I awake, bleary-eyed, and pull my phone under the covers. I fish around under the pillow, find one earbud, and slip it into my ear. I will need some powerful morning music to leave the warmth of the blankets. Overnight Chongqing’s sweltering summer season has changed from 35-45 C to a cool, rainy, downright chilly 10-14 C. The air feels cold, and I can hear the rain drumming upon my window. Today is the first day back to school after the National Holiday.
I open my phone and see a message from a school leader. My Chinese reading is still pretty weak, but I can make out enough to know it sounds like trouble. I hit the translate button, and it’s confirmed. In the middle of the night, the local CDC contacted the school. One of our students was determined to be a ‘close contact’ of a confirmed new local outbreak of COVID case. All offline (real, physical) classes for today are canceled. All students will self-study in their dorms. If things go well with several rounds of testing, I’ll be back in the classroom by Monday. If not–
“Kai, you can appreciate and thank their fast, forceful, and caring measures to defend people’s lives again by writing another book whose title I already came up with for you: Kai’s diary never ends,” said my coworker, making light of the ongoing situation. “You might write a trilogy, one year, one book (Oh, if he only knew I was already…), and if that’s not enough, try quartet. I’m sure you’ll be nominated the best ex-pat teacher in China.” I can never tell if he’s making fun of me or not, but in the end, it’s all in good spirits. We’re all just trying our best.
We’ve been playing a form of pinball in China for years. We get an outbreak, we all stay home, and local businesses suffer, but we get rid of the outbreak. Life gets back to normal. Businesses flourish – and we all feel safe. Then we get a holiday, and while we might curtail most cases- a little outbreak will inevitably explode, and we’re back to staying home again. The western world calls it futile, but it’s worth noting that most of China has never had COVID once (I’ve never heard of anyone in China having COVID more than once), let alone multiple times, and there are very few cases of long COVID- I haven’t heard of one in the world’s most populous country. I could have missed it, but our approach has prioritized the elderly, the immuno-compromised children who can’t be vaccinated. I’d say 99.9% of China never had COVID, even once. But it’s a lot of effort to keep this up.
Outside China, it’s a different story. People say: why can’t you travel? The pandemic is over. But if I ask them: why are emergency rooms closed on the weekends and overnights? What’s up with 20-hour waits to fly because the airport is short-staffed? What about rising incidents of long COVID correlated with multiple infections and bizarre instances of otherwise healthy people just dropping dead six months after recovering from COVID? (Science aside, pointed out by my friend RL: Given the insane increased rate of blood clotting after Covid, it blows my mind we’re not being prescribed something. (She put her and her husband on Aspirin for one year). The increased rate is 27-33x. Compared to smoking, which is 2.5x. After a year, it decreases to 1.7x, which is approximately the same risk as over 60.) I get blank stares. No matter that Salon just posted a headline like: “The most drug-evasive COVID variant yet is likely to ruin winter,” because, to them, the pandemic is over; their attention span does not allow them to keep on caring, and western governance doesn’t find continuing to make it an issue polls well for their reelection chances. This is possibly the downside of modern ‘democracy.’ You can’t do what’s right. You can only do what’s popular. I certainly hope saving the climate through radical sacrifice and incredible effort is popular. Is my sarcasm filter on? I certainly don’t know. One piece of very good news is the radical treatments that are on the horizon. Some suggest we might have a ‘universal coronavirus vaccine that inhibits transmission for all variants of COVID-19’ by 2025. Another article I read recently suggests we can turn the virus on itself. The drug being tested is called NMT5, and it alters the virus, causing it to grow “warheads” that temporarily alter the cells (I am guessing these are the ACE2 receptors) where COVID usually attaches and enters so that the virus is no longer able to infect them. The virus would destroy itself, and the pandemic would be over, according to a recent study. Fingers crossed.
But in the west, people who generally don’t follow science and have no sensitivity to the sick and dying cry for their oppressed freedom that we are just victims of social control. Like ostriches, many on and offline have buried their heads in the sand rather than confront danger head-on. Reality might be scary, but hiding your eyes behind a metaverse of cat videos and anime has got to be .. on some level .. disconcerting? Dissociative? Depressing? No? Well, I’m not sure, then.
