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March 9 – Waiting in the Sky (A Canadian's Diary Inside Chongqing During the COVID-19 Home Quarantine)


Monday, Mar. 9 – Waiting in the Sky

Day 45. I awake in a deliciously liminal state, before awareness floods in. Home, loved, safe, and normal. Like a meteorite smashing into earth, everything hits me, and I take solace in a strong coffee and a delicious brunch. The tension between my cutting sarcasm for the farce of my existence and boundless empathy for the untold human tragedy I witness is the blade of a knife I dance on. Would you like some tea?

I summon RZA daily now, and his smooth cadence and guided experience ground me in my moment. Mindfulness meditation WuTang HipHop was the surprise hit genre mashup of 2020 I never knew I needed and would probably go insane without.

I tidy up, drink more coffee, and teach a class about daredevils.

My colleague Michael needs another file off his laptop. The fact that it’s no sweat for me to dial it up means I’m coping much better with life these days.

I do some laundry. I’m washing my space suit travel onesie.

The Grand Disaster Princess II is evacuating the sick first in SF so they can touch everything on the way out before the possibly healthy leave. This is a horrible procedure unless they have multiple exits planned.

My worst habit is how I wipe my hands on my pants. Chips crumbs, sticky fruit hands, whatever. When I’m making pizza or bread, that means it looks pretty gross afterward. So it’s hanging to dry, and I’ll have a new chance to break that one tomorrow.

I’m watching my bananas turn brown, but I’ve got a plan.

Banana bread is on the agenda for Tuesday. It would be fair to say that in my life, everything so far has happened quickly. Hell, even crawling ice caps melt quickly these days.

Ok, VR techs, this is your chance to shine. We have stubborn trade show managers saying, “we can’t cancel this, people are coming from all over the world!” If you don’t see why that’s why they should be canceled, you’re not paying attention. I wonder how I got here, on my mountain, spitting distance from the Himalayas, watching the world burn.

The choices that I made to get me here, each one radical, in retrospective “2020 vision”, seem inspired or at least lucky. I won the lottery of late decade life choices. I live here in a house with no rent, provided by a school that I work at in small doses online classes from home. My second and third jobs also pay me for remote work, with door to door delivery.

It highlights what I’ve been saying for years: don’t’ caught with your pants down, shot on the shitter.

My cousin writes to me about the first case in Minneapolis. She wants to double-check her prep list. I’m happy to hear from family and happy they are prepping. Half the states in the USA have at least cases, if not the other 2 C’s. The 3 Cs in our life these days are cases, clusters, community spread.

In Chongqing, we hold a live broadcast of medical professionals via remote work online meeting software. I’m so proud of how we’re handling this.

Flights out of Northern Italy (quarantine zone) are flying in to the UK, with no screening. The global containment is painfully lackluster outside of China, and I just can’t figure out why. Public health England advised them to self-isolate for 14 days. I wonder how many are asymptomatic and at work now just chatting away. I hope my dad can keep his folks 2 meters away in his office.  Why does everyone try to flee quarantine? Don’t they know that’s a bad idea? “If I come to a land that has a plague, I don’t enter. If I’m in one, I don’t leave.” This quote has been resonating with me. Do the right thing.

Eighty percent of cases will be smooth, 15% rough, 5% life and death. What city can handle putting 5% of its population into ICU? It’s going to be a hairy spring.  Health care demand already surging, reports read, but models predict a total collapse of the American health care system by May. What are they going to do? What is anyone?

I forgot to note this down, SXSW is canceled. So is the Ultra Music Festival, and lots of festivals already saying “nope.” Leslie and I are teasing Burning Man, but who knows. Maybe we’ll all have to burn 2 meters apart and keep masks on for the whole thing.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C’s provincial health officer, broke down and cried on tv at a briefing, and it’s getting a lot of play. some ppl say “What empathy” others say “if our big guns are weeping on tv this is scarier than we know.”

A Youtuber I know, Barret from Shenzen, took his mask off in the back of the Didi (Chinese Uber) for a minute, feeling safe because of the driver’s plastic sheet. Still, they passed through a tunnel, and all the guards started freaking out.

They’re on high alert for foreigners reintroducing the virus to Chinese cities, “calling it back-wash.” So they pulled him over and took him for 3 days of testing before they let him go back about his life. He tested negative.

