East vs West

Mad Chaos: January 29, 2020 – Shopping In Crowded Chinese Wet Markets

Today is our seventh consecutive day of self-quarantine in Guangzhou (广州市) due to the coronavirus (冠状病毒).  I woke up late in the afternoon, feeling weary indoors.

My wife had baked some buns for our son.  She gave me two.  I cleaned all of the dishes to give her a break.  Then I had a shower.

It was around that time that I mentioned, “I am going to go outside to get groceries.”

She said, “I have to go out too because we do not have much food left.  We only have a few vegetables.  We can’t make meals with those.”

She wrote a grocery list down for me.  It included tomatoes, potatoes, mushroom, milk, flowering cabbage (菜心), eggplant, carrots, silky tofu, and eggs.

Meanwhile, I played with my son for a while.  I rushed up behind him, howling, “I am going to get you!  I am going to get you!”  He ran to the door, giggles out, then runs back towards me and grabs me by my hair.  I chased him all around the living room.

How The Lockdown Impacts Guangzhou


Since China experienced city-wide lock-downs, our family has been locked up self-quarantined more than one week at home.  We have only come outside on a few occasions, either to the the apartment complex courtyard downstairs, the markets behind our apartment block fifty meters away, or Rock Square (乐峰广场) 500 meters away.  All other days we have ordered takeout.  Our family adopted these strict measures to avoid the general public where the coronavirus is more transmissible.

Today was designated as a walk of discovery.  Rather than show my usual prudence, I was curious to visit new areas and learn how people in other districts are doing.

With a fresh, disposable face mask (口罩) on, at 3:45pm I came outside into Guangzhou city.

The sun shone warmly.  The weather was beautiful outside.  As I walked down relatively emptied streets, the few Chinese people outside all wore masks, most people were alone, and all of them seemed to have a destination in mind.

For some instinctual reason I have much more confidence that my family is not going to contract the coronavirus.

A lot of time has passed now.

I have been able to see the figures of how many people get infected every day, and the infection rates in Guangzhou city seem to be low.

Plus, no one around me has been infected so far.

Also, it is still Chinese New Year so Chinese people are in their hometowns and not on the streets.  Even if you go outside the atmosphere is not very public.

For those reasons I am more confident to not panic about the coronavirus when I come outside.

The Wet Markets in Guangzhou, Haizhu District(海珠区)



From my apartment in Shayuan (沙园) I crossed Baoye road (宝业路) and entered into a small district of unkempt roads and laneways.  I know a shop here called Life Supermarket that I had normally visited before the coronavirus outbreak.  However, this shop and other normal markets in the area were all shuttered, so I could not buy fresh produce there.

Instead, I came inside what seemed to be a wet market.  The markets was a large, rectangular inner area on a concrete floor with interwoven rows of stalls that had wooden tables arranged into squares, which the shopkeepers stand within to sell their produce.

As I walked through this market to buy green vegetables and potato, I was shocked to see this market had shops with live eels in glass tubs next to a greengrocer shop, next to a butcher with dead animals like chickens hung up on hooks.  These are wild animals, you would think.

It is exactly the kind of place that the Chinese government has cracked down on and closed.  But these shops still operate and are active in markets like these in Guangzhou.

Inside the markets was business as usual from the operators.  I had suspected that despite the lockdown imposed by the Chinese government, people – especially the older generation – would still swarm to places like this in China.

There was a maze of buyers inside.  I could not believe two people I had passed were sneezing.  There was even one woman without a face mask who sneezed and did not cover her mouth.  I was conscious not to brush up against anyone, as I scanned around for signs of anyone with cold and flu symptoms so as to avoid them.

When I came to a greengrocer stall I picked up a plastic basket to collect potatoes .

The lady beside me hurrying the shop keeper to weigh her produce had a mask on but suddenly coughed.

I am thinking angrily, “Serious?  I am right behind you!”

Some people in China do not show any common sense.  Please courteously move away from others and then cough.  Thank you!

I quickly walked away from her towards the front of the greengrocer stall and paid for the vegetables.

I continued to zigzag around the many market stalls, buying peanuts for myself, tomatoes, potatoes, and green vegetables  for a total of 30元.  My wife wanted milk and tofu.  She can get those grocery items tonight.

Brisk Shopping On The Return Walk

On the return walk home I came to a baby toys shop.  My son has been cramped up indoors for over a week now too.  He seems to have gotten used to all his toys, so I am worried about his continued development.  I came to buy him some new toys to exercise his mind.

I found a long, plastic Monkey Magic pole (孙悟空的金箍棒) that plays music and shines flashing lights on both its ends.  I imagine when I turn the music on my son can wave it around in his hands and listen to it play music.  He can learn to hold long objects with his hands.

I crossed Baoye road (宝业路) into the small, complex district beside our apartment block.  I came into a community convenience store to buy a dozen eggs.  The groceries and toys cost 70元 altogether.  It was an economical day.

Teaching English In China Online



Once home the time was 5pm.  I had a scheduled English class to prepare for online.  Through the Language Master APP (口语侠) the student soon called.  The topics for our one-hour class ranged from the coronavirus outbreak to her life and history.  We will practice business English vocabulary for her next class.

Monkey Magic Wand Present

Soon, the baby roused, and my wife also woke up from her nap.  She called out in fun voices to him.  I took the new Monkey Magic wand toy into the bedroom and turned it on.  It was making a bunch of dazzling song noises, flashing red and orange lights on both ends.  When I gave the wand to my son, he sat with a stunned look on his face, looking up with mouth agape, and a slither of a smile.

He was lost for words.  It was an out-of-body experience for him.  He was completely shocked at what was in his hands.

I start shaking my head “no” at him and wave my hands around in karate movements.  Soon he starts to shake his head.  Then he starts to wave the stick around up and down.

Coronavirus Discussed Over Dinner

For the next hour I played with my son on the living room floor while my wife prepared dinner.

We discussed the latest coronavirus news reports over dinner.  There are now 6,065 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 132 deaths.  I was not surprised to read that Australian people stranded in Wuhan would be evacuated by the Australian government via airplane and then quarantined on Christmas Island.  The Australian families stuck in Wuhan expressed surprise at the Christmas Island decision.  News reports also showed the level of paranoia and fear in NSW schools who worried about any students who had recently traveled to China.

We had dinner, which was followed by a nap.  In that time, my wife was on a video call with her mother.  She got our son to sleep.

Everybody Is Sneezing At Home

When I woke up I exercised for a full hour on the exercise bike.

I started to get a slightly weird feeling in the left nostril.  It was blocked for a bit and then it stopped being blocked.

One thing that worried me somewhat tonight was when my wife started to sneeze more often.  Then at one point my son also sneezed.  Later on in the night when I was working I also sneezed.

After I had finished exercise and went to have a shower, the cat also sneezed.  I had never heard the cat sneeze before but he sneezed tonight.

That worries me that all four of us in the house are sneezing at the same time.  Is it something in the air outside?  Is it because it is cold or is it something more sinister to do with an airborne coronavirus?

Diary Of A Mad Chaos: Coronavirus In China
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