As we are ever so slowly going back to a more normal rhythm of life I would like to reflect on what we have been through over the last month as a community. The Covid-19 virus has, and will continue to have, a huge impact on life in China and the rest of the world – in Hubei and other stricken regions the crisis is ongoing and the virus and the accompanying fear are now spreading to other countries. The impact was also felt here, in our relatively sheltered corner of southwest China. Disrupted travel plans, closed businesses, quarantine, not knowing when it will be over.
Through the reporting on this impact that the virus has had on our lives, I've found it absolutely amazing how the international community in Kunming and further afield in Yunnan has pulled together. We were and are all in this together, and if anything good can be said about this disaster it is the fact that it has brought many of us closer.
Thank you Newsketeers
First of all, I want to extend a huge thank you to the volunteer team of news gatherers, fact-checkers and all-round wonderful people who helped me find and check the information that went into the two virus articles — one on business and travel and one on health — that I have been updating throughout. They are Jeff Crosby (curator of CGK gallery), Alice Shi, Rosalyn Shih, Sandra Samuel (Party People), Mark Perry (GoKunming forum moderator), Chiara (Currently living and working in Chongqing but still very much 昆明人), Koen Sizoo (Dutch consulate in Chongqing) and Dan Siekman.
A big thank you also to everyone else who provided information, asked questions, offered a kind message of support, managed emotions and information in WeChat groups or thought about ways to help the people in Hubei.
Thank you Kunming community
Throughout I've tried to stay in touch with many people in Kunming and the rest of Yunnan. Not just to gather useful information but also to feel connected, to gauge what was happening and to think about more ways to improve the situation.
This situation is a disaster in economic terms – the favorite bars, clubs, restaurants, tourist destinations and hotels that we were celebrating at the Best of Kunming awards just before this struck will be struggling for a while. Musicians have been out of work for over a month now. Most teachers are still at home and finding ways to teach online. Other sectors are also facing a tough time – the Dounan flower market only just opened for instance, but farmers still can't get their products out of the village because roadblocks are still in place across the province.
But also on a personal level this has been a challenging time. While I was reporting on the situation it's been very difficult to deal with the spread of online panic and misinformation, especially in the first few days when hoaxes and panic were rampant and going around WeChat groups like wildfire. I do have a level of understanding for the people who shared this – however unhelpful for the wider community as it may have been and whatever anger, condescension and outright stupidity I've had directed at me personally. Most of us are foreigners in this country, many of us don't speak Chinese and it can be hard to see a positive outcome when we're in the middle of a crisis, so I do understand how unsettling this can feel.
Most people in Kunming and Yunnan however have been wonderful throughout, and I have a lot of respect for everyone who managed to just keep it together, to stay civil and to look ahead at better times. A lot of us stayed indoors for a long time, had to cancel or change travel plans, missed families and friends. Cabin fever is no fun but most of us managed one way or another.
Dealing with disaster
People have dealt with processing this difficult time in different ways. SARS veterans Colin Flahive — owner of Salvador's — artist Luo Fei and Brian Linden of the Linden Centre in Xizhou shared heartfelt and well-worded blog posts and this newsletter that expressed what many of us felt. Others have provided light relief by organizing gatherings of friends where we could find a moment of escape (and lots of alcohol). Thank you Diego from Cantina, thank you Ben from Slice of Heaven and thank you Patrick and Sarah of Lost Garden, for providing a refuge from the gloom.
Personally, I've been feeling mostly ok throughout, with some ups and downs – updating the virus articles gave me a sense of distraction and purpose and I did actually need a holiday with lots of sleep after doing the production and presentation of the Best of Kunming Awards. Still, I had my moments of despair. When measures tightened and it became hard to see friends, when borders closed and claustrophobia crept in. I have had my highs too – this crisis really brought home how just how much I love Yunnan, Kunming and the people who have built their lives here. Apart from keeping busy with the articles, I coped by turning to cooking at home for friends. We are now working at a pilot cooking video with our Destination China video director Giorgio that will be published shortly. Venturing outside was also an excellent way to blow of some steam – I've been walking, cycling and climbing.
But then, you see a video of people in Hubei who are shouting encouraging 加油's to each other from their lockdown apartments. Your heart breaks when you think about the many Chinese people who have it so much harder than most of us Yunnan-based foreigners do – the people who fell ill, the frontline doctors and nurses, the many people who are truly on the breadline, people who can't leave the country when the going gets tough. There have also been moments of laughter at some of the home videos and memes that went around, showing Chinese people dealing with the lockdown situation in super funny and creative ways.
Continue to connect
These are just a few observations of the Covid-19 ups and downs that I wanted to share with you.
We – Chinese and foreign, business owners, students and employees, long-term residents and newbies — are all in this together and all I can say is hang in there. We will continue to report on the Covid-19 situation and how it reverberates through our lives in Yunnan.
As the measures are gradually easing are returning to more regular non-virus related posting on Yunnan news, feature articles and travel. If you would like to share how you have been dealing with the situation please feel free to do so in the comments below this article.
Another thing – looking at other places in China I came to realize that it is quite rare what we have here, a central point of trustworthy information. I've received lots of personal messages of encouragement from many of you here in Yunnan and from people across China and abroad.
If you appreciate what GoKunming has done in keeping everyone updated please support the website by making an account, asking questions in the forum, leaving reviews and using the classifieds section to find a job, sell your stuff or rent an apartment. This is beneficial for the community as a whole – you will be supporting your favorite businesses who are struggling right now and you will get to ask questions and receive answers from a much wider selection of the Kunming community than you will ever be able to find in a WeChat group. Yes, we are a business, but we are also started by and kept going for the Kunming community. We need your input to keep going.
In general, please feel free to contact me any time – for instance, if you are interested in writing an article or if you would like to provide feedback about GoKunming: please email me vera [at] gokunming [dot] com, use the contact form or talk to me when you see me around town.
Thank you everyone in the colorful international Kunming community for your support.