We pack up for our spacewalk, and I’m going to need to summon the RZA and prepare to Kill The Noise.

((Welcome to the exploration.))

Sup RZA.

We call the DIDI as we walk towards the gate. So far, so good.

(( Today we will set our sights on a familiar adversary: distraction.))

Cool. As we reach the gate, I realize how far we are going on our spacewalk today– usually, is this my destination, the packages at the gate. Today, this is just the beginning.

We get a paper to track our movement or something and get outside the gate. We order a car, and I shoot a video of children playing and people ordering food and just …living until 5 minutes later it arrives.

Xiaolin tries to hop in the front against my advice because she gets motion sickness in cars. But the driver says no, get in the back. The car is clean, no smell of smoke. There’s a plastic sheet like in the movie contagion, separating the driver from the back seat. There’s a little bottle of spray cleaner handy. So far, so good.

((Together, we will begin our quest to kill the noise. Before we take off, we need to ground ourselves.))

I breathe really slow, in my nose, out my nose, trying to keep my breathing slow and shallow and measured. I don’t want to contaminate my mask with my garlic breath.

Driving in a Didi

Driving in a Didi

I take some pictures, and Xiaolin encourages me to make a small video. I’m resistant at first “I need a picture, not a video” but then I think..video… yeah, that could be cool. Look at these streets, so empty, yet, so busy by my standards of recent isolation.

((I want you to find a chill environment. Sit down in a very comfortable position. Plant both feet squarely on the ground. Place your hands together or rest them gently on your knees. ))

It’s incredible to see the streets of the world’s biggest metropolis, a city with a population larger than Canada, 34 million people, moving in its own liminal state. It’s not a ghost town – people are doing their thing, some shops and restaurants have opened, and some people are going to work, but it’s different, and we’re wary, and there is just so much room. On the roads, on the streets, between everyone.

((Now close your eyes. Now we breathe… Continue with patience. Match my flow. Feel every inhale. Every exhale. Flow in. Flow out.)) And we drive across town from Jiulongpo to Yubei, where our condo is. We get out, I keep calm, and we find our building. And find one door to the compound sealed up.

((Distraction. For some, it’s a rare burden. For many, it’s constant.))

Ain’t that the truth. Preach.

((Think about the distractions that surround you and stifle your creativity. Sometimes it’s the people or things around us–you know, family issues, or crazy coworker, or phone that’s blowing up in your pocket. Sometimes the distractions pop up inside your own head from your own poison thoughts.))

So many thoughts. The hardest one I had to weigh over the past two months was that if this thing was a Kai-killer, where do I want to die? With whom? But I’m glad in the end I faced my fear and stayed put in Chongqing. Both because my family unit is strong and we’re great, and because running from fear is no way to treat your brain. Facing them and realizing it’s not so bad is its own reward. Things are going to be ok, I know this.

We go to the main gates, and a security guard is confused b me, “who’s the foreigner?” “My husband” “why’s he here?” “He owns a house here” “I don’t recognize him” “just let him in.” I sign a paper with my information, and they hit us with the temperature guns and record our info on their sheets.

We meet a guy from the rental agency downstairs, and we do the foot tap. It’s cool.

We go up to the 20th floor, and I use my stylus to open the elevator and push the button, feeling prepared and competent. The lift has a tack board of chopsticks for this purpose. Everyone is ready, in their way.

(( We create chaos, and at times, it feels like we’re completely surrounded. I’m not gonna tell you that you can escape or ignore the chaos. That’s fiction. I’m gonna show you how to embrace it.))

It’s my first its sin the elevator with anyone, but we’ve all got masks, and the place smells super clean, and RZA’s got me feeling mellow. We open our condo, and it’s a-ok, a bit messy, but not dirty. The young guy leaves, and Xiaolin and I take our PP off and spend an hour or two sweeping, wiping, and mopping until it’s ready to rent.

Cleaning the condo to rent to a worker who will do a 14 day quarantine for entering CQ

Cleaning the condo to rent to a worker who will do a 14-day quarantine for entering CQ

I listen to a great interview on a hip hop show with Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s great, even when he repeats his best two lines from Colbert.

