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THE LIGHTHOUSE: Book II

A Canadians COVID-19 Diary in Chongqing

Forward

  From January 25 to the middle of March, China had been at the highest level of emergency. Wuhan was been on a wartime footing since the city of 11 million people, and the surrounding province of Hubei (more than 50 million people) has been locked down on January 23-24, 2020, in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. Containment did not work, but the spread was slowed, giving the world time to prepare, and scientists time to study the virus.

During this time in Chongqing, public gatherings were banned, most shops are closed, and nonessential travel or outdoor activities were discouraged, as people are being advised to self-quarantine in their homes to control the spread of infection. During the Spring Festival, no one in China worked, which was a lucky break, and China extended the holiday, so for this period, the majority of China, approximately one in five humans on earth, sheltered in place for two months, with factories sat idle, roads empty and skies free from planes. Anyone going outside to walk around or take public transit must wear a mask, and these outings are limited to work or essential shopping trips, where one member per household is allowed out twice a week to buy groceries or supplies.

From Wednesday, March 25, Chongqing downgraded further from Level II to Level III, a more relaxed level of alertness. Even the epicentre, Wuhan and Hubei have relaxed protocols and people who were stuck there inside the quarantine zone have been able to return. Masks are now only required in very crowded areas like shopping malls and movie theaters, but many people are used to wearing them and are slow to give up their feeling of protection. Many shops are open again, and people have returned to the streets.

As of this writing, Europe, the Americas and much of the world is coping with the uncontrolled spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  China has closed its borders and no one can reenter, Chinese or foreigner.

The future is not written and the path ahead has many divergences. How we resolve this issue, and what kind of society we rebuild is anyone’s guess. The future has not been written. The world is nervous, and full of anxiety as COVID-19 tears through countries, shutting down business, smashing stock markets and economies and forcing billions of people into hiding and sheltering in place. In the darkness, shines a beacon of light from the east, rising, and offering hope and a methodology, a roadmap, if countries can manage to follow it. As we move onward through the fog, we search for … the lighthouse.

Wednesday, April 1. Better Late Than Never

 Day 69. Grandmothers across Greece are keeping watch on balconies, assisting police in maintaining order as quarantines spread across Europe.

We make a lemon soufflé. It’s surprisingly easy and fluffy, and with practice, it might be as good as the one we had at Cézembre in Paris.

Homemade Lemon soufflé, a delicious dessert.
Homemade Lemon soufflé, a delicious dessert.

The WuTang clan donates thousands and helps raise $170,000 for Ottawa food bank in a one-day fundraising firestorm. Praise be, RZA. What can’t you do? Ali baba sends Canada, 500,000 test kits and, one million masks. Mercedes F1 engineers help make a breathing aid for coronavirus patients in less than 100 hours. 

 A Canadian tech startup has designed a respirator that uses ubiquitous parts and can make 1 million of them but needs the release of Trudeau’s federal emergency funding. 

We finally have so much good news. Better later than never. 

Trudeau has federalized the production of local PPE, and Toys ‘R Us are us giving monitors to allow elderly patients to speak to each other. The Wartime footing has truly begun, as the caseload spike hits 1,000,000 official cases, a staggering number. 

Trudeau’s benefits packages are starting to take form, as he encourages companies to hire back laid-off workers as the government will offer 75% wage subsidy, $750 on a $1000 cheque coming from taxes? Mr. Moneybags Trudeau, are you really gonna do that? 

 Just watch him. 

Hello, I am a obviously billionaire, where is my invitation to the island?
Hello, I am a obviously billionaire, where is my invitation to the island?

I take a picture, in my top hat and cyber shades, holding a lot of toilet paper and post it to the internet. Will I get an invite to The Island?

 I’m sitting around, eating a tuna sandwich, juggling cover design, meaningful outreach, and a few other things, including arguing with Xiaolin, who wants to argue with me because I’m too busy and not paying enough attention to my home life when my housekeeper comes by. 

I know that all sounds dramatic, but I try to be as cool as can be. Look, I’m a tree. Birds can hop around a tree, flapping, and chirping, but do you see the tree complain? Does it chirp back? Does it swat its branches and knock those birds off? No, it’s just a tree. Strong, stable, reliable. A sanctuary. Made of Wood. Like me. 

 So I’m juggling balls, spinning plates, and you know, the usual chaos. Trying to get a calendar of boys and girls of Mask Culture off the ground to fight against the completely irresponsible and criminally misinformed CDC and their subsidiaries, however well-meaning, that are killing our most at risk like it’s a sport.

Ding dong, the dogs are barking, and our Ayi is here. 

 She’s wearing a mask, and I hand her two blue rubber gloves from the box by the door. But then I go back to making hummus… it’s a balancing act of its own. Too dry, doesn’t mix, a bit watery, damn, throw some sesame seeds in, and all these tasting spoons in the sink and drips everywhere. I’m a master of disaster. 

 I take a bite of my tuna sandwich, you know, with my mouth, like a normal person and freeze. What am I doing? I’m eating, in the open air, around my housekeeper, who’s been outside. Who’s been in other people’s houses. Where other people live. I’m acting like a civilian. I’m a sitting duck. Sure, her mask and gloves stop her infection, but what about the particles on her clothing, swooshing around? That’s what my mask is for. 

 So I take off to my office and finish the food quickly, wash my hands and face, and get my mask on. Because that’s not honoring my warrior spirit, that wasn’t being true to a leader of the Revel Alliance. People are counting on me to set an example, and I am not a sitting duck. But it can happen that easily. 

 The Revel Alliance? It went from a joke to a post to a group to 400+ strong members overnight, and many feel comfortable there. It’s a green zone, a place to take our masks off online, where we won’t be attacked for our high AQ, and even though slow on the uptake to this can come for meaningful information, relaxation, gardening tips, and baking recipes. I made a lemon soufflé, it was super easy. It made Xiaolin happy. You know, we can’t be happy all the time, but we can try our best to stay in a good place.

The people, united.
The people, united.

 We end up with a living Facebook photo album, and I send the layout pages to my editor to put in the back of my book, mask kids save lives. 

 My first friend tested positive. She’s in Africa. I asked if she wanted to blog, but she has to keep things quiet. In her country, personal movement is banned. Shopping malls are closed. 4 meters distance is required between shoppers at supermarkets. Supermarkets will limit their number of people a day. Food markets remain open. Factories will keep resting areas to maintain production. All the other shops are closed. Curfew begins at 7 p.m. The Government will distribute food to the needy. Max 5 people gathering. This is very serious, I hope she has a mild case and recovers well. Other friends tell me they aren’t feeling well and maybe infected as well. 

 In the west, people try for two meters of social distancing, but if you don’t wear a mask, it is really not far enough. Try eight! MIT has said that in half a second, a sneeze can go 10 meters, filling a bus or train car in trillions of infected particles virus, so could a fart, albeit a little slower. Unless everyone wears a mask, so just do it already. But there is social pressure. 

 I call Dylan, and he’s boisterous at 2 a.m. in LA. He was doing his thing downtown — I’m not sure why, some people just need to be outside, I guess – and a large, muscular young man started yelling at him, obviously drunk. The rubber gloves and mask attracted trouble. It turns out all the dangerous messaging about masks not being needed actually makes you vulnerable in some places. Anti-science civilians are dangerously ignorant, paranoid, and violent. It’s a good time to stay at home. 

