Monday, May 23, 2022

10 Years

A cat wearing a bow tie and glasses, looking at a computer. Image source.

Heyyyy big announcement: This blog is now 10 years old. Can you believe that- I have been writing about why the world is weird (among other things) for 10 years.

My first post was on April 28, 2012, and reading it now, I'm like "it's so cute." 2012-Perfect-Number just wanted to ask "questions about why culture is the way it is." This blog has developed way farther than I imagined; now it's a platform for my opinions about a huge range of things, feminism, Christianity, China, asexuality, being an immigrant, marriage, all kinds of things. And my writing style has changed and developed a lot.

Back in 2012, did I think I'd be in China 10 years later? Actually yes, I was all into radical Christian missions and thought it was no big deal to give up my whole connection to my own culture, and I wanted to live in China "forever." (Not the case anymore.) Did I think I'd be writing this 10-year anniversary post while stuck in a lockdown due to a global pandemic/ the Chinese government's response to a global pandemic? ... no.

I have many more things planned for this blog ^_^ Won't go into specifics yet, because who knows what my actual posting timeline will be. (Though I can tell you in the near future, we'll have more posts about the Shanghai lockdown... so there's that.)

Anywayyyyy I like doing reader surveys once a year- it's really great to get feedback and comments from readers. Here's the link for the 2022 reader survey:

2022 Reader Survey

(survey will be open until June 30, 2022)

And I have a Patreon! Thank you so much to those of you who support me on Patreon. It really means a lot to me. If you like my blog, consider becoming a patron. ^_^

Perfect Number's Patreon

And again, thank you tell all my readers, especially those of you who leave nice comments or reply to my tweets. I'm really glad that blogging has allowed me to meet people and have these kinds of conversations.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: Slowly Getting Better (maybe)

Quasimodo singing "Out There," from the movie "Hunchback of Notre Dame." Image source.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)
I'm in Lockdown (March 16)
I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)
I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)
Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)
Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government (March 31)
Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid (April 3)
Lockdown Diaries: Dressing Up, Free Medicine, Free Rice (April 6)
Lockdown Diaries: I am Okay, Shanghai is Not (April 9)
Lockdown Diaries: Part of Shanghai is Out of Lockdown (April 12)
Lockdown Diaries: Dystopian Madness (April 15)
Lockdown Diaries: 3 Covid Deaths Reported in Shanghai (April 18)
Lockdown Diaries: More of the Same (April 22)
Lockdown Diaries: This is a Human-Made Disaster (April 26)
Lockdown Diaries: Exciting New Definition of "Society" (May 1)
Lockdown Diaries: Some People Can Go to the Grocery Store (May 3)
Lockdown Diaries: More and More People Get to Go Out (a little bit) (May 7)
Lockdown Diaries: Taking a Whole Building to Quarantine (May 10)
Lockdown Diaries: Restrictions on Chinese Citizens Leaving China (May 13)
Lockdown Diaries: June 1 Target for "Back to Normal" (yeah not gonna happen) (May 17)

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Here's the updated timeline:

March 16-21: First lockdown. 6 days.

March 23-now: Second lockdown. 60 days and counting.

Nucleic acid tests (conducted by baymax, ie, the workers in white hazmat suits): 29 times (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, April 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29, May 2, 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20)

Antigen self-tests: 28 times (April 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 [twice], 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 28 [twice], 30, May 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21)

(The above info is specific to our apartment complex. Other apartment complexes in Shanghai will have a similar situation but not exactly the same.)

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Apparently Shanghai is slowly reopening

So recently I've been seeing news articles about how factories in Shanghai are starting up again, and subways and bus lines are going to be starting up again, and things like that.

That's nice, I guess? I mean, I see these things in the news, but there doesn't seem to be any connection to my actual life- I'm in lockdown. I haven't been allowed to go anywhere at all for 2 months, and there's no signs at all of that changing. (Except for one sign- 2 people from our building were allowed to go shopping- I'll talk about that later in the post.)

