Are you OK? Is everything all right there in Beijing?
In late January and early February of this year, the messages from family and friends, though brief, packed a great emotional wallop. I sensed the care and concern behind them, and I could understand why.
I had followed much of the Western news coverage of the novel coronavirus epidemic, and it painted a rather bleak picture in China, often characterizing the pathogen as “deadly”. In fact, it seemed that every story about the outbreak in China had to use the phrase “the deadly coronavirus” multiple times.
Except, my reality in Beijing was a lot safer than what these media reports portrayed.
Was the virus something we had to take seriously? Of course. But I live in a small and isolated community (which checks our temperatures when we come in and doesn’t allow outsiders to enter). And my office is a 10-minute walk away so I never needed to take the public transportation. There were hardly any people on the street, so I didn’t need to worry about catching something from a stranger; besides I was exercising social distancing on the street, keeping at least six feet away from anybody. And I was ultra-cautious in following the recommendations to stay at home, avoid crowds and crowded places, and just in general not socialize or go out if not needed.
On top of it, my husband could work from home easily and we were even able to go a record 12 days without buying any groceries. And when we did finally order some, we did so through an online service which drastically reduced the chances of any contact with another person.
Sometimes it wasn’t easy to convey all of this to folks not here in China. But I attempted to as best I could. I hoped they understood that I was in an ideal situation for avoiding any possible infections.
I also took much comfort from the fact that I lived in a country that adopted an aggressive approach to control and contain the coronavirus.
I never thought that, all of a sudden, the tables would flip and I would find myself fearing for family and friends overseas, as their countries are forced to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
The other day, family texted a slew of photos from local grocery stores, filled with the empty shelves that have made headlines. I couldn’t help worrying, were they able to buy enough to eat, so they can stay indoors? Do they have enough supplies to manage?
When I look at how other countries have responded to this pandemic, I actually feel safer here in China. How I wish they all had this sense of safety I had.
What I found solace in during the hardest of times was this — we were not alone in our situation in China. Everyone was staying more at home, avoiding crowds and the like. We were one unified front.
I hope they too will find that same sense of commitment and solidarity in their response to the coronavirus.
Whether or not you believe it, we are at war, albeit with an invisible enemy. And in wartime, I think of my loved ones a little more, and hope they will see themselves safely through this dark period.
Are you thinking of loved ones more during the coronavirus pandemic? How is your family managing?