In case you were wondering what life is like here in Shanghai for us right now when all you hear is more and more people falling sick, airlines cancelling their connections to mainland China, people getting quarantined after returning from their holidays, what you see is people in masks, closed shops, empty streets and empty grocery shelves, and what you read is media writing about if it's still safe to eat fortune cookies (no joke - BILD headline from Jan. 31st), etc... here are a few thoughts.
For the record: this article is neither going to be overly positive - nor am I going to jump in on any of the hysterics around 2010-nCoV. I will not provide any comprehensive opinion on media, availability of information, others dealing with the situation, etc... All I'm going to state is my perspective, my thoughts, my reflections on our day-to-day life right now - with as much platitudinarianism as the situation calls for.
I decided to stay. I was given the opportunity to leave Shanghai by the Foreign Ministry a couple of weeks ago - without even having to pay for the flight. To be clear: I wasn't even thinking about it. "Stupid!" - is it? I don't know... We'll see.
First and foremost I decided to stay here to support my wife. My wife is on duty every day. She's in the diplomatic service. It's part of her duty to support her colleagues. It's part of her duty to provide those who can't leave with information and help. It's part of her duty to help those who want to - and can - get out. It's what she came here to do - helping. And it's what I came here for - to support her. She's my hero for doing what she's doing and even though I thought I was doing something meaningful for most of my professional life - compared to her work it was not remotely as helpful and meaningful to others and to society in general...
Besides that, life is still good here in Shanghai. Inside our home we feel pretty safe and it's a good time to make progress with things you usually avoid doing when there are other, nicer options. Things like a proper spring cleaning, re-arranging the living room and the study, working on the website and the blog (as you might have realized), reading, making music...
It's also starting to get warmer and our balcony provides us with the option to at least get some fresh air. We've had days with 15 degrees Celsius and the sun has been out quite a few times. We are not supposed to leave the apartment but it's inevitable since most of the delivery services have not been delivering goods for the majority of the past four weeks. That's why I regularly leave the house to visit our local grocery store (thanks for still being open, Aldi!) and the imported-goods markets to get food and beverages. I got some rubber gloves and we have a whole bunch of face masks to cover our hands and faces. You've probably seen images of people covering mouth, nose, hands and other parts of their bodies. Creepy? Nah, you get used to it.
And that's basically the core message: You get used to it!
The daily messages by the authorities that provide you with more or less helpful advice on how you should behave? You'll get used to it - and they are worth collecting for later reference.
Getting your temperature measured when you enter a grocery store or re-enter your compound every single time, not being allowed to enter if the temperature is above 37,2 Celsius? They have to do it - so you'll get used to it.
Washing your hands 10 times more than you usually do? You'll even get used to using moisturizer (as a man who's never done that).
Putting on rubber gloves when you leave the apartment and throw them away after each use? Necessary and it makes you feel better - so you'll get used to it.
Covering your face with a mask even though as a wearer of glasses you won't be able to see sh*t because your lenses get fogged once you've left the house? You'll get used to it - there's no one to bump into on the streets anyway so you might as well take of the glasses.
Staying inside the apartment all week long and even on the weekends - despite the nice weather outside? You'll get used to it and it makes you feel safe somehow.
OK, jokes and self-opinionated statements aside: the situation is fairly distressing. There's no denial. And if you are still with me on this (I assume some have left since my writing has not been the most sensible and considerate up to this point): I do feel for those falling sick and the families losing loved ones. I don't even want to imagine the horrible situation if my wife or I would fall sick and the processes we'd have to go through. So we are trying to be as careful as possible but we also try to live our lives as unfazed as possible.
Please excuse my little rant here but I won't state any of the "but the common flu kills many more people every year" BS. Because everyone knows it does. And, frankly, no one really cares. Why? Again - and it's brutal but it's probably true: because we are used to it... I strongly believe only a few of us are truly immune to this type of deadening. And I don't feel good about it. But I'm not going to stress myself out with reading more news and searching for more information - true or false - on what's happening here. We have our sources for all the necessary information that helps us to decide on how we behave, what we do and what we won't do. And I will leave it to that.
So, besides a little cabin fever we're getting along quite well and do the best we can to keep ourselves busy and positive. After all, there's not much else you can do... and there is a lot of beauty and soothing to this type of banality, if you ask me.