right. And everyone’s meeting them at their anxiety level.
2) They have more experience and tools managing anxiety and other unpleasant emotions.
So get some tools. Cause these are anxious times. Headspace for meditation? Netflix shows to binge watch? Books? Remember books? I rewatched every single Marvel Cinematic Universe movie during quarantine, read 5–6 books, and am now on a Tom Hanks streak because reasons.
You might have financial concerns right now, or a million other possible challenges that either came before or during this pandemic. Maybe worry about it 20 mins a day, and then set it aside. It’s likely that there won’t be much you can do about that problem until this blows over. So try not to let it color your time at home.
Oh gosh this is preachy. I’ve been anxious myself, watching social media on fire. I worry that I’m not being helpful, or not doing enough to comfort friends. But I’m hoping this helps, and I’m hoping you guys help others where you can. But ya know, oxygen mask on your own face first.
March 14th, Day 35
The internet is still on fire, but the memes are lit. Unlike some might assume, despite the Great Firewall, China is not disconnected from the world. When Notre Dame was on fire, my entire WeChat feed (that’s our Facebook, WhatsApp, twitter, and Apple Pay combined and more) was immediately flooded with posts. When the Australian bushfires were burning, I was donating time and toys to an event organized by an Australian expat. We were already so connected.
But now there’s this… Time delay. I’m watching the “outside” internet go through the emotional ups and downs, and answering questions for friends across the world.
What should I expect? When will this be over?
As I said to one friend, I feel like an unwilling prophet. But here’s what I have to offer, please don’t hold me to this, I’m just sharing the likely trajectory of things based on what we’ve been through in China.
Bold claim: This is the peak of the panic. It’s all downhill from here. This week had been one of many questions and uncertainties. Will schools close (yes), will there be travel restrictions (also yes), can I work from home (hopefully yes), what will happen to my job (I’m sorry I wish I knew).
Right now is the height of the panic and confusion. You’re making big decisions on imperfect information. Mind you, every government official, business, and school is doing the same thing. There’s literally no playbook for this. So have patience with yourself and others for making imperfect decisions.
Another bold claim: now that some policies are in place, in about a week and a half everyone will be tired of being scared and start being bored instead. The conversations will shift from toilet paper shortage (yes there were temporary shortages in Taiwan and Hong Kong because of misinformation ❌about how upping mask production would impact toilet paper production 😷 ) and who doing what is gonna kill us all to ➡️how boring it is to be stuck at home, how annoying working from home can be, and how impossible it is to teach/learn online.
Yep. First fear, then boredom. It’s like the planet is forcing us all to sit with one uncomfortable emotion after another.
A lot of my friends actually got creative during quarantine / lockdown. Working from home will significantly free up your day. Hey, this whole scribbling was my outlet throughout this mess. What’s yours gonna be?
In actual cat lady news, I went to the bund again. It wasn’t crowded, but much more lively than when I had been there just a couple of weeks ago. Saw 8 couples getting their wedding photos done (my favorite was a black dress with tulle train). Kids were playing on the promenade, just one frisbee and a bottle of water entertained 5 kids, age 3–6 -ish. All with masks on and wearing adorable puffy winter clothes that made them look like little Michelin tire babies. It was all together a delightful afternoon of people watching.
If people are out doing wedding photoshoots sans face mask, letting their kids frolic on the Bund AND Xi showed up in Wuhan, things must be somewhat tamed in China. Hopefully this new normal will come to rest of the world sooner rather than later.
We’ll get through this.
March 15th, Day 36:
Dropped by my adopted cafe this morning before heading to the South Bund Fabric Market. I had to pick up a blazer I had made MONTHS ago but failed to pick up before Chinese New Year and y’all know what happened. The market finally reopened a couple of weeks ago with a strict registration policy. I scanned a code at the entrance for my mobile carrier, and the carrier responded with my geo-location history, proving I’ve been in Shanghai and nowhere else in the past 14 days.
What’s the fabric market you say? It’s this magical place where they can custom make you anything you want at a reasonable price and after an unreasonable amount of negotiating. I had the first public shouting match in my LIFE in this market 6 years ago, and the leather jacket I acquired in that battle I now wear like a Medal of Honor in Market Fights.
