WHS graduate shares experience of living in China

March 4, 2020 1:00 AM

So far life is good. I, and all immediate friends, remain safe. The common feeling around is the worst is behind us. More and more restaurants are opening, more cars are on the road and the daily number of new cases is shrinking. There is lots to be optimistic about.

A few friends unfortunately live in communities with someone who was infected. These communities have been put on much more severe quarantine than what I am experiencing. People living in these communities are being issued punch cards which limits their movement. Only one person per family can go outside the community to buy groceries and they are limited to once every two days.

Despite what you may hear on the news, China is showing a remarkable effort to prevent the expansion of the plague.

Life for the past two weeks in China has been one of the most uneventful of my life. All I can think of comparing it to is house arrest. The good news is I found out about this game called Rocket League for Xbox and it’s pretty exciting. Also my wife and I are enjoying catching up on many, many movies. We have seen most of the blockbusters of the past decade.

Overall the sense of the people in Beijing is cautious optimism. Our neighborhood is still very concerned with safety. Face masks are ubiquitous now although not as common as they were a week ago. I did see people bravely running without masks today. Security continues to be more stringent. Public places are still closed. Small shops are requiring temperature checks for entry, but once inside the selection and quality of items for sale is as before the outbreak. Our apartment still doesn’t allow visitors or delivery men. This means that packages, restaurant deliveries and groceries, that prior to the outbreak were delivered to our apartment door, now need to get picked up at the street corner. An inconvenience for sure, but a minor one.

What amazes me is that I am teaching exclusively online now. I teach at public school and my class schedule is exactly the same as last semester, except I just teach my students online instead of face-to-face. To be honest, I can’t stand teaching in front of a screen, it feels like I’m talking to a wall, or eating ice cream with a sock covering your tongue, I just can’t get the real feeling of teaching when it isn’t a conversation. However, I’m surprised at how the rest of the country has adopted it. There are 200 million students in this country that are now all hopping on the WiFi at the same time for their studies. I am shocked that the surge of students hasn’t downed the internet with all the live video feeds. I also consider it miraculous (considering the number of Chinese teachers that still use chalkboards for lectures) that teachers adapted to online teaching so quickly and are expected to teach without students missing any content.

This country continues to surprise me.

Andrew Galbraith is a 2011 graduate of Whitefish High School. He has been teaching U.S. History and U.S. Culture to students at Beijing High School affiliated with Beijing Normal University since August of 2018.