Adapting to the flow of the river

March 27 2022 - Living the expat life, Exploring different Cultures


Of course, China would not be China if there was not a lesson to learn in our final months here. Although we have not been able to explore the country and culture as much as we had wanted, we have had the opportunity to experience a whole different aspect of living in the Chinese culture: during a pandemic.

While a big part of the world has other, quite pressing, concerns to deal with these weeks, China is seeing lockdowns left and right. On our campus we have been in lockdown and semi-lockdown since Mid-February, varying from not being able to leave campus at all to not being able to teach offline or get groceries delivered.

Now I must admit, the Chinese efficiency in fighting the virus is quite fascinating. They manage to test million-populated cities overnight and can increase quarantine capacity in only a few days. They are creative in getting things done; there are examples of students and children being quarantined in schools, people being quarantined in offices, cities going in and out of lockdown per district, street, or compound even. And closer to home we got to enjoy the on-campus Covid Test set-up, which is quite efficient when all students and staff needs to be tested every 48 hours.... At least it saves us travel time!

But it’s also causing quite some stress and anxiety. While I can sort of admire the calmness and “creative interpretation” with which many Chinese seem to navigate through these challenges, I am quite certain I would have a hard time to accept being locked up because I happened to visit a certain place where a few days later an outbreak occurred. It makes me feel quite vulnerable and, paradoxically enough, unsafe. While the authorities are trying their best to protect their citizens, I feel my freedom is getting more and more limited and I have very little control over what’s happening.   

But if I learned one thing here in China, it’s that the river flows as it flows, with all it’s good and it’s bad. It will come, wash over you…..and flows on. And all you can do is adept to the flow of the river. Coming from a country where we openly criticise and debate rules that are imposed and feel free to take it with a grain of salt, this is quite an adaption to make. And at times a quite frustrating one I might add. But for sure it’s changing us and making us more resilient.  

So yes, as challenging as it can be in this very moment, I do trust that in some undefinable way it’s shaping us for adventures that are yet to come. When we need to adapt to the flow of another river.