Monday, February 3, 2020

China and the Coronavirus

This is a family a few days ago in the park--all four generations. They are fortunate to spend time with family this year, as many families were not able to travel. Linking the generations is very important to Chinese people--including them in their lives. One of the reasons I really enjoy Tianjin is that it is a very family-oriented place. People are always talking about and visiting their families. Many young people prefer to stay in Tianjin, near their family, in favor of going to Beijing or Shanghai. 
It snowed yesterday here in Tianjin, China yesterday with the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen come floating down past the skyscraper where we live. It was like someone shook a down pillow of feathers and sprinkled them around our city. The morning was one of awe and wonder for all of us. I loved watching some kids play outside, knowing they have been in their homes for almost two weeks. People came out to take photographs. They were smiling and chatting as they walked around the lake where we live, marveling at the beauty of the birds gliding on the ice. A little change of scenery did us all good, as people bounded out, with smiling faces, to see the snow--not many people, just a few of us who needed a break from our four walls. Everyone was looking as cheerful and optimistic as possible.

Tianjin, a city of close to 17 million, is essentially closed to contain the coronavirus. The malls, factories, streets, schools, restaurants, and businesses are all shut down--waiting for the coronavirus to subside. Tianjin is a beautiful city with wide tree-lined boulevards and rivers running through it. But few people are outside to enjoy the snow or clean air this week. I can't bear to stay in all day so it has been interesting to be outsiders looking in--walking the streets of this historic city. We are not being repatriated to the US, as many friends; my husband directs a hospital here. He delivered a baby girl today. Life goes on...

As we walk around the city, there is evidence of incredible efficiency and management--something the Chinese are very good at. No one can manage a crowd of a few thousand people like a couple of Chinese policemen. There is structure and organization wherever you look. When we walk around the lake near our home, you can hear messages to wear masks and take care of your health and safety. Every hour the elevator is cleaned in our building, with a chart to have it signed off. A box of tissues was glued up to the wall of the elevator that was not there yesterday. My friend's elevator has toothpicks for people to push the elevator button. Luckily, the markets are open for a few hours daily, and I was able to get some bottled water today. So far everything in this city is working, humming along. I have to marvel at the commitment to essentially stop almost everything in order to obliterate the coronavirus.

One thing to remember is that these last few weeks are the most important time of the year for the Chinese--to celebrate the new year together with family. The day after the first day of the New Year's it is the tradition to go and visit your great uncle and second cousins. It is like taking away the equivalent of American Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's for them. Everyone's lives are being upended or modified in some way. But the most important thing is that it is being done with lots of grace and acceptance. The hospitals are busy, and the commitment to overcome the current health crisis is strong. As the Chinese say when things get tough, "Pour the oil," which means you need to provide the fuel and energy to solve a problem.

Everyone is doing their part in this big society in a time of crisis for their country. I have to say I am impressed. But I will be excited to see everyone's faces again without their masks. It is harder for me to understand their Chinese with their mask on...


The most popular park in Tianjin called, "The Water Park" is closed to anyone coming in. The man in the mask is a guard.

We like walking along the Haihe River, with its many bridges and famous Ferris wheel. 

If you plan on going anywhere--to a mall, store, anywhere, plan on getting your temperature taken. This is at the entrance of a hospital.
Some older people helping to clean the walks in the park when it snowed. There were lots of volunteers to help clean the sidewalks everywhere. China is a very efficient place. They know how to galvanize people to get things done!


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