 The powers that be are guilty of messages so dull I would argue it’s medical malpractice — violated the first edict of medicine. Primum non nocere, “first, do no harm,” the Hippocratic Oath, as early as AD 245, we see “I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm.” Knowing that masks work, in a move to stop citizens from competing with the health care workers because of a negligent pandemic prevention shortage, they’ve given horrible messages, and now, as headlines read “CDC considers reversing itself and asking for people to wear masks” I read, “CDC considers waking up drunk at the wheel and trying to make sense for the first time in this entire crisis.” How I got to be the smart guy at the table with the CDC and WHO is a mystery. Still, it’s made me all the more driven because of the herculean efforts to overcome these blatant falsehoods. But I am not alone. The People, United— the Revel Alliance is strong, and we are getting stronger by the day. 

 I must remember to be kind. I must remember to be patient. Not everyone is an early adapter, and most did not get locked down 70 days ago and have the foresight to clearly look with 2020 vision at this crisis unfolding. 

 At least, a small kindness, the mouthpieces for the failing CDC have stopped badgering me, apoplectic in their growing realization that I have been right all along. Their precious panel of experts has been dangerously unprepared and lost 70 days of leeway and 50,000 lives, which will probably double several more times by the time they have their plans together. 

Xiaolin makes baozi! It's delicious. We learned so many things during this special time.
Xiaolin makes baozi! It’s delicious. We learned so many things during this special time.

Xiaolin disappears to her family house for a visit. Time goes by. I sleep a few times. She sends pictures of baozi, a kind of Chinese pastry she’s learned to make. I keep one foot in front of the other, and then she’s back. It’s delicious. We learned so many things during this special time.

I am to speak at union conferences, promoting my book. They want to buy 2000 copies to give out to every guest. But it’s in a month. A month! I worry the war will be won or lost by the time I’m signing books. Care mongers will sew masks, and every grocery store clerk in Canada will wear them to work. But where to get them? 

 We try to track down HEPA air filters, industrial size sheets and cut them down and sew them into bandanas. After a similar initiative in Ontario, my mom, a retired social worker, has signed up for volunteer social work for front line workers that need therapy. The Revel Alliance is creating our own public-facing crisis team. 

 People, including the wild Turnip, are pointing fingers, saying that if China hadn’t downplayed its numbers, the world would have acted smarter. But they have resources to tap the German Chancellor’s phone, an ally, and can’t even figure out what China is up to? Watch what they do, not what they say. Sure, many countries, China, Italy, Spain, German, Canada, and America, are all accused of playing down numbers to avoid panic, not counting those with co-morbidities or those who die at home, when you see whole cities go under lockdown, you should act with caution and awareness. Instead, like lemmings, one country after another watches their neighbors fall, and then acts surprised when they do the same. Now they are threatening to do more than yell when the panic is over, stoking war flames on top of a great economic depression and crippling pandemic. We need leaders, not shuffling middle managers. Still, photos of thousands of urns outside Chinese funerary homes and hour-long lineups raise questions that a 3200 person death toll sounds awfully low. 

 Boris Johnson is sick. God save the queen, they say. She’s still not amused. 

 Thomas Schaefer, 54, the state finance minister of Germany’s Hesse region, which includes Frankfurt, has been found dead. Police say he killed himself in despair over the fallout from the coronavirus crisis. 

 Tracking COVID-19. He was found on railway tracks near Frankfurt. You can throw yourself on the tracks, but that will not stop the train that’s a-coming. State governor Volker Bouffier linked Schaefer’s death to the virus crisis. 

 “I have to assume that these worries overwhelmed him,” Bouffier said. “He apparently couldn’t find a way out. He was in despair and left us.” state finance minister for a decade. 

 Prince Charles is sick. His son threw a tantrum when Canada closed the borders and flew to California. 

 The Belarus president said vodka and sauna will kill the virus, and they laugh and continue on, feeling awfully American. 

 The darling first lady of the Czech Republic, Dagmar Pavlova, went and bought all the curtains in a fabric store and has broken the curve with their team of mask sewers. I hear now that she is sick, but I can’t confirm it. Either way, she is a shining example in the west that America and its allies should take a page from. 

 My friend Camillo that I met on a flight from Amsterdam to Athens last summer, told me that in Syria, the government sends undercover agents to follow old people around, and if they cough two times, they’re taken off the street, taken somewhere and shot. Many friends have confirmed this, but he hopes they’re wrong. 

 The WHO is still worrying about the wrong things. They’re giving out bad information, trying to calm panic. In an FAQ, they say COVID-19 isn’t airborne, falls to ground quickly, and that 1 meter is ok. MIT, a plucky little institute, contradicts them, suggesting 8 meters in an enclosed space, and that a sneeze can travel 30m/s – a cloud can span 7-8 meters (25 feet) half a bus!! In 1 second. Unless everyone wears masks. The virus particles can stay suspended for hours in airflow, or climate control systems. Hours, in the air… that sounds airborne. Virus particles have been found in the ventilation systems of hospitals. 

 Shuffling middle management tries to perpetuate the idea that “no one could have seen this coming.” I guess I’m inconvenient then, having been yelling for 70 days straight. I wasn’t alone. 

 How do we stop this? 

 It’s straightforward. Halt inbound travel or enforce the quarantine. Make everyone wear face masks when outside the home. 

 Why does it work? It stops the spread of the virus from both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected. Just talking… causes air particles to circulate, and surround both people. Put them in masks, and we keep our particles to ourselves. Anyone of those particles could carry millions of virus particles. Fewer particles in the air mean less contamination on surfaces too. It reminds us not to touch our faces. If we get the virus, we want a low inoculum, if you get infected you don’t want a large dose, a low dose gives you a better chance to get a mild case. This is why so many health care workers get serious infections… a low viral load gives your body hours or days to mount a defense. A high viral load overwhelmed your body and gets the upper hand. Even a cotton mask that doesn’t fully protect, you will filter most of the virus and give you a fighting chance. It stacks the odds in your favor. 

 My editor in Beijing is the toughest part of this quarantine so far. One day she snaps and says I’m wasting time, causing more people to die because my edits are too slow, then she says she’ll need ten days to show me the proof before we can proceed. I’ve cocooned myself from her because it feels like gaslighting. Still, I am happy the book is moving forward and looking forward to the good it is going to do. 

 Dash surprises me with something extraordinary, some lyrics that will make a big difference and I fall to my knees in a marketing meeting with Beijing’s biggest printing company and cry in a ball for the first time in two months, an avalanche of emotions breaking through my stoic and resolute barriers. It feels good, but I am now a human, again, and must rely on my team and the alliance to proceed because I am not capable of bottling it back down anymore. Dash’s work is going to make a big splash. Dash Splash. I love it.  

 I found a new flying spaghetti monster painting of the Fork Horsman of the Pastocalypse fighting the heretic (COVID) fake meatball. This will be my next tattoo, but for now, it’s my next T-shirt. They have a special, buy two, get one free, so I get my book cover and Devon’s lovely “who do you want to be in this crisis” diagram, all of them will be beautiful new shirts for my spring and summer operations. 

