THE LiGHTHOUSE: CHONGQING, CHINA March, 26, 2020 – The Lighthouse

A Canadians COVID-19 Diary in Chongqing

  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 businesses, 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.

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.

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