Freedom! Yay!!

Having just completed week#9 of what is one of the longest and strictest mass incarcerations in history we are hopeful that the end is near. Word on the street is that all of Shanghai will open up 1st June (Wednesday). Some people are already out in districts with no covid whatsoever, they are largely on the other side of the river.

Last week we had 2 ‘freedom’ passes which allowed one person per household out for 3 hours. It was all carefully monitored and we had to take an antigen test at the gate which needed to be negative to get back in!!

I went to school on the Wednesday and it was sad to see what happens when a campus is untended for over 2 months.

Weeds are so tough and resilient

Grass is also getting very long. it means that the insect life has thrived and we have seen way more butterflies than normal. The kids in our compound have had great fun trying to catch them.

Theses are our normally well manicured lawns

On Saturday I went to Carrefour and met up with my good friend Leping. It was so nice to see her after all this time but more importantly she was able to help me with shopping. Largely we struggle to know what is what inside packages. Or which yoghurt is with/without sugar etc. I now know a lot more. it was a rush though as we had to queue up for about 40 minutes to get in, shop and be back within our time slots. We also had to wear plastic gloves inside the shop which became extremely hot but I’m not complaining. It was great to be able to choose our own food again.

And look what we can now buy (if we so desire)

I am reading to 4 little girls in our compound every day. They are loving it and it is nice for me to be with children again and not just seeing them on a screen.

Story time

The parents wanted to pay me, like a private tutor but our contracts forbid that. I would be in breach of the Chinese visa regulations. I can however accept gifts of food at this time.

The parents have been SO generous and I am now extremely well stocked with fresh veg. So much so that I can’t fit any else in the fridge!

An example of the parents’ generosity

One of the little girls is not a Concordia student. She and her family were visiting Shanghai from Shenzhen when the lockdown happened. Our compound also has hotel suites. The poor family has been trapped here all this time. Dora’s school is meeting in person so she cannot attend online learning as our kids do. Her father is so grateful that she is at least getting something.

With all the fresh veg we have been having some unusual but healthy meals (which is good because the lack of decent exercise has resulted is a few lockdown pounds). Here are some of the dishes we have had.

Stir fried cucumber and sausage meat
Garlic chives, peppers and pork

It is also asparagus season so I have made some lovely soup.

The packaging does annoy me though. So much plastic. I though Thailand was bad but this is worse

All that just for a courgette!!!!

I was gifted these this week

Waxberries apparently. A new one on me!

After over 9 weeks confinement, many in extremely cramped accommodation people are in one of two places. Either like tightly coiled springs just waiting to burst forth and get some exercise. Or they have become fearful of the outside world. They are scared of getting covid and reluctant to return to normal life. This mental scarring will have repercussions long into the future.

I heard of one 70 year old lady who got covid (asymptomatic) but nevertheless she was taken to a quarantine facility. She lives alone with her beloved pet dog. In this case they let her take the dog and he was a great comfort to her during the two weeks of boredom. Then they were released home. Everyone who has had covid is subjected to ‘disinfecting’. Basically they come in and spray everything in your apartment, inside your wardrobes. Everything. 20 minutes later the dog was dead. Whatever chemicals they used were too strong for his little lungs.

This afternoon we got confirmation that a new testing system will be in place. We need to have a NAT test every 72 hours. We all have a Health code on our phones which must be shown to travel or get into places

Now the code counts down the hours since the last NAT test

Testing booths have been established all over the city. 9000 I believe and each one has 2 persons inside and 2 guards to manage the queues. Every one is within 15 minutes walk of a testing point. So as our codes only had 4 hours left on them we went out to find our local one.

We only had to queue for about 20 minutes.

Going forwards I can see this becoming part of our daily life.

On our little walk we saw a few places opening up. One was a hair salon. Obviously they are going to be in great demand. Kevin is lucky that I cut his hair and we have clippers at home. Some people had to resort to more creative solutions…

Still we were happy to be out together. Yay.

