Quarantine Diary pt II: Guilty Pleasure

And no, I’m not talking about w*nking, ya filthy animals

Day 4: Home Workouts

Sunday 15th March, 2020

Today I committed to writing out a full 14-day home workout plan for myself and anyone else interested, which, judging by the Instagram response, is a small but adorable few. 

You wouldn’t have thought searching for a home workout on YouTube/YouKu would be that much of a mental leap but perhaps a familiar face is preferable to botoxed, boob-jobbed trainers with infinite lung capacity. Well, me and my stomach rolls are here to provide a cheap and chubby version of home fitness that wouldn’t judge you even if it were in a position to do so.

Just an overly sweaty person

Those online barbie dolls… How on earth do they smile, talk, breathe, do a hard workout, and all the while not seem to sweat at all? Am I just an overly sweaty person? That’s a line for the Tinder bio. 

The excess of creative juices that have been flowing the past few days – ideas for articles, website design, articles actually written and submitted, as well as all this instagram story fitness stuff (amazingly time consuming! I salute you, influencers) – are making me think I was born to work at home. 

Either that or I’m just riding the wave I always get from moving places. Maybe I should live nomadically to ensure infinite creative juice flow, like a travelling creative juice bar run by an irrepressibly bouncy white-smiled server. I’d probably annoy even myself. I bet Google would host me when I dropped through Silicon Valley, though.

Day 5: Depressing Headlines

Monday 16th March, 2020

Recorded one of my home workouts to put on my insta story this morning, feeling like a bit of a twat in the process, but hey, I am a twat, so why not be loud and twattily proud. At the very least, social media exhibitionism forces me to actually do the exercises I’ve prescribed for myself.

I’m rather guiltily enjoying my isolation. I’m fortunate enough to have a spacious, light filled apartment with a balcony, for which I thank my lucky stars. One friend was forcefully quarantined in a shoebox hotel in Jakarta for 14 days. Imagine that. She probably set a world record for number of hours spent staring at the ceiling. 

Though this is not a pleasant moment in world history, there is a tinge of satisfaction to seeing those who joked about China’s struggles scramble to contain the social and economic upsets now wreaking havoc in their own populations. 

A brief look at the New York Times yields headlines like “Global Recession Appears Almost Inevitable”, “Lonely Funerals as Bodies Pile Up in Italy” and “London Report Predicts High Death Toll in US Without Action”. The BBC’s first tab is virus news. Good to see that nobody is panicking.

My good friend Adam (based in Boston), who happens to be a medical researcher at MIT and is one of the most intelligent people I know, summed it up well: it doesn’t have to be a disaster, if we do the right things now. But it will be, if we don’t. Hiding from it all inside with your eye on the news, you’re simultaneously connected to and distanced from it all. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t uneasy.

It seems that the situation here in Hangzhou is calming down significantly, with falling case numbers every day. Businesses are tentatively reopening, so people are coming back from their impromtu 6-week vacations to return to work. 

Quarantine policies for incoming foreigners are changing every day, however, so even being connected to large expat messaging groups on WeChat here in Hangzhou doesn’t mean you know what will happen to new arrivals. It seems that everyone’s fate is decided by that day’s airport manager. I wonder how my colleague Alex will get back – with a classic lack of forward thinking, he’s bought a flight that connects through two epidemic red zones. 

Now look at me, a doomsday writer myself. I’ll finish today’s diary on the lighter note of overhearing my building’s guards arguing over how best to sellotape the paper (someone’s recycled Chinese New Year banner) to my door to make it obvious whether it’s been opened from the inside. 

The conversation went on a good ten minutes, punctuated by ripping and rearranging sounds reminiscent of kids playing with a giant sticker book, and ended exactly the way it started: “We’ll just have to keep an eye on it.”

Day 6: A Visitor?!

Tuesday 17th March, 2020

The productivity continues and I spent most of my day writing a tongue-in-cheek article on virus-proof dating for The Tab. Advice includes morse code communication with torches to uphold “social distancing”, or kissing with masks on (sexy AND sanitary).

Dating and door-opening essentials

A knock on my door came around 2 in the afternoon. I shouted that I’d already reported my temperature for the day, but it wasn’t the building staff. A voice said they ‘wanted to talk’ – not something that ignites a good feeling when you’re living under an authoritarian regime.  

Cracking open the door replaced my mental image of the Chinese CIA with the harmless reality: my visitor was a middle aged man worried about his daughter, away studying in Leeds. He’d heard (from who? It felt rude to ask) that I had just flown back from London, and wanted my advice.

Worried eyes peeping from behind a mask, he told me the university still hadn’t suspended classes, so he thought she ought to come home; but he didn’t know which germosphere was worse, a university or an aeroplane. What did I think? Had I come back to China because it was safer?

I tried to reassure him that she was at an extremely low risk of infection either way, though admitting that China’s policies were looking much more effective than the UK’s. I felt safe in both countries, and was back mainly because I had to go back to work sooner or later. I needed my salary. After a few minutes of questions, he nodded and thanked me, though I hardly felt I’d done much to help. 

I realised once the door closed that he probably couldn’t read English well enough to gauge the situation from the UK news, and once again felt grateful for the many luxuries of my life. I wonder what his daughter will do.

I do feel guilty, but quarantine feels like the staycation I never knew I needed.

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