New Tshirts!
New Tshirts!

 As Canada and other countries set hefty million-dollar fines for quarantine breakers, I imagine the cottage industry of pandemic bounty hunter. I think for 10-20% of a million, it would be a pretty sweet side gig for me. I could support the front line with a lot of masks for a million dollars just to round up 5 defiant old snowbirds. This has high cinematic potential; comic books too. 

 In other news–hospitals threaten to fire doctors who speak out about lack of gear, and the White House and other spunky organizations are finally considering telling the public to wear face masks. Well, good for you, two months late to the party. 

Andrew Cuomo, NY Governor, asks for more ventilators. Trump doesn’t believe he needs them. In a Brooklyn, NY hospital, people die in waiting rooms, waiting for a bed, and proper care. This is two weeks ahead of the models and seems to indicate a health care system ready to collapse. Already. 

 Seeing a passionate and articulate local leader pleading to do the right thing, America is in a frenzy, infatuated with leadership, Cuomo! Cuomo! They chant.

“The more I think and read about COVID, the more I think of this as a war and the conditions that we’re living in to be close to wartime measures. How fortunate, then, that we’re not killing each other but working together against a common enemy. 

  To win, just as for any war, we need to be very deliberate with our strategy, we need to be tactical, organized, and one step ahead of the invisible enemy.” 

  – Canadian (Yukon) Chief Medical Officer Brendan Hanley. 

 Century-Old Vaccine Investigated as a Weapon Against Coronavirus, the interesting headline reads. A vaccine that’s been used to prevent tuberculosis is being given to health-care workers in Melbourne to see if it will protect them against the coronavirus. 

Italy Home Quarantine Repeats China’s Mistake, Doctors Say. Italy needs to shift to mass quarantining of coronavirus patients with mild symptoms instead of letting them isolate at home, according to a group of Chinese experts who traveled to the European nation to advise officials there. 

 Homeless people in Las Vegas sleep 6 feet apart in a parking lot as thousands of hotel rooms sit empty in Las Vegas. 

 “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination” – John Lennon 

 When the days blur, and I vibrate so fast, I can feel myself occasionally in President Sanders’ America. They handled it much better. 100,000 dead, overall. In our schmutz of the metaverse, we’re looking at millions. But we can stop people from going out. The virus needs bodies to feed. I’ve seen it with my eyes, and I know its name. I will not stop until we’ve vanquished it.  

 Shaolin waters and cares for flowers and plants with a fastidious kindness that makes me slow down and brings me back to the present with a meaningful awareness of this moment. Watering plants is one of her many lessons.

 Chicago is calling: DANiSH, come play the Freakeasy. 

 Yeah, right, Chris Martin says. He’s scared to go to the grocery store. Scared? Or vigilant? “Oh, look at that knight, he’s so scared of the fire breathing dragon he’s putting on armor and quested for a magic sword!” 

 Damnit, Chris, it’s called having a plan.

 Although rare, conjunctivitis, or pink eye, has been found to be a symptom in some COVID-19 cases, a new alert reveals.

 Dutch Scientists Find a Novel Coronavirus Early-Warning Signal: 

coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the pneumonia-causing disease.

 I’ve bought the-invisible-war.com and theinvisiblewar.co, but I can’t get theinvisiblewar.com. If anyone can help me, well, you know this would be a kindness. Somebody has got it parked. I’m going to launch a blog soon, to host The LiGHTHOUSE project, and I think I need an adjective as well. Open to suggestions. 

 A really elegant solution for reusing masks was posted by the sister in law of a good friend of mine. You put a sandwich Tupperware plastic box to the mask, and without touching your mask, you roll the elastics across to the bottom of the box, then remove, and put a lid on (with your name even!) Then you come back, put the box to your mouth, use the elastics to roll back onto your head, and it’s back in place—- you never have to handle it or touch the front or worry where you put it!

 We hit 1,000,000 official cases worldwide. Canada is over 10,000. This is blowing up now. There’s a great website on cbc.ca where you can compare Canada’s curve to other countries. We haven’t achieved the flattening of Korea or China, but we are doing better than some. We need to really work hard for the next two weeks to get things under control. We are fighting hard. The ground level response is quite strong.

 I’m supporting several union groups on how to get their workers to all wear masks and how to make masks out of vacuum filters, HEPA air filters (large industrial ones), and other DIY projects.

 I blink, and it feels days have gone by. I am hardly sleeping again, so much to do. I’m glad I don’t go outside because my immune system must be weak like this. I will rest this weekend. I notice the days have flashed forward because our Ayi arrives for the third time. Xiaolin is having lunch in the kitchen. Xiaolin has replaced all our wood chopsticks with silver metal ones. She says the other ones were moldy, but I know she’s just training me for war. Woah, the virus is fierce, they say. Yeah, but have you met my wife?

We give Benben some delicious fresh chicken from Xiaolin’s soup, and he thanks us by peeing all over the kitchen floor and then pooing in the living room. We barely raise our voice, mop tactic triage, and we move on.

I’ve been teaching since 8 a.m. I’ ve worked in my office three hours after that, all that on only an hour or two of sleep, but after a good chat with Dylan and Dash yesterday, I’m on a two-hour call with Stephane, and we’re really vibing out. Our Ayi has gloves and a mask on. Xiaolin asks me to clean the dog shit off the balcony, so I put my FaceTiming phone in my pocket, fill up a bucket of hot soapy water and go sweep up the dog poop. As I slosh the water, I use the outdoor broom to swoosh the water around and accidentally stab the metal rim into my right palm. Just like that, blood, like stigmata, is pouring down my wrist, my epidermal barrier broken, and I start looking around as if I could spot the nanoscopic particles. I ball my hand into a fist and rush to the bathroom, wash the blood off, spray some alcohol onto the cut, and it stings nicely, and then I find a bandaid to go on. I put my mask on and finish up with Stephane, eat a little lunch (vegetables and rice), and hide out until my Ayi is gone.

I feel good. I’ve got a flow state on. Thanks to DASH, my stone skin has melted and I’m in touch with my emotions again. The deep-seated stress is leaving my body and I’m working well with a team. I stop screaming things. I speak softly, if urgently, and I smile without gallows humor.

 There’s so much to do. We’ve got Justin Bieber’s mom on the phone, tell your boy we need his help!

TikTok for a new video dance challenge.
TikTok for a new video dance challenge.

 It’s been such a long week, just trying to keep things together at home, just trying to light the fires globally, the lighthouses, to tell the story that must be told, dealing with everything, treading so lightly so I might not crush my dreams, that I haven’t stopped to write in my journal for days. Better late than never.

 To those of you in not in Asia, where it’s hard to be the first ones in your city or town that wear a mask, I know what you’re feeling.

 It’s hard to be the first one to dance at a party too. Everyone looks at you. You’re a freak, you’re weird, look at you wiggle. Weirdo. Freak.

  And then someone joins you, and you dance around each other, bolstered.

 And then another joins, and another, and now you have a dance floor. And people finish their drinks and follow along because it looks like a good idea, and then all of a sudden the weirdos aren’t you, they’re the creeping wallflowers, watching from the corners, awkwardly still and lanky.

