The following post is the sixteenth in a series of diaries written by independent filmmaker and feminist scholar Ai Xiaoming and feminist activist Guo Jing. Both are living in Wuhan at the initial center of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the links to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth parts of the series.
Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.
This installment was written between April 1 and April 4, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.
I started moving the plants from my apartment to the yard yesterday. The plants are withering. The aloe's root is starting to rot.
We did not have the chance to enjoy the springtime this year. The pear tree in our residential district bloomed, the blossom withered and now only green leaves remain. The cherry tree also entered full bloom in front of my door. I used to take photos of my helper every year around this time. However, my helper cannot return to work, and we cannot drive out of Wuhan. Recently a viral video showed a conflict on the Jiujiang Bridge as Jiangxi police stopped people from Hubei (the province where Wuhan is the administrative capital) entering. Yesterday, there was a long car queue near Xinyang highway exit because cars with Hubei car plates were not allowed to leave.
I felt extremely tired these last few days and lost my appetite. I tried to do some work and insisted on writing my diary in the daytime. In the evening, I felt exhausted and my brain could not function. In recent years, the feeling of powerlessness keeps coming back. I think this is related to the presence of the “irresistible” [political environment].
We see activities canceled due to the “irresistible” and online platforms disappeared due to the “irresistible”. I am angry and resentful, but there is no way for me to let go of my emotions or escape this reality.
Any rational people living under this “irresistible” society would have similar feelings. In recent years, many of my friends have developed depression due to this reality.
None of us has found a resolution yet. We talk to friends, go to psychological counselling, do exercises to relieve our symptoms. All of us are struggling to move forward.
It was cloudy this past week. We finally have a sunny day this morning.
Tongtong’s parents sent a message to the chatroom, “Dudu from Room 405, do you want to go downstairs to play in the sun? Tongtong will wait downstairs for you at 10 AM.” Room 405 replied, “Yes”.
After a while, Tongtong’s parents sent another message, “Dudu, we are downstairs.” They added, “Panding's parents, please bring Panding downstairs to play with us.”
Many people went downstairs in response to the call. I was touched by these simple exchanges. Very often, we do not know each other even if we live in the same residential district. But now, because of the lockdown, people are getting closer.
I took a photo of cherry blossom and search the photo on the flower detection app Xingse. Upon searching, I found a poem written by Lao She for Junji Kinoshia, a Japanese screen writer:
“In Kinoshita’s yard, we enjoy the spring breeze.
On the streets, cherry flowers are everywhere.
Drinking sake, we exchange our thoughts.
We meet to share writings, and they are spectacularly beautiful.”
The phrase “Meet to share writings” reminds me of an invitation in a chatroom called “Come to sing”. The invitation said that after the pandemic, we should gather together to read poems and listen to vinyl records…
Whenever I want to go out of my community, I have my temperature taken (at the gate). Although I know I don't have a fever, I am still worried — if the thermometer is broken and shows that I have a fever, I would have trouble. Will I be quarantined at home or elsewhere? Will I be scrutinized by my neighbors?
My present condition is not much different from quarantine [as I live alone]. Currently anyone with a fever or who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 will get the proper treatment. My anxiety, hence, is more about social discrimination and exclusion.
At 10 AM this morning, I scanned my health code. After my temperature was taken, I stepped out of the gate.
I walked by a bus stop where five to six people were in a queue. Before getting on board, they had to scan their health codes and have their temperature taken.
I biked to the Shahu Park. The plants around the lake have turned green. The yellow iris by the lake has bloomed. Strangely, I feel at odds.
A convenience store was just reopened. Shelves were half empty. Some stores were reopened, but they put bicycles or electric bikes at the entrances to block them. If people want to shop, they need to order from a distance.
Some roads were blocked by blue gates. Those blue gates have become Wuhan's distinctive street view.
I returned to my community at 11:59 AM. I had my temperature taken again, it was 36.1 degrees Celsius.
It is easy to lift traffic restrictions, but harder to reopen our sealed hearts. The pandemic has passed but many are still worried about the return of a second wave. They suffer like startled birds. In a chatroom, people exchange their experience of work resumption and someone said s/he bought a new refrigerator, “I bought a big refrigerator to prepare for the second wave of the pandemic.”
Some people have not worked for more than 70 days and still cannot return to work. Many in Wuhan are short of money. The government should do something to safeguard our lives, or there will be a social tragedy. Many have urged the government to subsidize people in Wuhan, but there hasn't been any response yet.
Today is set as a public mourning day. Some people went to the public memorial ceremony. Common people were not allowed to attend. Those who could enter the venue were all male. Some wrote eulogies online but many were censored and removed.
Today is a sunny. I always look forward to a sunny day when it is cloudy. But the sunlight today feels so ironic. I hate this arranged public mourning and don't want to be part of it. I want to be isolated and escape this ridiculous world.