From mid-March to May, I was trapped in my accommodation room in the UK. I was finally “freed” after a 14-days quarantine in a Hotel in China until the end of May. Being forced to stay in a closed area alone was frustrating, being forced to stay in a closed area while trying to do well in assignments and exams was even more difficult. By keeping a regular routine, I managed to keep a peaceful mind. By learning to entertain myself, I kept a good mood. These improved my concentration. Finally, because going out become so risky, I started to appreciate everything outdoor that I had taken for granted.
I was prepared for the virus. I started to understand how the virus work earlier than other people in the UK because progression of the virus was reported frequently in the Chinese news media, which I read every day. My parents also, had a scheduled trip to Wuhan, China, where my grandparents live, in January (Chinese New Year) that they needed to cancel because of the virus escalation there. Although I felt slightly lucky that UK was temporarily safe, I bought two boxes of medical masks at that time for the outbreak in the UK in an uncertain date. I went to school with face masks on until March, stopped using public transport when there were several reported cases in the UK. I was going to fly back to China where the virus was temporarily under control in the middle of March when the LSE decided to close, I really wanted to be with my family instead of suffering the hardness in the UK alone. But I failed to go back at the beginning, because flights on the closest dates were fully booked immediately at that time and the later flight I booked was then cancelled because of the airline policy changes to limit the virus importation.
My stay-at-home days started from the mid-March. I stayed in student accommodation, where we have 8 en-suite room in one flat. It frustrated me how my flatmates were still acting as though the virus was nothing to worry about and would still invite lots of people to party in the kitchen when Boris Johnson banned gathering. They tried to calm me down by saying that there were no cases reported in our school, but that did not persuade me. I understood perfectly from the Chinese media that the symptoms could start to appear two weeks after one got infected, and the person can spread the virus to many people before the person become a confirmed case, This means that to only avoid people once they are confirmed positive is to act when it is already too late, I know this because I was following two different kinds of media: the English news outlet like the BBC, which was reporting how UK was exploring the virus, and the Chinese one such as the China Daily, whose judgments for the virus was already mature. But flatmates and hallmates were so very chill and did not show any sign of worry. To protect myself, I had to stay strictly at my room. Yes, a 15 square-meter room.
I had to submit my Globalisation problem set in the end of my first stay-at-home week, I asked for an extension as I kept failing to finish anything the first three days. With a one-week extension, I decided that I had to fix my attention problems. Here are what I did:
Went out when there were not too many people to refresh my mind, usually at 9am in the morning. Luckily, I need not travel too far to enjoy the fresh air as there is a park behind Sidney Webb House. I discovered that Spring is colourful and cheerful in the park! I felt be loved and happy after an hour of walking under sunshine and enjoying the flowers’ smile. Since then, I started to go to the part octagonally when the weather was good and when the park was almost empty.
Kept regular exercise. I chose to jump rope as the form of exercise because unlike jogging, I can jump quietly in an empty area. I tried the first time in the empty outdoor parking lot beside my accommodation, it was very successful as no one came to me in that hour when many people were jogging around the parking lot. Then I started to jump the rope twice a week when the weather was good. I also play my scooter sometimes to enjoy some speed and excitement. Unlike jogging, I would not need to breath heavily after playing scooter, so I can play wearing my masks. (yea, I was really scared of the virus).
Kept a healthy diet. sometimes I would drop by Sainsbury on my way back from the park to buy food for a whole week to avoid the need for frequent shopping, both vegetable and meat were needed to improve my immune system, also, eating them is really important because they made me thinking that my immune system had been improved. And to avoid using the public kitchen too often, I fried everything up and cook only once a day.
Kept connected with people. I signed up an online accounting course, the course encouraged learning in groups and I desperately needed some social contacting, even though it was remote. Talking to friends and family cannot satisfy my social needs, I needed class-like contacting, where we would all discuss one topic and encourage each other to learn together. Beside learning, we also played online games and engaged in small talks. On average, we meet 1 hour a day online to discuss class materials. My teammates helped me through the whole of April.
During those days, the “health package” from my country arrived. The package is for every PRC nationals who failed to go back to China or are still staying in the foreign country. In the package, there are two N95 face masks, 3 surgery face masks, 2 packet of Chinese medicine for relief Covid-19 early symptoms and a bag of anti-bacterial wipes. The package saved my life as masks and wipes were sold out on both on Amazon, and the Chinese medicine was not sold in the UK.
With the regular routine and the medical stuff, I spent less time worrying and feeling frustrated, my sleeping quality improved and focus time was longer. Not only had I successfully submitted my problem set, I also had more time to do other things, for example, I added some more entertainment in my life. I watched some Chinese TV series: Eternal Love, the Story of Yanxi Palace, and Joy of life.
Also, I tried some new Apps: PiTu for making my own gif and TikTok to record the moments. Apart from entertaining myself, I also spent time applying jobs, practicing online assessment for jobs, and learning interview tips.
At the beginning of May, I managed to fly back to China. I was tested once I got off the plane and received negative result. Then, I was sent to a hotel for a 14-day quarantine for observation.
Quarantine is even harder than stay in the room in UK, I could not go out, not even for a minute. Meals were delivered to my room door three times a day, and the only human being I could see every day was the medical stuffs with masks who came and tested my body temperature twice a day.
During my two-week quarantine in the hotel, I spent the first week to adjust the time difference (sleeping everyday) and the second week for my PP419 final exam which lasted for a week. The day after I submitted the exam, I was informed that I could go back to my family. And both my journey tracker card and my health code turned from red to green at that moment! (the journey card and health code are connected with the ID, everyone in China have them, they are used to track closed contactors and you would be contacted and tested if people who have been in a closed area with you became a confirmed case afterwards, we have to show that both of them are green at the time we enter a closed public place. The colour of both codes would turn red if you have been in risky areas.)
After the quarantine, another two exams were waiting for me. I first celebrated with my friend for me being “freed”, which is the first dining out after 3 months. Then, I decided to go to the district library to review for my exams. With my health record being “green”, I can finally go to the district library. The library’s system changed, before, everyone with an ID card can enter the 8-floor district library, the library used to be full with people who working, study and playing games, some noise was unavoidable with that many people, whereas now only 400 people are allowed to enter, this means a person is using a four-person study desk, and the 400 tickets had to be booked in advance, this screened all the people who passed by the library from the shopping mall wishing to have a rest and chat (whisper) in the library. I personally think it’s a positive externality of the two-meter rule, and hope the booking system last forever.
In mid-June, I booked a trip to Lijiang, Yunnan Province once I finished all my final exams. Days after my flight was booked, the second wave happened in Beijing, which was worrisome, luckily, the person who first contracted discovered his symptoms as early as possible and helped to stop the spread outside from Beijing. And excitingly, my trip was not cancelled. I spent 4 unforgettable days in Lijiang.
Although I failed to tick some European countries off my travel list in April as I planned, going through the special time made me learnt how to peacefully be with myself when in a closed area, and made me appreciated nature more.