On January 24, we started our Chinese New Year holiday until February 3. Since I had just returned from a three week holiday break, I opted for a staycation in my home – Shenzhen, China. Particularly since I was traveling to Sydney at the beginning of March and Johannesburg at the end of March for spring break, I figured let me manage my coins efficiently and responsibly . . .
Two days later on January 26, we got our first email that the Shenzhen Education Bureau was delaying the reopening of schools from our original return of February 3 until February 10 for high school students and February 17 for the rest of us – I teach early years. As such, we would initiate online learning starting February 3, for 1-2 weeks until school reopened.
That was 56 days ago.
Unbothered and resolved to save money, I continued to enjoy the quiet, emptiness of the city. Spending time with friends, enjoying coffee dates and new restaurants without crowds, walking the sidewalks without having to share them with scooters, and breathing in the fresh, clean air with less vehicles and smokers. More time off, just meant more time to enjoy things at a slower pace and practice virtual teaching. Definitely go visit Macau for a few days and additionally, I had a professional learning conference scheduled in Hong Kong from February 13 – 16, so no need for any major changes, however I did book a mini getaway to Krabi, Thailand from February 6-12.
On January 30, I received the email that my conference was cancelled. On February 2, my return flight from Krabi to Shenzhen was canceled. On February 5, we were informed our closure would extended until March 2, basically losing any and all time off or student free days except national holidays. Also, Hong Kong and Macau were steadily closing their borders and reducing ferry service. Around the same time, the US decided citizens traveling from China would be subject to quarantine. Since I had to interest in discovering what that meant or looked like as a women of color, I decided two weeks in Thailand and then figure out what to do next.
On February 10, Singapore Airlines cancelled my spring break flight to Johannesburg and Sydney was appearing less and less like a possibility, so I proceeded to start getting my monies back. Somewhere in the midst of all this, school starting date moved to March 16 and since my 14 days in Thailand finished up on February 21, I bought a ticket to the US for February 22 and a ticket back to Shenzhen through Hong Kong from Chicago for March 18. I thought to myself, no time off until June 17, no need to stay on this side of the world for any reason, not planning on returning to the US for the summer, and stop spending more money which was my original intent of a CNY staycation. Bonus, since October I have been working on my teaching license to be certified in District of Columbia, so since I was going to be in the states and I had extra time on my hands I decided to study for and take my last two Praxis tests.
So Thailand to San Francisco, then Los Angeles to South Carolina. Even though I was only in LA a little over 12 hours, I got to have dinner with my high school classmate recovering from cancer. So the plan remained, South Carolina for about two weeks before heading to Chicago for tests, social resuscitation and return home. On February 28, we got the “until further notice”, no definitive start time.
Since it now looked more like April than March, I decided I would return to SC on March 19 to drive to New Jersey with my mom to see my younger brother and his family. Planned a girls’ weekend with grade school friends in Houston and I would simply move my Chicago to HK flight to beginning of April. Then, on March 12 noon EST, China added those returning from the US to a mandatory 14 day quarantine. While I knew I would likely have to quarantine for 14 days since I left China to travel, I simply had to do it at home and I had to issues with it. However, having to go to a facility scared the shit out of me.
And just like that all my plans began to crumble and my “to be determined” life of the past 7 weeks that had been fairly mentally manageable – with my therapist, friends, and family – went from zero to 100 real quick. Should I stay or should I go? Should I follow through with my plans to take my tests? Should I leave immediately? Should I stick with my original plans for March 18? Should I change to a later date and wait and see? It was rumored that arriving in Hong Kong would result in a mandatory 14 day quarantine there AND then another 14 days once I was able to cross the border in Shenzhen! No thank you and full on anxiety induced panic mode.
As the landscape in the US and Chicago began to shift and it looked like I was not going to get the much needed emotional and mental resuscitation I was looking for anyway, I decided to focus on and take my test, enjoy my hotel space, finish binge watched Love Is Blind and sleep on it. That was Monday, March 16. As par for the course, things continued to change in the blink of an eye or literally overnight as I slept with “hot spot” country list growing exponentially, seemingly making nowhere a viable option. Landing in Hong Kong was hyper risky and the thought of traveling alone had lost its appeal weeks ago, so on a whim of encouragement from a colleague in Philadelphia, plan B were flights to Doha where we would meet up and fly to Thailand together.
That was Tuesday, March 17 and we made it safely into Thailand Wednesday morning. Safely I say because I believe Thailand may have recently closed its borders. I do not know. Perhaps it has not. Also, like in the midst of decided to return here as a safety net for 14 days prior to returning to China from US as a hot spot – you guessed it – Thailand was newly added to the hot list. Nevertheless for numerous reasons that can literally be another topic of discussion, in many ways I would rather be here than the US. However, for the last few days I have decided to detach from COVID as much as humanly possible.
I am trying to put a pause on heavy lifting thinking for as many nonessential things as possible. As such I am a hotel resident in Bangkok until April 4. Tomorrow I begin week 7 of online teaching (the last week of February being our Spring Break). This morning and yesterday, since I cannot seem to sleep past 3 am, I meditate, journal and workout. Today I made and submitted a video for our faculty virtual Pandemic lipsyncing thing – Closing Time by Semisonic, this week’s prompt One Hit Wonders. This evening I should probably do my licensure coursework or not, I have until 11 am Monday. Maybe I will just catch up on my shows I missed this week, like Top Chef All Stars LA or watch Self Made or Uncorked #Netflix . . .
I mentioned to my therapist a few weeks ago, if I knew then, what I know now, I should have been writing about this everyday starting in January. Chronicles of my emotional state, highs and lows, analysis paralysis, ideas, whatever – just let it all out. Hindsight. But who knew, right – literally, who could imagine? And so, I started today, day 58 because better late than never and it is not how or where you start, but finish or something like that somebody said I think.
The past 8 weeks has forced me to improvise, think while in motion, attempt decisiveness, lean on, excel, rest(ore), unplug, care for self, get better about no answers or solutions or directions . . . sometimes do and other times just be – don’t do shit. I will ride out these last two weeks, however as I approach almost two months of not being home, I need my sense of normalcy returned. I need my bed and my space and my things, my life back.
On April 4, outside of an apocalypse – seriously or zombies at this point, I am going home. Whatever that means and whatever that looks like . . . keep you posted.