Of course, what happens if covid cases surge again remains to be seen. Watch this space. 

Going ‘silent’

Tomorrow, Thursday 12th May begins a new phase of the lockdown in Shanghai. We are entering a 4 day ‘silent’ period. Essentially this means that there will be a super strict enforcement of the lockdown where no one sets foot outside their apartment and there can be no deliveries whatsoever.

This feels very much like putting the clocks back as we had been getting quite used to being able to walk in our compound. People scoot, cycle, jog and stroll around a small circuit that probably totals 600 steps. Others do yoga, HIIT or play badminton. I do my Taiji outside and even teach classes to my colleagues. It has become quite a social bonding experience to take the air with our immediate neighbors.

The grass is getting quite long

And deliveries have been a real life saver. Our local fruit seller has been diligent in supplying us with fruit options on a regular basis. Hugely expensive but nevertheless we have paid just to get fruit in this situation!

Deliveries have been stepping up recently and people are able to get burgers and fries delivered. Alcohol and even fresh flowers. It has begun to feel as though things were returning to more normal.

There are groups in each compound who do bulk buying and then share things out. We have no idea how to do that (except with Mr Deng, the fruit seller who posts things to us in English). You need exceptional mandarin to be able to navigate the apps and delivery requirements. But some class teachers have been very well supported by parents and they have very kindly shared out the surplus with those of us in central services.

I have been very fortunate to have been asked to read every day to a 5 year old who lives opposite in return for food. Her mother is a dab hand at acquiring goods and she can get anything I need. She has managed to secure oats, lamb, vegetables, bread and even much needed stock. We have truly lucked out!

My little friend dresses as Belle for reading because Belle is smart because she reads.

Actually deliveries have proved to be a bit of a problem to the government. They suspect that the virus is being transmitted on packages. I heard of a driver who tested positive yesterday so all the people who had received packages were automatically put into a quarantine facility regardless of the fact that they never saw the guy. He just left the package at the gate and the person went down later to collect it. But not only that. If any of those customers who were taken away subsequently test positive then everyone who lives on their floor, the floor above and the floor below will also be taken into quarantine!!! This seems really harsh. We are just hoping that none of our neighbors order from any dodgy places…!

Friends in other compounds with positive cases during the last week went silent yesterday but we had 24 hours notice. Which meant that we have been in the fortunate position of having 24 hours notice. We teachers got together and did a panic buy of … grapes! Well. Fruit is all we know how to get. Other people here have gone all out with their contacts and the supplies have been rolling in. This is one of the guards (all the staff here are locked in with us) taking deliveries to the various towers.

Testing continues apace with tests daily and often twice a day. Yesterday it was 9pm and then again at 7am. We are getting REALLY good at doing them.

You have to respond quite quickly when calls for testing come. I heard of one lady who had tested positive and they called her at midnight then 3am to go to a quarantine facility. She was asleep and missed the messages. So she was labeled as ‘non-compliant’. You really don’t want that here! Our management send messages asking us to ‘please cooperate a lot’ which makes me laugh because either you cooperate or you don’t. It’s not something with degrees of.

Interestingly Dr Tadros, director of the WHO came out today saying that China’s approach is ‘unsustainable’. A video clip of his speech was circulating on our WeChat groups. I saw it but literally minutes later it was taken down by the government. Here’s a transcript which subsequently circulated and which they couldn’t take away quite so easily

The government did, however provide us with food ahead of going silent. Not bad this time

Non uniform carrots.

I have had further adventures with cooking and made tofu and mushroom soup today

The food parcel today was much better than the previous ones which contained all these bottles and I have no idea what is in them! I won’t be using any.

We very often play ‘Guess the vegetable’ here is an example of something green received by my friend. Can you guess what it is?

After research we discovered it was garlic chives

Word on the street is that the government wants to stamp covid out and get rid of it by the weekend!!! Cases are coming down

If we can do this final push and IF it works in eradicating covid then a reliable source says that Shanghai could open up completely on 27th May.

Watch this space….