‘Should we take our kids to China with us, or drop them in the US?’ The mood on the plane was somber.’: Expats make it back to China to begin quarantine, ‘We’ve been forced to realize just how lucky we are’

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“For the past fourteen years, I’ve called China home. My husband and I teach at an international school there. When the Coronavirus outbreak caused flights to be cancelled, my family and I were on vacation for Chinese New Year visiting friends in Lusaka, Zambia. Those first few days were incredibly stressful as we tried to figure out what to do. We knew we didn’t want to go back to China, so we got rerouted to Dubai. We figured that would be a good location to then either fly back to China or continue on somewhere else to wait out the havoc it was starting to wreak. Upon arrival at the airport, though, we discovered we had to have onward tickets to enter the United Arab Emirates, so we bought tickets to Thailand on the spot.

Being in Dubai was strange. We were trying to carry on and enjoy playing tourists in a new city, but all the while we had fears and doubts in the back of our minds about what would be best for our family. It was in Dubai we first discovered there were a few families in our gated community who had been infected with the coronavirus, and to add salt to the wound, we discovered my daughter and I had picked up lice.  The situation was almost comical at that point.

Courtesy of Kimi Isom

Thailand brought the trials of figuring out how to teach online with nothing but my iPhone, daily updates from the school about the numbers of infected individuals in China, and changing information about dates we’d be allowed to return.  It was a time of great uncertainty as we discussed, ‘Should we take our kids back to China with us, or drop them off in the US with relatives and return for work without them?’ In the end, we all decided to fly back together to China on February 28th as there hadn’t been any new cases in our community for 2 weeks, and the residents had been very responsible about quarantining themselves.

Getting on the airplane was a scary feeling. Everyone was wearing masks, and many had on gloves and goggles as well. We used disinfectant wipes to sterilize our seat area. The mood on the plane was very somber. Arrival was no different. There were forms to fill out, and everyone had to have their temperature checked which created a tense atmosphere.

Once we safely arrived home, though, there was an immediate sense of relief. We were only meant to be gone 3 weeks, but it had turned into 6. Our son was so elated to be home he kissed the walls and floor. We were asked to do two weeks of self-containment to prevent spreading the virus to others. It turned out to be much more enjoyable than we thought. After six weeks of traveling, it was so nice to be able to cook our own food, have all our things, and re-establish routines. We took advantage of the extra time to organize our house, try out new meals, put in extra workouts, catch up on our online teaching/grading, and spend more time playing, reading, and working with the kids on their schoolwork.

We’ve been home in China now for 3 weeks and living in a sort of half isolation has become the new norm. I’m honestly grateful. It’s been a good chance to slow down and reevaluate. We’ve been forced to realize just how lucky we are. We are all healthy. We still have jobs and are getting paid. We have lots of food to eat. We have toilet paper. We have extra time to pursue activities we enjoy. We are fortunate to live in a community who is all working together to adhere to social distancing to prevent further infections. We have the opportunity to serve others around us who are stuck in quarantine by shopping for them. But most importantly, we have extra time as a family to create some pretty great memories.

Courtesy of Kimi Isom

Yes, there are many negative, devastating effects the Coronavirus outbreak has caused, but there are also many incredible silver linings. Choose to be positive and focus on them. Choose to take advantage of the opportunities before you. Choose to be a source of good and comfort in this time of disaster. If you do, you will feel peace, comfort, and yes, even happiness in this otherwise unfortunate situation. And please, please, please choose to take the difficult steps of isolating yourself from others.  The citizens of China have been staunch in how serious they take avoiding contact with others in order to stop the virus from spreading. Sadly, I don’t see this same level of seriousness in other parts of the world.  If you want to return to normalcy sooner than later, everyone needs to band together to stay apart.”

Courtesy of Kimi Isom
Courtesy of Kimi Isom

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kimi Isom, a teacher in Guangzhou, China. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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