Early April 2020 Updates
8 April 2020: Here are a few things that have happened in our end of this world recently.
We get by with a little help from our friends (and family)…Laura (Laker), Brooke (Brook trout), Gauthier family, Hilary (Griff & Gus), Elaine (Grant’s mama) and Franky:
Several media publications from China have recently reported that there are no new cases of Covid-19; particularly no new cases from our city. I decided data might help us figure out the accuracy of this statement, so, last Friday, April 3rd, I wrote down whenever I heard an ambulance pass by on the street below our apartment complex. Here is the data:
11:28 ambulance honking
Even in a city of 9 million people, this is a lot of ambulance traffic from one area of town. My two reasonable conclusions are:
1. Nah, we still have cases of the virus that are being covered up. OR
2. The ambulance personnel have been instructed to continually drive around the city with the horns blaring in order to elicit fear.
Sadly, either of these conclusions is pretty plausible.
On March 26th, the policy began that foreigners (even with a work visa) are not permitted back into China. In addition, anyone arriving back into China after March 11th (national or foreigner) is required to go to the hospital for two nasal swabs to be tested for Covid-19.
This extreme measure of “closing the borders” to foreigners seems to go hand-in-hand with current sentiment towards foreigners. The Chinese government has effectively convinced their population that China is now *clean* and rid of the virus, but that it is being brought back in by dirty foreigners.
It is ironic how quickly the Chinese have forgotten where the virus originated (here in Hubei) and why (ummmm because you sell dead meat right next to live animals in wet markets). Instead of the government making a campaign to clean up the wet markets and educate people about hygiene (wash your hands, no spitting/peeing/pooping in the streets), it is easier to blame the foreigners that China was *rid* of the disease before we started coming back.
The racist sentiments among the general population are minute but present. Example 1: We went out to eat at a German restaurant the other evening. In two large rooms of the dining hall, we were seated before dinner rush hour. Each couple/group that came in sat as far away from us as possible in the second large room. It’s not like they flipped us off, swore loudly, threw shit at us, and then ran away. It was subtle. Like you wouldn’t even see it unless you were looking for it – a subtle glance in our direction then pointing to the waitress to sit at the other side.
Example 2: When cycling past people on the road, I noticeably see them turn their back as I pass or step back on to the curb if I am stopped at the red light. Our colleague mentioned that he noticed a husband pull his wife back away from him while he was pausing for a green light.
Through consistent messaging and establishing a common enemy, the Chinese government is more than able to educate their population to be weary of foreigners. Then, if a second peak of the epidemic occurs here in China, foreigners will be blamed. The year may be 2020, but it is not a second later than 1939. Clear propaganda messages and a common enemy are old tricks of the trade for a government to fulfill its agenda.
Along these same lines, within the past week, the local government has published a video showing how rude and inconsiderate foreigners are. This video was filmed when our colleague was in the hospital waiting for his mandated nose swab (see above). In the video, a group of Americans walk into the hospital, push their way to the front of the line, cause a huge scene, throw papers in someone’s face, and walk out. Our colleague said that the cameras were rolling only when the group entered and that their actions weren’t those of actual people but of a carefully choreographed acting crew. Folks, this is how you make propaganda: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/6en2sTWoF3TDBcK_OhtfAw
On Sunday April 5th, in the most gorgeous of spring afternoons, Grant and I walked along our favorite “Daxue Lu” for a coffee and some window-shopping then along beer street (quite calm, many restaurants along there are still currently closed), and finally went to dinner at the German restaurant 1907 (see above).
While on the walk from Daxue Lu to beer street, we had to stop on the sidewalk because a crowd of people was gathered. The crowd consisted of pedestrians who were waiting to cross the street. They were waiting because an older woman was being walked by two younger people to a taxi. The three of them boarded and were followed by an ambulance flashing its lights. Several policemen and healthcare workers were around. The older woman wore a bright red hat and vest with yellow writing on it. Judging by her state and the amount of attention this was drawing by policemen and healthcare workers, we have been able to put the pieces together. After the vehicles departed and the policemen walked back to their health tent (they are blue and found on nearly every street corner, I’m not sure of the extent of their functions but presume they are to assist those with symptoms from that community), we moseyed on by.
Other photos from Daxue Lu
The week of April 6th was intended to be our April holiday. However, we went to school on Tuesday and Wednesday for two teacher-training days. Tuesday was focused around Covid-19 prevention and how the school is handling the various procedures to keep students and faculty safe.
On Wednesday, April 8th, we were back at school for PD (professional development). Some sessions were run by fellow teachers (so helpful, awesome, we work with some great colleagues) followed by department meetings:
9 April: Each district has its own unique back-to-school date. We work at a boarding school; this poses a unique set of challenges related to safety not only during the school day, but also after-hours. At this current time, we don’t know when we will return to school, so we will continue with online learning to the best of our abilities.
UPDATE FROM BEGINNING OF THIS POST – 10 April: Qingdao didn’t “have” any confirmed cases of Covid-19 for weeks. This publication came out April 7th – two older Chinese people got infected while at a hospital. They were infected by a third person who had been abroad… or so the story goes. We take all these publications with the largest grains of salt, but need to stay informed about how the news is being shaped in this part of the world:
April 10th photos from a “walk-about” in Qingdao in Zhongshan park and surrounding neighborhoods: