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 5 and April 8, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.
I didn't go out in the past few days and felt so bored, so I went downstairs at 4 PM. As a symbolic resistance to the authority's registration and approval of our physical movements, I wanted to avoid going outside the residential district. Yet our district was surrounded by machine noise [coming from a nearby construction site] and so I was forced to leave. Our everyday life is so full of minute fights and struggles.
I walked towards the riverbank, I stopped at a traffic light when I saw someone on the other side stop. Then I realized that the traffic lights were working again.
Today it was busy on the riverbank. Construction by the river has started, but there was no heavy machinery being used yet. People were fishing and jogging along the river. Many families came out. Many children were playing in the playground with face masks.
Today I read the news that the Wuhan government will let couples apply for marriage registration starting from April 3. On my way back home, I stopped by the marriage registration office close to my home. When I arrived at the counter, it was 5 PM. It was still open, but I did not see anyone. There were documents including public announcements, flow charts, and a divorce agreement template form posted on the door.
I walked in and asked the staffer, “When do you open?” She answered, “You can make a reservation online with your health code.”
“I do not plan to apply for anything. I just want to know what is happening — are there more marriage registrations or divorce registrations, for instance?”
“We have a lot of both applications.”
A netizen wrote “my life during pandemic” after s/he read my diary. This is an amazing connection and change.
Many people asked what has driven me to continue taking action. To make people change is one of my motivations. Our statements and actions are like amplifiers, they spread voices and affect others. With some luck, some of [those affected] may work with us in the future.
Yesterday someone in a chatroom said that many people were preparing to leave for big cities like Beijing and Shenzhen, and that they were selling items on second-hand platforms.
We are outsiders entering these big cities for career development, but many young people can barely earn enough money to support their lives there as living expense are so much greater.
Now many people cannot see their future in big cities and are forced return to the places that they tried so hard to leave.
Today was a lovely sunny day. I left my residential district and went to walk by the river around noon. I have been out every other day and today willow catkins were flying around in the air. As everyone is wearing a mask, we aren't too bothered about inhaling catkins this spring.
Three women were having a picnic around a stone table with crayfish, river snails, tomatoes and green tea. They talked and laughed. I envied them.
Before I entered the supermarket, I had to scan my health code, have my temperature taken and register my name and telephone number. The supermarket had a sufficient supply of food, including rice, noodles, oil, vegetables, meat, frozen food, and sanitizer.
I spotted a person shopping in the supermarket wearing full protective gear including protective clothes, a face mask and a face shield.
Today, the traffic between Wuhan and other parts of the country returned to normal. It is called “reopening”. From the perspective of pandemic control, this is a significant progress, showing that the epidemic in Wuhan is fully under control. However, when can we lift the lockdown inside Wuhan city? When can people open their hearts that are sealed with fear? “Light up Wuhan” [an official ceremony on the reopening of Wuhan] is another performance of collective romanticism that covers up the anxiety and pain of people in Wuhan.
The sequela and collateral damage of this pandemic have continued to affect us. Some people that recovered from COVID-19 may suffer from sequela for the rest of their life. How can we safeguard their lives? Will the discrimination towards people from Hubei Province diminish? What is the future of those companies filing for bankruptcy due to the pandemic? How about those who lost their job and failed to find a new job? It requires a huge amount of social resources to tackle all these problems. The government has to take a leading role to figure out a comprehensive set of measures to address these issues.
Alas, I can stop writing my lockdown diary, finally.
I did not plan to write this diary for 77 days. But in the process I have a lot of unexpected rewards. Writing is a kind of conversation, a conversation with myself, and a conversation with others. I am both a survivor and observer of 77 days of lockdown. I observed and recorded my emotions, the people surrounding me and the things happening around me.
I stopped writing the diary, but I will not stop speaking up. I still hope to build connections with more people and contribute to positive social change.