February 10th 2020
Day 21 since I taught at least 30 students from Wuhan in the big speaking competition I was a teacher and judge at here in Hangzhou. The incubation period of the virus is between six and fourteen days apparently so we are well out of the woods now. Hopefully.
Since my last journal of these times, things have not gone from bad to worse, but have significantly changed––things are still bad. Just two days or so after visiting the supermarket to stock up on the 4thFebruary (see video of the trip here https://youtu.be/sq85s91verQ)our locality went into lockdown. What that means is we are all confined in the community. Most people who live in the high-rise apartment blocks in China live in communities. They are gated and walled. There are gates with security guards on them 24/7 – this is normal. We have to stay in our apartments although we are free to walk the grounds, for example taking the dog for a walk. Now, however, the rule is only one person can leave the community to go fetch food and essentials and they can only do that every three days. This is the card she needs to show to be let in and out.
Previously when walking the dog, I would just carry my mask in my pocket, because the place was empty and if I saw another person I would just walk the other way. Now I wear a mask all the time when I’m out. We heard yesterday or the day before that the virus could be airborne so better safe than sorry. We do not have a large supply of masks. We had some around the house and my wife managed to buy 6 on a Chinese website. Then I found a few more in a box in a cupboard that had been given to me as a gift by my last employer. We have some en-route by 3-day courier from the UK, but we are not sure whether the delivery will get here, we will see. I was speaking to an American friend yesterday who works at my last school, he was given a box of masks as a gift before the news of the virus broke, he didn’t want them so he gave them to his cleaner. Now he is using eye masks to protect himself as he cannot find any to buy. ]
My wife went out to the only local shops the other day. There is a small vegetable shop and the pharmacy. We were told that the bigger fruit and vegetable market, further down the road, was closed because of the infection. The vegetable shop is also selling meat and milk. My wife managed to get the last carton of milk that day. This is a box of 12 small cartons. These usually cost 30-40 rmb but she had to pay 60 rmb. The shop is well stocked with fruit and vegetables and the local government will make sure it is well stocked so there is no panic. The vegetables were double price and the pork on sale is 40-50% dearer––clearly some people will get rich from this crisis. The meat is another source of concern and we will not buy it. You can see from the photograph that the health and safety lessons of the past weeks have not been heeded.
In terms of food we are now on the 2019nCov Diet, which means rationing the booze, because in rookie error we didn’t buy it in suitable amounts as we didn’t realise we would be locked down. We are also having smaller portions of food so what we do have lasts longer. I usually have muesli for breakfast but that means burning through the milk and I also need milk for tea. (A first world problem because I can drink green tea) So I have been balancing that by having toast – we did stock up on bread but it will disappear and we cannot buy bread locally – because we cannot get to the supermarket as the taxis have stopped working. I am also skipping lunch or just having and a biscuit and a cup of tea. I’m British, so a cup of tea makes everything better, doesn’t it?
The days seem to blend into one. There is only so much YouTube you can watch. We watch the news on CCTV1 every day to keep up with things and developments. Do not believe the Western press or the haters on social media telling you things are being covered up––they are not––Trump is right most of it is fake news.
Meanwhile my employer has asked me to prepare online lessons for when the semester restarts of February 24thso I have something to do. But as ever the 24thseems a long way a way at the moment so it does not have my full attention, however I have managed to do a couple of hours work over the past few days. Nevertheless, this is a new departure for me and I really don’t know how to provide online lessons for 30 plus students, I have been asking on the various TEFL Facebooks groups and got some ideas from other teachers. I recived my class lists yesterday. My Public Speaking class is 50 strong. 50! A Public speaking class is about getting students to speak. 30 was hard enough when the class is just 90 minutes long. 50 will be impossible – watch this space.
Walking Snooky is now the only reason to go out and break the tedium. And when one is out it is remarkable how silent it is outside. At night it is almost eerie because nothing is moving, no cars or roar of lorries on the main road which is quite a distance away, but nevertheless one can normally hear the traffic noise. No clatter of the three wheeled delivery and work carts which are ubiquitous around this area where building had been going on apace. The sound of the airplanes coming into the airport which is not so far away is missing from the normal soundscape. One of the things that does plague China is noise pollution. If they can use a loudspeaker to announce something they will. In shops and the shopping malls there is a constant racket of competing claims for whatever it is they are promoting. So the still of the night is something to be welcomed. There might be the occasional disembodied voice in the distance calling out shattering the stillness. During the day the birdsong becomes more apparent and evidence that life does go on whatever the circumstances. Spring is coming and they need to get busy.
Over the last few days I have been seeing more people out around the community. Probably stir-crazy from sitting in for so long they are enjoying the warm sun and meeting friends for a gossip. Some of the older residents are power walking or using the exercise equipment while the youngsters are expending some of the energy they have stored up by being indoors for so long––it is good to hear the laughter and shouts of the kids as they play.
This Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rat, will be remembered for a long time. This morning as I was walking the dog the community workers were removing the decorations from the front of each apartment block. We, in the West mainly remember the Rat for being the carrier of the Black Death, it seems that this new virus may be traced back to the Pangolin, which although is a protected species is still hunted for its meat in China. Hopefully, these markets will be shut down by the government and lessons will be learnt.
Here are some of the videos I have posted on YouTube.
Supermarket trip 1 - https://youtu.be/hyehBdirxds
Walking the dog during the virus - https://youtu.be/4eHxjT_I_38
Hangzhou Lockdown - https://youtu.be/BwzNBb6642A
Night walking - https://youtu.be/u8TM-3-BkNc
Check out my website www.rob-burton.co.uk
My blog: https://www.rob-burton.co.uk/visionsofchina