The Corona Virus Apocalypse

On January 23, the People’s Republic of China officially shut down all public transportation in and out of Wuhan, the city thought to be ground zero of the Corona Virus. Since then, Hong Kong, its people and government, have been on red alert. I can’t blame them for their panic and angst. The SARS epidemic was less than 20 years ago; 300 died from it and many locals who lived through that time speak of it like surviving a war.

Sadly, turmoil seems to be the new normal in Hong Kong. The past 7 months, we endured the pro-democracy protests which were at times quite violent and disruptive. Aside from a few peaceful weeks following the elections, we rolled straight into this health crisis.

Team Woods has been taking it all in stride. There’s something surreal about living in a foreign country and being somewhat of a third-party spectator. We can leave this place basically whenever we want and we have a place to which we can go and easily plug our lives back into. So, this begs the question, I know, why are we still here? The answer is complex and probably better left for another post. So for now, I’ll demur.

Anyway, we’ve for the most part been trapped at home for the past 2 weeks. We avoid public transportation as much as possible and for that reason we are virtually confined to our little fishing village, Sai Kung. Thankfully, the town is less densely populated than other parts of Hong Kong. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the island, so in many ways we have lived quite insulated from both the protest activity and virus mania.

Masks on public transport

As much as I love the little village where we live, we are all getting a bit stir crazy. The situation here is quite serious and I don’t mean to make light of it. To maintain my sanity, I’ve reached the point of needing some levity, so forgive me if I try to find the humor in it.

As far as I know, the supply chain in Hong Kong and throughout mainland China is still fully intact. I can say this with confidence because, for Benjy, it’s business as usual. While most anyone who can get out is fleeing mainland China (and shunning anyone Chinese), Benjy continues to fly in and out normally because Fedex has designated him “essential personnel.” I suppose he’s essential….to their bottomline. Yes, I know it’s important for food and supplies to continue to flow, but I am a bit annoyed that his company hasn’t found a work-around (or, to be honest, even expressed concern) to prevent him from potentially dragging germs back home to us after delivering packages. Events continue to evolve, however, and Hong Kong just announced a 14-day quarantine of all people coming into the city from mainland China. Fedex’s business model will surely need to change for its pilots living in Hong Kong.

So despite no rational reason to question the flow of goods into Hong Kong, people here have taken to panic buying. The grocery shelves are completely empty. First, it was rice. Chinese, Asians in general (me included), eat loads and loads of rice, so grocery stores always have a whole aisle devoted to just rice. And these rice bags aren’t the tiny boil in the bag Uncle Ben’s boxes that you see in the U.S. These are 10-20 kilo bags of rice and they are stacked to the ceiling. All of this rice is now completely gone from every store. The shelves are completely empty.

Then, anything related to killing germs: bleach, alcohol, hand sanitizer, face masks, and hydrogen peroxide have disappeared. Once that was gone, people moved on to hoarding hard liquor, like vodka and gin. I don’t know if they planned to use the liquor for sanitizing purposes or for consumption. Probably a little of both.

Now it’s toilet paper, feminine napkins (people line their masks with them…I have no idea why) and trash bags. A roll of toilet paper cannot be found!

Can you spare a square?

I confess that I hoard toilet paper anyway and have for a couple of years. I finally found this one particular brand that I like so I got into the habit of buying multiple packs whenever it’s in stock. I have on hand 36 rolls, which under normal circumstances would last until I saw it again. But these days, I’m just not sure. So, I asked Benjy to bring back some TP from Japan. We are now importing Japanese toilet paper.

Meanwhile, everyone is homeschooling in Hong Kong. All schools have been cancelled until March 2, this date could be pushed further back depending on how things go. Consequently, the Education Bureau has suggested that schools implement online learning for students. I have to admit that in this situation I feel a bit of schadenfreude for those who, much to their consternation, find themselves now homeschooling their children. (Aren’t you worried about your children’s social development? Are you a trained teacher? How can you be both mom AND teacher? Is that even legal?) Webley, too, has come full circle and is back to doing school at home. I came through the door the other day to find her sitting at her desk painting her nails. Nail polish is not permitted at her school. I looked at her and said, “are you working hard or hardly working? I think I know the answer.” Yes I’m a bit annoyed that I’m paying conventional school tuition to homeschool her. But, truthfully, I am enjoying having her around again.

So, Team Woods takes things day-by-day with a measure of seriousness to go along with humor; we wash our hands more (which actually can be a tall order for a certain 13 year old boy in the house); go out less; read the news and….above all else, we pray.

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