Quarantine Diary: Freedom

A delayed release of a post I’ve had archived for a while

Day 13

When some doors close, others open

Wednesday March 25th, 2020


Up earlier than usual, I’ve realised that my happiness and productivity stems from my extensive morning routine. It takes me around 1.5-2hours to get up, work out, shower, cook a healthy breakfast, and scan the news before I’m ready to settle down and start writing. Speaking of which, I have two little time-sensitive texts I need to translate before I go any further.


Final two days of quarantine! In one of the FaceTime sessions that keep international friendships alive, my partner in crime, who I’ll refer to as Darth Vaper because I know she wouldn’t like her name being in print online (the FBI are watching), I half jokingly said that in future I might self-quarantine for two weeks when I feel writer’s block coming on. 

I could even use the guards’ resilient paper-and-tape door barricade. Would I tell people the truth, or tell them I’m on a spiritual separation cleanse? That should be enough granola tribe vocabulary to deflect attention.

A miniature distaster occurred when I asked today’s water deliverer – who seemed in more of a rush to close the door than normal – whether I’d be allowed out on the fourteenth or the fifteenth day of my quarantine. Turns out of course it’s the fifteenth day. Retribution perhaps for the immoral spike of joy I got from finding a full packet of Marlboros in a coat pocket in my still unpacked suticase from the UK.

Day 14

Thursday 26thMarch, 2020

I’m writing this almost two weeks in retrospect. My quarantine did not, in fact, end on the fifteenth day, but rather with amazing precision at the exact hour of the day I had been interned. A knock on my door brought me face to face with a hazmat suit and welding mask clad lady who checked my temperature for the final time, as well as a building manager I didn’t recognise who I suppose was there to act as witness to me signing various pieces of paper. 

We waited for another unspecified person to arrive who would take my details and present me with my completion of isolation certificate. We chatted, and like with many Chinese people I meet, the first topic of conversation was the virus’ spread in my country. The building manager, like everyone else it seems, has a cousin in the UK and he quickly started to complain about the unfair treatment of Chinese people wearing masks. At the time, all I felt was shame, though the race-based discrimination I’ve come into relentless contact with over the last two weeks now makes me feel the hypocrisy of the situation more than anything else.

I praised their hard work in the face of such risk, which apparently embarrassed the hazmat suit lady. Rather than reply, she looked down at her feet before wandering away to see if the elevator was on its way up. 

A younger, casually dressed yet somehow more official-looking man appeared. Writing down the 20 letters of my full name, rather than the three characters of a typical Chinese name, caused some delay. “All three of these are your name?” He said disbelievingly, copying out each letter one by one. “God, Chinese is so much easier.”

After they had gone, I went downstairs and out into 25 degree heat and bright sunshine. It was only a trip to the corner of my block to buy my own beers rather than having some poor building guard ferry them up to me, but suddenly being able to go outside again made even a short walk feel like bunking off school. I excitedly messaged a friend to organise evening plans. We went nowhere special, but the sheer enjoyment of being free of my own four walls made for a long and brilliant night.

Outside, usually busy squares were deserted

For the next couple of nights, my schedule quickly morphed into long, hungover mornings and hours in front of Netflix rather than hard at work at my desk. Again I was struck by the fact that isolation had almost imposed productivity on me; sweeping out the distractions of alcohol and social engagements that, on balance, had very little positive impact.

Next week, I think I’ll shut myself up again.

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