My Life in China Right Now

Communism, House Arrest and Deadly Virus

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Photo from WeChat Moments

For the record

The day is slowly repeating another 24 hours. I’m drifting into the next week behind bars. Better said, behind walls. I’m on house arrest. The whole country is behind walls. But drifting implies movement, and I’m certainly not going anywhere.

It’s almost day 15 of this prison. And we’re not sure how long it might last. The latest speculations said March 2, the best-case scenario. Hooray.

I’ve never been to prison before. I picture its nothing like this. It’s way worse. But living in China allowed me to experience all the merits of captivity.

I’ve received special permission to hit the supermarket the other day. It was the highlight of the week. I’ve bought as much food as my hands could carry. Grocery shopping never made me so happy. It was the last day out. I’m not supposed to leave the house until the whole thing blows over.

My roommate and I are slowly losing our marbles.

Sincerely yours,


WHO changed the official name. The deadly virus is now called COVID-19. It has a better ring to it than the former 2019-nCoV. It’s easier on the tongue.

“CO” stands for coronavirus, “VI” for the virus(of course it does), and “D” is not what you think. Well, it might be, not every mind is dirty. “D” stands for the disease. That’s right. The officials avoided naming the virus after a geographical location, animal, or ethnicity. *KHM* Spanish flu coughs in the background.

The officials named virus like it’s your basic friend next door. Coronavirus disease, that’s the new name. It’s underwhelming, to say the least.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed the new name during the WHO press conference. The event took place in Geneva on Feb 11th.

This was the best news in the last two weeks. I’m not even being sarcastic.

The cycle of lies and bad news

The home-arrest situation wouldn’t be that bad if we knew the state of stuff. It’s been clear that local officials are lying with every drawn breath. Every government lies. That’s normal, I guess.

Right now, it’s intense. It seems like every day we discover the situation is way worse than previously reported. The day before yesterday, Feb 13, was the day with 14,840 new confirmed cases. The number of cases is totaling over 50 000 now. That’s an increase of 31.4% of total cases in one day. The day before that we found out that the incubation period might be 24 days. During this time the person might be asymptomatic and infect the whole world. The day before that, we found out that the virus might stay suspended in the air for 20 minutes. It’s aerosol. And it survives on surfaces for up to a week. The day before that? I don’t even remember. It was bad, worse, critical, deadly.

The worse than the news is the official reaction from the government. They’re continually imposing stricter and stricter measures. And this is what makes us afraid. That’s right; it’s not the virus; it’s the reaction to the outbreak. We’re not sure when it will be possible to to leave China. What will happen then? Hell, I don’t even know how to pay my utilities right now. Hopefully, they won’t cancel the internet.

House arrest

We’re enjoying all the merits of modern life. We have many playing consoles. Kindle. Tablets. Laptops. Internet (Chinese internet-very different). And we’re stocked on food like it’s the end of days. Armageddon with a TV and a PlayStation. It’s not that bad. There are way worse things in life.

The first ten days arrived like a vacation. I had more time to read and write and take care of my hobbies. It felt like I have all the time in the world. I could be lazy. Sleep. Exercise. And I could wear sweat pants all day long. But when day 12 arrived, it weighed on me that I have no idea what lurks in the not-so-distant-future. It’s driving both my roommate and me crazy. The apartment is starting to feel like an asylum. There is only so much deep cleaning you can do until you develop OCD.

I find myself pacing around the house like a lunatic. Anxiety built out of nowhere. It squashes your body like an invisible fist. What am I anxious about? Everything and nothing, it’s just a feeling right now. And the walls are definitely caving in, I saw them move.

It is at least a glimpse of prison. That moment right before your trial ends. The jury is still out. An acquittal or harsh sentence? What is your crime anyway?

How will it end?

Right now, the Chinese are fighting the air. They’re spraying the whole country with ‘chemicals’ (that’s all we know) — scenes right out of sci-fi movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if a movie comes to light from this outbreak. There are stories worth telling; there are heroes, and there are conspiracies. The whole situation has a plot of a Danny Boyle movie. And it looks like one.

Right now, China is building hospitals at unprecedented speed. Xi’an finished a 3-building hospital in 8 days. Wuhan erected one in less than ten days. They’re popping around the country like the first signs of Spring.

Drones are flying over our heads and dropping ‘chemicals’ (whatever that means). If they see you on the street and you’re not wearing a mask, or you’re not supposed to be out, the drone will warn you. There is a video of an older woman scared back into her building by a drone. How crazy is that?

All in all, the death rate is steady at around 2% of the total infected. Most of the dead are elderly with underlying health issues. Let them rest in peace.

It feels like it would be easier to survive the virus than being trapped by the government. There is no way out right now. We’ll have to sit this one through.

All these measures might not help contain the virus. The thing is spreading faster than wildfire. If I get the virus and also live through the quarantine, I’ll be mad.

We’re all waiting for March 2 to see what’s going to happen. On the 2nd, Shaanxi, Hong Kong, and other provinces might resume life. Children should be able to visit their daycare centers. Scholars should be back in their schools. And students should be able to come back to their universities. Until then, I’ll work from home while trying to hold my marbles.

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