So... okay... they're saying we're on track to get "back to normal" in June, but who knows.

An example of a green health code, showing the location where this person has just registered (a park), and the 48-hour negative covid test result. Source: WeChat.

Also, the Shanghai government has rolled out this new "location code" (场所码) system. Do you remember the "health code" app I talked about in my March 25 post? Well this "location code" is a new addition to that app. It will work like this: When you are at some public location, like a mall or subway station, there will be a QR code posted there, and you have to scan it (in the health code app 随申办). In this way, every location will have a record of who was there and when- and will make sure that everyone has a green health code, otherwise they won't be allowed to enter.

After scanning the location code, the name of the location will be displayed under your green QR code. (see image above) I guess this it's easy to check if people scanned it or not.

And another new thing in the health code app: It now also displays info about when your most recent nucleic acid test was. On the same screen as your green QR code, so it's easy to show to the security guard when you enter the mall or whatever. It might say "48小时内核酸检测结果【阴性】" ("Nucleic acid test result within 48 hours [Negative]" - as in the above image), or 24 hours, or some number of days, or whatever the case may be. Apparently public places and public transportation are going to start requiring everyone to show they have a negative nucleic acid test within the past 48 hours. And also, the city of Shanghai says they are setting up enough nucleic acid test stations that, no matter where you are in the city, it will just take 15 minutes for you to go and get tested.

So... yes, my green health code now also displays the information about my most recent nucleic acid test. I haven't tried scanning any of these "location codes" yet, because look at me, I'm in lockdown, of course I am not going anywhere.

And yeah maybe we should have concerns about big data and tracking. I'm too exhausted to be concerned about that right now, though...

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Hongqiao Train Station

During the lockdown, there have been very very few trains available for people who want to leave Shanghai. But now, since we're on our way to "back to normal" or whatever, they've started adding more trains to the schedule, and I've seen news about what it's like for people trying to make their way to Hongqiao train station.

Like, imagine if you were just like "hey I'll go to Shanghai for a few days" back in March, and then you get stuck here for months. That happened to lots of people, and they've been trying to get out, and it's good that now there are more train tickets available for them.

Also, for people who leave Shanghai and go to other cities in China, they are required to do a 2-week quarantine when they arrive at their destination. And often there is other red tape to deal with, like you need to get your apartment management to agree to let you leave, and you need to get the apartment management at your destination to agree to receive you. (I've heard that when people leave wherever they've been locked down, the apartment management often requires them to sign something saying they won't come back during the lockdown.)

(Okay I've been using the term "apartment management" in all my posts about lockdown- what I mean is 居委会, which is typically translated to English as "neighborhood committee." I have been translating it as "apartment management" because I felt like that was easier to understand- but I do feel that something gets lost in translation because the concept itself is a Chinese thing that other countries don't have. What I'm talking about here, the 居委会, is the smallest unit of local government. It's the little local government in charge of one single apartment complex.)

Some links about what it's like getting to the train station and leaving Shanghai:

Leaving Shanghai, At Last (May 19)

Giving Rides to People on Their Way out of Locked-Down Shanghai (May 18)

Police help people without accommodations at railway station (May 20) This is from SHINE, so they spin it to try to convince the reader that everything is fine, but anyway, it does show the reality that people arriving at Hongqiao station are sleeping on the streets.

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Some of our neighbors went shopping

In my May 17 post, I said that it was announced in our apartment group chat that 2 people from our building would be allowed to go out for 3 hours on May 18, and another 2 people would be allowed to go on May 20.

So, some of our neighbors signed up, got the passes from the apartment management to allow them to leave, and did a rapid antigen test the day of. The rest of us in the group chat made a big list of things we were hoping they could buy for us at the grocery store. Also, everyone in the chat was like "Be careful!" and "Spray everything with disinfectant!" and "Wear gloves!"

So, they got to go see the outside world, good for them.

