Stay at home.

I don’t get it.

Who are these people who are still congregating? Who are these people who are still going out and being with others? Who are they?

Do they just not get it?

Don’t they realize what is happening in the world?

Don’t they realize what is happening in their communities?

Yes. It sucks.

This isn’t what we’d planned for spring 2020.

But this is what we’ve been given. COVID2019. It’s what we have to experience and live with and deal with.

And the only option we have – which runs counter to everything we’ve learned about people a person – is getting away from other people.

If we get away, we don’t spread. If we don’t spread then then people live rather than die. It’s so simple. It’s hard, but it’s simple.

This isn’t a video game. It’s not a movie. It’s actual real life. And the choices we make today will impact the lives of the people around us.

We’re not in our normal reality. We’re in a new reality. And this is the reality. Stay home and save lives. Go out and risk lives.

It’s not difficult. We want to get out of this, and what needs to happen to help us get out of this is not difficult.

Well, it is difficult, but it needs to happen.

Just stay. home. Stay. Home. Stay. Home. Stay. Home.

Life in China is returning to normal

Took the family for a walk to the grocery store. Got some Subway for Noah and some tofu soup for Koolyash. My daughter went on a dinner date with a boy. She’s still out now, and I’m readying my shotgun.

And social distancing seems to be a thing of the past, if this restaurant we passed on our walk is any indication.

Maybe it’s some form of PTSD, but I still can’t compute that things could be returning to an actual normal, but that does seem to be what’s going on here. If not for the ever-present masks and the constant temperature checks, nothing would be out of the ordinary on the streets of Shenzhen.

And I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I do want to remind you that it took us two months of strict social distancing, staying at home, and quarantine to get us to this point.

We did it. You can do it.


Smushing the Days • Quarantine Day 63

IMG_2252Day 63.

You’d think I would have celebrated day 60, being that 60 is such a nice and round number.

But that’s the way it goes during quarantine. The days smush together. I didn’t even realize we’d passed 60.

There have been days where I thought, “I need to go update the calendar,” and when I went to update it, I hadn’t updated for four days.

But I just updated it yesterday.

But that was four days ago.

That’s the way it goes during quarantine.

Prepare for the days to smush together.

There are little things that make the days feel different. Sundays. Sundays have always felt different. I think that we actually had family church time on a Sunday or two. Sometimes, though, we were in quarantine, and we didn’t really realize it was Sunday.

There’s schooling. In our house, we’re both learning and teaching. That helps give the days structure. But, because we’re all trying to adapt to this online learning model, it’s been hard to figure out the structure. In our house, I try to figure out the things our little one has to do and have it ready for him when he gets up in the morning. Technology being technology, this has sometimes led to me using – as Spock called them – colorful metaphors. Seesaw, Zoom, IXL… all things I never heard of or cared about before. Now they’re a part of our daily lives.

There’s the things we watch to pass the time. I watched all seven seasons of Brooklyn 99, and mourned when it was done. I’ve rewatched Firefly. I’m rewatching Curb your Enthusiasm. I did the Nic Cage thing. I download movies for Koolyash every day. I just asked her what she watched yesterday. She couldn’t remember.

That’s the way it goes during quarantine.

It’s the long haul. It’s allowing the days to smush. It’s realizing that you’re living Groundhog Day, but you’re doing it to save lives.

This is my experience. My family’s experience. We were stay-at-homers. If you’re an “essential” person, your experience will be different. But not your family’s. They’ll be staying at home. Smushing their days. While you are facing this thing full on, like a boss.

I don’t have any advice for this. Everyone is dealing with it in a different way. And I mean EVERYONE. We’re all smushing. Everyone around the world. Consider that for a moment… is there anywhere where people aren’t smushing their days and trying to beat this thing, collectively? Nothing like this has ever happened before in human history. A collective worldwide experience of smushing our days to save lives.

Start marking the days with a calendar and see if the days don’t smush for you, too.

Some Thoughts from One Expat to Another


When I first moved to Kazakhstan back in 1999, I’d been there for about half a year when I noticed a couple of interesting things. First, if I was talking to someone back home about Kazakhstan, I had plenty to say, as if I knew what I was talking about. Second, when I would talk to other expats about our experiences living in Central Asia, we would often spend a great deal of time complaining about the different way people did everything.

Now it’s many years later and I live in China, but I was reminded of my early Kazakhstan experiences when I recently overheard a conversation in a coffee shop between a couple of expats discussing their separate experiences in yet another country.

I couldn’t help but listen.

Both of these expats talked about their experiences as if they were experts on their former country, as if they’d really understood the people and the place where they’d lived, and they also spent a great deal of time complaining about that experience. It was almost as if they were trying to one-up each other on who could tell the most horrifying expat story.

“The taxi drivers there are horrible! As soon as they realize you’re a foreigner, they’ll charge you double!”

“You think the taxi drivers are bad, you should try and do business with them! It’s all about nepotism and how much you can pay to get something done!”

“Don’t get me started on corruption! There was one time when I was just trying to get my visa renewed…”

As I was reflecting on both my attitude and the attitudes shown by a couple of random expats in a coffee shop, I was struck by a few things, and I offer these thoughts to any expatriates who might be interested.

Simply living in a country for a limited amount of time does not make us experts on the culture, people and problems of a country. Especially when we haven’t even taken the time to learn the language and primarily hang out with other expats. We may have some insights into that country, but not very much.

We are really only long-term tourists, and should keep that in mind before being tempted to share our deep and insightful thoughts about our host country. When asked, we should just talk about the food we like, the interesting historical sights we’ve seen, reflect on the truth that we still have much to learn about the place, and stress how kindly the people there treat us in spite of our ignorance.

This last part is key – when you’re talking to your friends back home, don’t focus on the horror stories, even though conflict makes for good storytelling. Instead, let them know how well you were treated as a stranger in a strange land. Let them know how much it meant for you when someone went out their way to help you or guide you. Let them know that many of the things that they’ve heard about the place are misconceptions or flat out false.

Especially these days, it’s vital that we learn the value of being good hosts as well as guests, and it’s even more vital that we share that knowledge with others who may have never gone far from home.

This might be the most valuable souvenir we can bring home from our short time living in another country.