  Start the dance. Change the game. Save some lives, you brave hero, you.

Friday, March, 27 – The Edge of the Universe

A beautiful, blue sky in Chongqing.
A beautiful, blue sky in Chongqing.

Day 64. Somewhere at the edge of the universe, I’m not sure if it matters if it’s the beginning or the end, but it surely isn’t in the mushy center, three witches scrub, hang up to dry, and then fold away the laundry of the dead. They mend bullet holes, wash out blood, sweat, and dirt, and then fold, with care, and put away the last worn clothes of those who cross over, back to the source. I visited them for tea, and they are morose and swamped at the moment. They asked me to tell you to please stay home.

Our Ayi returns!
Our Ayi returns!

Things are going well in China, at least the Chongqing part of China that I can see, but back to school in China is having a few bumps on the road, and we are cautious. One of the first shoots to open a Senior 3 program for the graduating class, inGuizho opened a high school on March 16. On March 24, 209 students fell ill. Symptoms included fever, diarrhea, and sore body. 199 were sent to the hospital. As of March 28, 196 already recovered. 10 still in the hospital. The other 3 are not on the records in the media. Regardless, it’s not been confirmed as a COVID outbreak, instead suggested it was food poisoning, but people are on edge, and I’m happy to still be teaching online classes.

As nurses in America are being told to now make their own masks in some places or wear bandanas because they have no more protective equipment, things are not going well for our health care systems in the west. I cannot understand why Canada and America still have not federalized factories for the production of billions of masks and PPE. Instead, we are relying on the compassionate help of housewives and husbands, sewing them from home, and the donations from individuals with 3D printers who are trying to print N95 masks. This is wartime, and countries need to take wartime measures.

One doctor, 68, is dying in New York. His son wrote in the paper two weeks ago that his dad was healthy but was helping COVID-19 patient to stay alive, performing high-risk of infection intubation (insert air tube down his throat in the hospital so they could breath). Still, his mask wasn’t tight, and the dr got infected. He told his son that COVID-19 can be very very bad. Now his son is grieving even before his dad died. Very sad too. Of course, you can say, a loose mask is a foolish mistake, especially during intubation, but these professionals are stressed, tired, and working to exhaustion because you went on spring break, because you’re not scared of the flu, because you’re young and healthy.

Please stay home. Please let them take a rest.

Remember, this virus spreads through “healthy-seeming” carriers. It’s easy to avoid a sneezing person, that’s why we licked SARS in 8 months. But COVID-19 will spread from person to person, without showing any symptoms. Some people will never feel sick but infect dozens of other people, some of whom will die.

Everyone needs to act as if they are sick, stay home, and wear masks when outside. If you don’t have masks, wear a banana. Jay Ould once hilariously said, “Bandanas are for fools,” well if you don’t have better gear, it’s the time for fools to save the world.

Our Ayi is back.
Our Ayi is back.

Our Ayi came today. Our nervous looking security guard did not want to let her in. Even when I went down to “OK’ her, he was not having it. Finally, after a few minutes, he looked at her papers, stamped by the government, clearing her medically and allowing her to work as a housekeeper. We get her past the guards and into the campus. I ask her about her time. She was very happy. No one in her village was sick. She spent 60 days with her family, her children before she left to return to Chongqing for work. This is a happy story for the ones that disease did not touch, and they will remember a special family holiday that went on for two months.

Working with a mask while Ayi cleans the house, for safety.
Working with a mask while Ayi cleans the house, for safety.

Inside, I give her blue rubber gloves to wear, and she has her own mask. Xiaolin and I put on masks, too, and I work this way for an hour or two until she is finished. Afterward, the house is sparkling clean, and I am relieved both that my slippers don’t stick or squeak when I walk, and that she’s gone.

I hear that cinemas in Shanghai reopened recently only to be shut down again a few days later. Foreigners, seeing signs that they are not welcome in some businesses or allowed to even return to China are feeling the brunt of the COVID-19 anger inside China. My friend Joe tells me he’s seeing reports that Chinese doctors have stopped testing in large numbers so that they can make it look like they’ve brought it under control before blaming foreigners for ‘reimporting’ the virus.  We need to remain vigilant and not point fingers. We are all humans.

I edit my book through the day, stopping to drink coffee, snack, and eat some rice and garlic fried green beans with Shaolin. We are looking at layouts and proofing concepts. It’s a huge relief to be doing these small tasks—even under a pressurized deadline to get to print asap. I’m happy I slept 6-7 hours last night, and I will keep it up.

We take a walk.

Xiaolin looks like a super villain.
Xiaolin looks like a super villain.

We teach a class, and it goes well. Xiaolin takes the lead to help me edit and proof. I’ve produced a beta reader audiobook for myself and a few friends to listen for problems before we print since the deadline is so pressing. Wartime measures.

My mother is well, she is taking precautions, and she is safe. The Island used Uncle Vic’s letter to do a good job with containment, and the cases are limited. Isolation helps in a plague. My father is well. Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is a much harder hit. My father writes to me.

Kai, I think all over the world, they are getting exhausted. That is what uncle Vic was so mad about. The stupidity and arrogance of the spreaders kill the lives of medical people. Have a good class and a day.

Thank you for all your nagging, at least I have been comfortable for 2 weeks and not freaking out. It gave me a chance to prepare myself for this. I have not gone out the door in 26 days, except once to pick up green beans at Ming’s front door. Mostly we only talk on the phone or WeChat or text.

I tell him, imagine you didn’t listen to me and now you’d be mad at both of us.

He tells me, “Today, I am sorry, Uncle Albert, but I haven’t done a bloody thing all day.”

I tell him that this is good, but don’t burn through all your pantry. He has done well so far, but if he pokes his head out in 2 more months and there’s no food, this is also bad. So order some canned and dry goods with Costco and leave them in the garage to cool off. He agrees. I told him to buy a solar power generator for his phone, if not his fridge, and he thought that was too much. Now he’s googling for them.

Dad asks me how the process is going. I tell him I am grateful Shaolin taught me how to be pleasant with bossy people. It’s a useful skill.

President Trump is even putting 10,000 soldiers on the Canadian border, 15 km in a demilitarized zone. What does trump think, we are going to rush over to pay American health care prices?

One of Xiaolin’s friends sends this message from America.

It’s terrible here, much like China was 6 weeks ago. I have had to let 75% of my employees go. The government has shut down all restaurants anywhere people could gather. Now they will shut down all non-essential companies tomorrow at midnight for 2 weeks. The entire state is on lockdown until May 1. I am importing Personal Protective Equipment for the state government, so my company will stay open to accept shipments and distribute it to government agencies. Everyone is so scared, every day, more and more people get sick, and now thousands of people are dying.

Xiaolin tells me that 10000 Spanish dr.’s are sick. We have 597K official cases on record, perhaps twice or 10x as many at home or still baking their own COVID. The numbers are moving quickly now. As expected, Italy has eclipsed China today, so now we have America, Italy, and China in the top three countries. I hope Italy’s slowing down in the earliest quarantine areas will spread to the rest of the country and the world, if you take your quarantine seriously, and proper precautions, you can do this. Remember, the air is poison, the floor is lava, you are an astronaut, now go.