Still no word on when, like, *everyone* will be allowed to leave. We have been a "precautionary area" for a LONG time, but we are still all stuck here.

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Vaccines

Good news, it was announced in our apartment group chat that tomorrow there will be medical staff coming to our apartment complex to vaccinate people. Tomorrow, the vaccines will only be for people over 60, but on some other date, probably soon, they will allow younger people to get them too.

The Shanghai government was publishing news articles about "It's really really important for elderly people to get vaccinated!!!!!!!" like, weeks ago (see my April 22 and May 3 posts), and now this is the first time I'm actually seeing it happen on the ground. I think maybe they started the vaccine push in some of the areas of Shanghai farther away from the city center, which were closer to having 0 covid cases. Now it's finally coming to us.

Also, they're saying that after you get vaccinated, for the next 24 hours you shouldn't do a nucleic acid test. I think this is because the vaccine could cause a false positive. (idk if that's actually true? The Chinese vaccines use the inactivated virus.)

To be clear, this is NOT the first time China is rolling out covid vaccines. Oh goodness, no, nothing like that. I got my first Sinopharm dose a year ago. Most Chinese people got vaccinated last year, and then 6 months later we were all encouraged to get a booster. But the vaccination rate for older people is still too low, and during this outbreak, most of the people who died of covid were older and unvaccinated, so it's now urgent to get vaccinated, in a way that's completely different from the initial vaccine rollout. There was never any real danger before- we had 0 covid cases in Shanghai almost every day. But now it's like, wow, you actually *can* get covid. It's never been like that in Shanghai before.

Hooray, vaccines!

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Ongoing things

I realized that there are a lot of things that have been happening frequently during lockdown, which I've mentioned in my blog posts but I haven't given you a clear picture of which things are still happening and which ones have stopped. So let's give an update on these:

  • Mass testing. Well yes, in every blog post I have put an update at the beginning, about which days we did nucleic acid tests (performed by a team of doctors who come to our complex) and which days we did self-testing. At this point, we basically do nucleic acid testing every 2 days, and self tests on the other days. (There has not been a positive case in our complex for several weeks now.)
  • Food deliveries. There are a few restaurants and grocery stores that are open, that you can order things from on the delivery apps. Very very few. So we are still getting almost all our food from group buying. (Most of this group buying is just organized by neighbors who take it upon themselves to start a group buy- but also some is organized by our apartment management.) We can get plenty of food from group buying- but the problem is you never know when exactly it will be delivered, and you don't have many choices. (We're lucky we live in a complex with good group-buying options, and our apartment management is allowing it. We have seen lots of posts on WeChat about people not being allowed to do group buys, because their apartment management is being jerks about it.)
  • Package deliveries. Yes, people are receiving packages. But still, a lot of shipping companies aren't able to deliver to Shanghai at all. So maybe like, 10% of things you buy online will actually come. (Okay I'm a math person so I have to clarify, obviously if we wanted to be really accurate, we would have to define 10% of *what* and arriving within *what timeframe*. I am not trying to be accurate, I am trying to help you understand what I mean by saying we always see packages being delivered, and yet most things you order online don't come forever and ever. Just imagine it like, you buy something on a shopping app, and there's a 10% chance you get it. The reality is more complicated than that- like, you'll have better luck on Jingdong than Taobao- but more or less that's what's happening.)
  • Free food from the government. We are still getting free food every few days. Sometimes it's a large bag of rice, sometimes a bottle of cooking oil, sometimes some bread, and a few days ago we got a really really nice box of fresh vegetables. We have SO MANY bags of rice and bottles of oil, you guys. Overall, I'm happy with the free things they've given us. This is organized by the subdistrict-level local government, so different places in Shanghai are getting different things. Some places are getting much better free food than others.
  • Number of covid cases. It's been going down. Now we have less than a thousand new cases in Shanghai every day. And every day, they also tell us how many cases of "community transmission" there were- sometimes it's 0, sometimes maybe 1-5. I don't really pay much attention to the exact definition of "community transmission" (it's something like, number of new covid cases among the population which is not classified as being in "locked down areas") because I don't believe it has much relation to when we can actually get out of lockdown.
  • Conditions at makeshift hospitals. Good news: Because the number of covid cases has gone down, a lot of the makeshift hospitals have now closed. I haven't seen any WeChat posts recently about people being sent to really terrible locations. Really, the problem was caused by lack of resources, and now that they've had time to solve the problems, and also fewer covid patients, it's not as bad anymore.
  • Censoring. Also good news, recently it seems like the censoring has calmed down. A few weeks ago, there were many times I would click on a link or video shared on WeChat, and then just see "This content is not available" because it had been censored. That hasn't happened to me recently, so it seems like there must be fewer terrible things happening, that the government is trying to cover up. (Or, they've gotten better at covering them up? Uh...)
  • Neighbors helping each other. Yes, we continue to help out our neighbors. If there's something you need, but can't buy it anywhere, you can ask in the group chat to see if anyone has it. Also I have seen posts on WeChat about hair stylists doing haircuts for their neighbors.
Anyway, that's the situation here. I wonder if I'll be allowed to go out any time soon...

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Links

Sixth Tone

COVID Cubism (May 18) Artwork and other things that people in China have made out of the ABSURD number of rapid antigen tests we're required to do.

Leaving Locked-Down Shanghai Is Hard. Returning Is Harder. (May 18)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: June 1 Target for "Back to Normal" (yeah not gonna happen)

Screenshot of the app (疫测达) where you can upload your rapid antigen test result, if you need it as proof to enter public places. 

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)
I'm in Lockdown (March 16)
I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)
I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)
Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)
Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government (March 31)
Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid (April 3)
Lockdown Diaries: Dressing Up, Free Medicine, Free Rice (April 6)
Lockdown Diaries: I am Okay, Shanghai is Not (April 9)
Lockdown Diaries: Part of Shanghai is Out of Lockdown (April 12)
Lockdown Diaries: Dystopian Madness (April 15)
Lockdown Diaries: 3 Covid Deaths Reported in Shanghai (April 18)
Lockdown Diaries: More of the Same (April 22)
Lockdown Diaries: This is a Human-Made Disaster (April 26)
Lockdown Diaries: Exciting New Definition of "Society" (May 1)
Lockdown Diaries: Some People Can Go to the Grocery Store (May 3)
Lockdown Diaries: More and More People Get to Go Out (a little bit) (May 7)
Lockdown Diaries: Taking a Whole Building to Quarantine (May 10)
Lockdown Diaries: Restrictions on Chinese Citizens Leaving China (May 13)

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Are you tired of reading my blog posts about lockdown? Well I am tired of being in lockdown.

Here's the updated timeline:

March 16-21: First lockdown. 6 days.

March 23-now: Second lockdown. 56 days and counting.

Nucleic acid tests (conducted by baymax, ie, the workers in white hazmat suits): 27 times (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, April 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29, May 2, 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16)

Antigen self-tests: 26 times (April 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 [twice], 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 28 [twice], 30, May 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17)

(The above info is specific to our apartment complex. Other apartment complexes in Shanghai will have a similar situation but not exactly the same.)

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Finally some of us get to go out

So, our apartment complex has been classified as a "precautionary area" for a while now. (I blogged about the definition of "precautionary area" here- it's the best category to be in.) But so far, we hadn't heard anything about actually being allowed out of the complex- even though being in a "precautionary area" supposedly means you're allowed to go out.

Well big news, tonight it was announced in our apartment WeChat group that tomorrow (May 18) our building can send 2 people out, for 3 hours. Yes. Our building. Can send 2 people. And then, on May 20, we can send 2 people out again.

Hooray...?

Apparently there's 1 nearby grocery store open, and they told us we're allowed to go there.

