Life in the Time of COVID-19 (1): The sun will rise again!

I never thought I would be writing this. Thoughts rush to my head. They vanish in the next moment. Tender feelings call me to write them down. Something. Anything. I know I can at least try.

Spring is here. The days in Shanghai are getting warm and beautiful. Yesterday and today I went back and forth with my daughter to try to decide if she should leave New York or stay in solidarity with all the other New Yorkers.

I had hoped, like many of us, this virus thing was going to be just a quick media sensation. Over exaggerated, gone and forgotten in a short few days.

The thought, that Anna and the world is starting all over again to have to deal with what we in China had to deal with in the past two months, makes my heart sink. The tsunami effects of the crashing stock market are only making the matter far worse, at least this is how it seems to most people who will actually not get hurt by the virus physically. But everyone’s wallet is hurting. Our life’s savings seem slipping away. Many people may come out of this disastrous situation far worse off than how they entered. And they have done nothing wrong. It’s real.

The worst of all: What would happen next?

The only thing we know for sure is this: Nobody knows what will happen next.

We can only know what happened before, and so often we wish we could re-do a lot of things. If only we could turn back in time!

On Jan 23 the city of Wuhan announced its lockdown, banning its 14 million residents from leaving the city. It happened just one day before our lunar New Year’s Eve, the most celebrated holiday for Chinese people all over the world, the time for every Chinese to go home and join their family for the festive season.

On Jan 24, I wrote to my colleagues as I was hoping to take a few days’ break:

The biggest topic of China for this Chinese New Year is if we shall leave or stay wherever we are to minimize the risk of catching the virus. I have bought flight tickets to visit my hometown but my son has asked me 10 times tonight if I will cancel the trip… One building in downtown Shanghai near our office has been blocked from access after one or two confirmed case(s). Who is to say where is safer? Though I always believe I am safe, and risk is far away from me.

The mega city is quiet, sleeplessly quiet.

Before Wuhan was cut off this morning, many (hundreds of thousands of) people have already left the city and they have gone everywhere already. Two more cities in Hubei have been shut down after Wuhan. No expert can predict what will happen next, and how long this will last.

Hopefully it’s over soon.

These are somber moments, ironically contrasting with the time when people are supposed to celebrate after a long year’s endurance of whatever they had gone through.? The weather forecast is 5 days of rain in Shanghai, or in most places I care to know. News and rumor and sadness is filling the air. It’s hard not to feel what’s going on

that is impacting everyone’s lives.

So, a good song to listen to is Queen’s “Keep Yourself Alive” , which is what I am listening to now.

It’s kind of blue, perhaps all good for our soul.


And that was almost 2 months ago. Was there then enough information for the world’s smartest brains and most powerful computers to simulate what could be happening today?

Sadly we are on March 18, 2020, I am now able to go back to work in my Shanghai office, but the EU is closing the Schengen borders, New York is on the brink of a lockdown, and Anna is in her West Village studio, struggling to comprehend the situation.

Yet we do not know what will happen next, except I decided to catch some of my own thoughts, as insignificant as they maybe.

In the comfort of knowing: the sun will rise again, even if tomorrow might be a cloudy day.

We shall see.

(Click to continue)

Xiangwei, Shanghai, March 18-19, 2020