Is the world on fire?

I have been getting a lot of questions from friends about the Covid-19 virus. I have been in China for the entire time, quietly going about my day in the city of Shenzhen. As people start to calm down and things slowly start looking normal again, the rest of the world has entered the panic phase.

There is something I need to say before I continue, everyone poops. I mean it is a children’s book after all. That being said how much toilet paper do you need? And if that amount is equal to the Costco cart full of an entire tower of Cottonelle then you should probably already be talking to your doctor about it.

I love the idea that when people heard about the virus their first thought was: I’m gonna need to poop and that means I need all the toilet paper. I do not love the idea of people fighting over it. I mean the book title is: Everyone Poops, which means you should want everyone to have access to toilet paper. After all what we really want is for everyone out there to improve their hygiene. That means more hand washing and less licking the floor.

If you would like to see my thinking when this was all new, you can see it in my first post: https://13thlayerproduction.com/2020/02/08/chinese-new-year-and-a-virus/

Then follow that up by reading the second and vastly more popular post: https://13thlayerproduction.com/2020/02/29/the-ongoing-covid-crisis/

Since I last wrote, WHO has declared this to be a pandemic. This means that this virus is not content to simply infect one country. It is now everywhere. It also means nobody has immunity to it and as of yet there are no known vaccines. For all the official advice and updates go to who.int or visit the cdc’s page, cdc.gov.

My experience with this outbreak is not going to sound like yours. The country I am in, prolonged holidays and stopped things from opening back up. That means industry, school, and most public gathering places (cinemas, theme, parks, and restaurants and bars). Some of these things have reopened and are resuming work and nearly normal operations. Schools and cinemas are not among them.

As the infection rate rose I stopped traveling my city via public transportation. I began walking everywhere I needed to go. I had time, I was no longer at school all day. I spend most of the morning at home. I have an online class at 1 PM with Zoom. And as long as I can access my email I can help students and parents with questions and respond to any work sent to me. Which means I head outside mid afternoon and I walk. My regular interaction with people consists of grocery shopping, buying tasty hot flat bread as a snack, occasionally picking up coffee that I ordered through the Starbucks app, and once a week I meet with a couple friends for a beer or two.

The thing about the virus is it seems to build slowly enough at first that you start thinking it’s no big deal. Then the cases start rising and it’s scary. The thing you weren’t worried about might actually be something to worry about after all. So you start to worry. If you read the other blogs you know that I addressed this. You will go from fine to not fine for a while. I think the best thing you can do is limit your time spent watching the news. This is my number one tip. The news is trying to make money and it will do everything it can to keep you hooked. This is not just the news agency you personally don’t care for it is your news agency too. They do not know anything and all they are doing is hyping you up. I mean except when they told us about that killer bee invasion. Hail evil bee overlord! Start going to the CDC or WHO for your advice. Stop relying on politicians and news pundits. They are all failing you.

The next thing you should do is wash your hands. Use soap and water and do it whenever you can. Try to do it more then you already do. I am not a believer in hand sanitizer. I know that is not what the official line is and you can go ahead and make your own hand sanitizer at home (since the store is out). I just hope you wash it off before you use your gel covered hands to eat. I just can’t imagine that antibacterial gel is good for you. This is of course based on nothing, so, you do you.

The third thing you should do is stay home more. Look, if you have to go to work then go to work. I am not saying you can’t but if you are sick it would be better that you stay home, even if it isn’t this virus. The seasonal flu is still deadly for a portion of the population and besides, everyone hates having a cold, so stay home. I know this is not always possible with a lot of jobs not having sick leave but do your best. It definitely means don’t go to the bar every night and maybe skip it if the parking lot is full. I still have a night out nearly weekly but when I show up they take my temperature, Then they log my name and phone number in a book they keep. The bar is ready in case someone comes down with the virus and if that happens I will be placed into quarantine to wait it out. Does your bar know how to reach you if you have a potential virus catching encounter? I would also advise that you eat out less and eat in more. Improve your cooking skills, mind your health, and save a couple bucks while you reduce your risks.

Next time you run into a friend, skip the handshake and the fist bump. Instead, do the vulcan salute, or an intricate shoe tapping, or challenge them to a dance off. Please keep in contact with your loved ones (family and friends) but maybe do it most often through non-direct means. Have a video conference when you can, a phone call when you can’t, and a regular text exchange the rest of the time. I recommend Zoom for the next dinner party, you can all see and hear each other without endangering those that might be more susceptible to the bad side of the virus. If you are older or have a compromised immune system then you really should reduce your encounters with people. Don’t let yourself disappear though. A video call can do wonders for your outlook.