They said if you go out, you have to do a rapid antigen test first, and upload your negative result on the app. The grocery store will be checking to make sure everyone has a negative test from the past 24 hours. And then, when you arrive back at our complex, you do another rapid antigen test.

Okay, so those are the rules for our complex. I wrote in my May 3 post about rules that I had heard from other people, in other parts of Shanghai- typically I've heard that 1 person per household can go out for 2 hours twice a week. But for us, it's 2 people from our entire building (our building has something like 50-100 people).

Some people are saying "I want to go out so I can buy coffee mix," some people are saying "you'll probably have to wait in line for 2 hours once you get there, it's not worth it," some people are saying "it's not safe out there."

Personally, if I got out, I wouldn't go stand in line at the grocery store, I would go all around and look at everything. What is it like out there? Which streets have been blocked off? Is anything open at all?

I know some streets near us have been blocked with metal fences because I saw some photos shared in the WeChat group. Also, we tried to order delivery from a hot pot restaurant, and the delivery guy called us and said the road was blocked and there were a bunch of police not letting anyone through, so we had to cancel our order. (This was the second time we tried to order hot pot- the first time was successful, as I wrote in my May 7 post.) I guess they weren't allowing deliveries because people think you can get infected from food deliveries.

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Videos of people who know their rights

On WeChat recently I've seen a few videos shared of people who refuse to do what the pandemic workers tell them they have to do. For example, the baymaxes in white hazmat suits come and say "we are going to disinfect your home" and the resident says "I don't agree to that."

Or someone is being told they are being taken to quarantine, and they have a discussion with the baymax, like "show me the written notice where it says that" or asking the police "what is your police id number?" 

And the conversation is calm and polite and eventually the person just refuses and the pandemic workers leave them alone.

So... the point is, some of this stuff they are telling people they have to do (like let the baymaxes come and spray chemicals inside your home) you are not actually legally obligated to do. You can refuse.

I'm not sure how to explain this, because Americans say things like "in China you don't have rights" but it's actually more complicated than that. Like for some things- for example, covid-positive people being sent to very crappy "makeshift hospitals" with horrible conditions- I don't think there's ever going to be any acknowledgement that that was wrong and those people deserved better. And then there are other things, situations where a small local government is making rules that are more strict than what the city government said- for example, apartment complexes not allowing people to get food delivered- and there's a hotline number you can call and report it, and the higher-ups will step in and get your apartment management in trouble for that. Or maybe the higher-ups won't care, even though the residents are in the right, legally, to complain about how their apartment management is treating them.

And there actually are laws about hindering the anti-pandemic efforts- if you lie about your travel history or positive test result, and then you end up infecting other people, you can go to jail for that. Also, people have been detained for "spreading rumors" on WeChat. So... the stuff that really is illegal, you really can get in trouble for.

But people that have to go to quarantine are being told "you have to hand over your apartment keys so we can disinfect your home" and they know that's bullshit, you are NOT legally required to hand over your apartment keys. So people have been sharing videos on WeChat about knowing your rights. At the same time, though, I also saw videos/photos of pandemic workers breaking down doors or climbing through windows. (Don't worry, SHINE has articles to explain how it's not what it looks like. [I am making a skeptical face.]) That's illegal, but if that happens to your home, and you report it, I am not sure if you'll be successful in holding them accountable- maybe the higher-ups won't care.

So it's not true that "in China you don't have rights"- it's much more complicated than that.

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WeChat groups about leaving China

Recently, international people who are leaving China have been setting up WeChat groups specifically to talk about the process of leaving China. That's because things are so complicated now, and there's so much red tape and bureaucracy, it really helps to be able to talk to people with similar experiences so you can find out how things actually work in practical terms.

Actually, for the past 2 years, there have been lots of WeChat groups for people who want to enter China. Many many groups, different groups depending on what country you're coming from, groups for people already in China who are trying to plan a round-trip to go somewhere and come back, lots of groups. Because the requirements to enter China are so complicated and have changed so many times, you need to talk to people who are going through the same thing.

