Day 299. Finally, a weekend worth remembering — however bittersweet the cause. Shaolin’s Salsa5 club is closed, the only international world-class Salsa club in our city, and our good friend and fantastic dance teacher Luis Castro from Cuba packed up his apartment. We got to see him Friday, Saturday and Sunday, even went out for some fun — safely brought to you by an organized and effective COVID-19 pandemic strategy unheard of in most of the world. But it’s worth sharing how it could be because a good example has occasionally been shown to inspire our better angels.
Our story begins again, as cliche as it sounds, with the soft vibration of my left wrist as my Fitbit nudges me awake. “it’s 6:25 AM, Kai,” that little conniption gurgles. “Get back from the dreamlands! You’ve got mundanity to muster!” I wake up, boil water, freshen up, boiling my freshly shaved face in the hot water tank so that I resemble a lobster in the foggy mirror. At least I’m awake and ready to get on with it. Coffee, Twitter, and try to nail a few golden points and RTs before it’s time to summon a car with the touch of an app. Three minutes later, it’s a quiet ride to campus B, a walk through the shady tree-lined campus, enjoying the fresh air, a luxury in a foggy mountain city of 36 million people, and then up to my office before I strut into my first of four classes. I’m demoing a new writing class the international department has requested me to showcase and video record to go get some big grant money, so I might as well practice it a few times. It’s a bit serious compared to some of my speaking classes, but when I pull out the “introduce a friend” and show pictures of my childhood friend ill Gates hugging his buddy Bill Gates and with his shutter shades and dread pompadour, they are suitably impressed. I wasn’t always an English teacher; I remind them. Although I am happy to be one today, for them, but they better sit up.
A few hours later, it’s lunchtime, and I get a car back home and order some pizzas. Luis is coming over to chat about his moving plans. Shaolin is at grandson Ethan’s two-year-old baby school graduation. Education is what’s up here, and yes, our two-year-old baby has been in school for two years already. I know, right? But he’s a smart guy.
After lunch, I meet the new international class, and they seem pretty sharp. They aren’t quite sure what to make of me, and I guess that’s normal — some are quite friendly off the bat, laughing and joking, and others are slower to warm up. It’s a fun class and hopefully meaningful for them. Who knows if I’ll see them again, so I hope it was profound. I go home, take a rest, and it’s time for an evening tutoring class. Then chill out and relax with Shaolin.
Saturday, we get up again at nine and work through eight hours of tutoring before we head out for a goodbye hot pot dinner for Luis. Lots of beer, lots of toasting, and fun crowd. Some of the dancers are famous local sculptors who teach at the Art University, and they show me some recent work. It’s great! Great to see such cool installations going up in the city. Being so tired I felt like a bit of a big baby, but it was a great night out.
After a few hours, I’m starting to feel beat, but we aren’t heading home — — it’s midnight, and we’re off to a bar across the street. The only folks upstairs are a couple singing KTV, and we join them; about eight of us and our wild and hilarious energy dominate the space. Lately, the local government has been advising people to be safe and avoid large and crowded gatherings, but I am reminded it’s been more than 200 days since the community spread of COVID was found in Chongqing, and am again grateful for the bang-up job our government did of controlling it. World-class.
We sing, drink, and I gobble salted peanuts until past 3 am, and then we slowly wander out — not to get a cab, but instead to take a tour of the Art University nearby from the teachers. They sweet-talk the guards who eye us, especially Cuban Luis and myself, the bulky Canadian suspiciously but let us through. We get the royal tour, including a WWII tank art installation.
We eventually get home before the sun comes up — — and sleep in until almost noon. I want to go for a Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict for brunch, a big greasy breakfast, but Shaolin tells me the toilet man is coming to replace our broken smart toilet — — the electrics wore out, and the repairman from last week had fried it instead of fixing it. This past week, without the warming and bidet functions, had made taking a deuce a real grueling experience, and I’m reminded again how lucky, privileged, and spoiled I am. At least I work hard for it.
Sadly, when we get back from the supermarket with a breakfast feast to whip up, we’d missed the call and he’ll be back tomorrow. I fill the plates with greasy breakfast goodies and stuff my face. Later, it’s a walk, a nap, and then Luis comes over with two big suitcases we’re going to store until further notice — mostly his Russian girlfriend Alina’s clothing. She’s just flown out of Russia and will be in Dubai for three months working before hoping to return to China, a year after she got stuck outside on a “Two-week trip back” to see her family.
