Voting from abroad, General Election 2020

Here we go again.

The mail will be delayed because of the coronavirus, for sure, so I am faxing mine in. I filled in my ballot online, printed it, and sent it in by fax ( Technology!

Not my first choice — that would be Bernie Sanders. But anything’s better than the current dumpster fire.

Coronavirus testing


The foreigners at my company were loaded up on buses today, in three different shifts, to get tested for the ‘rona. Annoyingly, the local staff will not be tested. Reasoning? “They’ve been here for more than 2 months.” Ridiculous. So have the foreigners! They made us get in by March 1, and we did! I got in on … February 28, I think? Today is April 30! We were fuming.

They also got a sneaky blood test in, which the foreign staff concluded was probably a drug test because you may as well test the dirty foreigners while you’ve got them trapped.

While waiting for my coronavirus test, it was interesting to watch the medical staff go about their business. One of them stayed in the same PPE gear, but helped the person who was doing the actual swabbing to change medical gowns and gloves between every person who was tested.

The coronavirus nose swab went all the way up my nose. I didn’t know it could go that far, even though I did all those anatomy classes. I assumed there would be some sort of narrowing of the opening, the way that you can’t really shove your finger the whole way up your nose because the narrowed opening just won’t let the finger through. I started giggling. The nose swab took a little too long; they really do spend some time swirling about with the swab in there.

The throat swab, however. I gagged and started coughing because they were taking so long to swirl and swirl and swirl and swirllllll in there. It was not fun. I gestured to Lindsay, behind me, that it was not a fun experience.

Next, to the blood test tent. This was unhygienic, as always, just like during the visa physical/health exam at the city’s immigration health test center. The staffer was fumbling about with cotton balls and packages of butterfly syringes, and wearing the same gloves throughout — but we were told it’s okay because they put hand sanitizer on the gloves between tests. I watched her clean off her gloves with hand sanitizer and found myself thinking, Does that not degrade the latex?

Anyway, that was my half-day at work today, which wasn’t that bad at all.

In other news, I am so, so pleased that my meal plan is working! I was 55.4 kg before, and today is Day 55 and I’m now 50.7 kg! I tried on an old trenchcoat that had been getting tight and found that … it now fits me perfectly, just like before! I was so thrilled I started doing those little screams, and I cannot remember having been this happy for a long, long time.

Unfortunately I can’t actually tell anybody because they’ll just accuse me of losing too much. I wasn’t, and I’m not. My body fat percentage was at 29.9%, which is way higher than it should be.

I had a strange moment after arriving back in my neighborhood after the coronavirus test. I suddenly got dizzy, probably from the lack of breakfast and also from the blood test? But it was only a small amount of blood! I knew something was wrong and that I needed to either get home quickly or sit down before I fell over and hit my head on the ground or something like that. It passed after two long, long minutes, but I’m still a bit worried about what that was.

To end this post, I will say that I am the healthiest I have ever been, for a long time. Typically, my resting heart rate was in the 90s. I don’t know why. It has always been like that, and the earliest I can remember was having my heart rate taken at age 12, and I remember wondering why it was so far outside the normal range.

I finally got it down to the 70s when I was waiting tables as a server, always moving around. I’ve been checking it all week, excitedly, and I’m now in the low 70s and high 60s. It’s crazy! This is so good! I am so, so pleased.

Going out

I’m told that it’s no longer illegal to walk around Shanghai without a mask, but everyone still does it anyway. This includes myself. Restaurants are opening up and everyone is getting out more. There have been no local cases for a while now. I guess it’s okay to go out and live a little? I don’t know. I was invited out last week, as soon as my quarantine was over, but I chose not to go. I also genuinely overslept that time – brunch was at 12 and I woke up at something like 1 pm.

I went to brunch at Highline, which was lovely and had buy one get one free on cocktails. I ordered a Paloma.

The elevator buttons were covered like this, for ease of cleaning, I guess? I briefly couldn’t figure out how I should press the buttons, but I finally just used a cloth-covered finger to press 6 for Highline.



I had the shrimp roll and a side order of sweet potato fries. Overpriced but it was a nice break from my usual food at home. I’m staying under 900 kcal per day! I’ve lost 1.7 kg so far which seems like a lot but I’ve not seen any changes in the mirror yet. My clothes still don’t fit right!

Your ballot will be counted

Huge sigh of relief when I finally got an email notification from California an entire WEEK after Super Tuesday, saying that yes, my mail-in ballot has been received and will be counted.

I am very pleased that Bernie Sanders won California. As it stands at the moment, Biden is leading by 150 delegates. It’s a pity. I’ve spent quite some time abroad in countries with socialized health, and I know how much better it is to not worry about medical bills.

I have come to realize that Democrats Abroad would have been a better voter/delegate ratio. I’ll likely still be living abroad in four years from now, so that’s what I’ll do. If there’s any semblance of democracy left by then, that is.




Life under quarantine

The New Yorker has a sweet graphic story about the coronavirus lockdown. I don’t feel the loneliness they talk about. First of all, Whiskey the cat is pretty much my best friend and a really cool roommate.

Also, because I am so, so busy with making videos for work. I don’t even have time to cook because work is just so overwhelming, just like in this panel — but there’s not a whole lot of place delivering food, either.

Whenever I forget, the lady from the neighborhood committee texts me on Wechat to ask for my daily temperature reading. So I guess there’s that. Oh, and constantly getting bombarded with texts from work because we’re now working online–which seems to be an excuse for working all the time. Sigh. This working-from-home situation is not the cool, relaxed time I thought it would be.

