Ditching Beijing Subway for a Chevy: A Tale of Caution Amid Reopening – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my post Ditching Beijing Subway for a Chevy: A Tale of Caution Amid Reopening. Here’s an excerpt:

Before the virus, it seemed unimaginable that my colleagues at the office in Beijing would brave the snarl of traffic jams in their own four wheels.

Most of the cars parked at work usually belong to managers or supervisors – people who had put in years there or brought seniority to their position, and were rewarded with a designated space, surely one of the most coveted possessions in Beijing, if not most major Chinese cities.

But just the other day, my colleague – a local who is not a supervisor, manager or anyone with years of seniority – announced that he had ditched the subway for his own Chevy while we were chatting after work.

He used to commute in on the subway before the virus, he admitted. But now his navy-blue sedan ferried him to and from his home on the other side of town – because, in his words, “It’s safer.” The potential risk associated with the subways had kept him away.

He didn’t need to spell out what that risk was. We had all lived the coronavirus since late January, learning to avoid indoor and unventilated spaces crowded with people to steer clear of potential infections. Subways check every box in terms of places you shouldn’t be.

Head over to WWAM BAM to read the full post. And if you like it, share it!

Has Coronavirus Made My Balsamic Vinegar More Expensive?

Balsamic vinegar never cost more than 25 yuan (~$3.50) in my online supermarket. But recently, it left me with a sour aftertaste when I discovered the outlet now selling it for 69 yuan (~$9.80), a more than threefold jump in the price. And I had to wonder, was this because of the coronavirus?

Here in China, balsamic vinegar has always starred among the tantalizing selection of imported foods you can find in supermarkets, particularly those online. If anything, online shopping has made securing this trademark Italian condiment that much easier, because so many sellers have flooded major platforms, like Taobao and JD. We have always relied on our online supermarket, which can deliver as fast as the same day you place an order. Plus, it even boasts not one nor two but three mouthwatering versions of balsamic vinegar.

Over the years, I’ve consistently stuck with the best-selling option, with a price that hovers around 25 yuan. And it has delivered that rich, sweet flavor on just about every creation I’ve ever used it in (with our household favorite surely being my vegan bruschetta, served on crusty homemade wheat bread — yum!).

But now, if I want to enjoy one full bottle I must fork over the cost of what nearly three used to be.

Has coronavirus bumped up the price of balsamic vinegar?

According to a report by HuffPost on March 19, the contagion hasn’t been curbing exports out of Italy to the US, at least:

But is Italy’s crisis impeding shipments of our beloved pastas and balsamic vinegars? Not necessarily.

“The strangest thing is, production and shipping in Italy has not come to a halt,” said Rolando Beramendi, who owns the Oakland and New York-based Italian food import company Manicaretti. “People are still producing and shipping. Every day I’m in close communication with the 38 producers I work with in Italy. They’re fine. The trucks are able to get to the port.”

Still, the article notes that one importer canceled a shipment of cheese, citing “a combination of surge pricing in the air cargo rates and a series of flight cancellations,” which suggests that some exports from Italy may be getting more expensive. Has this happened to the supply chain for China as well?

Meanwhile, a more recent April 29 report on Italy at NPR, titled Italy Considers Permits For Undocumented Migrants To Fill A Big Farmworker Gap, notes the following (emphasis mine):

Seasonal farmworkers usually go to Italy each year from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, but recent lockdowns have kept them home. That’s creating a critical shortage of labor for picking fruits and vegetables needed for food and exports.

As Italy rushes to solve this issue by considering granting work permits to undocumented migrants, the situation itself reflects the inherent uncertainty that can reverberate all the way to our own dinner table. Could that be driving up the price too?

Regardless, like any couple, Jun and I have to eat. And for now, we’d prefer to eat at home, with the kind of gusto that comes from a well-prepared meal. With our preferred ingredients, like balsamic vinegar. So if I can’t find better alternatives, I may just shell out for a pricier bottle.

The things we do for la dolce vita.

What do you think? Have you seen the price of balsamic vinegar rise in your area? Or other Italian imports?

Mugwort Foot Baths Soothed Us Through Worst of COVID-19 Outbreak

mugwort

During the height of the COVID-19 outbreak here in China, we adopted a new habit to counteract the stress of the epidemic – a daily foot bath.