After a great dinner — Luis is not just a great dancer, but an amazing cook — we watch ‘Holidate’ on Netflix, our first and probably not our last holiday film of the season. Then we walk him to the bank and get him a cab, and he’s on his way for one last sleep at the place before he turns his keys in and finds his next adventure. IT’s the busiest weekend we’ve had in ages but well deserved. We’ll miss him big time.
The next thing I know it’s Monday, and I’m up at the crack of nine. The most challenging part of being a teacher is watching some people not pick up what I put down and knowing later in life; they will regret missing their chance. Thus the proverb, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink — we must make peace with just doing our best. It’s the best we can do.
After a class, I’m back home for a break and squeak in an NHL 2020 hockey game online with my pops, and then back for another class and then back home for a great lunch courtesy of Shaolin. We wash up, and the repair guy comes to fix the smart toilet. Nice. Our new model is a top quality brand name, a Japanese smart toilet. Panasonic. Panasonic, formerly (1918–2008) Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, Ltd., Japanese Matsushita Denki Sangyō Kk, a major Japanese manufacturer of electric appliances and consumer electronics products. Headquarters are in Kadoma, near Ōsaka.
The more you know. The guy seems friendly and gets the new unit installed, but it’s with a creeping dread that I start wondering how he will demonstrate it. Is he going to pull down his pants and poop for us? Or ask Shaolin to pee and try it out in front of us? This is so awkward.
No, he holds onto the toilet to activate the sensors and gives us a tour through the buttons: temp control, modes, massage, heated seat, it doesn’t sing, but it does everything butt. Maybe next time we’ll get a singing one.
I miss Canada. I miss Canada like I miss the simplicity of childhood, a weekend respite from the structured life of study and homework, a Saturday sleepover with friends and a spooky movie pizza party and video games, or the joy of wondering how this holiday feast and gift fest might change my life. Once in a while, I got a new book, a new open-world game, or a new bike that felt like being given wings. And, like Icarus, I flew high, hard, and fast. Close to the sun. Canada is a memory to me, the ghost of the past. If I could be back there today, with COVID raging, most bars in Toronto closed for good, and no nightlife to speak of, it wouldn’t be anything like the festivals, clubs, and downtown street parades. I remember when I moved there, and ill Gates welcomed me with a Suit Blanche art car parade that had us DJing to a crowd of 50,000 folks at Dundas Square in pirate costumes. But like the ’90s and the awkward sexiness of goth canon films the Crow and the Matrix, it’s just a memory now.
Even a decade ago, as I contemplated leaving for a new adventure in Asia and I thought about all the things and people I would miss in my homeland, I remember walking up and down Queen Street from West to East, feeling sad and lonely, isolated even as I passed through the Eaton’s Center and hordes of my countrymen. I was lost among them. A romantic poet, spurned lover, mischievous playboy, easily heartbroken, and always trying to cram myself full of fleeting experience. I am older now. I’m grounded, stoic, and resilient, and my life has brought me to many countries, speaking many languages, and I’ve seen many things, and I am grateful for it all. I would enjoy a visit back, but I wonder when that will be possible.
In China, we have contained the virus, for the most part, so well that, as the NYT reported last week, we are investigating the danger of frozen food. This is true, and we did figure out that it can last in cold temperatures and to make sure to wash your hands very well after dealing with imported fish, for example. That was ages ago — 3–4 months for sure, but somehow the West has their collective heads so far underwater with clear and present threats that this has not yet been digested. In the USA, cases are spiking red, not the third peak, but a dangerous new plateau, as previously untouched rural areas are now seeing dangerous outbreaks.
Oklahoma, for example, has just run out of hospital beds. They are getting ready for hospital camps or collapse. They still haven’t mandated masks, though, because supposedly, they take their cues from (Ex)President Trump. Although he was clearly and thoroughly spanked by Biden and lost badly, (Ex)President Trump has not conceded and is attempting a sloth-like coup by just continuing on and planning his second administration, backed up by the vocal treason of Sec. State Mike Pompeo and his other cronies. The fact he’s facing at least six criminal investigations once he steps down in January means he’s willing to try anything to cling to power. The USA is now getting close to 150,000 new cases a day and on track to 200k a day within a few weeks. They aren’t talking much about Vitamin D either, even with more studies clearly showing that good levels will reduce the disease’s frequency and severity and reduce viral transmission. El Paso County, Texas has hired jail inmates to load bodies of deceased #COVID19 patients into emergency overflow morgues for just $2/hour, 8 hours/day. Previously just weekdays, but now weekends too. It seems their PPE is goggles & KN95 & apron, according to various confirmed reports on Twitter from credible sources. The COVID deaths in America are real and skyrocketing to new heights.