But then my friend Sonja introduced me to the lovely Rita at Booth 130. I’ve been a civil customer since 😂 I picked up my blazer (impeccable), and out of sheer salaried guilt, put a deposit on a plaid suit that I don’t really need but whatever. Rita will make me gorgeous and I’ll be a suit richer for it.
The market was nearly empty, unusual for a Sunday, but not unusual for the almost-post-COVID Shanghai. The market relies heavily on tourists, who are non-existent at the moment. I bought a scarf I didn’t really need and reverse negotiated with the shopkeeper. He said ladies don’t want to wear a scarf now that they’re all wearing masks.
After my fabric market visit, I went to South Bund for some sun. Everyone’s still got their masks on, but the mood is definitely lighter, thanks to the warmer weather. I eavesdropped on a couple arguing about a tiktok post for way too long because it was just hilariously refreshing to hear a conversation that’s not about who’s done what about the virus and why this country is doing it better than the other country (much like what you’ve been reading so far HELLO #QUARANTINECONTENT). I also spotted that virus chic full face guard fisherman’s hat in action. On a dad. With the guard flipped up 😂 Guess he wanted the breeze.
Friends have said that they’ve heard people saying “China is fine now.” My dear, things are not fine. Every bit of this country has taken a beating and while I’m happy to see signs of normalcy returning, recovery will be slow.
I’ve also heard friends say that they’re worried because wherever they are, they “can’t do what China did.” Permit me to ask you this: Why would you want to do what China did? Shutting up whistle blowers? Locking down a whole city? Forcing businesses to close? Sealing up doors of shops and homes? Using AI and facial recognition and geo-location to track everyone?
I don’t think it’s productive to play the blame game in the midst of a pandemic, but please don’t mistake this for blanket approval. I applaud the people for their resilience, compliance, and solidarity, but this is an authoritarian state, the tracking and registering policies here are not going to fly elsewhere.
That’s not a “bad” thing. If you want role models, look at Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea. And yeah I’m totally biased but Taiwan has done a great job without WHO support and I’m PROUD.
Was I scared about returning to Shanghai in the middle of the outbreak? Sure, but I had to make a decision based on the information I had and the things I valued. And I value time with my cats.
My worst fear was that, with all the countries slapping travel restrictions on China, that I wouldn’t be able to leave if things got bad. But even then, I had to tell myself that if things were bad, the best I could do was still to stay home with my cats. Unless the virus mutates into zombie virus in which case… I dunno, I’d either let the zombies eat more or the cats eat me? Let’s not go there.
You are where you are now. What you, as an individual, can do haven’t changed. Stay calm. Stay home. Wash your hands. Binge shows not sugar maybe. You do you.
March 16th, Day 37:
We’re officially 100% back to working in the office today. The pedestrians and vehicles on the road today were particularly reckless. I couldn’t tell if they 1) Forgot how to maneuver traffic 2) Got too used to being careless on empty streets. It would be a real shame to have survive an epidemic only to be hit by an e-bike, people.
I wore my new blazer from the fabric market and red on red on red. Feels appropriate to wear auspicious, Chinese New Year red for the “first” day of work. Everyone’s still wearing masks, every building still requires registration, so we had to queue up to enter the office, filling out a digital form on our phones in the lobby with our temperature.
An entire, uneventful day in the office was actually a nice respite, if a little uncomfortable. No cats. Mask on all day. And no heating. I hadn’t even notice this coming on, but this second wave of online panic and anxiety had been wearing on me. I’ve been talking to friends who I haven’t spoken to properly in years. Everyone understandably wants to know what will happen.
I wish I had answers. Or the perfect words of comfort. Or the right link to some resource that might prove helpful. Or a killer meme.
My American friends especially seems to be having a serious crisis of faith in both their government and their people.
I can’t comment on the American government. I was recently introduced to The West Wing (finally), and while I LOVE the show, it made me realize I don’t know how the U.S. government works… At all.
But I do know the American people. I was an exchange student in Missouri and Minnesota. I have family in Los Angeles and St. Louis. I have friends all over the country. I’ve even dated a fair few Americans.
My first trip alone to the states, I met Jill Kalin at LAX. I was traveling by myself for the first time, 16 years old, and carrying way too much hiking food for a flight to St. Louis. Jill’s parents befriended me and kindly kept an eye on my stuff so Jill and I could go frolicking around the airport, where we saw Claire Danes and got her autograph. We got connected again on Facebook yearrrrrrrrs later, and “thanks” to this stupid virus, we’ve reconnected again because I bring time-lord wisdom from the Orient 😂
My host family in De Soto, Missouri, were about as amazing as any exchange student could have hoped for. Bruce made his own coffee blend every morning. Mary somehow never kicked me out despite me being peak annoying at 16. They opened their home and made me feel like I belonged there.
