My name is Tim and I am an English teacher in Southern China. I moved here in May of 2019 and have thoroughly enjoyed my time so far. I have written a diary of the past month, as China and the rest of the world have deal with the COVID – 19, or Coronavirus, and how it has affected me. There is a lot of information going around about the virus so hopefully people might find my first-hand account beneficial. The short version is that, whilst some parts of the country (far from my city!) have experienced a challenging time and there have been understandable restrictions on what people can do implemented across the country, these are being slowly lifted and myself and everyone I know has remained perfectly healthy. Read about my experiences below…
Jan 23 – 29
Spring Festival is here so all the staff at our school have time off for a holiday. My girlfriend and I ended up going to Taiwan. Strangely enough we had originally booked tickets to go to Wuhan and visit the picturesque Hubei province! News of the virus was beginning to emerge and so we decided to leave that for another time. Chinese New Year is considered the biggest migration of people in the world as Chinese people gather as families. I don’t normally wear a mask as the air quality where I live is good but they had become a requirement. I was worried about transport in China and Taiwan but aside from the metro being subsequently closed, taxis, busses and trains have continually run as normal.
Our trip was fantastic, Taiwan is a truly memorable place and potentially the favourite destination I’ve been to since arriving. A particular highlight was the cat village just outside of Taipei and the Golden waterfall. Over the week it was clear the situation around the virus was getting worse. The most stressful time over this whole month was when our return flight was cancelled.
We were at dinner with low batteries on our phone so quickly finished and headed back to the hotel, worried that we could potentially be stuck on the island. Fortunately the flights were refunded immediately and we booked another one instantly. On our return flight we had to fill in a health form which asked if we had any symptoms or had been to Wuhan. Then we went through a temperature check to see if we were running a fever.
Jan 30 – Feb 3
Our school update us that classes are cancelled for the week that we are back. Travelling to Taiwan as fun but we did a lot each day so this time to relax was appreciated. I was in the lucky position of having a holiday after our holiday. Several teachers chose to take advantage by extending the holiday or heading to another destination. It is decided that Chinese New Year is extended for a few days to try and limit the large numbers of travellers. It is also said for families to try and only send one person out every two days for food and essential items. The city feels very empty but several teachers here for previous Chinese New Year’s said it was similarly vacant then.
During this time most shops, parks and restaurants are shut and staff are set up at the entrances of communities to take temperature scans. During this period I have also cooked more meals at home then I had done in the previous 8 months! One of the odder things about staying at home is missing out on the speaking to people in the office and seeing your other friends. Several games and movie nights were organised and it was good to chat with people, discuss concerns and blow off a little steam!
Feb 4 th – 9 th
Our school advises us that we will be providing online classes for the foreseeable future. This is in keeping with the public schools which will also be online in order to limit the spread of the virus, particularly amongst vulnerable young people. On the 4 th February the UK government advises citizens in China to leave if possible. Due to the nature of the online classes our school facilitates a few colleagues working abroad if they should wish, although the majority stay.
The majority of this week has been spent trying to plan lessons, activity share and get used to the online platform. Until we actually get into the classroom it is hard to know what will work and what won’t but everyone is working around the clock to make the best of the situation.
Feb 10 th – 17 th
Online classes start in earnest! As I said not knowing what will work has made it a little difficult to prepare and keeping fingers crossed that the wifi works. A lot of this situation has reminded me of how I felt when I first started teaching. The first few lessons were a little tricky and had to get through a few technical glitches. In one of the lessons I had a frantic first ten minutes when my microphone wasn’t working! It was a big relief to get through the lessons and into the beginnings of the routine, plus it was nice to see my students after a long break.
Things slowly get back into a routine in the city, there are a few more people out and about on the streets and a few more things open. We were still predominantly indoors for the majority of the time and it was difficult being cooped up and not being able to go for walks. I have spent the majority of my time reading books that have been on my list for a while and on the Nintendo trying to complete Skyrim!
February 18 th – 24th
The second week of teaching has been a lot easier than the first! The students and I are much more used to the set up and so we have been able to be a lot more productive. It feels great to be back into a routine even if we are not quite back in the actual classroom yet. I have been jealous of a few snaps of teacher’s taking advantage of teaching online from abroad in South-East Asia, finishing class and heading to straight to the beach!
The staff at our school have kept us updated with the latest developments in regards to the virus. It is good to see the cases continue on their downward trend. Whilst everyone is staying vigilant it is nice to see daily cases in a city of 7 million people stay in single digits. Even more positive news is that shopping malls and other amenities are starting to open up again so we can shop and do more normal things.
I’m planning on hosting a pub quiz when our working week ends on Sunday and hitting up the local curry house for the first time over the weekend. We also have to plan for new teachers that arriving over the next week. Without counting chickens before they hatch I’m hopeful we will have more good news over the coming weeks as life slowly returns to normal!
Tim Jones is part of the 2018 Teach China Graduate Program. Follow him @timtamjjShare: