Since it looks like I may be stuck in China for longer than originally anticipated, I thought I’d share what it’s like being here whilst the outbreak of the new form of Cornona Virus develops across China and tSincehe World.
The trip was intended to be a 20 day visit to see my friend James, who moved to China to teach English in the city of Hefei, Anhui Province. We had made plans to travel together around the province during the spring festival and to visit neighbouring cities and Huangshan “Yellow Mountain”, one of the most famous mountains in China. These plans were quickly put into doubt only hours after my arrival into China when it was announced that the city of Wuhan had been put into lockdown due to the outbreak of Coronavirus.
Our plans for Chinese New Year were not put on hold though, within an hour of landing I was in a car on my way to the village of Feixi, about an hour away from Hefei, where we would stay with a family and have a tradional New Year’s celebration. To say we were well fed and watered is an understatement. We ate what felt like every type of meat and to my great surprise, my chopstick skills were pretty good. That evening, we shared stories and toasted ourselves into the New Year with many glasses of Baijiu (the national 55% liquor), a really great way to start my adventure in China.
The following day we woke up to a New Year’s Day breakfast that seemed bigger than the dinner the night before. Once again there was an array of meat including chicken feet and chicken organs and of course, we had to wash this down with more Baijiu. After consuming half my bodyweight in Chinese tradional breakfast we decided to venture outside and burn some of it off. Walking around the village it seemed for the entire duration almost every villager stopped to take a look at us. For some it was the first time they’d seen foreigners in their village. It’s a surprise that no one crashed their cars with the amount of slowing down without warning to catch a glimpse. This along with the spray painted pink dogs running around and a tannoy on top of a car announcing a ban on fireworks made for quite an entertaining first morning.
We were then invited by our Chinese friend to visit their family graves to take part in a New Year’s tradition, paying respect to their ancestors. We were welcomed by the family to the tombs as the first foreigners to meet their ancestors, this felt like a great privilege. The small ceremony consisted of burning special papers and money, and next we were asked to bow to the graves to give us success in the year ahead. Following this, we made our way back through the village, stopping at our friends grandparents house for tea where we shared more stories and discussed our cultural differences. One difference that was immediately clear was that the Chinese have a great skill at being able to eat sunflower seeds without any problem, de-shelling them with their teeth in seconds. This was a skill that James and I lacked to the great amusement of the family. After visiting a few other people, we made our way back to the family home to have some more food before leaving for Hefei shortly after.
The next morning we would awake to the news that the UK government had advised against all but essential travel to China, this news felt a little strange to receive, I had only just got to China and now the advice is I shouldn’t be here? Should I leave? But judging from the reports we had access to here, the virus was not spreading that quickly and we were going to be safe here. The news certainly meant that our plans to travel outside of Hefei were to be cancelled; this was mainly out of fear that if we left Hefei we may not be able to return if the virus were to suddenly intensify.
For now, we are following advice, staying mainly inside and hoping that things calm down soon.