As the world begins to take this more seriously things will get cancelled. Concerts have already started cancelling. Big conferences and conventions have also. Sports are either crowdless or postponed in a lot of the world. I am sorry about that guys and gals but suck it up. Here are my tips for things to do instead:

  • Take a walk
  • Watch a series you’ve been meaning to get to
  • Read some of those books that are collecting dust on your shelf
  • Learn that new skill you always wished you knew
  • Explore your creative side (write, draw, paint, photograph, film, etc)
  • Learn to play an instrument or 3
  • Take an online course (Udemy, Coursera, Stackskills, etc.)
  • Spend time with your immediate family

I see that a lot of schools are starting to close and a lot of talk about going online. This is going to be hard. It was hard for us here but I think the US is very ill-equipped to have online school. It does seem to requires parental support, access to technology, and the internet is a must. It is a hard road to row for teachers, students, and their parents. Teachers can’t expect that every kid will engage and it can be hard to figure out why they aren’t engaging. It is also hard to grade things and really get a feel for how well the student is handling the new concepts you are introducing. Everyone involved in this situation needs to remember that we are all doing the best we can in a hard situation. So remember to reach out and be in contact no matter where you fall on this spectrum. Teachers, start figuring out some of the many ways to communicate with students and parents digitally. If you don’t yet need them then make the goal to learn them now before you need them. Then teach your students and their parents. It’s a lot of work but since when was teaching not a lot of work?

Now I will switch back to my current situation here in Shenzhen. Schools aren’t allowed to go back to the buildings in a lot of the country. The March date has been scrubbed and no date has been put forth since. They want to make sure the situation is under “basic control” and that is determined by the state. It also means that the parents feel it is safe for their children to go back to school. Then the schools will need to show they can meet certain conditions for prevention and control. When all three of these conditions are met the new date will be announced. Until then we just keep doing our best.

Our province is setting up mandatory quarantine for people coming from some of the more heavily hit countries. The country list seems to be one that is designed to increase as the world infection cases rise. This means I will not bother giving you the list of countries because I am not sure it matters much. If you are coming to China expect some kind of quarantine period. I personally know 2 people that came in from Japan about 2 weeks ago that had quarantine in their own home. Had they come later they might have been housed in a government quarantine area. I also know two people who came from Australia this week that are also in a form of quarantine in their home. Australia is not on any list of mandatory quarantines that I saw but they are serving out a self quarantine per instruction. So when someone in China says they don’t know what the quarantine rules are understand that they really don’t but just expect the quarantine. China is still letting people in from what I can tell but they are being cautious. The only cases we have had in Shenzhen lately have come from travellers coming to China from some other country. Which means I am kind of good with them being cautious and enforcing a quarantine period.

I have had some serious challenges to my continued stay in Shenzhen though. My father has had some serious non covid related health issues. Most recently he had a stroke. He is in the hospital and doing several hours of therapy a day. I wanted to rush home but I was just not sure that was the smart thing to do. Would I stay safe and keep my family safe if I flew home? Maybe but there is a risk at the moment that the answer is no. Also if I left to go to the US I would have to leave my wife and child home. We don’t have a green card or the proper paperwork at the moment for her and I am pretty sure there is a good chance she would not be allowed in. Which would mean I would want to come back almost the minute I landed. I am not sure what would happen when I decided to come back to China. Would I be allowed to? Our school told us that we have to ask, if there is a significant reason to return, otherwise we are supposed to stay out. That isn’t the school’s policy it’s the province’s request. As I have said before, there is currently a quarantine happening for people coming into China. It is one that I understand and can even agree with but definitely one I would rather avoid. The policies about this change regularly and it is hard to predict too far out. When I talked to family everybody felt my best bet was to stay here unless things changed. He is showing great improvement and that makes me feel better but it has been hard. Luckily for me and him, I have family there that can take care of him and harass him into continued improvement.

My wife and son went with her father to the hometown last week. Here are photos she has taken:

While they are gone I have been busy making art. It has been fantastic but I am ready for them to return.

Recycled art, junk art or trash art:

A collage that I am reworking that was centered around my son:

Inspired by the short story The Yellow Wallpaper. Considering the self isolation that resulted during the virus this short story really spoke to me. I created three pieces based around them. They are about 80% done and will change.

Until the next time, stay healthy.

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