In Canada, we see new lockdowns and new spikes, although schools are still open. In a new study, Princeton clearly shows students and children are mainly asymptomatic superspreaders, quietly suggesting all schools be closed, but parents, often single ones or without supportive family structures nearby, cry and complain they cannot manage to raise children without government daycare, regardless of the spreading plague, so it continues to peak despite everyone’s ‘best efforts.’ Experts predict a gruesome winter as old age and long term care facilities brace for more deadly outbreaks.
Elon Musk trash-talked rapid COVID testing to his millions of followers, earning him another thrashing on the internet and continued reference to him as ‘Space Karen.’ He’s continually called the pandemic ‘bogus,’ and ‘dumb,’ and failed to understand that the rapid tests (30 mins) trade-off specificity for time. Unless your body is full of COVID it will not reliably detect it, and he likely has early exposure with limited SARSCOV2 virus cells so only two of his four tests detected it. I sent him some advice about keeping his Vitamin D levels up and my paper on the topic in the hopes it will keep him well and he might tweet something useful and helpful to his millions of followers rather than misinformed anti-science nonsense. There’s so much of that already we don’t need it from futurists, engineers, and nerds, too.
Global numbers for today: 54,946,459 recorded cases worldwide. 1,326,507 deaths. 38,224,365 recovered. 15,395,587 active cases, with 98,911 in serious or critical condition. Sweden tried “herd immunity”. It’s become a total disaster. Sweden is now using ‘unprecedented’ COVID restrictions as cases soar. With a death rate of about 3.4% and many millions exposed to long-term complications including reduced lung capacity, heart damage, higher risk of stroke, and kidney failure as well as brain damage and ‘brain fog,’ we can put the herd immunity idea to bed once and for all. You really don’t want this.
To me, this pandemic has magnified so many things, from the systemic racism against BIPOC to voter suppression, the craven antiscience ramblings, and cruelty to the working poor of conservatives to the danger of Canada’s isolationist preferences. We push away family, carving a couple of hours here and there or on special occasions, but by and large, shunning the extended family homes that traditional close-knit societies enjoy, and then complain it’s hard to raise children and expensive to live. While all these are true, living for close to a decade in China taught me the value of a close-knit tribe that works together for mutual gain, comfort, and support. Our grandson Ethan has a dozen or more support humans available at any time, and we all readily sacrifice and give for his comfort, education, and opportunities. He will be well taken care of, and I’m sure he will become a great person. I’ll do my best to imbue him with my sense of humor, creativity, and curiosity. The world can use more of that, especially our future world.
I realize now that I cannot save everyone and everything. My information was always incomplete, but even when it was bang on, many resisted. Most people believe they understand things already, as much as I do, we are all shouting at each other to do better, to be more, so the focus must naturally turn inwards: what can I do to survive, to be my best, drown out the chaos and the noise and strengthen my inner citadel and mental garden.
I am getting tired of telling folks the same things over and over for 300 days, so I decided to do some “Self-Care-Sunday” measures: I will never listen to Trump speak again. I won’t argue with idiots anymore, and I will spend more time off my phone and with my family. These all may seem obvious, but it was hard to come to, what with my writing and community activism based on education and outreach. As the winter comes, these pillars will help me deal with the unknown surprises and horrors of the pandemic to come.
The most regrettable part to me is how avoidable a lot of it seems to be: with various mask compliance measures, social distancing and strong government controls, a hard lockdown, and lingering vigilance, we have seen a handful of countries do very well. Many do well for a time and then decide it’s safe for tourist season (Europe, for example). France is now closing cafes and requiring printed permission slips for people to leave the house and go shopping — requiring people to decide if their outing is a “required one” or not.
When I was in Canada, I was quick to emotion, self medicate, and tantrums. I might have been a fun DJ, but I wasn’t a very reliable or solid person all the time. It’s taken years to reflect on that, my shortcomings, and work on not just developing my strengths, but my many glaring weaknesses.
