First for the ‘bad’ news. Today was the day that Kevin departed. He has left China.
For a long time it had been our plan that we would return to the UK in the summer to attend the weddings of both Oliver (June) and Hanifa (July) but COVID has well and truely put paid to that. The impact of this virus is immeasurable.
Back in November, thinking that we would be able to return for the summer, I signed on for another year at Concordia. It was the right thing to do with the information that we had at the time but unfortunately China has since deleloped some extremely strict appraches to COVID. Basically a zero tolerance and isolationist policy as well as coping with a severe outbreak inside its borders.
We couldn’t try to book return flights until a couple of months ago. China has a rule that if a direct flight is available then you HAVE to use is for a return journey. This is so that should 5 cases of COVID come into the country on that route then China can suspend the flight for a fortnight. If there were 10 cases then the suspension is for a month. Multiple flights a week got affected by this policy and it makes flying extremely risky, particulalry returning when you have a deadline to be in school for the start of term. Three airlines were granted a direct route to London but then they were cancelled so it never got off the ground.
The other way of discouraging travellers from bringing COVID into the country is to make the prices extremely unattractive. When we looked (and indeed still now) a return ticket London-Shanghai costs £8000 which is just silly money. Especially considering that a single Shanghai – Manchester is only £700. So that was the deciding factor. As the world gets back on its feet and resumes travelling again, China is the odd one out.
So that, as they say, was that. We took the difficult decision that I would stay here for another year and Kevin would return alone. He will go to the weddings and escort my mother, I will attend virtually, by the miracle of modern technology. We are extremely thankful for that. Then Kevin will stay and open up our house, do any decorating or jobs that are needed after 5 years of being lived in by tenants. It should all be lovely by the time I get back next summer.
IF flights return to normal frequency and prices and IF China relaxes its stringent 3 week quarantine rules then maybe next year Kevin can return and help me pack up the apartment. However, so much at this stage is uncertain. He may end up having to stay in the UK for the whole year. We will have to play it by ear.
Throughout the lockdown we were hoping that restrictions would be lifted before Kevin’s flight and we are so thankful that they were. We heard horror stories from people who had enormous difficulty in even getting to the airport: a letter from your compound management agreeing to release you; a visit to a ‘special’ testing site for a PCR; using a specially registered taxi/driver at a cost of about £300 to do a 35 minute trip; long waits outside the airport (sometimes in excess of 7 hours) for the PCR test results to come through on your phone before they would let you enter the terminal; flights being cancelled. The big problem with that was that once you had exited your compound during the lockdown you could not re-enter. This meant that if your flight was cancelled you had to wait at the airport until you could get another which could be days…
Nothing was open at the airport, and it still isnt. There are no retail or food services available. Nowhere to get a coffee. Kevin has gone with a bag full of food including my special lockdown receipe ‘Mango cupcakes’ and an empty flask to fill with water.
The departure day all took a dramatic turn when Kevin, who is usually so calm and collected and prepared misread his airline email at 11:30 and thought that he had the wrong PCR test. He had a 48 hour one but he read that he needed a 24 hour one! With only 6 hours to go before check in he fled off into the city to find a hospital that could do rush results. We had visions of his results arriving late and him missing his flight. He got a new test done but then on re-reading his email saw that it was a 24 hour result IF you didn’t have an antigen test. Fortunately he did. So we could both relax. But the stress was real for a couple of hours!!!
There are very few international flights per day but even so the queues are extremely long and everything takes longer to process.
It is going to feel very strange rattling around the apartment on my own and I am convinced that if I go anywhere on my own that I am likely to get lost! We use a great app here for calling a car, it is similar to Uber but called Didi and its one bit of technology that I do know how to use but when we checked it yesterday my account has been suspended. Just what I don’t need right now. Getting it sorted is going to take a mandarin speaker I think and could be a challenge as new foreign accounts were forbidden last summer as part of a government crack down on the company. I am however, very fortunate to be part of a caring and suportive community at school. I have many friends here who have all promised to look out for me and several of them do speak mandarin.
We are extremely lucky that Shanghai began to open up on 1st June as it has meant that Kevin has had the opportunity to say goodbye to people in person.
He didn’t see everyone but we did manage a fire pit party with the British crowd (it was a bit dark for photos) but the fire was great. And we had a wonderful Indian meal with Lavanya and Pranesh and another meal out with the Taiji crowd.
What will I do now that Kevin has gone? At the moment we can’t travel even within China so as we begin the school summer vacation tomorrow it looks as though I will just be in Shanghai! I am hoping for some bike rides, taiji sessions and a chance to catch up on some reading. It will be a quiet time.
And now for the ‘good’ news! The govenment has recenty issued a press statement saying that there was never a lockdown in Shanghai!!! It’s incredible. Apparently every single one of the compound managements all simultaneously decided to impose their own lockdowns on their residents. Its a miracle how that happened!!! All co-ordinated and everything.
It’s very funny though because I distinctly remember people asking questions about when lockdown would be lifted or when we could walk outside! Our compound management often had no idea and just told us to be patient. At the time it sure sounded like they were waiting to be told. But incredibly, the lockdown never happened. I must have imagined the whole 3 months… For those of you old enough to understand the reference, it is possibly a Bobby Ewing moment.