China is *Almost Back to Normal
Over the past week, a lot of my friends all around the world have been pressing me about my safety, specifically whether or not I’ve “caught the virus yet.”
I live in China, so because the virus began here, a lot of people assume that I must be living in an even worse hell-scape than they’re in right now.
Because of this assumption, it’s been weird telling people that not only am I ok, that life has almost entirely returned to normal for my friends living in Shanghai and me.
What most people don’t realise is that the situation was terrible in China several months before they became terrible everywhere else, so we’re on an uneven timeline of events.
Our current lives in China are what others will be experiencing 2 months from now, or 2 years for Americans.
Months ago, when I was telling my international friends my first-hand account of the coronavirus horror here in China, they either weren’t listening or didn’t believe me.
I sounded like a scared expat living through SARS 2.0. The thought of this horror ever impacting them never even crossed their minds.
We in China saw the worst of the virus in February, long before anybody else was taking it seriously. Because of this uneven timing, China is actually recovering right now while other countries are being hit hardest.
Life has almost completely returned to normal here in Shanghai, the only visible sign of the virus being the above-average amount of people walking around wearing face masks.
This being a country in Asia, there’s always a solid portion of the population wearing masks during everyday life, but this number has now escalated to everyone.
The masks aren’t being worn by everyone simply because they think the masks are going to have any real impact on their health; people know that the key to staying healthy is regularly washing their hands and keeping a good distance from everyone else.
Instead, people are wearing masks at this point because of public pressure.
There’s a politeness to wearing a mask in mixed company, even at a meeting or a social gathering. If someone takes their mask off around others, it just feels impolite, so it isn’t done.
I don’t know how long this social trend will keep going for, but now that masks are in plentiful supply, I expect that it’ll keep going at least a few months beyond the official “end” of the coronavirus, whenever that’ll be.
Not So Essential
The only way my life is affected by coronavirus at this point (beyond wearing a mask and washing my hands like an agoraphobe) is school cancellation.
I moved to Shanghai to work as a drama teacher, and schools still haven’t been re-opened.
This is about to change, however, because the government has deemed the public health recovered enough to re-open schools after the national holiday in early May.
This is great for everyday Chinese teachers who will finally get to stop teaching on Zoom and be allowed to return to the classroom where no amount of crappy internet connection can ruin their lesson.
This isn’t so good for foreign teachers (like me) who are seen as a bit of a luxury and less essential than everyday local teachers (which is fair enough).
This assessment probably doesn’t count for foreign teachers who belong to one school and are a firm part of the curriculum.
However, teachers like me aren’t exactly part of anything. We teach at many schools, roaming from one school to the next teaching our classes like travelling bards.
We’re a shiny but essentially inessential part of our student’s lives.
Absolutely no end-of-semester exams hinge on the valuable drama techniques I teach, and the absolute last thing on any headmasters mind at this point is “but what about that end-of-year play the students were rehearsing?”
At this point, all anyone is thinking about are the exams they need to cram for, and no-one is wasting a single precious second on drama or debate club.
Adapting to the Times
During all of March and April, I’ve been writing lesson plans and accompanying student activity books.
I teach these classes over Zoom and send the activity books via email to the parents to print out and give to their kids. (This is why I’ve barely contributed to Medium over the past couple months, sorry to anyone who noticed and was sad).
I teach lessons over Zoom, and my students do fun activities in their books during the class.
I used to have the kids take notes while I taught, but crappy connections and tiny attention spans made this system aggravating and ineffective.
Using activity books means that everything I teach is already written on a page in front of them; they just need to do the corresponding activity and figure out the skill I’m trying to teach. That way, even if their connection drops out and they miss what I was saying, they can just read it on the page.
This system has been working well, and I’m curious about how I’ll adapt it once I’m back in a conventional classroom again.
Because I’m inessential, I don’t know when I’ll return to the classroom.
To make things worse, I’ve also been a little too efficient writing courses, because all of my customers are satisfied with what I wrote over March and April and don’t need more.
Now that regular classes are due to go back; no-one needs to lean on my Zoom courses anymore. No-one’s stressing that their kids are enjoying “too much free time.”
This likely means that for the next couple of months, I’ll be left alone in my living room, useless until the new school year begins in the fall.
On the bright side, I’ll have a lot more time once again to write what I want to write. Silver lining and all that.
I’ll also have a lot less money, which limits the amount of snacking I can partake in while typing and lazing on the couch.
So stay safe everyone, and support those that don’t have a function during these terrible times.
Keep those hands clean and keep up that social distance. And for godsake, if anyone has unusually high turnip prices, please let me know with a comment. #ACislifenow