CNY 2020 – Day 7 – Coronovirus

I don’t think it’s possible for me to write about this holiday and not discuss what’s going on back “home” in China. The Coronovirus outbreak has been a very large part of our lives throughout this entire trip. When we aren’t reading up on news ourselves, we’re in contact with people back in Suzhou who didn’t go on holiday. It’s been kind of wild.

China is in the midst of building a hospital… In 6 days. There are actually 2 of these being built because most likely, a lot more people are going to be getting sick

The virus started in Wuhan, in a wet market. People there were selling exotic meats like bat and civet, and that’s how the virus began. We had been hearing about the pneumonia-causing illness in December already, but it wasn’t actually until we got to Malaysia that things got bad. First the market in Wuhan was closed, then the city shut down. Then, several others shut down too.

Ground 0 for the Wuhan Coronovirus

We live in Suzhou, which is about 300km from the city of Wuhan. There have been only 8 cases in Suzhou and no deaths, as of now. One of the infected Suzhou residents was even cured! Still, people are very nervous about it all.

I’ve never been to Hubei province, although it’s pretty close via high speed train

Watching this go down from so far away is kind of surreal. I keep seeing photos of empty grocery store shelves and I keep getting notices of all the venues and events that are shutting down because of the virus. Everyone has basically been told to stay home. People are going stir crazy.

It’s worse in Wuhan, where the city is in complete lock down. Roads have been physically closed to stop people from getting out. Unfortunately, 5 million people left Wuhan before officials realized that this virus is so contagious. This is why it’s spread so far throughout China.

We don’t really know when we’re going to be able to go back. Our three cats are being cared for by our usual pet sitter, and we’re ok to stay here in Malaysia for a while, but it’s still a strange feeling to know that we can’t go back home because it’s not really safe to yet.

Many flights have been cancelled already

The government has been really careful over the last week. Schools are being shut down for an extra week after the holiday and non-essential businesses are closed until February 8th. There’s even been a hotline set up where people can report businesses that are trying to get their workers back to work early. It hasn’t stopped several schools from trying to get teachers to come back early to sit in empty classrooms, in the name of “getting their dollar’s worth” out of us. They don’t want us feeling like we have extra holidays…

I’m fairly concerned about the emptying grocery stores. Fresh vegetables and fruit are in short supply.

All of this is leading to some panic, of course. There are a lot of rumours going around and quite a bit of misinformation. People are abandoning their pets and freaking out on other expats in the Wechat groups too. I’ve seen name calling and full on melt downs. People are scared and they want other people to be scared too so that they don’t feel so alone.

Of course, some people are creating memes in their spare time, which I think is a lot more productive than going over worst case scenarios in your head.

I’ve been trying very hard to stay calm. I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a teenager and one of the best ways I know how to cope is to surround myself with positive people. I choose my friends carefully. But… I also feel like I have a role to play as an expat community leader in Suzhou. I am either the owner or administrator of multiple Wechat groups, and thousands of people use these groups to get information. I need to make sure that I’m there, providing good information and stopping bad information from spreading.

I’ve been trying to encourage people to stay calm, stay isolated and stay clean.

Still, I’m lucky. I’m facing this from the safety of a country that has been mostly unaffected by the virus. I have a reliable person taking care of my pets and the ability to stay abroad for a little while longer, although, to be honest I’d much rather be home, safe and sound with my furry family.

I just want to be home, curled up with Oliver

For now, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing: staying up to date with facts, washing my hands frequently, using hand sanitizer when necessary, and staying out of crowds. It’s all I can do.

Good advice!

Here are a couple more coronavirus memes to brighten a rather gloomy post:

There are lots of these ones floating around including one of a guy who cut a hole in his mask so that he could smoke out of it
During Chinese New year, these red envelopess are given out with money in them. Of course this year, with masks being in short supply…. This is a great gift!
Probably my favorite meme so far. Chinese people love to tell others to drink hot water…. For everything. Cold water is bad for you…. Hot water will cure fevers, ear infections, pneumonia and probably Coronovirus too

My next post will be about traveling to the jungle! Stay tuned! (I’m almost caught up!?)

CNY 2020 – Day 1 – Bonus Holidays

I’ve never been much of a fan of Shanghai. It’s polluted, crowded, expensive and it takes forever to get anywhere. Unfortunately, there is no airport in Suzhou, which means that any time we travel, we have to go to Shanghai.

We’ve been to the Bund only once.

Things have become better in the past couple of years, since we discovered some great restaurants and Shanghai’s vibrant expat scene.

Turkish appies in Found 158. We also very much enjoy the Vietnamese restaurant down there called Cyclo

The Hop Project was a game changer for us. They serve gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches on sour dough bread. I’ve never seen this in Suzhou.

Now, we spend the night before our flights in this megacity, to enjoy food and atmospheres we don’t really get in Suzhou. It’s become a bit of a bonus vacation for us, something I never really thought was possible.

Spanish Tortilla. Love!!!