Americans are funny, kind, sometimes incredibly silly when it comes to the amount of appliances they own, and they’ve got a heroic streak. I’ve experienced a ton a kindness, warmth, and humor with just about every American I’ve met. That’s the majority of them I know. And I’m not inclined to let the newsworthy, clickbaity, badly-behaved minority ruin my impression of them.
Already I’m seeing that heroic streak in Americans shining through. Donations, free lunches, people volunteering to shop for those who need help.
Folks say to me over and over again: We’re screwed.
I’ve gotten tired of saying this, but I respectfully disagree. Americans are resilient in the face of adversity. You’re stubborn and mobilize quickly. I’ve seen it in action. Call me biased, but I’m going to trust my experience rather than let the internet convince me that you guys can’t pull through this. Y’all survived Ebola.
It’s not all fairy dust and Star-Spangled awesome. This virus carries a heavy cost. China will be paying for a good while yet. I can’t play prophet, but all I’ve got to say is… Don’t let your self prophecies defeat you before the virus does.
March 17th, Day 38
It was 22 degrees Celsius out and the sun was shining. I decided to leave the office early with my laptop and “work from home.” It’s hard to sit in an office all day when the weather’s so beautiful, and harder to stay indoors at all when you’ve been mostly indoors for the past month while getting… Frankly… About the same amount of work done.
I got a haircut. Have you ever gotten a haircut while wearing a face mask? First time for everything I guess. The salon has only been open a couple of weeks, and the stylist told me a couple of their colleagues are from Wuhan. “Have they returned?” I asked, and he almost tripped over himself saying “No no no of course they’re not back! They’re still stuck at home! They’re finally allowed out of their buildings now. Not that there’s anything open in Wuhan, but at least they take a walk outside.”
They’re finally allowed out of their buildings now. Wuhan went into lockdown on January 23rd, the day I arrived back in Taipei for Chinese New Year. These people haven’t left their own front door for 54 days. The stylist and I also agreed that 54 days of house arrest in your parents’ home is a special kind of torture. (I love you, Mom!) And we agreed that we’re the lucky ones, that the people in Wuhan really took a hit for the rest of us.
The virus fatigue is real. The city is coming back to life, which is heartening to see, but there’s still a weariness in the air, or maybe it’s just me. I maintained a regular morning schedule during quarantine and lockdown. Up at 7–7:30am everyday. Coffee. Morning journal. Cats. Work computer on. But in the last couple of days I’ve been struggling to get out of bed.
Partly, I’m readjusting to people. Most of my friends wouldn’t believe this of me, but I’m definitely more of an introvert. Yes yes I know, I do comedy and burlesque. I’m clearly not afraid of attention. But ya know what? I love being alone. With my cats. With a book and a cup of coffee and zero social obligations. Brene Brown says people are hard to hate up close, which I completely agree with, but… People are also a lot easier to like from a distance. Especially the ones who do conference calls on speaker phone in a very crowded office.
Another aspect of the fatigue comes from rebuilding my city armor. Shanghai is an intense city, an intensity I can only compare to New York or Hong Kong. After a month of hearing the birds chirp and looking up and around while I walk, city traffic overwhelms me. I have to look in 5 directions again before crossing the street on foot or on scooter. This I’m confident will ease up with time. Coping with metropolitan angst requires different tactics than coping with viral threats.
That said, I have an appointment tomorrow with my counselor. After all the preaching I’ve done here about taking care of yourself first and oxygen mask and blah blah blah, I gotta walk the talk. So many of you have encouraged me to continue this little project, and I’d very much like to carry on. I’m grateful for this daily practice and creative outlet. I’m grateful that people have found this at all helpful. But it does keep my mind perpetually on the pandemic. Even in Shanghai, today, every conversation I overheard and had was virus-adjacent.
Recovery is going to be a long road ahead, so I’m gonna get my head tuned-up so we can all carry on.
Did you actually read all the way to the bottom!? You must be in quarantine. Hang in there, we’ll get through this.