I know that while western media continues to peddle disinformation that China is this or China is that, every day here, I see positive news about carbon peak efforts that require years of continuous planning and trillions of dollars of investment. The unshakeable belief is that we will move from a black power based world of fossil fuel consumption to a green, Solarpunk society in the coming decades. While things might get really hot and wild weather events more frequent, by 2100, we will have a pretty remarkable society and the planet on Earth to behold. If I can’t live long enough to see it, I want to plant the seeds for those, like my grandson Ethan, who will.
So I keep on working on Amos the Amazing. It’s my love letter to childhood fantasy books; in time to read to real human children still living in modern society. My anxiety that I’d be hocking ebooks to mutants in the apocalypse can rest – at least for now. It’s coming out in 23 days, on Halloween. We’re doing the final proofreading, and so many little things have come together. We have chapter illustrations! For every chapter! We’re going to have ebooks, paperbacks, AND hardcovers! My favorite: is an Amos the Amazing hardcover book, for anyone who wants it. All thanks to a fantastic team and my new publishing partner, Garrett Jones, at More Publishing in Chengdu. We’re committed to publishing many books over the next decade, lifting Chinese voices and publishing English writers in China for the world. Life is busy, but the work is good and keeps me going. When I’m passionate, I just don’t stop.
I got my first review back from another fantasy author! It was great! Here is the abridged version:
“In this coming-of-age story, Amos grows to think of others more as he runs a race to save his soul and his grandfather’s life. While this book falls into the YA (Young Adult) category, I think it carries appeal for readers of all ages who enjoy the magic of childlike wonder. Amos the Amazing is highly imaginative and action-packed with well-choreographed fight scenes… which Jorah Kai accomplishes with finesse! I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages who enjoy books like Harry Potter or the Percy Jackson series. If you are ready for adventure and enjoy exploring new fantastical worlds safely from home, this one is for you. I give it a hearty 5 stars!” – Donna Sundblad, author of Dragonborn.
My friend Jacob married Xiaolin’s friend Kureanna after we introduced them, so I got to give a speech and do a little standup before the holiday. It was a special day, and great to have been pulled off without a hitch and before events like that got postponed or canceled.
It was a great day, and I’m so happy for them. I don’t know why Amber Heard was there, but anyway, it was pretty funny.
Some people are moving: around China, and back home, so I picked up a new guitar and a new micro-synth, and I have been loving playing with them when I’m taking a break from writing.
My school has resumed the Storyteller series and invited me to be a guest and talk about the creative process- which I’m really excited about. It was going to be this week – October 12 but is now postponed until the current ‘post holiday’ COVID surge has waned and we can get back on track. It’ll happen, hopefully, by the end of the month. Maybe I’ll even have some paperback books of Amos the Amazing to bring.
I went out with my friend Deng, a brilliant Chongqing filmmaker, to record some footage and make a book trailer. There are so many parts to getting a book out there, and a lot of it feels harder than writing the book! I’ve got my new Youtube channel, and need to get at least 100 subscribers just to get a domain for it, so that’s my very humble first goal; get the domain, get the video up, and get some presales and reviews for Amos the Amazing going between October 15-31 and then it’ll be out for the world to enjoy.
There will be an audiobook by Christmas, and in 2023, a huge Chinese publisher will have the Chinese version for a commercial bestseller in the makings – fingers crossed. It’s good to keep dreams alive.
The war in Ukraine rages on. There’s been a call to draft 300K men and then rumors that at least as many have fled the country because the people of the world don’t want war. I wake up every day, hoping for good news, for a solarpunk miracle. It may take a lot of patience, but “From a small seed, a mighty trunk may grow.” – Aeschylus
When the world can’t seem to agree on what is real and what is fake, perhaps perception and intention are more important than ever. I’ll leave this one with a word from my good friend, Dom ‘MC Zulu’ Rowland: