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Corona Virus Updates (Timeline) from an Expat’s Point of View

16 Feb

There is a lot of disinformation out there, so here is a day-by-day series of updates from an Expat who works in China and is currently a roaming nomad in Asia.

Our Situation

January 22 – My family left China anticipating a two week vacation – we each packed one suitcase.

January 22 (later that day) – Faculty was warned not to visit Wuhan or ‘epidemic areas’ for the holiday. The office began gathering information about where people were and travel plans.

January 27 – The school announced it would be delaying Spring semester ‘until further notice’. Faculty are warned to delay their return to China if possible. We are informed we will be paid in February, but March is uncertain as the staff are delaying return to the office.

January 29 – China Aviation Authorities issue a notice that flights booked before January 28th shall be refunded for free if passengers apply before departure. It’s not clear whether these statements include all airlines or just domestic airlines.

CTrip announces it is refunding free of charge all flights within Mainland China booked before 28 January 2020. It’s not clear whether these statements include international flights as well.


January 29 – At the advice of the employer and under the new flight exemptions, we request to delay our return flights (China Southern, international flight into China) until Feb. 18th. CTrip online chat had more than 1000+ people waiting in line – we emailed them instead. Response was within 48 hours – changed for free. We book a new hotel (even cheap, it’s pricey on our budget)– we are now officially nomadic.

January 30 – All returning faculty are expected to undergo 14 days of self-isolation when returning.

January 30 (later in day) – Faculty and international students are asked not to return for ‘the near future’ until further notified. All returnees with or without symptoms must be isolated.

January 31 – the school is officially closed and under lock-down. All people entering must undergo a health check, register at the gate, and bring ID.

February 1 – Please inform the employer of the exact number of masks, disinfectant fluid, and gloves, and protective suits you need.

February 4 – Reaffirm that faculty should not return until further notice.

February 4 (later in day) – Faculty ‘shall not return to school in advance before the first-level response of major public health emergencies is cancelled’. Those who do return must have a heath checkup, must inform the employer 2 weeks in advance, and must self-isolate for 14 days. Psychological counseling is being offered to help foreign staff ‘isolate and channel their psychological anxiety, panic, and other emotions’

February 5 – ‘Don’t return.’

February 6 – It’s better not to return. Many businesses are closed and shopping is difficult. You will be required to take your temperature, but thermometers are difficult to find and expensive. To buy thermometer and medicine, you need to provide your ID.

February 7 – Do not return until further notice. . . .

February 8 – School will resume with online courses likely around February 24. Faculty should not return until further notice.

February 12 – CTrip changes our flight from Feb. 18th to Feb. 20th. After concerning rumors about the spread of the virus, availability of supplies, etc. we decide to reconsider our return again. 650+ people in line on CTrip Chat, I waited more than 5 hours to talk to someone. Gave up.

February 13 – All returning teachers much inform the hiring department of their itinerary for the past 2 weeks. Teachers will be picked up at the airport and driven immediately to the hospital and then to housing for quarantine.

February 15 – The community service center announced all people must be quarantined for 14 days and are not allowed to leaving the house for any reason at all. For some, food (enough for 2 weeks) must be purchased in advance. For others, ‘vegetables‘ will be provided by service people. You must report to officials your temperature twice daily. Anyone from or laying over in Guangzhou, Hubei, Zhejiang, and Henan will be quarantined elsewhere and are not allowed on housing site.

February 15 – We formally cancel our flights back to China, and prepare to hunker down for the duration. 42 people in line on CTrip chat. Flight cancellation immediately processed – refund due within 2 weeks according to agent.

February 16 – The suits, gloves, masks, etc that were requested on Feb. 1 have still not been delivered.

February 17 – I again book a new, cheaper hotel . . . money is getting VERY tight (less than $20 per day left). Supplies starting to run out – had to buy new deodorant. Good news – I’m losing weight from stress 🤣 Still no new information about March salaries — informed there will be more information hopefully on Feb. 19th. . . .

CoronaVirus and the Plight of the Expats

8 Feb

If you have friends or family who are expats stuck in the middle of the virus situation right now, please reach out. They’re not okay.

The news is filled with stories about the corona virus currently hitting China and other countries around the world.

What many people aren’t aware of is the plight of the expats who live and work in China. There are an estimated 600,000+ expats (1) and their families living in China, many of whom live in the harder hit city areas like Shanghai and Beijing.

Then there are the tourists, students, and other temporary visitors who got caught up in the situation. Not to mention the concerned relatives and friends at home.

china expat population
Expats in China by region – (2018)

So today, we wanted to give you a little insight into the concerns and issues facing your friends and family abroad, using our own situation a bit as an example.

Continue reading

Mr. Cutie is Waiting for You!

7 Feb

Want your picture with Mr. Cutie? 😍😂
Anyone know who he is (Korean Star).
Where(🗺️): #StreetArt in alley by the Starbucks on Garosu-gil Street in Sinsa-dong.
Directions (🛣️): Exit 8 at Sinsa Station, about 1/2 way down Garosu-gil.

Coronavirus Alerts

23 Jan

Well this coronovirus is slightly disconcerting 🤔😷 But aren’t my students so sweet? 😍 Rumor has it a lot of towns are now out of face masks – told my kids to drink orange juice and get sunlight for their immune systems. 💪💪. In Korea for now, will hopefully avoid it.

Riding with Zao Jun

21 Jan

Kitchen God (Zao Jun) was on my bus! Hope everyone gets a good report this year

Little Chinese New Year

18 Jan

Today (January 17th) is the ‘Little Chinese New Year‘ – also known as the Kitchen God Festival (北方小年)! It’s the day to start the ‘pre-new year’ preparations.

There are two versions of the holiday:

  • 北方小年 or Běifāng xiǎo nián which represents the ‘Little Year’ to the north. Celebrated on January 17, 2020.
  • 南方小年 or Nánfāng xiǎo nián which represents the ‘Little Year’ to the south. Celebrated on January 18, 2020.

*Based on students’ responses, it appears there is a difference in when the holiday is celebrated based on geographic location. Same holiday, different days.

The Stove-top Origins

In ancient Chinese culture, the stove was a very important part of the family’s wealth. Closely related to signs of prosperity and unity.

The home to house the stove and food to cook within were signs of abundance and wealth. While the family who ate food produced in the same oven represented a family at peace. When a younger son started his own family line, he would produce his own stove and carefully shift coals over to show that his household now stood independent. (Source)

It is little surprise then that myths surrounding a kitchen god formed.

The Legend Begins

The stories vary, but the most popular version is one which started in the BC era. There once was a man named Zao Jun (灶君) who for some reason did wrong by his wife. Some say he had an affair with a younger woman, other that he was poor and sold his wife to another man in marriage.

Whatever the reason, he then fell into greater poverty and misery. Wandering earth, he happened upon his wife again in later years and confessed his regret and sorrow at his past actions. A good cook and virtuous woman, his wife forgave him and offered him some food and aid.

Unfortunately, he is either overwhelmed with guilt at her kindness or misunderstands her good intentions (depends on the version) and commits suicide in grief. The heavens take pity on the poor man and turn him into a kitchen god where he is reunited with his wife.

The Current Myth

Modern versions of the tradition hold that each home hosts their own ‘Kitchen God’ who sits watch over the family throughout the year. He is assisted by his wife who keeps a careful written record of the family’s good and bad deeds. He and his wife may even by represented with a portrait or painting of his depiction placed in the kitchen where he keeps his watchful eye.

Then, during the week before the new year, the kitchen god and his wife take their account back to the immortal world. There he gives his report to the Jade Emperor who will pass judgment and issue corresponding rewards or punishments to the family.

The goal is to receive blessings, and make a good start for next year. It’s a time of reconciling, cleaning the house, and putting old misdeeds and history aside. A time to get everything ready for the new year to come.


The Holiday Today

No photo description available.
Door Hangings for the New Year

Even families who don’t believe in the legend anymore still participate in the fun traditions surrounding it. Some of the fun activities include:

  • Getting a hair cut ~ the young guys are out with dapper style in their new do’s.
  • Getting new clothes and putting aside worn out older sets. Time to clean out the closet!
  • Take down old decorations and put up new ones. In China, many of the new year decorations are left up all year long – particularly those on the doors and the Chinese lanterns hanging everywhere.
  • This includes taking down the old picture of the kitchen god, burning it, and replacing it with a new portrait.
  • Burn sacrifices, money, and foods for the ancestors & family gods in hopes that they will intervene with the heavens and help spread good stories about the family. Lots of burning in the streets right now up north.
  • Eating homemade dumplings
  • Giving the house a thorough scrubbing
  • Shoot fireworks to help encourage him on his way!

One of our favorites comes from a student who shared that many people will eat sticky maltose-based candies and offer them as sacrifices. Apparently their hope is to either bribe the kitchen god with sweets or stick the mouth shut of his wife because she’s too gossipy.

Either way, we’re always in where candy is involved!

It’s mostly a kind of ‘spring cleaning’ festival, but be careful – don’t clean on the first of the holiday or you’ll offend the kitchen god! As one student put it ‘don’t throw out the rubbish or he’ll think you see him as rubbish’. So get your cleaning in now!

Grape Cheesecake

9 Jan

New Taste Testing!

My student brought me some grape cheesecakes 😃🍰🍇🤔

Tried them today and its. . . very grapey? If that makes sense? Tastes like a combination of cheesecake with dimeatapp / grape soda if that makes sense? Not bad really! Very sweet though 😃😃.

Asian Architecture

23 Dec

View through the hidey hole 🌷🔍 I love the round windows in East Asian architecture. This is inside a greenhouse – you’d never guess it was -5 outside 😊☃️

Walnuts For Sale!

13 Dec

Did you know when you buy walnuts, you should shake each one first? If it rattles, it’s dried and you should put it back! Find the ones that don’t shake 😃

*I know this because I was,shopping like an uncouth wild thing just picking up a handful and a Chinese nai nai shook her head in a tsk-tsk manner and started teaching me the proper way 😊

(Nai Nai – grandmother -奶奶)

Spicy Chicken

26 Nov

One of my favorites! Spicy pepper withchicken, onion, and peanuts. Makes your tongue burn 😂😂😂

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