Three Years – 三年

There’s not going to be much Science here today. No data or charts or math at all. Though that’s all a part of what’s keeping me up at night lately, I don’t have any way to verify numbers. Nothing makes sense here to me. Today, I just need a space to put these thoughts down and let them be somewhere else besides in my head. I hope it works. At least a while.

Since the end of 2019 the world has been in a state of crisis-control with more emphasis on the crisis than on the control. Governments and people alike have made this a political talking piece to hype up blame and sometimes brotherhood; the former hyped so much more than the later. Waves and variants have kept this nightmare haunting every nation on our planet for three years.

From the beginning days – days when stores could not keep any food, soap, or paper in stock and city streets looked like scenes in an apocalypse flick – reliable information has been a precious and rare commodity. And for inconceivably stupid reasons, it’s also been harder to come by than toilet paper or hand-sanitizer. Infection numbers, deathrates, whodoneit claims about where the virus originated, vaccine efficacy data – it’s all been like trying to decipher Nostradamus’ verses while listening to your friend explain his half-baked screenplay idea and a tornado rips a part your house. At the same time.

Many lock-downs, stretches of online school, half a dozen Health Apps, and dozens upon dozens of throat swab tests later and information is still the biggest stressor. The overflow of information and misinformation, that is.

Now that China has completely abandoned its zero-COVID policies, a whole new storm has hit: the social media symptoms sharing videos. Can’t turn on your phone or open WeChat without getting a look at someone’s bloated, splotchy, stuffy, snotty, tear-stained, feverish face crying into a camera about the way they feel during or right after having COVID. People need to feel a sense of community, to feel that they are connected to others. I get that. And I don’t blame them for turning the camera on themselves in their time of suffering and discomfort. I’m just not a fan. Then there’s the videos about the deaths; from famous people to well-known college professors and the common everyman, these videos are just increasing. At the same time, there are Chinese and foreign men and women dressed in medical scrubs claiming to be doctors, spreading advice and information on how to deal with COVID symptoms. A lot of these people seem to have the best of intentions, but some of them say nothing more than rest a lot, drink a lot of water, and don’t take showers for a while or exercise after contracting COVID. The first two are fairly straight-forward. The last two less so. Which leads me to another type of video and news: the causes-of-death information. There have been a lot of stories about young people or relatively healthy people catching COVID, getting through the worst of it, and then showering, only to die either during or right after the shower. Or they feel great, go workout, and then they die. In this madness are stories about people catching COVID multiple times, each time being worse than the time before, and then they die. There are other stories about people feeling fine, but then have a slight cough, and they go see a doctor to learn their lungs have just about no oxygen in them, and then they die. Still, there are stories about people catching COVID, healing, and then traveling, only to develop another fever in the hotel, and then they die. And my mother-in-law just tried to tell me now you can’t drink coffee after having COVID because she’s heard about people who have…and then they die. Some of these are easy to mythbust while others aren’t.

My mother-in-law has been living with us for a few weeks because her brother has COVID. My mother-in-law has been sharing her place with her brother, and her brother and his son tested positive. This was while she was at our place for the afternoon. So, she’s just been with us since. Can’t have her going home just to catch COVID. Both her sisters, their husbands, and their children (my wife’s cousins) all currently have COVID. Seriously. That’s 17 people. Every day she speaks to her sisters or a family member with it, and the conversation always turns to someone they know who has died. It’s always So and So has COVID. Oh, no! Yeah, but they’re getting better now. But their husband/wife/aunt/child/cleaning lady/friend just died because of it. When not talking to someone in the family with COVID about their symptoms or someone else who has died of COVID, my mother-in-law spends her time watching WeChat Channel videos about people talking about their COVID symptoms or about other people who have died of COVID. And she cooks.

In the beginning of December, we went online for a week. It was expected. Cases were going up all around us in Dalian. We thought we’d be online into the holiday break, but it lasted only a week. We didn’t know what to think. There were dozens of cases, and yet we were not shut down. This had never happened before. What’s going on?