Thursday, March 26, 2020 – The Lighthouse

Day 63. Everyone can be a lighthouse in the storm. We are all luminescent beings of incredible and potential, capable of cutting through darkness and fog with our brilliance. 

 A lighthouse.

A lighthouse.

Those who prefer to breathe and stay calm during a crisis are helpful as well. You can be like a tree. A tree replenishes oxygen, soaking up pollution and toxicity, giving us necessary fresh air. If you have to be a tree, during a storm, you’re going to want to be a gnarly old tree, with thick skin and deep roots. The other kind can lose their way under a heavy rain, getting pulled and away when the winds blow down and end up in Kansas before morning. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Eight days have passed since my last entry. Eight is a lucky number in China, so now is an auspicious time to get back into the game. I’ve buckled down, with my team of rabble-rousers, a motley crew of teachers, engineers, rappers, professional pillow fighters, doctors, musicians, circus performers, bio-med techs, and throat singers. Our rebel alliance rallies truth to power, against a sea of dangerous misinformation. We took a 60-day blog and turned it into a novel in a few days, with very little sleep, and it’s been handed off to the publisher, being typeset and triple checked for imminent digital release. I hope it can make a difference in helping educate people on how to flatten the curve, and then manage their quarantine and self-isolation time productively and with dignity. It can be a lot of fun, I’ve found. 

Globally, the numbers are skyrocketing, as exponentially growth tends to do when it really gets going. The sickening moments are still yet to come, and I dread them. I really want to run and sit this one out, but I refuse to turn away, because, if my hopes and wishes, and good vibes can help one person find a ledge or a strong branch to shelter in until the flood recedes, then it will be worth whatever the cost to stay in the game. Shut up, I’m not crying, you’re crying.

I can’t sugarcoat this. There will come a time when despite all the locking up of doors and sitting inside our homes, the numbers roar like a hungry honey badger, daily because they’re already baked into the cake, and it will take a good two-week lag before we see those numbers start to decrease. It will be the longest, darkest time of our collective nights. But we will be lost together. In a community, even a community of social distance, shall we find the strength to overcome, and the courage to build something better than we had before. 

A week ago, when I signed off on March 18, 2020, there were 175,000 global cases officially. Today, there are 531,600.The United States of America has rocketed to the top of the charts after a stunning gain of +17,057 cases from yesterday, with 85,268, 1293 deaths. China is still in number two, with 81,235 cases and 3287 deaths. They’ve just shut their borders completely to all foreigners, including my colleagues abroad with Chinese VISAS, residence permits, and apartments full of their belongings left unattended, cheese slowly rotting in their refrigerators. Cheese.

If I leave, I will not be allowed back in. I hope this measure is temporary, as much as I saw it coming, after nearly 600 cases of “backflow” caught in the mandatory self-quarantine everyone entering China must do, they simply decided enough was enough.

In position three, jockeying to eclipse China by tomorrow and race America to the finish, is plucky Italy, with 80,589, and 10,361 deaths. They run out of gas sooner than America, though, as early reports of the quarantines from two weeks ago are starting to slow the rate of infections in the northern towns of Lombardy. 

A friend asked me, “Kai, how can you defend your use of masks when actual doctors on TV are saying they don’t do anything?” I’m tired of saying the same thing over and over. First of all, there are doctors, finally, getting screen time who are speaking truth to power. We must all act like we are infected. Studies are showing 30% to 50% of cases are asymptomatic. That means many healthy-feeling individuals are walking plague factories and going to infect a lot of less lucky people if they don’t self-isolate and wear masks in public.

I ask my friend two questions since I’ve learned, not everyone will listen to a message, but, given the right questions, they will seek the answers for themselves and be satisfied with what they find if they believe that they came up with it themselves. 

What must a virus need to spread? 

A virus needs new hosts. 

A virus needs opportunities.  

It will travel on the breath, the cough, the sneeze of a host, through larger respiratory (breath) droplets, and sometimes hang in the air, other times float around before sinking onto the ground where eventually it will become inactive. 

If everyone self isolates, there will be no new hosts for the virus, and it will burn out. If you must gather in public, and everyone wears masks and goggles, and you don’t have open, exposed wounds, your skin as a natural barrier and the coverings on your eyes (ocular mucous membranes) and your mouth and nose (your sinus mucous membranes) will catch the virus and stop you from being infected.  Even if you wear a surgical mask that doesn’t have a perfect fit and a few particles enter the side of the mask, rather than trillions of particles directly into your open mouth that will give your body time to rally a defense and fight the invisible war, giving you perhaps a mild case of the disease rather than a quickly debilitating and fatal one. 

A host can also touch surfaces: a bank screen, a pin pad, a subway seat, a bus rail, and this will be a vector for spread contamination. If you must be in public, you can wear gloves to keep your hands uncontaminated. You must not touch your mask and then your face. You must not touch a public surface and then feed a cookie with your contaminated hands to your baby. Being outside is a little bit, or a lot, like traveling in space, and you must take precautions, or you’re gonna have a bad time. If you learn this, you may be fine. If you do not, you will become a vector of infection, and possibly, you or a loved one will pay the ultimate price. 

The rest of the pack is far behind the top three in this horse race, but they are jostling for contender status. Spain has 57,786 +8,271 from yesterday and 4,365 deaths. Spain is really struggling. I watch a video of a Spanish doctor crying, begging for the world to listen. Just like Italy before, they did not listen to the warnings. They did not respect the plague, they felt like it was going to be okay, bolstered by the “it’s just the flu” COVIDIOTs. Now their hospitals are overwhelmed. Patients over 65 have their life saving mechanical ventilators removed, and being given pain killers os they may die in some comfort. At the same time, the machines are assigned to younger, 30-65-year-old patients who, in battlefield triage style, are deemed to have a better chance to live.

Remember, these patients require the beds and machines for up to three weeks sometimes. This is a long, slow, grueling fight, and the moment the curve overwhelms the health care system, it gets much uglier. 

In position five is Germany. 43,938 cases, 267 deaths.

Next is Iran 29,406, +2,389 2,234 deaths.

Seventh is France 29,155, +3,922 1,696 deaths.

Eighth is Switzerland 11,811, +914 191 deaths.

Neck in neck with Switzerland for position nine is the U.K., coming on strong with 11,658 cases, +2,129 new cases, and 578 deaths.

Rounding out the top 10 is South Korea, an early favorite for the podium who’s great containment methods, incredible testing, and use of public masks for all citizens have cut their early lead, and now they are falling towards the back of the pack. They still have 9,241 cases, only +104 new cases, and 131 deaths. They are doing an incredible job. 

My Native land, Canada, is not in the top 10, so I will continue my analysis of the “four-horse race of the apocalypse.” In position 11 is the Netherlands 7,431 +1,019 434 deaths.

Next is Austria with 6,909 +1,321 49 deaths.

Lucky 13 is Belgium 6,235 +1,298 220 deaths.