Foot baths have long been a part of Chinese culture, and a constant in my husband’s family household. During long stints where we resided with Jun’s parents, pulling out those plastic washbasins just for cleaning feet was as much of an evening ritual as lining up the toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as the terrycloth towels for your face. Bathing the feet of your elders has also endured as a gesture of filial piety in China, which is perhaps why Jun’s grandmother — who stubbornly refused our gifts or envelopes of RMB, telling us “Don’t waste your money” — never turned down my offers for a soak and massage.

For years, we’ve owned a washbasin made just for foot baths — deeper and sturdier than those typically used for washing up. And at home, we’ve always kept a stash of foot bath powder, usually something made from mugwort (wormwood or Artemisia vulgaris, 艾草), said to have a warming effect on the body. Foot baths weren’t necessarily a nightly ritual for Jun and me, but something we did to stave off the chill of winter evenings and unwind after long days.

But when COVID-19 shook up our lives in late January, as the world around us snapped into a “new normal” and news reports day and night focused on the emerging war with the virus, we found ourselves longing for anything that could offer a respite. On top of it all, being at the office felt more and more like a marathon effort with an unprecedented workload of news stories prompted by the coronavirus outbreak, which left me heavy with fatigue most days after returning home.

The last thing I needed was overexhaustion, which can lower your immunity and leave you more vulnerable to infection. But I remembered we had something in our arsenal of bath products ideal for stress relief — foot baths with mugwort powder.

When I returned home from work every day, we would break out the washbasin, fill it to the brim with steaming water, and add in a couple bags of mugwort powder. It brought some much-needed comfort amid unsettling times, and was so enjoyable that we would repeat it later that evening just before bed, something Jun’s family would definitely approve of.

Adding foot baths to your daily routine can be a soothing way to counteract the stress of a COVID-19 outbreak — and it doesn’t require a pricey “foot spa” or even the same mugwort powder we use. Any plastic receptacle or bucket in your house big enough to hold feet that can also withstand warm water will do. Epsom salts also make for a relaxing foot soak, and you can even build on those to make some cool and inexpensive DIY foot soaks on your own. Don’t have anything on hand specifically for a foot bath? Just sinking your feet into warm water with a few drops of an essential oil or a squirt of your favorite body wash will help wash away your worries for a moment.

If you’re interested in mugwort for foot baths or other Chinese herbal foot baths, you can explore the options on Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog. And wherever you are, stay safe and healthy.

What do you think?

P.S.: The featured photo shows a view of the actual mugwort plant, the base of the powder we used to bathe our feet.

‘I’m a Volunteer (in China)’: Spanish Woman Helps Beijing Community Amid COVID-19

Across the world, front-line workers in many places, including communities, have played a pivotal role in fighting against the COVID-19 outbreak. And here in China, they include foreigners such as Laura, or 龙小西 (lóng xiǎo xī), a Spanish woman who serves as a front-line volunteer in her community in Shunyi district, Beijing, where she also lives with her husband, a Chinese national.

China Education Network Television spotlighted her efforts, along with others, in a video news report titled I’m a Volunteer (我是一名志愿者, wǒ shì yī míng zhì yuàn zhě).

I actually know Laura myself, as we’ve met up a couple of times during social gatherings here in the Beijing area. What a delightful surprise to see her on TV!

Here are a few excerpts from the interview with Laura, where she’s speaking in English:

I saw all the colleagues from the management, they’re really busy, the compound has a lot of activities. And they need someone who can help them for the English translations, and also with the door service. So I decide to join the team.

Actually I thought because in this moment is when we need more people helping each other. And you just need to wear your mask and your gloves and keep your hands clean and follow all the protection regulations, so you can help.

I think it’s totally safe nowadays, because everybody put a lot of effort (in) to make it safe. You can see every day in the compound people are wearing masks, going outside with the masks, with gloves, keeping the social distance. It’s really important. We have to keep on doing this until the situation improves.

With her amiable smile and initiative, Laura serves as a reminder that many foreigners who live in China are doing their part to support the nation they call home during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch the full segment featuring Laura (which begins at 3:51 in the video) online. And if you like it, share it!

