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Kim Orendor: Life in the time of H1N1

This is not my first time dealing with a worldwide infection.

I was in my fourth year of teaching at an international university in Central China when H1N1 — also known as the swine flu — broke out.

Sias International University is in one of the more densely populated and poorer provinces. It is built along the Huangshui River in Xinzheng (Henan Province). It is pretty much the middle of nowhere surround by fields — kind of like going to college in Kansas.

The major draw is its foreign faculty. When I worked there from 2006-11, there were more than 100 expats on staff.

365体育投注The university is owned by a Chinese American and is built on the East-meets-West philosophy. The campus architecture mimics famous structures from around the globe — Red Square to the Spanish fountains.

Henan is famous for growing dates and mining coal, which translates to a really gray sky and the occasional dusting of powdered coal. It was pretty common to see students and locals wearing masks when I arrived my first year. However, that number jumped to nearly everyone that fourth year. Everyone but the foreign teachers.

At first life proceeded as normal, but there were more masks and health checks. At the Beijing Airport, hazmat-suit wearing agents went on all arriving planes and checked every single person’s temperature.

If one person had a fever, all passengers were sequestered in a hotel. One of my co-teacher’s dad spent his vacation in a hotel by himself. This caused some concern but still no masks, no change in habits.

As H1N1 became the next SARs, fellow teachers would joke they should have T-shirts printed up: “I survived SARs and H1N1.”

365体育投注As the numbers of those infected rose, our university instituted a policy to take people’s temperatures when entering the campus. If a fever was detected, people were not allowed to enter.

This went on for months.

365体育投注When it was time to make plane reservations to fly back to California for winter break, I started to get sniffles and a slight cough. I figured it was a common cold, but I also knew that Beijing’s airport had machines to read body temperature and were preventing anyone with a fever from boarding a plane.

I was scared I wouldn’t make it past the sensor. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go home. Never once did I worry I could be carrying something deadly back with me.

365体育投注Which leads me back to the East-meets-West philosophy. I had numerous conversations with students about the differences between our countries, and one ideal seemed to baffle them more than others: American individualism.

For the vast majority of my students, China was their first responsibility, then family, then their hometown and somewhere down the line, themselves. The unit is more important than the individual.

So it was no surprise to me to see the Chinese people’s response to COVID-19. Wuhan (which is about five hours south of where I taught) was ordered to shut itself off. The Chinese government also highly recommended self quarantine to the rest of the citizens, for the good of the country. And they did it, and outside of Hunan, the damage done by the coronavirus was very small for a country of 1.3 billion people.

365体育投注During the the height of the virus, I chatted via social media with friends living in China and Hong Kong and watched videos of people singing on their balconies to keep moral up.

Now, it’s here. In the West.

365体育投注And while a large number of people are self quarantining, there are also those showing that rugged individualism.

Are the measures being instituted too much? Is the government being heavy handed? No matter the answer, I’m leaning toward being more like my Chinese friends, to put the whole ahead of me, to put others ahead of myself.

365体育投注Maybe those East-meets-West chats helped me, too.

— Kim Orendor is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. She is currently self quarantined and social distancing. Reach her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @KOrendor.

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