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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are a couple more coronavirus memes to brighten a rather gloomy post:
My next post will be about traveling to the jungle! Stay tuned! (I’m almost caught up!?)