Blogs I Like Amid Coronavirus: Good Reads In Hard Times

Bloggers across the world have found themselves grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, and pretty much every one of us — myself included — have ended up writing about how this contagion has touched our lives.

I wanted to share links to a number of bloggers I’ve followed over the years, highlighting some of their COVID-19 posts. If you’re looking for news, personal reads that capture what’s happening on the ground, or support to get you through your stay at home or quarantine, take a look at these:

Virus survivors:

On (Or Close To) Schedule. Logan Lo (who many of you may remember tragically lost his wife a few years ago due to brain cancer) lives in the NYC area, the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, and he actually came down with COVID-19 (which triggered hallucinations of his late wife). He provides a second update on his condition and also a post detailing how he was able to survive it. A must-read for anyone wondering what it’s like to have COVID-19. And while you’re there, be sure to give Logan a virtual hug — he’s been through hell these recent years and could use it.

News and personal stories on the ground:

Angry Asian Man. This hugely popular blog on pop culture and entertainment from an Asian American perspective has also turned its eye to the coronavirus, from alarming hate crimes racism against Asians to stories of survivors of COVID-19 and even the latest on Asian-focused entertainment that could help you survive your quarantine.

AsAm News. This news blog focused on Asian America has become even more important reading as it chronicles how COVID-19 has sadly ravaged the Asian community in the US (note that it now posts many stories under the tag COVID-19 racism).

Badminton Becky. Many of you first knew her at Becky Ances, but she’s really soared with her focus on this sport as well as her Youtube videos. She shared a post with links to her vlogs on the badminton situation in China amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Baixiaotai. Living in Kunming, she blogs in Polish about a smattering of subjects, but has a few COVID-19-related posts, including the large delivery of produce and meat direct from farmers she finally received amid the coronavirus.

Behind the Story. Nicki Chen, who lives in the Seattle area (one of the earliest US regions affected by COVID-19), has also turned her focus to posts about life amid the contagion. In particular, she muses about The Paradox of Doing by Not Doing When the Enemy Is a Virus.

Crazy Chinese Family. Timo, his wife and kids have had to retreat indoors as Germany grapples with the pandemic, but he has continued to provide dispatches about the family — from the start of the situation to how it has been staying at home with the kids.

Ember Swift. The Beijing-based eclectic singer-writer from Canada has also turned her attention toward the coronavirus pandemic, from initial updates to 10 Tips to Surviving the COVID-19 Crazy: From Beijing.

Judith in China. Blogging in Dutch, Judith offers a perspective on the coronavirus that straddles Europe and Asia. Her Beijinger husband entered China just prior to the Wuhan lockdown,  and he returned to the Netherlands a month later, right before cases began popping up over there.

Linda Goes East. While this South Korea-based blogger muses mostly on travel, she did do a post titled How Coronavirus Affects Expats in Asia, which details stories of foreigners living across the continent (including me).

Linda Leaming. The author of Married to Bhutan gives us a look into how COVID-19 has touched this mountain nation, where she and her husband reside.

Life Behind the Wall. American Jo has remained in China throughout the coronavirus pandemic, offering everything from an update to a post about racism in Guangzhou.

Life As An Ordinary Malaysian. If you’re wondering about the view from Malaysia, read his recent posts on COVID-19, such as this piece on face masks.

Marta Lives in China. And this Spaniard has remained a prolific blogger amid the coronavirus pandemic, writing about everything from the coronavirus situation in Suzhou and quarantine tips to predictions and even a post titled No, Chinese people don’t eat bats.

My Korean Husband. This well-loved vlogger, blogger and comic artist from Australia who resides in Seoul with her family has shared posts, videos and comics with a COVID-19 angle, including Don’t Touch Your Face.

Ni Hao, Cassandra! A blogger and vlogger en espanol, Cassandra has spent the past few months sharing video dispatches about the situation in China due to the coronavirus.

Sara Jaaksola. From her home in Guangzhou, Finnish business owner and blogger Sara has generated a lot of content on COVID-19, from an update on life amid the outbreak to tips for business owners to prepare for the pandemic. She also kickstarted a campaign to spread a little love for her city amid coronavirus.