When I moved to China, thousands of days of resilience, and hard work, have produced some stability, mindfulness, and clarity. I owe a lot of it to Shaolin, and my home and life here, but I can’t kid myself, I put in the work. I wish I could share it with everyone back home — I know they can’t all spend a decade in China with me, so what’s the takeaway? How could what I’ve learned here help them to cope better with what they’ve got and what’s to come? This is something I am reflecting on a lot lately.
What if Luke had stayed to become a Jedi Master on Dagobah? Or just written a blog? Did he change anything by going back to help his friends half-cocked? Maybe, maybe not.
In India, the joyous Diwali festival sparks fears of a covid spread. In the USA, the Million MAGA idiots marching around America spread the plague, fear, and violence through communities even as the COVID cases race towards 200,000 a day. It’s like they’ve given up even trying to fight it.
If you’re reading this — stay indoors — outside feels like a plague of biblical proportions, and it’s got me feeling disgusted how preventable it all is, with a bit of common sense, with people who just care a little. It’s not a #virus you should be afraid of, but the basic #apathy, #laziness, #mistrust, and #stupidity of normal people to do the #minimumbasic #pandemic #prevention to stop it in its tracks. #truestory #COVID19 #antimaskers #maskholes. Hey #Canada: #Vietnam has 95 million people. They’ve had 1200 cases of #Covid19 & 35 deaths. “#masks and #lockdowns don’t work,” says the #maskhole #antimaskers who screwed up both-we need tighter enforcement to #FlattenTheCurve
That’s a taste of my Twitter, for what it’s worth. When it’s good, it’s good.
There is some good news. A beloved fig tree in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, will live to see another day. Some wanted to cut it down to make way for a new expressway — -but many communities consider it sacred. And for now, at least, it’s here to stay.
Pfizer and German Pharma company BioNTech SE reveal a vaccine is nearing the end of phase 3 trials. 90% effective. A small group of infected but promising. It’s an RNA vaccine that teaches the body to defend itself. This is a new concept, and if it works out creates great new opportunities — — possibly training the body to fight cancers, etc. Very interesting. As I post this, in breaking news a new vaccine from Moderna that protects against Covid-19 is nearly 95% effective, early data from US company Moderna shows. Hopeful news. We would accept a flu vaccine in the range of 40–60% effective so these huge numbers are incredible, but the rollout may take a year or more still so stay safe and wear a mask.
That said, the world is cusping on a giant dirty new wave in the winter months as the vaccine trials are finishing — of course. The new mutations in Denmark and Norway are of concern since at least Denmark has crossed to minxes and back, but some early testing shows the vaccine should stop it. This vaccine should stop anything that replicates with ace2 receptors because it’s simply training the body to produce the correct antibodies to fight it off.
My cousin’s boyfriend in the USA is sick with COVID. They aren’t taking vitamin D, and despite my strong suggestions, they don’t seem inclined — — it might sound so hippy-dippy to them. For some reason, 90% of people I tell the vitamin d connection to me look like I’m crazy, no matter how many studies or facts I can present. At least they’re taking zinc and getting some sunshine. Hope they recover ok. I’m sending thoughts and prayers.
Weather is nice these days — 25 and sunny. We share the latitude of New Orleans and Houston, Texas, 29.4, or so just a bit north of Miami. Pretty good. Feel lucky as many in Canada wake to frosty cars and frozen lawns.
A voice of reason, empathetic TV Doctor talking head is begging for a 2-week shutdown (100%) — they won’t listen, and two weeks isn’t enough, but he’s begging nine months later…people are losing their houses, businesses, and it’s not enough. He says 70% business isn’t enough. We need 100% back, so we need a 100% shutdown to get things back. Go back to march and do what China did, and we’d be ok now. But we couldn’t afford an eight-week lockdown, so we bought a two year one. It really doesn’t make sense to me. I feel like in the West, we only look at the tip of the iceberg instead of acting to prevent a further catastrophe. I can’t understand it anymore.
A study showed it was already in Italy in September last year… interesting. The World Health Organization has reported the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory disease it causes, were unknown before the outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, in central China, in December. Italy’s first COVID-19 patient was detected on February 21 in a little town near Milan, in the northern region of Lombardy.
But the Italian researchers’ findings, published by the INT’s scientific magazine Tumori Journal, show that 11,6% of 959 healthy volunteers enrolled in a lung cancer screening trial between September 2019 and March 2020 had developed coronavirus antibodies well before February.
The University of Siena carried out a further specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies test for the same research titled “Unexpected detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the pre-pandemic period in Italy”.
