East vs West

Mad Chaos: January 24, 2020 – Self-Quarantined In Guangzhou

Today was the second day of the Chinese New Year.

I woke up to see my wife and son playing together in the television room.

Despite the long sleep I was still very tired.

Cancelled Hometown Chinese Spring Festival Trip

The coronavirus (冠状病毒) has become topical in our household in Guangzhou (广州市).  We both shared the news we had read and overheard on Chinese and Western sources.

I asked, “Did you hear how many people have died from the coronavirus so far in China?  They have locked down Wuhan city.  They have closed all the metro stations and public transport in Wuhan.  They are going to lock down all the New Year celebrations in Beijing.  I think they are going to lock down the whole country.”

We both came to agree to cancel the Spring Festival trip to her hometown.  Her mother had already booked hotel rooms for us and other members of the immediate family for the trip tomorrow.


Although the Chinese government publicly declared there to be no public gatherings or hometown reunions, I still felt guilty that we decided to cancel our plans for what would be our first Chinese New Year in her hometown with all her relatives eager to see our son for the first time.

I felt like I needed to personally apologize for the coronavirus that has spread from Wuhan to the rest of the world.

We already booked airplane tickets through Scoot Airlines to return to Australia on March 13, 2020 so that my family can see our son in person for the first time.  This would be the only chance we would have gotten to see my wife’s relatives and extended family together in the one place.

I also felt guilty that we needed to cancel the Guangzhou flower festival (花节) due to the crowds.

Her father also asked us to visit his home in Liwan district(荔湾区) tonight – twenty minutes drive away – to spend Chinese New Year with his side of the family.  Unfortunately, due to the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak, we also had to decline his offer.

Once we heard the Chinese government recommend that no one travel to their hometowns, and instead stay home in self-quarantine in an effort to contain the coronavirus, it made sense not to have our son exposed to intercity travel, or so many people in one place.  There was too much risk involved.

We canceled all our Chinese New Year plans.

I hoped no one in her family would blame us for the trouble our decision would have caused.

Video Chat With Chinese Relatives

Our son’s cries for milk soon interrupted us.  My wife took him into the bedroom to breastfeed him.

I soon followed to the bedroom and came to sleep.

I think we napped for two hours.

In the late afternoon we both woke up.

Our son quietly ran around the house, explored and had fun.  We sat him in his dinner chair.  I entertained him while my wife fed him some food.

Later, my wife started a WeChat video call to her mom in Hong Kong.

Her mother was trying to get our baby’s attention, as he sauntered around the television room concentrated on his toys.

The Cantonese conversation sounded loud and bothered.  Once in a while I heard my wife mention “麻烦 ~ troublesome” about the coronavirus situation.

The Grocery Dash In China

Growing hungry, I mentioned, “I will go downstairs to get takeaway.  You don’t have to cook.”

She responded, “I was about to order some.”

“I will order some on the internet,” I offered.

My wife also urged, “I think we should buy groceries for the next few days.  Food like vegetables, eggs and milk will sell out quickly because of Spring Festival and the virus.”

I offered to go to the small markets behind our apartment block.

There are only two stalls for fruit, vegetables, and small shops with eggs, rice, dry noodles, and all sorts of condiments, with few buyers at any one time.  The distance is less than fifty meters from our apartment block, so I do not have to battle large crowds.

I used WeChat to search nearby restaurants and fast food outlets to order takeaway but I couldn’t find any good vegetarian options.

In the end I said, “I will go downstairs to order food.  Then I will visit the markets on the way back.”

“I think all the shops will be closed.  But you can see,” she warned.

Apocalyptic Scenes In Guangzhou

With a face mask on, I came downstairs to a restaurant that we normally come to next to the chive bun shop (菜包店).

I took a photo of the menu and sent it to her.

I ordered two steamed rice rolls with vegetables(斋肠) along with the dishes my wife requested.

Restaurant Menu in China, Guangzhou

I paid using WeChat Wallet (微信支付宝) on my phone, then came outside the shop to avoid people.

Scooping up the takeaway food I strolled to the markets (小区市场) at back of our apartment block.

Outside in China feels like a toxic wasteland.  White dust particles are flying around in the air.  Only a few people are on the streets.  Everyone was wearing a mask.  It looks apocalyptic to me.

Coronavirus is very deadly.  It has spread from the city of Wuhan to all but two of China’s 31 provinces, with 878 cases of infection and 26 deaths recorded in mainland China.

I read on Facebook people all over the world are talking about how scared they are.  But they are not even in China.  I am in China right now.  So, when I see people coughing I avoid them as much as I can.  I walk the other way or hold my breath.  When I see people without a mask I get scared.

In the markets I bought a whole watermelon for 61元.  I returned home with our takeaway and fruit.

Diary Of A Mad Chaos: Coronavirus In China
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