Cleaning the condo to rent to a worker who will do a 14 day quarantine for entering CQ

Cleaning the condo to rent to a worker who will do a 14 day quarantine for entering CQ

The woman who is renting our condo works for the local government here and is coming tomorrow morning from the north of China, Hubei.  It’s quite cold there, with Canadian style winters and it’s common to see 6-foot tall women. They also make great dumplings. She will do a 14-day quarantine in our place tomorrow before she stats work, as anyone must do when they arrive in Cq.

((My approach to life has been to find order in chaos. ))

Damn RZA, me too.

((I think of myself as the sun at the center of the universe. And in my solar system, I’m surrounded by distractions. All that shit is just planets, asteroids, and comets–spinning around me or flying past me.))

It really works. I took some Aikido for a while a decade ago, it’s the same idea. Rumi taught me this with the Guest House too.

Later, we head down to the street and take a car back. This guy doesn’t have a sheet yet, he says he just got the info and is going to set it up this week. It’s a new mandatory thing, but not everyone’s got it dialed yet. Still, he’s got a mask, we’ve got masks and windows are open. My stress level is low.

Waiting for our Didi home

Waiting for our Didi home

((Think of the thing in your life that stifles progress or heightens your anxiety. ))

That’s easy enough, innit?

((Observe what crashes into your orbit: noise, work drama, negativity. See them all as little planets, asteroids spiraling towards you. They feel like they have an impact, but remember, you are the sun. You have the power to put all that peripheral shit on notice.))

The streets are still quiet, but there are signs of life emerging with the light of a fresh spring.

The streets are still quiet, but there are signs of life emerging with the light of a fresh spring.

We get dropped off a half-hour later because there’s actually rush hour traffic, at the corner, and Xiaolin uses the bank machine to transfer money for her health insurance for the year.

Then we go shopping: loaf of bread, pineapple, 2 lemons, Oreos, a snickers bar, an ice cream cone, two honey pomelo drinks (my favorite for teacher’s throat), and then we pick up two packages (box of avocados and some metal thing to keep the pots from shifting on our gas stove) and then Xiaolin picks up some hot pot stuff at the restaurant outside (restaurants are only doing takeout)

((n this moment and in the moments ahead, when your mind wanders, I want you to pause and identify the nature of the distraction. Irritation? Anger? Humor? Curiosity? Recognize each time something enters your orbit. Acknowledge it. Note it. Categorize it. And let it return to its own orbit. ))

As I’m walking home, I can only see flickering blinking lights that they put up around the spring festival. My goggles are so foggy. Still, I’ve been practicing, I close my eyes and navigate home, put the bags away and wash up. The dogs are so excited to see me and are patient for me to change and wash up before I give them a proper hello.

((Now as we return from our exploration. I want you to think about remaining in the center of your solar system. Stay as the sun. Maintain the planets around you. Now open your eyes.))

We eat hot pot and pizza for dinner. It’s great. I drink some juice. Then, do some news editing, chat with my friend Jett Black, who’s got a new special about samurais’ coming out on Netflix, and that’s exciting. He’s been prepping well too, and we’ve been sharing some useful tips. He liked my stylus idea (I might have got that from Cadence or given it to her, would have to go back and check to be honest been sharing so many ideas with a few alert friends lately)….. but he’s got a sore throat. Prepping, for one thing, walked right into an open mouth cough of some mouth breather in Toronto a few days back. We hope it’s just a cold.

A friend of a friend got COVID-19 in Seattle. She went to a party, no one seemed sick, and a few days later, half of them had horrible flu-like symptoms. She got tested, positive, but she managed to avoid hospitalization and breathing problems. She used a lot of Sudafed and a Netti pot to clear her nose.

((You have the power to act on it later, but for not just take notice. Again, acknowledge the distraction. Not the emotion that it causes. Then watch it drift away.))

I am working on this video project until 1 AM… oh it’s so late. And now, I have to write my blog too. Ahh, I love the creative freneticism .. I miss all-nighters making tracks. Xiaolin thinks I’m nuts, but she’s cool with it.

((Let it be that asteroid that fizzles out or the planet that floats in the distance. This is how you exert your gravitational force on the chaos around you, take note of it, and then just let that shit just keep on spinning alongside you.))

Thanks, RZA – you got me through it today. Are we cool? Will you be there tomorrow?



A Tour in Chongqing, A Gain in Vision

A Land of Natural Beauty, A City with Cultural Appeal