Four cases dated back to the first week of October were also positive for antibodies neutralizing the virus, meaning they had got infected in September, Giovanni Apolone, a co-author of the study, told Reuters.
“This is the main finding: people with no symptoms not only were positive after the serological tests but also had antibodies able to kill the virus,” Apolone said. “It means that the new coronavirus can circulate among the population for long and with a low rate of lethality not because it is disappearing but only to surge again,” he added.
Italian researchers told Reuters in March that they reported a higher than the usual number of cases of severe pneumonia and flu in Lombardy in the last quarter of 2019 in a sign that the new coronavirus might have circulated earlier than previously thought.”
I don’t know what this proves exactly, other than that there’s a lot we don’t know, and sometimes it seems to slumber and slowly creep through a city, and other times it crashes up and cripples it, leaving carnage it its wake.
A working theory is that it started in China (or somewhere) as a relatively tamer strain of SARSCOV2, the one that infected South Korea and Japan were the milder strain, and somehow it made it to Europe, mutated into the more deadly strain, and came back to Wuhan, where it had the very dramatic effect of crippling the city and leading to the first Chinese lockdown. This was also the strain that hit Lombardy, Italy and New York City. We still don’t know what the new minx strain has in store for us, but the fact the vaccine should cover all known strains is incredibly encouraging.
I wonder why the West seems allergic to hard decisions, and I wonder if it’s a product of some of the loudest voices always being the least thoughtful. Perhaps democracy is too idealistic, or at the very least, we need to push harder for a more educated populace because all people are really far from experts on all issues, and leaders seem very shy to educate the people on matters that experts truly understand. How they fumbled COVID-19 is so much like how they are fumbling climate catastrophe: a small problem becomes a bigger one gradually, and still, people think, “how much does it cost to take a small measure now versus not taking one” instead of understanding the problem as “how much more will my inaction cost me down the road in the not too distant future.” Our very survival depends on us being agile and adaptable, ready to sacrifice for the greater good, and for a better tomorrow. What I have seen this year is that many people will weigh many nations down. They will struggle very hard in the decade to come if we cannot unburden them with resilience, stoic philosophy, mindfulness, trust in experts, and a roadmap to #solarpunk solve the problems of our times. This is a big thing, and it won’t be easy, but it is the thing we must do.
I moved to China with an idea, but 100 times I wondered if I had been mistaken. My life had been special, loving, and full in Canada, but I needed to know what I could become if I dared to start all over again and focus on being the strongest, best person I could be. More than anything else, this year showed me I could put that question to bed and be grateful I made a choice and did the hard work in the last six years on preparing for this pandemic, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. I am glad that I could be quicker to adapt and perhaps share some of my advice, some solace, and some comfort with my friends worldwide.
My life is the answer to a question I asked myself a decade ago: “How can I make pro DJ money all week but stay sober and have a healthy schedule, peaceful life, and sharp mind?”
I figured it out, and while I miss the memories of the steps it took me to get here, I would never go back for more than a visit because this is where I am truly happy.
I might be continuously annoyed and confused by things I can’t possibly understand but being ok with that, developing a quiet confidence that despite the fact, so many things don’t make sense, I’m strong, smart and capable, and fearless, and that I’m going to figure it out and be ok is central to my current wellbeing. It’s hard to say; I will give it some thought, and maybe, through examples or reflections, can we communicate something of my experience that is meaningful and helpful to you.
If you’re the smartest, noblest, or kindest person in the room, you should find a bigger or better room to be in. I thank my wife for showing me so many things I needed to learn and being a continuing inspiration in my life. I know I worked hard to materialize everything I have today, my work, home, relationships and projects, inner strength, resilience, mindfulness, and sober, peaceful mind. It’s the product of my life’s work, but I am still so grateful for it. It means everything to me.
It took me years to build my mindfulness skills, my stoicism, and my mental resilience, but I will try to break it down into a teachable opportunity because I realize my path isn’t a practical one for the entire western world to follow, but they could sorely learn the skills I now know. I only hope my experience can be an inspiration for some to seek the path to their own best selves.
Kai has been keeping a diary since the lockdown began in China on January 25, 2020. You can follow his fight against COVID-19 on his blog, theinvisiblewar.co, or find his first collection, Kai’s Diary (The Invisible War), the story of Chongqing’s battle against the COVID epidemic in book stores and on Amazon.