• Hannah

Social distancing in Suzhou

Updated: Mar 7


So we still await a final opening date for Gideon and Emily to go back to school. We were told last week that it would be the 14th April for Gideon and the 16th for Emily but since then the education bureau changed their minds and would require that the school opens one year group per day in succession from the year 13s down, so the waiting game continues. We had hoped we had escaped more medical testing but the new rule as of last weekend would appear to be that anyone arriving in the country from 11 March onwards is required to go for intrusive dna nucleic acid testing. Ours is on Wednesday.


Since the covid19 outbreak, we have been hearing of much more xenophobia, for example in denying entry for foreigners to tourist attractions. I do get interrogated by the same guard if I return to the compound without my permission slip, (if for example I dropped it or Mike went on ahead and took it with him), it's a bit unsettling having to answer about 6 questions about my identity and where I live by the same guard who unless has early onset facial agnosia should be able to recognise me. It's difficult to say whether it is discrimination or just his job but either way I bite my lip and comply even if in a slightly blaze manner. Overall I see more acceptance, cooperation and friendship than discrimination. It has been great to regroup with some of our Suzhou community. Sunday morning long runs around Jinji Lake have taken up again. We had unofficial parkrun on Saturday in our usual location and everyone self-timed and went for coffee after. I'm looking forward to developing some language exchange, (mandarin and english) in the post-run coffee sessions.


Last Sunday, (Palm sunday), we joined a group who were hiking up Lingyangshan (mountains out west). I should have got the hint from the hiker's attire that it wasn't going to fit my idea of family friendly hiking but we followed suite anyway. Many of the group are regular attendees of parkrun. It was quite staggering, (partly because of the slippery terrain), how enthusiastic 2 of the ladies, (Sharon and Katarina), were to help Emily along, holding her hand, carrying her and giving piggy backs. We were often grasping up steep rock faces or on all fours, avoiding slipping down a crumbling slope and I probably would have been frozen by fear if it had been only I to deal with Emily and my own unsteadiness. It was with great relief that we decided to conquer just 2 of the 4 peaks.


After the hike, I joined the 'blue shield' volunteers to make a cheesy video about how we are helping the subway staff to check temperatures and health codes for all passengers. 4 of us, all of different nationalities, had to line up and say with conviction, despite our eclectic accents; 'Women shi lan dun zhi yuan zhe', (meaning 'we are blue shield volunteers'). It is run by Chris, (also known by his English name: 'Nostalgia'), who Mike met running once and has been a keen supporter of parkrun. He is a committed member of the national communist party.