Thermometer and checks

I arrived in Shanghai yesterday. The Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur was surprisingly full. Other flights have been cancelled and moved into the flights that stayed, like my flight yesterday. Also, I remember that my flight to Kuala Lumpur in late January had been in a bigger plane, with those fancy business class throne seats. The plane on my flight yesterday had a 3-3 seat configuration in economy, and the business class seats were only slightly bigger than those in economy. A surprising amount of Malaysian accents among the passengers. I had assumed this was all Chinese people going to China, but it was mostly Malaysian Chinese people! And a surprising amount of families with young (preschool or younger) children.

I landed at 2 pm and at about 3 pm, mid-taxi ride, my employer sent me an email with several files to print out. Fill these out and submit them to your apartment complex in order to get in, the email said. Be sure to have at least a day’s worth of food with you before you get into your apartment complex, the email also said.

What incompetence. They’ve known for over a week that I was flying back on this day, at this time, on this flight, and they timed it like this. Of course I couldn’t print it out.

When I got to my apartment complex, I got briefly harassed – nicely – about whether or not I lived there, especially since I was carting around a big suitcase with me. They let me go through when they found an unclaimed delivery box for me with my name and phone number on it. A delivery guy came by just at that moment, overheard my apartment number, and said, Hey, you haven’t been picking up your calls! The neighborhood watch said, Yeah, it’s because she just arrived today.

Oh, and my temperature reading was apparently 31 C. Send help, I must be hypothermic? They decided that this was healthy and let me through, however.

I went into my apartment, unpacked, took a shower, wiped down my stuff with Dettol wipes, and went to sleep.

I got a phone call from saying that my groceries had arrived and had been left at the gate for me. I went to the apartment gate to pick up my bag. There seem to be three sections: a shelf with mailed boxes just inside the gate, a long table outside the gate with food deliveries from restaurants … and the third, floating section is sprinkled all over the place, really – wherever the delivery guys (they’re almost always guys) think has security by obscurity.

Carting my bag up the flight of stairs was surprisingly difficult with my N95 mask. I took off my mask halfway through and went up without the mask. In my defense, there was nobody around. Also, I could smell the cooking going on in various kitchens that I passed — is this mask really N95!?!?

At around 3 pm today, two women from the apartment neighborhood watch (or whatever it’s called… they have an office downstairs) came by and knocked on my door. They asked me, in halting English, about when I had arrived. (Yesterday.) They then took my temperature reading and wrote it on a folded piece of A4, which already had other stuff scribbled all over it. I’m not sure how they plan on keeping all this information straight.

They got me to scan a QR code to attempt to register my name and flight details. I had already tried that yesterday, and hit a wall because I don’t have a Chinese ID number. It wouldn’t take passport numbers. It’s a known issue. The women took down my details and said they’d do it for me. They’re going to hit the same error and will give up and just shelve my details in some drawer somewhere because meibanfa+chabuduo, I just know it.

I was given a thermometer to keep, and told to scan one of their personal Wechat QR codes. Send my thermometer reading to them tomorrow, and then every 2 days, they said. This is totally not a reliable method — what if I’m a liar with coronavirus?

Free thermometer

The evening ended with a phone call from one of the women who had visited me earlier. Her voice sounded familiar. She said slowly and loudly, in her best English – I truly appreciate the effort, by the way – “YOUR BLOOD IS OKAY!”

Wait, what? I didn’t do no blood test!

“Sorry – What? 什么?”

“Your blood is okay!”

This, I knew, was clearly lost in translation somewhere. Perhaps she had come across a script somewhere of translated sentences for nurses to say to foreign coronavirus patients.

“Okay! Thank you! 谢谢!” I said.

“Okay, bye!”

And that was it. I’ve been cleared and okayed of something. That’s fine by me.

We will waive the change fee just once, only once

I was due to fly back to Shanghai on February 01 at 3 pm, but those plans have been axed for now. I thought (and still think) this coronavirus situation is overblown and mostly mass hysteria, but I’ve now delayed my flight due to two reasons.

Reason 1. After a series of emails about “do not travel to Wuhan + avoid unnecessary travel to the rest of China”, the American embassy’s almost-daily email has now changed its tune to DO NOT TRAVEL TO CHINA. This is something more than mass hysteria, because if shit really does hit the fan … I was warned and did not take their advice, and would be on my own.

Jan 28 email:

Jan 31 email:

Reason 2. My company has now changed the work start date to mid-February. Flying back now would mean sitting in my Shanghai apartment for two weeks, counting down the days.

I phoned Malaysia Airlines and the customer service agent said that the fee would be waived once, just once. No changing to open jaw, just the same itinerary on a different day. I picked February 13 — a few days before my start date at work (for now). The start date may change, and honestly, I am fully expecting it to. Later, I found out that I had the option to cancel for a full refund but was not told this on the phone. Fuckers.

The holiday blues

I am sort of getting tired of living abroad. Yet, at the same time, I can’t see myself moving back to America and paying for things like a car, car insurance, gasoline, health insurance, rent, renters’ insurance … the list goes on.

Chinese classes got cancelled for two weeks and I was too busy to review. My hanzi recognition went down. It was/is frustrating. I know that character; why don’t I remember what it means or how to pronounce it?

I bummed around at home all weekend, only going out once to attend my Chinese class – at the end of which my teacher moaned about her job and how she might quit to find another job. I didn’t say so, but I thought, Shit — same here, bish, while thinking about my own job.

Perhaps I need to get out more. So for Christmas Eve and Christmas itself, I’m going to head out and hit up some interesting things to do/see. Maybe those interesting things will just annoy me further. Hm. To be continued.

I heard from Ana and Douglas and Ed today, which really did help to boost my mood.