A behind the scenes look at what it’s like to teach an online class…

It was the next week that China did a 180 with their policies. It didn’t matter. COVID was racing through the school community. Staff and students tested positive, called off work, stopped showing up at school. Some students without symptoms or a positive result stayed home out of fear and asked for online classes. Staff that remained ran hybrid classes, but soon so few staff were left in the school that we officially switched to online, and everyone was expected to teach from home if they were able. Xiao Ming and I were in a batch of tests with abnormal results, but we tested the next day individually and were negative. For about a week and a half, COVID ripped through the ranks, infecting just about everyone around us. I think I’ve counted two teachers who have not had it, yet. Out of more than sixty. Despite zero lockdowns, Dalian is slow to go back to what it was even before the sudden lift of the government policies. Even I’ve limited my movements as much as possible. I’m unsure about when I can go back to the climbing gym without feeling like every hold I touch is covered in COVID, but at least my school has a weight room. People are afraid. With scenes on social media showing overflowing lines and packed parking lots at crematoriums, how can people not be? I don’t want to catch COVID, but more than anything, I don’t want to give it to my wife or son, and definitely not my seventy-year-old mother-in-law.

At times it feels like we’re living through the sequel of that apocalypse movie we started three years ago. Sickness and Death seemingly everywhere, no reliable means of gathering information or viable options for getting back to “normal.” My mother-in-law and others around me scared to the point of paralysis, stuck in a frenetic loop of cooking, cleaning, and doom-scrolling just to cope with the extreme fear they can’t overcome.

And then there are moments when the exact opposite seems to be happening. The World Cup just ended, countries are still waging war, advertisements about shopping discounts popping up, those not sick are travelling, and even China – Zero-COVID-is-scientific-and-we-won’t-change-China – has thrown in the towel and thrown open the gates and said “Fuck it” to pretty much all COVID response measures.

I feel more trapped and uncertain than in the first days when I was barricaded in by apartment complex. How long can this last?

Being with my family, finishing one task at a time for work or my masters, getting coffee, and reading a good book are the things keeping me sane.

No pandemic lasts longer than three years – 大疫不过三年 – the Chinese expression goes. When the media all around us is so convoluted, sabotaged, biased, or fearmongering for views trumps spreading truth, maybe ancient wisdom from those who lived through similar events is all we can count on.

New Vocab – 新词汇

Attention class! Attention! I said sit down! You – Yeah, you in the knock-off Louis Vuitton pants and Aape Universe hoodie – stop hitting Seven with the yardstick. Apple, please don’t live stream our class. Grayson, Leonard, Harry – quit playing games and put the phones away. Girls in the back, put your makeup on in the bathroom. Sara, Cindy, Cathy – no more selfies. Who keeps swearing like a trucker? What’s that smell? Who’s eating something with garlic in it? It’s not even nine am.

First time getting the COVID-19 test.

Okay! Are we ready to begin?

Let’s practice some vocabulary, shall we. Now these are terms that you might want to be familiar with when talking about the year 2020. I SAID STOP LIVE STREAMING!

Ahem. Here we go.




Helpful individual terms that might show up on the test:

COVID-19 新冠 xīnguān

Virus 病毒 bìngdú

Third Time Getting COVID-19 Test.

Infected 感染 gǎnrǎn

Cases 病例bìnglì

Confirmed / Unconfirmed 确诊/未确诊 quèzhěn/wèi quèzhěn

Symptomatic 有症状 yǒu zhèngzhuàng

Asymptomatic 无症状感染者 wú zhèngzhuàng gǎnrǎn zhě

Pandemic 疫情 yìqíng

Uptick in cases 病例增加  bìnglì zēngjiā

Quarantine 隔离 gélí

COVID-19 test 新冠核酸测试 xīnguān hésuān cèshì

Throat swab 咽拭子采样 yàn shì zi cǎiyàng

Nose swab 鼻咽拭子采样 bí yān shì zi cǎiyàng

Vaccine 疫苗 yìmiáo

Mask 口罩 kǒuzhào

Toilet paper 卫生纸 wèishēngzhǐ

Hand sanitizer 消毒杀菌剂 xiāodú shājùn jì

Temperature checks 测体温 cè tǐwēn

Health App 健康app jiànkāng app

Contagious 传染性的 chuánrǎn xìng

Immune 免疫的 miǎnyì de

Herd immunity 群体免疫 qúntǐ miǎnyì

Dr. Li Wen Liang – The Chinese doctor who is widely recognized as being the first to raise the red flag over what would become a world-wide pandemic. Many in China and around the globe consider him a hero. He died due to complications after contracting the virus. Translation of the Chinese text above: There are no heroes from the sky, only men.


