An Update From Beijing: November 2022

The final part of 2022 in China this year has been interesting, to say the least.

I don’t post many details about day to day life on my website, because policies can change quickly, and if you live it you know it (and it can be quite mentally draining). I usually post more on Instagram as well. But I felt an update about China is highly relevant and needed now, for many reasons. I also have many friends leaving Beijing soon, so I wanted to reflect on that as well.

Beijing has entered a lockdown again: restaurants are closed for takeout only, people are working remotely from home, and many communities and buildings are being locked down. This is what happened to us in May this year, and while I’m grateful it’s not a full city lockdown like Shanghai had, it’s really disheartening to be going back into these measures again in Beijing.

Here’s an overview of cases rising all over China and how cities are handling it: Beijing shuts parks, Shanghai tightens entry as China COVID cases rise.

There are no clear guidelines and every community is responding differently, which is causing confusion and lots of anxiety and uncertainty. People might enter a 3 day lockdown, get released, only to re-enter another 3 days. Group chats are filled with people discussing lockdowns, worries for their compounds, or describing their current lockdown situations.

You also are required to have a 24 or 48 hour COVID test to go anywhere. Usually this is fine (as fine as that can be) because there were many test sites everywhere in the city, so you might wait 5-10 minutes in line. But now many test sites have closed around my area, as more test sites move directly into residential communities. A few days ago I waited Beijing testing line for 45 min.

A previously busy test site that is now closed.

“Beijing is essentially in lockdown but authorities won’t use that word,” Sky News writes. And that’s pretty much true.

And that’s not even the biggest news now: there are protests happening across many cities in China – this post isn’t about that, but I highly recommend reading more about it. Most of us in China follow Selina Wang, a reporter with CNN who is on the ground in Beijing and has been reporting updates frequently, You can also read more on the BBC and the Guardian, and there are also multiple Instagram and Twitter account of people sharing photos and stories or sourcing them to share, like Shanghai Observed.

People are frustrated, angry, sad, and tired. It’s been a long month, a long year, a long 3 years.

But, to find a silver lining, right before this new round of lockdowns in the city, my friends and I were able to rent an Air Bnb outside the city center (which actually is a really safe place to be with no one around) to celebrate an early Thanksgiving together.

We all met during the start of the pandemic in 2020, and what a crazy ride it’s been. But through the ups and downs of lockdowns and changing policies in China, and celebrating countless birthdays, Christmases, and other life events and little joys with each other during turbulent times, it’s been an amazing 3 years.

Many friends have already left China this year, and several more from this group are leaving soon, but I’m so grateful that we met in Beijing and have had this time together. People are what have made this time special and worthwhile.

Sometimes it’s difficult to explain to people outside China what life is like, how we have navigated these times, and even why we have stayed. It’s challenging, it’s mentally draining, it’s ups and downs and trying to stay up to date with new policies.

But it helps to have a community and friends who have been there through it all – who understand the pains, the little joys, the special bond that this weird COVID situation has created between us all, making us each other family away from home during this time.

I’m not sure what the next few weeks, months, or 2023 will bring (we aren’t even sure day to day what will happen!), but I can say I’m thankful to have people here to help with the challenges.

Please keep people in China in your thoughts, and I hope everyone is staying safe and sane where you are. If you’re in China, know that it’s also okay to take a break from social media, and prioritize your mental health.

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