As Beijing enters its seventh 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 through the ordeal.
Psychological studies suggest that we need around three weeks to nurture a new habit, and as that quarantine has given us almost twice that long, many Beijingers have seized the opportunity to foster a skill or longstanding ambition, stepping out of their comfort zones to explore undiscovered talents. Li Qiushi is one such person, using her extra time to try her hand at gardening and bringing a welcome patch of spring into her home when she’s not cooking with her mom or playing video games.
Can you first tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I’m 26, and a Beijing local, which means I have spent most of my life in this city, except for a short period of time living in LA for graduate school. Now I work in the financial industry, but because of the outbreak, I have been working from home for the past several weeks.
Would you consider yourself safe, sane, safe and sane, or other. Why?
Well, I feel actually quite safe and sane. First, I’m lucky. I was able to get enough masks and other essentials, in part thanks to my company who was aware of the coronavirus situation and secured some masks for all employees, which is quite nice. I also managed to obtain over 200 masks from the US in early February, so my close ones don’t need to worry about the lack of personal protection. Knowing that the people I care about are safe makes me feel safe in turn.
I still remember what it was like in 2003, during the SARS outbreak. I was little back then, but this kind of disease and self-quarantine is nothing that new to me or other Beijing locals. So I’m not too scared. I read the news and I follow many doctors and scientists on social media to keep myself informed. I have found that to be actually very helpful.
Also, I live with my parents. It may not be ideal normally but being with people who really care about each other in this kind of situation is calming, and I do feel much safer and sane to be with my family. I have also stayed in contact with several friends of mine as we live around a ten-minute drive apart and so still get to meet each other every now and then. That helps me to feel connected and less isolated.
Has the virus disrupted your travel plans or those of your loved ones? How has your life in general changed on account of the situation?
I didn’t have any travel plans so it hasn’t much affected me. My parents, however, were planning to go to Hainan for two weeks before the outbreak and were forced to cancel the whole trip on the eve of Spring Festival.
Overall, my life is ok, though I do miss normal life like dining outside and going to the movies and shopping, etc. My boyfriend went home for Chinese New Year and because of the outbreak, we haven’t seen each other for two months. This long-distance thing is unexpected, and I can’t say I’m happy with it.
How have you been spending your time since the outbreak – are there any projects or hobbies you’ve been able to catch up on?
During this period, my mom and I, like many people, have poured a lot of energy into cooking. I even read a piece of news about baking powder and flour being sold out, and how the stock prices of baking powder companies continue to go up and up.
Nintendo helps as well. My mom was training for a triathlon before the outbreak, but running and riding outside is no longer feasible for her as she doesn’t want to catch a cold or get a fever and be sent to a hospital and quarantined as a precaution. So instead we play Fitness Boxing and Ring Fit Adventure at home, which my friend from the US sent me. I am deeply thankful to her as it has since tripled in price.
And I must introduce my most peaceful or maybe most boring project. I bought a Chinese rose plant online and I watched videos about how to grow it properly. I water it and watch it grow with full passion – now it has about ten buds! I never thought I would ever try my hand at gardening, but guess the virus changes everything!
Has the situation affected your work or business? If so, how?
I don’t have to get up early and take the insanely crowded subway and now have two extra hours to sleep, which is good. But I still need to work overtime as my workload itself has not reduced. I also really think working in an office with colleagues is much more efficient than working from home.
Have there been any unexpected upsides?
My sleep has improved because I can get eight hours of sleep every day. Also, because I spend quite a lot of time watching YouTube to catch up on the news from outside of China, I get to practice my English listening skills a little bit.
Which resources (online or real-life) have proved the most useful to you during this time?
Weibo, actually. I follow many Chinese doctors and scientists on Weibo and their knowledge and experience in dealing with this new virus is very helpful. A lot of advice on YouTube is just absurd and useless. I’m actually kind of worried that people from other countries can not access proper guidance [on how to deal with the virus] online.
What’s one thing that you’ve done that has saved you a lot of hassle/time/insanity?
Be nice to others. Recently, mom was nice to the shop owner of a small grocery shop who was stuck in his home province. When we were out of bottled water, he told my mom where he hid the key to his shop and told us to take anything we needed, and pay him afterward. Trust between people saves us a lot of trouble and time.
What do you most look forward to doing once all of this has blown over?
The perfect day would include brunch with my friends, followed by a long walk, a visit to my favorite dining spot, the cinema, bars, and so on.
Images courtesy of Li Qiushi