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#COVIDCatLady, Day 15

I met a pet mini pig today. Her name was either Tofu or Belly, both work. Jing’an district, where I live, has been particularly strict and shut down most shops and restaurants. But this cafe just east of the district border has been consistently open since I’ve been back in Shanghai, where the front steps get lovely light especially when the weather is uncharacteristically warm like today.

I was not alone in this. Everyone and their pet was out. By lunch time the cafe was packed, with 2 dogs, that pig, and a cat. It’s oddly exhilarating to see a space filled with people again, groups chattering away. A hint of normalcy.

When I was on my way back to Taipei for Chinese New Year, January 23, the news were just starting to really catch on with this virus. Most of the passengers on my flight back were already wearing masks, around 90%. During my layover in Hong Kong, I overheard a kid complaining to his mom how uncomfortable the mask was, and that he wanted to stop wearing it. She reasoned with him, and then said, “who knows, this might be the new normal now.”

During one-on-one conversations with a couple of friends today, there seems to be consensus that this “new normal,” once you settle into it, isn’t half bad. We’ve each got our unique challenges, and all privileged enough to not have pressing health or financial concerns due to the outbreak. In Shanghai, it’s a waiting game that’s gifted us time and space to be on our own, slow down, fiddle with personal projects.

What a luxury, to have our time given back to us, with no deadline and no social obligations. Like someone punched a giant pause button. If you can learn to be in it instead of desperately trying to see an end or a way out, this is such a treat.

The city also slowed way down. Yesterday as I was walking on Nanjing East Road, it was so quiet I could heard the rustling of people’s sleeves rustling against the side of their coats. It reminds me of my time in Denmark or Stockholm, where population is thin and people give each other a loooooot of personal space. I don’t necessarily prefer that, long term.

The fast pace and intense density in Shanghai have been such constant sensory overwhelm, I sometimes didn’t even register it until I’ve landed somewhere else and was reminded what silence sounded like. It’s been fascinating to see this massive machine grind to a halt and then adjust to operating at “low.”

Imagine New York with a curfew, 1% of the businesses, and no tourists. It’s not quite apocalyptic. It’s just on a very different gear.

Not gonna lie, I like this Shanghai. And while I look forward to that big group dinner and that first live show, I’m going to really enjoy being a little spoiled, having Shanghai almost to myself.


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