Does this mean there are more people leaving than usual? I think, yes, because of the lockdown, more international people will leave China. But also, it's normal that international people come to China and just stay a few years and then leave. We always have friends who are leaving, and probably most of the people we see leaving now are people who had already planned to leave anyway. But now they find that leaving is way more complicated (like how do you even get to the airport, if you're in lockdown?) and so they start WeChat groups to talk about it.

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June 1 "back to normal" target

So woo, big announcement, there is a plan for things to start opening up again and getting "back to normal." By June 1! Or starting June 1! Or something! Very exciting! Okay, honestly I didn't really pay much attention to the details, because I am HIGHLY SKEPTICAL this is actually going to happen.

Yeah I'll believe it when I see it.

(Also I think some of this is to make people elsewhere in China think that things in Shanghai are better than they really are. I have a Chinese friend in another city- she texted me to say "I heard Shanghai is ending the lockdown soon" and I was like "??? lol no")

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Links

Sixth Tone:

Dining Out, Parks, Travel: Shanghai’s Post Lockdown Wishlist (May 17)

SHINE [ah I will include my standard disclaimer, I don't like SHINE because it's been cranking out nonsense propaganda all through this lockdown, but hey these links are worth reading]:

Zero community transmission in all Shanghai districts (May 17) I guess this is good news, and it's good that the number of new covid cases reported on May 16 was less than 1000, and the number of people in "locked down areas" is less than 1 million (please note, even though we are very much in lockdown, we are not classified as a "locked down area"- we are a "precautionary area"). I guess... honestly I don't care that much about the stats, because they're always making up new things to measure, to make it look like we're totally getting "back to normal"... like what is this "zero community transmission", why do we need this new terminology?

Stranded drivers await the day when they can 'keep on trucking' (May 15)

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Blogaround

1. A Landlord ‘Underestimated’ His Tenants. Now They Could Own the Building. (posted May 6) "'A lot of us didn’t know what harassment meant or what intimidation meant,' said Ms. Waterton, who works for a printing company. 'We didn’t realize that some of the stuff that was happening were tactics to get us to leave.'"

2. The Lightyear Timeline Makes NO Sense | Pixar Film Theory (posted May 6) I LOVE watching the Super Carlin Brothers trying to shove every Pixar movie into "The Pixar Theory." I just love it SO MUCH because it's EXACTLY like biblical apologetics. As Ben Carlin says in the youtube link above, "Because also, don't worry, we're gonna make it work, no matter what they throw at us. That is the game." Wish I could read a Christian apologetics book that was that self-aware and honest.

3. The Grimness of American Individualism (posted April 26) "These were celebrations of the most macabre kind; sheer, unbridled relief at not even having to pretend to give a fuck about other people—little kids, immunocompromised folks, disabled folks, workers in public-facing jobs, just anyone who doesn’t want to get any sicker than they have to be—anymore."

4. The Lost Letters of Saint Paul, and How They Were Lost (posted May 5) [content note: genocide] "Those letters would have been lost when Jewish quarters were burned out. In contrast, no such massacres are known in Corinth, Philippi, Thessaloniki, and the other centers where letters were preserved."

5. So I saw this article at Church Leaders, John Piper Imparts Wisdom From His Five Decades of Ministry and an Article He Wrote Titled ‘Missions and Masturbation’ (posted April 22), with a link to the Desiring God article Piper wrote in 1984, Missions and Masturbation. That was 40 years ago, he would probably not write it exactly the same way now, so I'm not picking on Piper specifically, but I want to say this- It's very clear to me, as I read this article, as an adult, that he was writing about his own personal problems, and claiming that it's the same way for everyone. And how wrong that is.