The Almost Indian Wife. Writing from the Chicago area about her Indian-American multicultural family, she shares some timely tips for keeping kids busy with 50 indoor crafts and activities, perfect for the parent who has the little ones at home.

The Downtown Diner. Writing from the US city of Nashville, where she moved years ago after living in Beijing with her family, Melanie has deeply felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it comes through loud and clear in her post Just Enough Space to Get Out.

The Ruby Ronin. Mary, who has worked remotely for a few years, has some timely advice for anyone just starting out in their work-from-home adventure. Check out her post Work from home without losing your mind during the COVID-19 crisis.

When West Dates East. If you need a strong dose of humor amid the coronavirus pandemic, you should click on over to read the entertaining musings of Autumn, who is spreading laughter with posts on everything from the frustration of warning friends and family to masks to working from home.

WWAM BAM. Many of us at this group blog (where I’m also a contributor) have aimed to share our own stories amid coronavirus such as this group post and Heather’s take on . And one of our newest bloggers Christine has written a compelling take on how the coronavirus unfolded for her in Beijing, along with some excellent advice.

Support to get you through quarantine/staying at home:

Madame Huang’s Kitchen. While not writing strictly about the coronavirus, Carolyn Phillips dishes up some tasty tidbits with her recipes that take you on a culinary journey across China. And let’s face it, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we could all use a little comfort food. Try her eight-treasure tea recipe.

Susan Blumberg-Kason. The author of Good Chinese Wife has blogged more about books (which we need more of while spending more time indoors!), but she also sheds light on one of those small, but not insignificant, changes to the landscape thanks to COVID-19 in this post on the shuttering of the renowned floating Hong Kong restaurant.

Svetlana’s Reads and Reviews. OK, so Sveta isn’t technically writing about living in the coronavirus era. But her blog does come in handy at a time when we’re all looking for more ways to pass the time, and she’s still cranking out reviews.

Separate Plates, Serving Chopsticks: Dining Out in China Changes Amid COVID-19

A few years back, I snapped a photo of Jun and myself huddled with family around a table stacked with more delicacies than all of us could humanly finish in a meal.

Like most meals with relatives, we all had our own rice bowl, but were expected to pluck vegetables or meats from the communal dishes before us, using our own chopsticks.

Sharing meals as a group has long endured as a hallmark of Chinese dining culture, whether at home or while dining out. It made the experience more intimate, a way to reinforce the bond among everyone at the table and a reflection of the communal culture of society.

But in the coronavirus era, the tables have turned on this etiquette, prompting a transformation in dining in public restaurants.

The national health authority in China just mandated that restaurants should serve diners separate dishes of food for each person. This move comes months after areas and regions have moved in this direction due to the outbreak. For example, in February Shanghai had already proposed having separate spoons and chopsticks for serving people from communal dishes, noting “such a change of etiquette allows diners to avoid using their own chopsticks to pick food from the same dishes and therefore reduces the chances of transmission of many diseases.”

This new approach has gotten mixed reviews, as China Daily notes in its March 2020 story A Question of Table Manners:

Recently a photograph published in China promoting the idea of dining alone and with one’s own plates and dishes set off a storm a lot bigger than you’ll find in a Chinese teacup. Some saw the suggestion almost as sacrilege, running totally counter to the idea of communal eating that goes back centuries in Chinese culture, while others wondered whether, like the near disappearance of the Chinese tunic suit, it was just another sign of changing times.

Still, the same story highlights that Chinese dining norms have evolved throughout history, and they didn’t always involve communal dining from the same plates. An op-ed titled Social distancing on the dining table too offers a good summary:

Separate dishes for everyone is not something new for China; the earliest records show people having their meals from separate dishes. Even during big feasts, people had a table to themselves. And there is nothing to suggest this practice was because of an epidemic. Instead, this helped personalize the menu for everyone and avoid the wasting of food.

It was not until the Jin Dynasty (265-420), when nomadic tribes from the northern regions migrated to China, that people started having their meals from common dishes on a shared table. Some historians say the food for nomadic tribes, say a whole sheep, was difficult to divide and serve. Besides, tribes rarely had metals to fashion enough pots.