Meatballs

Chorizo soaked in red wine

Fantastic sangria

Last night we had an especially cool experience at our favorite Tapas bar in China, Tres Perros. From its music to its clientele, Tres Perros takes me back to Spain. The food and drinks are on point and the atmosphere of the bar is just like we experienced last year as we traveled around Europe.

Their Churros and flan are decadent

Even some of the Chinese staff speak Spanish and they all speak some English. Last night, while we were enjoying our dinner, one of the waiters came by and explained that he had a friend who had been in an accident and who had lost his leg. He asked if we could help him out at all. Before I knew it, everyone over at the table next to us was ordering him food, drinks and just having laughs with him. They were Spanish expats and it was a wonderful thing to see. They didn’t pity the disabled man. They just treated him like he belonged there and that he was welcomed there. It was a beautiful reminder that there are amazing people in the world.

They were a very fun crowd.

Shanghai has won me over. It took a while but I’m glad we’re friends now. After all… Who doesn’t want bonus vacation?

Weekends Away

One of the best things about living in China is the high speed train. Dave and I have no interest in buying a car in China, so the high speed train is how we get from city to city, when we need a break from Suzhou.

_92473681_chinadancevertical3
Gee…I wonder why I don’t want to be a part of this wonderful driving experience?

This year, we’ve taken a record number of weekend trips that I thought might be worth writing about.

Cirque du Soleil

My hatred of Shanghai city has never been a secret, but I’ve recently grown to appreciate this metropolis, regardless of its overpopulation and pollution…

China-Shanghai-Skyline-Night-670x300
I mean…I guess it’s a pretty enough city…

The event that began this new understanding of Shanghai was none other than a Cirque Du Soleil show.  Dave and I have seen 6 shows total now, so when we found out that Kooza would be playing in old Pudong…we booked tickets with our friends Kim and CJ.

 

Shanghai doesn’t get as many big shows as I wish it did (mainly because a lot of bands and musicians are banned in China), but now and then, they get a good one.  Linkin Park played Shanghai a few years ago, before Chester Bennington’s death.  Unfortunately, the concert took place while I was visiting family in Canada, which meant I missed my last opportunity to see one of my favourite bands perform.

Christmas with Friends

We’ve taken a couple of trips to Hangzhou this year as well.  Located about 2 hours away by high speed train, Hangzhou is a beautiful city.  It was recently the location of a G20 Summit, and is home to West Lake, which is both scenic and huge.  Hangzhou is the capital of Zhezhang province, Jiangsu’s neighbour to the south.

More importantly, Hangzhou is home to two of my favourite people in the world!  So, Dave and I, along with our friend Kevin, made our way down to Hangzhou for Christmas this year.   We enjoyed some excellent meals, a nice walk around West Lake, and time with good friends.  It was well worth the weekend trip!

Weddings in Hangzhou

A few months later, we found ourselves back in Hangzhou for Deb and Dedrick’s wedding!  We had another lovely trip in, and this time, we got to spend the weekend with our good friends Mark and Deb.  Mark and I play in The Sundaze together, and it was good to get out and cut loose in a new city with them.  And of course, my dear Kevin was there as well!

The longer you stay in China, the more people you meet.  Deb and Dedrick’s wedding was a really cool experience because there were people from everywhere there.  It was a beautiful mixture of North American and Argentinian culture, with guests from all over the world.

Moroccan food in Tianzefang

Finally, Shanghai itself can be an awesome little getaway.  When Dave and I went to Taiwan in April, we opted to spend the night in Shanghai before flying out the next morning to Taipei (Suzhou doesn’t have an airport).  We asked around for food recommendation, and my friend Andy told me of a good Moroccan place in an area of Shanghai called Tianzefang.

Tianzifang is lovely!  It’s a vibrant and interesting area that doesn’t feel at all like the Pudong I grew to hate.  It’s full of bars, unique shops and great international food options.

A month or so later, Dave and I actually made a special trip to Shanghai just to have another meal at Andelus, the Moroccan restaurant Andy recommended.  The following morning, we visited the very famous ” Lao Wai Park“.

IMG_20180501_105627

Shanghai’s Lao Wai (foreigner) Park, is an are of restaurants and bars that are very popular among expats.  The comedy group Mamahuhu did a series of videos there.  Dave and I had an amazing lunch at a little Vietnamese restaurant.  I can’t wait til we can visit again!

We also wandered around Shanghai for a bit during our last trip in.  We saw the largest Starbucks in the world while we were there.  There was a massive lineup, so we didn’t go in, but I did take some pictures.

There are so many more nearby places we want to visit before we leave China.  We have friends in Nanjing that we really want to go visit.  We also want to see Yellow Mountain, and of course we’d love to see more of Shanghai and Hangzhou.  The high speed train gives us so many opportunities for travel.  Now, to make the time!

IMG_20180501_125417
Here’s a photo of a dinosaur made completely of smoked meat….it was part of an art exhibition we saw while walking around the Starbucks.  Because….China!?

I’ll be writing lots over the next week, trying to catch up on all my Indonesia posts before we head to The Philippines!