How I Made it Out of China After a Month of Uncertainty

With the news that business won’t be back before May, I decided to pack my bags and try my luck in the UK

The call

“How do we know you’re safe?” The voice on the other line said.

“There was never a reported case in my area. I feel rather healthy. And I’ve been in quarantine for the last 29 days. ”

“What are you precaution measures while traveling?”

“I’ll wear a face mask and latex gloves. I’ll change the gloves every time I come in contact with public surfaces. And I won’t take the mask off when I bored the plane. I’ll use my common sense and wash my hands. I’m not that crazy about picking up the virus. Also, I’ll be subject to rigorous medical monitoring the whole way. They’ll check my state at least a dozen times before I reach London. They won’t let me roam around if something is wrong.”

“You might pick up the disease on the way. All those checks don’t matter. Will you be willing to get yourself tested once you arrive? Will you wear the face mask indoors?”

This was the call I’ve got a few hours before my flight.

How could I tell her there were no adequate tests for COVID-19 available?

I had no problem with additional questions from my British host. I did my best to reassure her I’m fine. But the last bit put me in a pinch.

I understand the fear, but the line of questioning felt ridiculous.

My host wouldn’t feel comfortable around me even if I go through extreme vetting done by medical professionals. Fantastic. What else can I do?

Should I wear a face mask inside? That would be degradingly low. I’m not sick.

Happy travels.

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Photo taken by the author

Chinese airports

I’ve got a premission to leave my apartment on the day of my flight.

I‘ve made it to Xianyang airport in the mist of night. I tried to factor in Chinese controls. They’re time-consuming at best. With all the photos and travel forms, sometimes it feels like you’ll never reach your flight.

The first look at the airport left me in despair. The lights were off. The place looked deserted. I’ve never seen a closed airport. No way. It took me almost ten minutes before I saw someone move. I exhaled. Twenty pounds fell off my chest.

I’ve found an open door at the end of the corridor. The guard checked my temperature and scanned my bags for explosives. There were more travelers than I hoped to encounter. The lights slowly light up after 4am and with them, people woke up from slumber. I’ve checked my baggage, got my temperature checked again, and went to the first security check.

Smile, cheers, look at the camera, smile again. Approved.

I’ve made it through control in under an hour. I miscalculated the time. Better safe than sorry, I guess. Three more hours till my flight.

Welcome from the boarding area cheered me up a bit. No one was around. Deserted chairs. I’ve occupied three spots with my bags and spread my legs. In China, this was an unprecedented luxury.

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Photo taken by the author

Closed shops, stands, and restaurants

I’ve used the remaining time to read and catch up with friends.

My layover was in Beijing. The situation there was more of the same.

Smile, photo, security, smile, photo, were you in Hubei, no, any contact with infected, never, temperature check, then medical forms, wait for them to check your forms, fill in the travel form, take it to that guy, wait for him to accept the form, thermal cameras, another security check, and voila, you made it to overpriced KFC an hour before boarding starts. Excellent.

I’ve boarded the final plane. Everyone wore their face masks. And personal space grew to the size that would make any introvert satisfied.

Temperature check, safety measure, disinfecting the cabin, another temperature check, more disifencants, another health check and finally, touchdown.

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Photo taken by the author

London calling

I was shakily anxious before the plane landed. I expected Immediate discussion with the local authorities. I’d do anything not to end up in another senseless quarantine.

The European welcome was better than imagined. I went through passport check without fuss. The world at Heathrow moved at different pace. It didn’t care about the pandemic. The only people wearing face masks were us — the tiny group from the Beijing flight.

It was refreshing not to see guards in jumpsuits, masks, and goggles.

Everyone minded their own business. And life seemed normal.

I thought people would point at us and make gestures. I pictured they’d label us as uninvited guests.

In reality, everyone was too busy to care. And it made me feel more humane and relaxed. I got my luggage and found a warm hug from my girlfriend. It felt like the crisis was over. No one truly cared about what happened on the other side of the world. And I preferred it that way.

And my host, she made me welcoming crepes with freshly cut fruit and chocolate.

The story about the virus dissipated as soon as I walked through the door.

I’ve got my life back.

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