So in China, a switch to a more separate, personalized experience might merely be reverting to a historical norm, but for a different reason — to fight the coronavirus.

Of course, nowadays restaurants do far more than offer separate dishes and utensils for serving. A friend of mine recently patronized a restaurant in Beijing. The eatery checked her temperature, required her to register her name and phone number with them, and had her and her dining companion sit diagonally from one another at the table. What she described jives with everything I had read on the local Beijinger blog about the guidelines for dining out in restaurants amid COVID-19.

As for Jun and myself, for now, we’ll stick with our favorite way to “dine out”, one we’ve often indulged in long before the pandemic began — home delivery.

What do you think?

Have Introverts Found Silver Lining in COVID-19 w/ More Time Alone? – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my post titled Have Introverts Found Silver Lining in COVID-19 w/ More Time Alone? Here’s an excerpt:

To go out or not, that was the question.

At least, for many of us, it used to be something we all asked ourselves in the pre-COVID-19 era, as the weekend approached, with possibilities for dining, socializing and other activities that took us out and about in our respective cities.

But the coronavirus has prompted nations across the world to respond with stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, dispensing with the wrangling over where to head for the weekend. Cue the internet memes with “travel plans” involving a floor plan of one’s apartment or home.

However, as socializing and going out gets put on hold, some of us, such as myself, have quietly breathed a sigh of relief. And I was reminded of this by recently by a message from a friend of mine in the US.

She’s a few weeks into her stay at home and noted that, in spite of the other pressures that the coronavirus has swept into her life, it had cleared away one notable item – the stress of socializing. She had often spent much time debating over whether or not to take her kid out to see others, and pushed herself to go out even when it was probably the last thing she wanted to do.

But calls for people to remain at home, apart from essential errands such as grocery shopping or picking up medicine, proved liberating for her – because she’s an introvert.

Head over to the group blog WWAM BAM to read the full post. And if you like it, share it!

Finnish Woman in Guangzhou Spreads Love for City w/ Heartwarming Campaign

The coronavirus has not only ravaged countries around the world with an alarming death toll and economic hardship, but also through heightening anxieties and igniting hatred and discrimination. These are dark times for us.

But some have responded by lighting the way forward to spread a little more love and understanding, like Sara Jaaksola, a Finnish woman in Guangzhou who runs a Chinese language teaching business and is married to a local man. Here’s what she said:

I’ve been living in Guangzhou for 10 years, probably will stay here for the next 10 years as well. I feel this is my city, this is the place where I feel like home. So when fear and hate spreads faster than the virus, I feel responsible for doing something about it.

So she created a social media campaign, sharing her love for Guangzhou and asking others to do the same. And she got 80 other residents to join in, posting their own uplifting photos declaring their affection for the city. She shared the backstory behind it all:

To share a little personal story. My local sister-in-law sent a message in our family WeChat group: “Check out this news and be careful when being in touch with foreigners”. I felt my heart broke.

All my years in Guangzhou I’ve been trying to work as a bridge between the Chinese and foreigners. I moved here because I love the language and the culture. I’ve been married to my local husband for 6 years and our daughter is 4.

After all of this, she sent me this message. Not just a stranger on the street, but my family member. Telling me I should be careful when seeing my students and friends. That other should be careful when seeing me and my daughter.

I decided then, that I can’t stop when I feel hurt or sad, that is exactly the time to show everyone that we all can live together in Guangzhou. That we don’t need to be afraid of each other, instead we should learn to understand each other.

Head on over to Sara’s blog to read the whole story and also view all of the touching personal photos from other Guangzhou residents. She proves that, while fear may be contagious, so is love. Pass it on.

 

Just How Contagious Is Coronavirus? <1 Minute of Close Contact Got People in China Infected

The reopening of the Badaling Great Wall in Beijing this past week with restrictions (health checks, no more than 30 percent of normal crowds) reflects just how much the epidemic situation has improved in China’s capital city, where I live. But it’s still a cautious approach – and caution does reign for many of us in how we live our lives.