Here comes Canada, holding steady at 14th place with 4,043 +634 39 deaths, an uptick of three from 8 hours ago when I went to sleep. I remember when we had our first case a few weeks back, then the big 100, just a few days ago, 1000 seemed like a big number. Hold onto your hats, we’re headed for the big numbers in April. Will we hit hundreds of thousands or millions? Or will we dodge the worst of it? It depends on you.

Turkey has shot from the back of the pack to take the number 15 spot today, with 3,629 cases, +1,196 new cases from yesterday, and 75 deaths. Turkey’s getting serious about testing. Number sixteen is Portugal 3,544 +549 60 deaths.

Next is Norway down two spots from last night but holding on with 3,369 +285 14 deaths.

Australia is position 18 with 3,050, +374, 13 deaths.

Brazil is hanging in the C20 with 2,985 cases, +431 from yesterday, and 77 deaths.

Last is Sweden, with 2,840 cases, +314, and 77 deaths.

Israel was booted from the C20 by Turkey’s quick gains and deserves an honorable mention at a respectable 2,693 cases, +324 from yesterday, and 8 deaths. That’s the C20, or COVID/top20 snapshot today. If you find it interesting there are no developing countries in the top 20, remember it takes resources and money to test for COVID-19. 

A large tree near the Three Gorges Museum

A large tree near the Three Gorges MuseumThe stress of a storm will thicken a tree’s trunk and send its roots deep into the earth, rooting it in place. This tree, under intense stress, will grow strong and more profound. This is the power of learning to comfortable being uncomfortable. Not wanting life to be a walk in the park, but assuming there will be a fair amount of displeasure and annoyance at any given day, and just learning to kind of ignore it.

As RZA says, “that shit is just balls of rock flying through space. They think they’ve got impact, but I am the sun.” This is my secret weapon, how I channel stoicism. If I can handle my wife, you think angry people on social media bother me? Naw. Which is good, because some people are pretty angry.  “Please see a psychologist as soon as possible. You are very sick. You need help.” writes a ‘friend’ on Facebook before he blocks me, as a response to my posting about my experience for 60 days in quarantine and offering help and support to the internet daily.

People are coping with the pandemic weirdly, often slow adjusters are lashing out. Lots of people in the west confused and scared. The stages of grief are on full display these days. Lots of denial, anger, bargaining, and panic are emerging, and it’s okay as long as people are really doing their bests.

Those of us who are quick adaptors should try to be kind to those who are slower to understand what’s happening, but we should all try to be kind at this hard time.

Since acting childish is in vogue, I thought it would be useful as a small learning exercise: If you were on a space ship and lost atmosphere, would you run to your pressure suit, or just drift away as your eyeballs get sucked out of your freezing head? I’m seeing a lot of “I’m not gonna be scared of deep space,” and then you get sucked out the airlock. Do you get it? The rules changed overnight. The floor is lava, and the air is poison. If you respect the new rules, you can keep safe and follow us safely. If you don’t play the game, you risk yourself and the rest of us too. 

For those with #2020vision that see this clearly, be patient with those of your people that are slow to adjust, having a hard time, or believe the misinformation coming from some of your misinformed health departments. But don’t let them drown out your truth, and only leave the information for them to digest. Leave them with questions, and they will find the truth themselves.

Baby Ethan loves bubbles.

Baby Ethan loves bubbles. Xiaolin played with baby Ethan yesterday under a big, beautiful, ancient tree in front of the three gorges museum at ZhenMinDaLiTang, Chongqing’s big concert and audience hall. It was 25 degrees and sunny. Today it’s 29 degrees, and we’re out and about in Tshirts and face masks.

Baby Ethan loves birds, too.

Baby Ethan loves birds, too. Trump, in stubborn ignorance of the facts, wants to reopen the country with a “Bang” as the pandemic spreads wildly across America. He thinks “crowded churches for Easter” is what he’s praying for, even as his key medical expert facepalms during a live press conference. Other conservatives are hoping old people will just sacrifice their lives for the economy without even stopping to think what having 2% of a country just die at once would do to the health care system, city resources, or even the economy. It’s the empire with new clothes on a bad acid trip, dangling off the side of a skyscraper by his toes. Or, as my wonderful Uncle says, ” I feel sorry for all my American friends, but that’s what happens when you elect a turnip as President!”  

What’s the difference between a Turnip and a Trump? A turnip can go bad, but a Trump was always bad. 

“We’re looking at freight train coming across the country, now we’re looking at a bullet train because the numbers are rising so fast,” says NY Governor Cuomo. He’s asked for 30,000 ventilators from the national reserve, and Mike Pence sent him 2,000. What is he supposed to do? Run a lottery to see who wins the right to breathe? 

Another target of my wrath is the mindless COVIDIOTS trying to convince my 90-year-old grandmother on TV that she should stop wearing her mask or scarf outside. The many talking heads and their mouthpieces that say masks don’t protect you from respiratory infections, the best argument they have seems to be that for the people who touch the mask and then don’t wash their hands, will contaminate themselves? 

Even though they’re getting a much smaller viral load than if they’d gotten all that virus in their mouth, to begin with, right? 

At least my mom was available to talk sense to her, and as the got off the phone, she saw an Eagle fly by, a good omen.

A new study informs us we should disinfect our personal PPE outside of a window or balcony, as the reflection of glass windows can prevent the UV lights of the sun from their full disinfecting glory.  

In India, frontline workers are using Chloroquine as a prophylactic, in appropriate doses. While Trump has tried to comfort people on twitter by saving this medicine will protect you before his doctors are ready to prescribe, it is leading to heart attacks and death as people order it themselves on the internet. Their police are out in force, wearing masks and physically punishing (beating) citizens who are out on the streets as India has a complete 21-day lockdown.

In many countries, prisoners are being released.  In Canada, we have closed the border and invoked the Quarantine Act. Kamal Khera, who re-registered as a nurse, tests positive for COVD-19, our first M.P. to fall to the disease. Some flights are still coming in, but they will be self-quarantining, and the penalty for breaking that 14-day isolation at home is a 1 million dollar fine and three years in jail.

Some doctors are finally speaking up, telling everyone to act like they have the virus, and that everyone should wear masks. Good. That is common sense, and it’s true. It’s the only way to stop the virus. It feels good to be on the sensible side of public health information. Prince Charles has tested sick for COVID-19. The Queen is isolating and had her meeting with Boris “the Johnson” Johnson via telephone. She was not amused. Not the way we wanted it, but the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will inject billions into the economy will provide Universal Basic Income, delivering $2000 CDN (RMB 10,000) a month for workers that cannot get EI or work at the moment. 100 Billion dollars in relief is coming. Help is on the way. 

Okay, so what’s the good news? Do we have good news? We’ve got some.  Iceland has tested a broad cross-section of its general population, figuring out the numbers among the general population is still quite low at 0.1%. They are planning to test their entire community, isolate those infected, and let the disease burn itself out. Xiaolin’s taught her mom how to make an egg cake. Everyone is happy.

Mama learned how to make cake.

Mama learned how to make a cake. We relax, make pancakes. Drink a lot of coffee. I’m buzzing, vibrating so fast I can feel my atoms doing ‘the Triangle.’