I'm struck by the fact that, if I had read this when I was a teenager, back when I didn't know anything, didn't know what a clit was or anything, I would have totally viewed it like, this writer is an objective, authoritative, trustworthy Christian role model who teaches us important truths about why masturbation is sinful and dangerous. (And I did read things like this, back then, and I did view them that way.) But now I read it and I'm like... wow... it's so revealing, how immature he is, how he's broadcasting his own personal creepy masturbation issues to the world, claiming that everyone has the same problems he does and that's why masturbation is always bad for everyone, wow he should be so embarrassed about this.

And... Is that how it is? Are the creeps with weird sexual hangups vastly overrepresented among teachers of Christian "sexual purity"? (Specifically, the "weird sexual hangup" we see in this 1984 article is the idea that it's not possible for a man to treat women with respect, if he masturbates regularly.) While people with normal healthy sex lives, who don't follow the church's rules about "don't have sex before marriage" and "don't masturbate", they don't go around talking about it loudly at church, because they know their own personal life is none of your business. 

That's... not good. But it would explain a lot.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

"Life's Work" (read this book and become even more pro-choice)

Book cover for the book "Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice" by Dr. Willie Parker. Image source.

Well, I finished reading this book a few months ago but hadn't had time to write a review yet because *gestures at the disaster that is the Shanghai lockdown*. But we've just found out that the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe vs Wade, so, I have to say something. We have to fight.

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Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, by Dr. Willie Parker, is a book about Parker's experiences as an abortion doctor, mostly in the southern United States. It covers his own life story, growing up in poverty with a single mother, then getting lucky enough to have opportunities to go to college and become a doctor, and then the decision he made to change his career path to focus on providing abortions in the places where there is the least access. It talks about Parker's Christian faith, and how that was a huge part of his decision to do abortions. He was also inspired by Dr. King, and sees abortion access as a civil rights issue, and by abortion doctors like Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009. The book talks about the women who come seeking abortions, how their stories intersect with issues like poverty and race, and how their choices are informed by their own personal life goals. And it describes the actual medical procedure, how a surgical abortion is performed.

I definitely recommend this book to pro-choice people. It shows that it's not enough to just have rights on paper- in practical terms, abortion is not accessible to many people because of things like poverty or where they live. Don't just write off the South. There are people there (doctors, activists, clinic owners) working hard to fight for abortion access.

Do I recommend this book for "pro-life" people? (I put the scare quotes around "pro-life" because it ain't about life- if it were, then "pro-life" people would be the loudest voices in support of accurate sex ed, access to contraception, paid maternity leave, and universal health care.) Uh, I don't know... I don't really think it will change their minds. I think it's good that it shows the real-life struggles of women who need abortions; perhaps a "pro-life" person might come to the conclusion that we need a better safety net so that being poor doesn't mean being stuck in these kinds of difficult situations. The book doesn't tackle the "but, it's killing a baby" argument head-on, so I don't think it would convince "pro-life" people that abortion can be an acceptable choice.

All right now I'll go into more details about the different topics in the book:

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Poverty, the South, and race

Dr. Parker grew up in Alabama. He says his family was "so poor we didn't know how poor we were" [p 42]. No one in his family had gone to college; Parker was the first. Initially he thought he could become a biology teacher, but at college he met professors who recommended he go to medical school, and helped him find resources to help people from low-income backgrounds (for example, financial assistance with paying application fees).

He writes about how many of the women who he sees in his work at abortion clinics are college students with their own dreams, just like he had at that age. He was lucky to have the opportunities that he did, and he hopes that young women with unplanned pregnancies also get to have those opportunities. Which is why abortion access is so necessary.

This is really important, and it's something that I can't relate to, due to my own privilege. There was never a possibility that I wouldn't go to college. I had no awareness that not everyone had the opportunities that I had. And the idea that being forced to continue a pregnancy can just totally derail your life- no, I had no idea about that.

Race also plays a role in this- for a lot of the examples in the book, Parker mentions the race of the people that he met. Lack of access to abortion, due to poverty or geographic reasons, disproportionately affects black women.