For example, I still continue to distance myself from anyone I meet on the street, and sometimes six feet even feels too close to me. I’m not the only one who would rather stay farther away, as an article from the local Cleveland, Ohio news site attested to (I’ve closely followed the news in Ohio since much of my family lives there):

Linsey Marr, an aerosol virus transmission expert at Virginia Tech University, told cleveland.com in an email that any viruses released outdoors “will be quickly diluted such that there’s a much lower chance for someone to breathe in many viruses than if they are indoors.” She recommends that people stay 10 feet apart — the farther the better.

So while it’s perfectly OK to go outside for a walk or run, still it might be a good idea to cross the street if you see someone coming on the sidewalk, or keep your distance as you wait for them to pass.

This advice makes sense because the coronavirus is highly contagious. And shocking news reports of how people contracted the virus here in China have really emphasized this reality for me.

Consider this Chinese language news story, which in its headline highlights two cautionary tales: infected in 15 seconds while buying vegetables, infected in 50 seconds while picking up medicine (买菜15秒被感染,取药50秒被感染) [Note: I’ve included the original text along with my translation]:

杭州和宁波于2月5日和2月6日发布的两则确诊病例显示:一人出门买菜,和另一确诊者在同一个摊位有过共同驻留,事后被确诊感染;另一人去药房取药,和另一确诊者在吧台有过共同驻留,事后被确诊感染。这两起病例,共同驻留的时间连一分钟都不到,共同点是两起案例涉及的4个人,都没有戴口罩。

Two confirmed coronavirus cases respectively reported by the cities of Hangzhou and Ningbo on Feb 5 and Feb 6 showed: One person who went out to buy vegetables had stayed at the same vegetable stand with a person confirmed with the virus and was later diagnosed with an infection; another person who went to the pharmacy to get medicine and stayed with another person confirmed with the virus at the counter was later diagnosed with an infection afterwards.

In both cases, the time these people spent together was less than a minute. What these stories have in common is that the four people involved in the two cases did not wear masks.

根据宁波市江北区公安部门2月5日公共视频比对发现,1月23日早上7:47,该患者在双东坊菜场买菜时与路人(江北区确诊患者2:女,61岁,家住文教街道翠柏西巷,1月19日应约参加祈福活动)在同一摊位有过短暂(约15秒)的近距离共同驻留,且两人均未佩戴口罩。

According to a public video comparison of the public security department of Jiangbei district, Ningbo city on Feb 5, it was found that at 7:47 am on Jan 23, the man was shopping at the Shuangdongfang Vegetable Market with a passerby (the 2nd patient diagnosed in Jiangbei district: female, 61 years old, living in Cuibai West Lane of Wenjiao Jie and was invited to participate in a blessing event on Jan 19). The two had a short stay (approximately 15 seconds) at the same booth, staying together at a short distance, and neither of them wore a mask.

根据杭州当地公安部门2月5日公共视频比对发现,1月22日14时21分,徐某某从该医馆的药房门口处进入医馆,与杨某某(1月22日发病的确诊病例)正面相遇,当时徐某某在一楼吧台处取药,杨某某在外侧吧台处停留,有过约50秒的近距离共同驻留,期间两人均未佩戴口罩。1月25日、1月27日徐某某、王某某相继发病,2月5日确诊。

According to a public video comparison on Feb 5 by the local public security department in Hangzhou, at 14:21 on Jan 22, Xu Moumou entered the medical hall from the pharmacy entrance of the medical hall, and Yang Moumou (onset of illness on Jan 22, a confirmed coronavirus case) encountered each other head-on. At that time, Xu Moumou got medicine at the counter on the first floor, while Yang Moumou stayed at the outer side of the counter. The two people stayed together at a short distance for about 50 seconds. During the period, neither of them wore a mask. On Jan 25 and Jan 27, Xu Moumou and Wang Moumou [wife of Xu Moumou] developed symptoms one after another, and their diagnosis [of COVID-19] was confirmed on Feb 5.

Note that in both cases the people got infected in indoor settings, which underlines just how risky it is to be in close contact with anyone in an indoor space.

Wherever you are in the world, please stay safe – and keep a distance, especially indoors.

What do you think?

Coronavirus: Loved Ones Once Worried About Me in China, Now I Worry About Them

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?

P.S.: You can read more coronavirus-related posts here, including my tips for preparation.