We go to the Ren Ren Le supermarket. We bought milk, eggs, bread, yogurt, green peppers, onions, green onions, nacho cheese Doritos, and some other goodies. They did not take our temperature on the way inside for the first time in two months. Things are really loosening up. They still beeped us when we went home. We’re not febrile.

Shopping is normal, and busy again.

Shopping is normal, and busy again.

Shopping for produce, a well stocked store in Chongqing.

Shopping for produce, a well-stocked store in Chongqing.

Chongqing is standing strong. It’s been 27 days since a new infection popped up inside Chongqing. It’s been more than 20 since the last of our 570 patients, minus the 6 that died, was released in hospital. That gives us a 1.04% case fatality rate and a 99% recovery rate in the city-state of Chongqing.  Two cases were caught on the way in returning students from Spain and America were quarantined and showed symptoms after several days. The protocols stopped them from becoming new patients 0 in a new outbreak. If you want to enter Chongqing for business or pleasure, you must take a nucleic PCR test and quarantine 14 days. On March 24, the reduced CQ threat level reduced to level 3, masks optional, but suggested for crowded areas such as movie theaters and shopping malls. So far, our protocols have held firm, and CQ is resolute in accomplishing both a return to work and a safe haven from the virus. 

Factories and offices are now open, and tourism and entertainment are picking up again. The famous 9th street, a bar, and club street have been open since March 24 and had wild, packed dance parties in celebration, but I’m not going to be going out to them for a little bit, just to be safe. In wacky weather news, on March 24, an extreme, mysterious hail, the size of fists fell from the sky over CQ. They’re calling for more of it tonight.

A coronavirus shaped hail ball fell from the sky last night.

A coronavirus shaped hail ball fell from the sky last night. I teach a class from 2-3, Lil’ Kim’ after hiring a translator to do the Chinese edition of my book The Invisible War. Next week we’re going to figure out other languages. Italian, Spanish, and French seem like good places to start. It’s a good, productive afternoon.

Antiviral wipes, free with the purchase of a coffee at Starbucks.

Antiviral wipes, free with the purchase of a coffee at Starbucks.

Afterward, we take a walk in the sun down to Starbucks. It’s 29 degrees Celcius and sunny, so I’m rocking a Tshirt, baseball 3D panda baseball hat, and a face mask with jeans and my wheat AF1s. Xiaolin used to hate that hat, but since it became part of my PPE gear, she doesn’t complain. The upside of a pandemic: I get to wear whatever hat I want. We order our thing: she gets a large caramel macchiato, I get a cold brew espresso tonic with a twist of lime, and we make use of the sit on the amphitheater again. They have antiviral wet papers for our hands and lids, and we make use of them. We walk back to the amphitheater that, 60 days ago, we sat at before all this got weird, and it strikes me as if this is all so surreal. Still, it could have been a dream, but somehow we made it through the storm, and we’re out the other end.

I read her my book for a bit. She really likes it, but I find some typos. I make a note to send to my publisher.

Reading The Invisible War to Xiaolin outdoors in Chongqing on a sunny day.

Reading The Invisible War to Xiaolin outdoors in Chongqing on a sunny day.

Trump is helping me market it, discussing fighting his invisible enemies as a significant talking point on TV. Two girls run up snacking, no masks. Xiaolin puts her mask on. I turn my face away and hold my breath. I count backward from 10, but then they’re gone. We trust that the city is safe, but somehow people enjoy having their own protection.

As we walk back, it’s interesting — to see people lively again. A woman has a robin blue dress and matching mask. Another woman has a pink dress and a pink mask. A guy has a black mask, with a printed design on it. I want to get one with my own face printed on it. A stylish mask is a fashion accessory in 2020. I’m watching Altered Carbon Season 2 still — not really Xiaolin’s thing, but I can squeeze an episode in here and there, and it seems more and more like slightly futuristic but not that unbelievable. I watched Johnny Pneumonic last night, and I love how 1995 and my 15-20-year-old ’90s self and our idea of what 2021 would be like… some cyber gear, a slightly pre-Kung Fu neo take by Keanu Reeves on a cool future cyberpunk futurist hacking the web, and a virus spreading across the world that inconveniences most of us into staying home and surfing the web. Woah.

Fajitas at home are wonderful, even without cheese.

Fajitas at home are wonderful, even without cheese.

We make fajitas, and they’re wonderful. No cheese, but that’s okay. Life’s little pleasures. I think of all the cheese rotting in foreigners’ apartments around China and wish I could save it all in my belly. Things are looking good. Our protocols are strong. The Asian world, in general, “gets it’ when it comes to spreading.

Mass tests in an Italian town have halted COVID-19 spread. The key is the asymptomatic transmission- studies coming out here are saying 1/3 to half of the people infected are carriers. That’s how it spreads so well. The minute you get everyone covering their mouths and not going around touching everything, you get a handle on it. You need the “healthy” to cover up too, get everyone in a mask, and a month later, it’s worked itself out. If you can’t count on your city to protect you sadly, and you can’t come to mine, you can at least manage your environment. This just in: I can’t invite you or my family to come to Chongqing any more and ride out the storm. After dealing with almost 600 “backwash” cases this week, China has closed its borders to foreigners. I am shocked. I slept on it, and with a strong coffee in my hand, I’m thinking about it again. It’s still shocking. I don’t know if my blog will be seen as helpful when the tables have turned, and I’m at the movies eating popcorn when your town has food shortages and national guard collecting the dead from home to home.

I will try to be mindful of that disconnect. Perhaps for some, it will remind you of a time when things were simple, and give you hope that time will come again soon. For others, my early warnings made you grow gardens, and you will be eating your simple meals, carrots, and potatoes, and glad you had the foresight to strike out early and make this space for yourself. If you can get to the countryside, visit an Uncle or Aunt, or go back and spend time at the family house, there may come a day soon where it will be much more relaxing and possible to thrive out there in the clear open air. 

This virus spreads through healthy-looking hosts and quickly disrupts an unsuspecting population, but, cannot so easily infect a wary one, so get your asses wary. Get to a place where you can be isolated and safe.

Don’t let anyone without a mask near you, and if you have to go outside, cover your mouth and don’t get closer than 2 meters from anyone with a mask or 4-5 meters from anyone without.

Get your food and get back to home. It’ll get better soon, I think, at least in a month the COVIDIOTS will be too sick to cause you grief.

A retired emergency room physician in my family and “reasonable medical professional” in a sea of bad advice said to all this: “I am not surprised – after a national stay at home in Canada for two weeks, followed by widespread (33 million) testing and contact tracing, Canada should be able to control this pandemic in Canada.” 

Last night we had another hailstorm, and the building shook from all the wind and an onslaught of biblical level heavy rain through the night. The earth is groaning in her hospital bed, but her antivirals are starting to shake up the human problem that’s depleted her immunity, and she’s doing her best to pull through. If it’s her or us, I’m rooting for her.

Someone posted my status about good news in CQ, saying, “I hope this means it’s almost over.” Yes, for cities that use proper protocols. Otherwise, it could linger for years. Things are about to get very dark, for many of you, but that’s why you have to look for the lighthouse.  Last night I wrote 4000 words, but then got the news about the border closing and decided I couldn’t write or post anything at all. After some sleep, I feel I can continue, so here is my post.  