Helpful phrases that might show up on the test:


1. So, do you think Starbucks is still open? 所以,你觉得星巴克还营业吗? Suǒyǐ, nǐ juédé xīngbākè hái yíngyè ma?


2. Where the hell are all the masks? 口罩都他妈跑哪去了?Kǒuzhào dōu tā mā pǎo nǎ qùle?


3. Why does this mask make my face look so big? Am I wearing a child’s mask? 这个口罩为啥显得我脸这么大?我戴的是儿童口罩吗?

hège kǒuzhào wèi shà xiǎndé wǒ liǎn zhème dà? Wǒ dài de shì értóng kǒuzhào ma?


4. Why in the world is soap so expensive now? 为什么现在肥皂这么贵了?

Wèishéme xiànzài féizào zhème guìle?


5. If I get the virus could drinking hand sanitizer get rid of it? 如果我感染病毒,喝消毒杀菌剂能杀死病毒吗?

Rúguǒ wǒ gǎnrǎn bìngdú, hē xiāodú shājùn jì néng shā sǐ bìngdú ma?


6. Is the Health App just another covert ploy to monitor citizens? 是不是健康码其实就是另一种控制市民的秘密手段。

Shì bùshì jiànkāng mǎ qíshí jiùshì lìng yī zhǒng kòngzhì shìmín de mìmì shǒuduàn.


7. Do you think the number of reported cases is legitimate? 你觉得公布的感染人数合理吗?

Nǐ juédé gōngbù de gǎnrǎn rénshù hélǐ ma?


8. I bet the virus is a hoax. 我敢打赌病毒就是个骗局

Wǒ gǎn dǎdǔ bìngdú jiùshì gè piànjú


9. I bet the virus is man-made. 我敢打赌病毒是人造的

Wǒ gǎn dǎdǔ bìngdú shì rénzào de


10. I bet the virus is naturally occurring. 我敢打赌病毒是自然产生的

Wǒ gǎn dǎdǔ bìngdú shì zìrán chǎnshēng de


11. I bet the virus is an act of God to punish us for letting the Kardashian family have reality tv shows. 我敢打赌病毒是上帝用来惩罚我们的,因为我们竟然允许卡戴珊家族上电视真人秀

Wǒ gǎn dǎdǔ bìngdú shì shàngdì yòng lái chéngfá wǒmen de, yīnwèi wǒmen jìngrán yǔnxǔ kǎ dài shān jiāzú shàng diànshì zhēnrén xiù


12. I blame the Chinese. 我怪罪中国人

Wǒ guàizuì zhōngguó rén


13. I blame the Democrats. 我怪罪民主党

Wǒ guàizuì mínzhǔdǎng


14. I blame the Republicans. 我怪罪共和党

Wǒ guàizuì gònghédǎng

Health App pic
This is one of the Health App notifications you get…Unfortunately, in this one it notes that there have been confirmed cases in my vacinity within the last 14 days. 

15. I blame aliens. 我怪罪外星人

Wǒ guàizuì wài xīng rén


16. The virus is just a plot to thin out the population. I saw a friend’s post, so I know I can trust this fact. 病毒就是一种减少人口的阴谋,我看了一个朋友的帖子,我可以相信这是事实。

Bìngdú jiùshì yī zhǒng jiǎnshǎo rénkǒu de yīnmóu, wǒ kànle yīgè péngyǒu de tiězi, wǒ kěyǐ xiāngxìn zhè shì shìshí.

17. Where is all the toilet paper? 卫生纸都哪去了?

Wèishēngzhǐ dōu nǎ qùle? 

18. Businesses are closing. 商店都停业了。

Shāngdiàn dōu tíngyèle.





19. Businesses are opening. 商店开始营业了

Shāngdiàn kāishǐ yíngyèle


20. Businesses are closing again. 商店又停业了

Shāngdiàn yòu tíngyèle


21. My climbing gym is closed. 我的攀岩馆停业了

Wǒ de pā

nyán guǎn tíngyèle


22. Seriously! Where is all the damn toilet paper? 开玩笑吗?卫生纸都他妈 哪去了?


xiào ma? Wèishēngzhǐ dōu tā mā nǎ qùle?

Just for laughs. Chill out.