Coronavirus Uncertainty

In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, here are some assessments and observations that I have from living here in Shanghai.


Toni’s photo – partial scale model of the city of Shanghai taken at the City Planning Office in October 2019

In the middle of an epidemic, although mostly contained in Wuhan, still very present in many other cities across China, and as an expatriate who is not a citizen of this country(China), it is a hard but crucial decision to make. To go home or not to go home…That is the question. Abandon my current life, job, home, and loose the majority of my belongings and income security to return to the US away from the virus host country or stay being extremely vigilant in hopes that things will get better not worse. It is a risk since, realistically, no one knows what will happen.

From my experience I can see the government is, at this point, making phenomenal efforts to help by providing assistance, enforcing paid holiday despite the extension of one weeks to the official holiday and postponing the return of students for one month, Feb 29th. At this point in time, conditions here are more or less the same.

People are alert and cautious, but life goes on. I hope I am making the right decision and I believe that I will know what to do when the time is right. I spent the first seven days of this at home time pouring over the internet reading any and everything I could get my hands on, spending hours on the phone with family and friends, spending day after day worrying and trying to decide if I should leave or stay, constantly checking flight prices, daily infection statistics, spending hours in massive group chats trying to ty current. I found myself not being able to sleep, staying up until the sun came up, night after night, forgetting to drink water, getting migraines, crying until I felt exhausted, being torn apart by all of it. Then I saw a vlog of an expat who is in Wuhan who did not leave. He said, “If I worry now and then I get it and worry again then I’ve worried twice. “

It may take a few months or maybe even a few years for things to return to the way they were, but the communities here are strong, the people pull together, Chinese and foreigners, and I know that here more people would help me that if I were at home, so I will stay. Being at home puts me at no greater ease so I might as well stay. I could also unknowingly carry the virus home with me and unintentionally affect the ones I love.


Shanghai_Rooftop of house_and highrise_2019-10-24 14.14.03

Toni’s Photo of Rooftops against high-rise background in Shanghai 

It is a crisis, not an apocalypse, and I am not helpless here. We need to stay still, let the incubation period pass, stay out of close contact with others. And practice good cleanliness habits. I do not know how this will go but I am hopeful so that’s a start. Does that mean I am not scared? No. I am. But there is always something, some challenge, some scary situation, some disruption. Seems to be the way of things. All that I can do is to do all that I can do and that’s exactly what I plan to do. 


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