I putter around after my 8 a.m. IELTS writing class, which is a kind of torture I think, to have us wake up so early during the apocalypse, but I manage. After I edit in my office, drink my strong coffee, and I hear Xiaolin coughing in our room. I go and see her.

Her shoulder is cold. I give her a hot bandage, and then go and find a USB battery to power it. She wants a sweater too, so as I’m boiling water to make her honey water, I go try to find her sweater on the couch but it’s buried under the laundry I ran around frantically bringing inside as the hail and torrential rains came down, so I snap something cranky, I’m trying to write, can you just wear another sweater I ask? And then I’ve done it, lost my patience and Yoda will make me levitate rocks with my mind for the rest of the weekend.  

Chongqing is a city on the hill, shining light and hope with our protocols. Other cities also have solid protocols too, and soon, many lighthouses will spring up. Let them shine a light of hope onto your, and if all they do is expose the mistakes in the approach of your leaders, I hope it will guide your way safely back into port.

In the chaos and darkness of this storm, we can all be lighthouses.

Thursday, March 19th – My Apocalypse – The In-Between

Day 56. I wake up at 11:11 AM again. I must have slept for 6 hours and feel like a human again. I make some coffee, tidy up, and get right back to work. Xiaolin will come home today or tomorrow, and I’m going to try to get my manuscript polished by then.

Keep clam and proofread.

Keep clam and proofread.

Xiaolin calls to wish me a good day today. She’s getting baby Ethan ready to go downtown to Jiefangbei to walk around and enjoy the beautiful sunny Spring day. The sun is shining, it’s 20 degrees outside.

I heat up some carrots and rice she left for me the other day, and have a nice light lunch.Video Player00:0000:15

Ethan plays with another baby.

Ethan plays with another baby.

Outside, he meets another boy, and they play for a while. He takes his first ride on a scooter, with a bit of help. Soon he won’t need it, and one day he’ll be big and strong, smart, and capable. With a name like “Xiang Ethan,” it sounds like “looks like a doctor,” I know he’s going to change the world. A grandfather always knows best.

Ethan reaches for the stars.

Ethan reaches for the stars.

It’s delightful to work with friends to polish my document. My beta readers hover around the pages of my manuscript like bees in my flowers, pollinating this, spreading that over there. We work hard, flowers and bees, to make honey.

My doggos bark, rap rap rap, until I give up on eating and dump the carrots and rice onto their dish for them to enjoy. When they finish licking their chops, they bask on a cushion near the window as a warm golden sun, lazily reminds them of the joy to be found outside of our four walls.

I’ll take them outside soon, to enjoy the fresh air and run around. I can only imagine how excited they are going to be, with old Ben Ben finding his running legs again, tail wagging, and Hachoo doing laps around him as the only the young can.

A visit from my friend Andrea brings Vitamin D and eye drops.

A visit from my friend Andrea brings Vitamin D and eye drops.

My good friend Andrea takes the bus over to visit. He’s always been a brave soul through this and makes me sometimes feel that I’m too careful, in my tower on campus, scrying and shouting at the world. I suit up to meet him outside the school, and this time I try using my microphone headset in between my masks, with the speaker strapped to my belt to amplify my muffled voice. He thinks I’m nuts, but in a good way, and he gives me eye drops and Vitamin D pills. My eyes have been so fried; lately, I’m excited to go home and drop them in my eye holes. We walk around in the sunshine together outside, and the lady baker snaps a few photos of us when we pass by her bakery.

I go back home and relax. I teach Lil’ Kim for an hour, and then I take the pups outside. They’re tentative at first, taking everything in. The smells inform them of all that they’ve missed, and Ben Ben gets up on his back paws to give a tree a good sniff before he urinates on it. We have our twitter and dogs, their pitter-patter. I yell, “come on,” and they both bolt towards me, tails wagging, excited to chase and bark and play. Except for my gas mask, it feels completely normal.

Today there are 220,000 documented cases of COVID-19, with 8980 deaths, and 85, 769 recovered. There are the countries where it is winding down, the countries where it is raging hot, and the places it is quietly booming, set to explode. Wherever it touches, it disturbs the very fabric of society, changing things that words and ideas and men could not. COVID-19, barely three months old, has brought about some form of socialism that pure politics couldn’t, by necessity. America and many countries around the world are experiencing healthcare for all, a reduction in pollution, working from home, and a form of universal basic income; all part of this new paradigm that is 2020.

In places like Chongqing, where we have fought it back, we must remain watchful, and so the requirements to come are stringent (a negative nucleic acid PCR test). Tourists must be patient (a mandatory 14-day self-isolation upon entry). One day we hope for a vaccine. Until then, we will stand vigilant, a beacon for the world.

I never heard back about the remote island of Ireland, but it seems like Chongqing will keep me here for another year. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

I make a tuna fish sandwich, with lots of garlic and a hint of peanut butter. At the same time, my Bluetooth speaker pumps the rhythmic trance-induced beats and riffs of cyberpunk synthwave industrial music. I flip my knives in the air and catch them by the hilt, spinning around and waving my arms to the beat as I chop and dice salad greens. If I can’t dance, it’s not my apocalypse.

Jay has been hurting since he landed in America. His family is barricaded in their remote village and does not want to join him in the United States. He is becoming increasingly critical and cynical, full of zealous fervor. I couldn’t think of anything more Christlike than reaching out in a crisis to send a stranger masks to protect his family and becoming wartime buddies. Still, when I wouldn’t agree to pray to Jesus, having already found Jeffy Spaghetti, he blocked me. I hope he finds his family again.

A new Chinese study declares that those with blood type A were more ‘vulnerable’ to infection. In contrast, those with blood type O, which have both anti-A and anti-B antibodies, may have some protection, and a ‘significantly lower risk’ of getting COVID-19. Another revelation is that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is uncommon and is 10-20 times more apt to fasten to human cells. This could explain the virulent, accelerated spread across communities. The structure of these unique spike proteins is quite significant because they will form the basis for the formation of a vaccine.

Happy dogs first journey outside.

Happy dog’s first journey outside.

Happy dogs first journey outside.

Happy dog’s first journey outside.

I take the dogs outside, and they sniff everything there is to smell. They are tentative at first but soon run and play while I enjoy the brilliant glow of sun soak into my skin. The Aegean shine is creeping in like a guilty husband back from the bar, a little tipsy, but full of deep belly warmth. After a good hour, I go home and wash up, change my clothes, and relax.

Xiaolin calls to wish me a good day today. She’s getting baby Ethan ready to go downtown to Jiefangbei to walk around and enjoy the beautiful sunny Spring day. The sun is shining, it’s 20 degrees outside.

Flowers bloom in early Spring

Flowers bloom in early Spring

Her father’s garden is gorgeous, full of yellow spring flowers from the blooming pawpaw trees. Bees buzz around the flowers, pollinating, making honey.
A cat meows, and down below, a city buzzes too. Life finds a way.

I work until dark, and then take a break and work some more. There’s always more to do when you’re pouring your life and passion into a creative project. I know I will sleep well tonight, though, because I could really use it.

The Invisible War: A Canadian’s COVID-19 Diary in Chongqing out this spring on Amazon and other platforms.  

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