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.

Extended holiday

Things have changed (again). My company in Shanghai announced that work has been pushed back to the beginning of March. My salary is supposedly going to be paid to me as usual — we shall see. My coworkers have said that this is essentially a paid holiday, which I guess it is. The extended-ness of it is a bit crazy, though. I was supposed to fly back to Shanghai on Feb 1, and now it looks like I’ll be back in Shanghai on March 1. Maybe.

Malaysia would have been so much cheaper to wait it out in, but I am now staying with family in Northern Ireland.

Flight board showing cancelled China flights


I flew economy on Oman Airlines and it was really nice.

Voting from abroad, part 2

Bernie Sanders was my choice in 2016 and still is. My absentee ballot will be mailed to Shanghai, or probably has already arrived … but because of the coronavirus, I’m staying far, far away for a while. Until February 13, anyway. Waiting for a response on my email about printing out a ballot and mailing it from Malaysia or wherever I end up waiting out The Plague. I’m a Super Tuesday voter this time around and I will have my vote!!

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.

Facial recognition

Here I am, at some sort of art/tech exhibition in China, from a while ago. Now – this is surely some kind of barebones project by a student or bored intern, and not actual top-of-the-line current tech. Let’s see what the cameras got about me:

Height: 1.6 m

Gender: F

Age: 22

Hair color, black = 1

My estimated age kept fluctuating between 18-25, which was extremely flattering because I’m actually 33. It did get my height correct. It says Hair color, Black = 1. I guess its 1=yes, 0=no … coding style.

I do think it’s funny how they have Facebook in their fake code, and logos of websites and apps such as Whatsapp. (Facebook, Whatsapp, and most other non-Chinese major social networking or messaging services are blocked in China.)

She got me dreaming like a Michigan boy

After 10 years, Stainless Style is still one of my favorite albums of all time. I remember overhearing Trick for Treat at a hipster dive bar in Eagle Rock, California. To me, it was a hit. I NEEDED to know who this band was, and even interrupted the conversation to do the “WAIT. WHO IS THIS!?” thing. My metal friend, for some reason, knew: Neon Neon. (I checked Soundcloud, just in case)