As Beijing enters its second week in self-quarantine, the stories of how people have been dealing with the coronavirus outbreak – by staying, leaving, or watching on from afar – are many and varied. In Beijing Bunker, we quiz Beijingers on what approach they’ve been taking to stay safe and sane in this time of war.
Dane Christensen is the co-founder of Link Education Consulting, which provides expert analysis and strategy related to US high school, undergraduate, and graduate school admissions. Below, he tells the Beijinger how his business is getting by in the storm of the coronavirus and shares his thoughts on trying to live a normal life among the madness.
How has the situation affected business for you?
It’s caused some problems, but nothing catastrophic, which is nice. This time of year is always a downturn for this industry. Everything is pretty crazy from August to January, and things chill out for February and March, so to not have that much to do right now is not that unusual. That being said, just the fact that our clients are not in their offices and are not communicating as much means that they are not sending us as much. As far as going out to meet new people and bring in new business, that’s pretty much impossible right now.
How is it affecting you personally? Are you managing to stay sane?
I might have a little bit of cabin fever from spending so much time at home. A lot of stuff has closed down, but since that’s pretty normal for Chinese New Year, it’s kind of like that holiday has just been extended.
Every other time that I’ve tried to travel during Chinese New Year, I’ve gotten stuck somewhere or had to take weird connections or spend a bunch of money on transportation to get back. So, this year I was planning on staying in Beijing anyway, and putting off travel plans until March. From that point of view, I’m able to stay sane because this was the plan all along. Then again, now I have to worry about whether I’ll have to postpone my later travel plans if this situation isn’t resolved by then.
Has the virus disrupted your travel plans or those of your loved ones?
My girlfriend was able to travel home and back for the holiday without a problem, but I’ve known a lot of people, mainly foreigners, who had left for the holiday and chose not to come back. I don’t think that’s necessary because they couldn’t come back, but some people have been making a personal decision to not return.
How have you been spending your time since the outbreak? How has your life changed on account of the situation?
I cook a lot, so there’s been a lot of time to do that. I’ve been trying new things, baking bread, having friends over and cooking for them.
We also still go out and do some pretty normal things. I’ve been to Paddy O’Shea’s for their quiz the past couple of weeks, and Side Street for their buy-one-get-one burgers, or go for a walk to Houhai. It’s kind of weird because, in a sense, I don’t even want to wear a mask outside because there is just no one out there. On the other hand, in some places, you have to wear a mask now, which is fine. They came and put signs up, essentially saying that when you leave your house, you have to wear a mask.
Everywhere is pretty much dead though. In, Houhai, Sanlitun, or the CBD, you’ll only see about ten people walking around. The only place I’ve seen any action is at the Wumart near me.
Have there been any unexpected upsides?
There are pluses and minuses to spending more time at home. It’s been kind of like an extended vacation, so it’s been nice to have time to do more things for myself and to call up friends in the States for a chat. With the normal hubbub of the city, it’s easy for that to get forgotten.
The thing is, people in Beijing don’t often give themselves a staycation. Everyone’s always so busy, and then they take a trip somewhere else just to get away. Then they’re busting their ass to get that vacation in. With this staycation, I can actually sleep eight hours a night, feel good, and feel healthy. I would even go out for a run if it weren’t so cold out.
Which resources (online or real-life) have proved the most useful to you during this time?
Would an X-Box count?
What do you most look forward to doing once all of this has blown over?
Just looking forward to people’s sanity returning. People’s perception of the virus has really kicked into overdrive, and I’m just looking forward to living a pretty normal life. Right now, if you go outside and take off your mask, people will look at you like you’re crazy or even think that you’re a bad person. I’m just waiting for all of that to go away.
Image courtesy of Dane Christensen