Friday, January 31, 2020

Teaching in China during the Coronavirus

On January 18, I departed Xi'an for what I thought was a short 12-day stay in Wisconsin, with my little brother's wedding being the highlight of the trip. As I write this, a calendar reminder popped up, reminding me that my flight to Xi'an was to happen in 15 minutes. And yet I am writing this from the couch at my condo in Madison, WI.

At the O'Hare airport on December 19 (one day later than planned due a flight delay and then missing the next flight), I saw a small sign that urged those traveling from Wuhan to self-report if they had a fever or cough. Because it didn't apply to me, I didn't give it much thought. Then I waited in the long line with the HUGE number of Chinese students returning to Madison for the start of the second semester. The at-capacity bus I was in, along with the other two buses, contained virtually all individuals from China.

Just a day later, the city of Wuhan became known to the world. I began thinking of those 16 hours I spent on the plane and then a few more hours on the bus with people from China. Had any of them been in Wuhan? An administrator from my international school in Xi'an contacted the faculty querying about where we had traveled and if we had any contact with those in Wuhan. On Monday, after hearing that school would be closed for at least two more weeks, I contacted my principal, requesting that I remain in Wisconsin until the re-opening date is definite.
 Map showing the current number of reported coronavirus infections
When I look at this map and see how the numbers continue to escalate every day, I am grateful that I arrived prior to the major outbreak and thankful that I did not have to return on the 30th, as originally planned. Friends in Xi'an reported store/mall closures, reduced store inventory (especially of produce), and the inability to find any masks and hand sanitizer. Getting around by public transportation is severely impaired, with the suspension of service, limited routes/hours, or long delays due to the screening of passengers. Several highway exits are also closed and health checks are being conducted at those open. Many flights are also being canceled. Didi (the Chinese equivalent of Uber), the most popular way for foreigners (and many locals) to travel within the city, has now suspended its service. People are strongly urged to stay home, cooped up in their high-rise apartments. All those entering the apartment complexes are checked for fever and cough.

Currently, there are 87 confirmed reported 9,742 cases in the Shaanxi province; of those, 32 are in Xi'an. Even the "small" town where a Chinese friend of mine has been cooped up in her family's apartment now has some infections. She is especially concerned for her grandma, who already has health issues. I pray for the health and safety of all the hard-working, kind citizens of this populous country.

Starting on Monday, I am to be giving art assignments to my students online. I can't use any resources that require the use of a VPN, in order to accommodate the Chinese students. So that means no Google apps, no YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, and even many seemingly innocent sites. Art supplies will have to be kept at bare minimum as well. If anyone has had experience or advice on teaching upper elementary art (particularly PYP) under these restrictions, I'd love your insight.

For now, be assured that I am safe and healthy in Wisconsin.


Anonymous said...

We were wondering what was going on in terms of your travel. I talk to many of my Chinese students and they are making the best of the situation...spending time playing games, etc and home. Hopefully the situation will start to improve soon for all involved.

Cousin Drew

PS: Think you meant January in your post, not December.

Melissa Enderle said...

For everyone's sake, I hope things do improve soon! As things draw on, being cooped up inside will create tensions, particularly when supplies start running low.
Thanks for the date notice - I have been traveling a lot recently, but this flight started in January.
Stay safe over there as well!