I should have actually written this during the lockdown, but was curious about what was waiting for us upon our return to Chengdu. My family and my friend who came with us for the Lunar New Year all got stuck in the village when the lockdown came into effect. For two weeks, no one was allowed to go anywhere including leaving the village.
Although people were able to leave at times they normally met someone just outside of the county seat if they needed something to buy. I think this happened only once or twice, based on what my father-in-law said. Lucky for us we were in his hometown so we could enjoy the blue skies and fresh air without being physically stuck in a house. Although I did end up going 50 days without a shower as there wasn’t one in the village.
Upon lifting of the restrictions we found out you needed to wear a mask wherever you were going out in public and you also needed documents to travel back to wherever you wanted to go. For us we had to go and get a health checkup document and a permission to leave document signed by a local government office before we could even buy bus tickets. We bought the bus tickets and they took photos of our ids and documents the day before we actually took the bus.
Once on the bus, everyone was required to fill out an app on their phone to update their health status, I couldn’t. While on the bus ride back it was stopped twice. Once it was just the driver who had to get out, the second time a police officer boarded the bus and checked everyone’s health codes which at the time foreigners could not register for. Because I’m a forgeiner my husband had to get off the bus with my passport and fill out extra paperwork and answer questions. When he finally came back we had to pose for a photo.
Life in Chengdu was slightly returning to normal when we arrived back in Mid- March, the self-quarantine was lifted at the end of February. Many businesses were still closed and people weren’t really out and about on the streets. Everywhere I went temperature checks were required on the subway, to enter walmart and KFC. Some stores didn’t require it, but many had thermometers present. Face masks were required everywhere or you weren’t going anywhere. Delivery men could only come to the gate of the apartment complex and not inside, so if you ordered any food you had to pick it up there.
We actually had to register at our apartment complex, show them our health certificates and register for another health app as soon as we came back. Once again, I couldn’t do the app as I’m a foreigner. I limited how much I went out for the rest of March, but in April I started to go out more for walks in the morning. I was supposed to return to work from my maternity leave April 1st, but because of Covid-19, I didn’t return until April 13th. However, work was not how I imagined it would be.
My high school did not want me to come back and teach in person and at first they told me it would only be for two to three weeks and then we would resume in person classes. So once a week I went to record three lessons that were sent to the school to watch. Probably the most difficult thing to do is to talk by myself for 32-40 minutes without any students. Eventually, it was mid-May and I still wasn’t back in the classroom, so I asked if it would be possible to just finish out this semester doing the online teaching. I wasn’t sure of the school’s answer, but I also said that I didn’t have anyone to really watch my daughter yet and I still need to work and I think this would be the best solution. To my luck, they never promised I would stay completely online, but they would keep it easy on me. I finished recording my last online classes July 1st.
Nowadays, if you walk around the streets of Chengdu in the sweltering heat you’ll see varying degrees of people wearing masks. Most people do carry them with them, but they might not actually wear them on the street. I’d say its now down to about 50% of people are always wearing them. That being said whatever business you go into or any public transport you take, masks are required. Temperature checks are still in place. Some people say there is nothing to worry about, but I think that is a little unilkely. Everyone worldwide has been cooped up for months and will likely be traveling this summer. I expect some sort of spike for this summer in China as many will travel and enjoy the time off from school.
I’m not sure how the fall semester is going to go with teaching. It’d be great to go in person, but really I’d be happier commuting from home and doing online teaching as I get to spend more time with my daughter. Covid-19 has changed a lot of things and I’m curious to see what the long term impacts will be on our lifestyle, but I’m forever thankful for the extra time with my daughter even though I couldn’t travel to see my Grandma one last time. Sometimes we need to see the silver lining even in a pandemic.