There are states in the South that have only 1 abortion clinic, in the entire state. (The book mentions Mississippi- this was published in 2017 so I don't know if that's still true or not.) There are so many hurdles that pregnant people have to overcome- having the money to pay for the abortion itself, finding the time to travel to the clinic, travel expenses, having to go to the clinic twice because the law requires a "waiting period" of 24 or 48 or 72 hours... Parker talks about sometimes when he was in college and owed a few hundred dollars for tuition and couldn't come up with the money- that's the reality for a lot of poor people in the US. He says that ThinkProgress calculated that the cost of a first trimester abortion in Wisconsin, after you factor in money for "gas, hotel, child-care expenses, and the lost hours of work" is $1380 [p 76]. 

It's hard for me to imagine not being able to come up with a thousand dollars or so for an emergency, but this is the reality that a lot of people live in. For me it would be no problem at all spending that money- I mean, obviously I don't want to spend a thousand dollars on something, but if it's an emergency, then yeah of course I would. But poor people, through no fault of their own, just don't have the money, and it just adds more and more problems as they have to continue suffering through pregnancy.

And different states have different laws. There were examples in the book where Dr. Parker had to tell someone he couldn't perform her abortion, but if she had been in a different state, she could have had an abortion.

This matters. Too often I see "progressive" people wanting to just dismiss the whole South. "Just move" or whatever. That's not right- the people who live in "red states" matter, and we can't just ignore them. And also, remember that poverty is a big issue- just because abortion is accessible for you doesn't mean it's accessible for everyone who needs it.

---

Christianity

Dr. Parker talks a lot about his Christian faith throughout the book- how initially he was opposed to abortion because of his faith, and then in his work as an ob-gyn he gradually became aware of how abortion access is necessary, but he personally still wasn't willing to perform abortions, and then eventually he recognized that there is a need and he should be the one to help.

For example, he talks about how he was inspired by the parable of the good Samaritan. He says that women who come to him for abortions are in need, and he should help them, like the good Samaritan helped the injured man who was in need.

I think this is great, and I love how you can see from the book that Parker is a Christian and his faith is very important to him, inspiring the work that he does. It's great to see an example of being pro-choice for Christian reasons.

At the same time, though, none of this is going to be convincing to a "pro-life" conservative Christian. The way Parker talks about his faith is just so completely different from how conservative/evangelical "culture war" Christians talk about their faith and "what the bible says about abortion" and all that. This book shows an example of what it looks like to be a pro-choice Christian, but it doesn't include any arguments to refute "pro-life" ideas about what Christians are supposed to believe about abortion. 

The idea that women who seek abortions are "people in need" and he should help them by doing abortions, because Christians are supposed to help people in need- this would sound completely absurd and incomprehensible from a "pro-life" perspective. "Pro-life" people very much DO NOT see women seeking abortions as "people in need"- they're seen as potentially violent criminals who have taken a hostage and need to be talked down by any means necessary- even lying is okay, to save a life. To some extent, "pro-life" people will donate diapers and things like that, to some extent they recognize women with unplanned pregnancies as being in need of pregnancy/baby supplies, but it never comes close to the actual financial cost of carrying a pregnancy/ having a baby. (I know I'm making a really big generalization here, and maybe I shouldn't do that- if you show me a pro-life movement in the US which advocates for free prenatal health care, free health care for young children, guaranteed maternity leave, and affordable daycare, I will take back what I said. And, also, as a pro-choice person I absolutely support those things. Make it more affordable to have a baby, and that opens up more choices for pregnant people who want to keep their baby. I absolutely support that.)

Anyway, my point is: It's great seeing how Dr. Parker's Christian faith is such a big part of his life and his work performing abortions. But nothing he said in this book is going to change a "pro-life" Christian's mind.

---

Descriptions of how abortion works

The book gives detailed descriptions of the actual medical process of abortion. It shouldn't be stigmatized or shameful; we can be honest about what it is. 

I think it's good that these descriptions are in the book- but at the same time, I personally don't like it. So, that's a reason that I personally would not get an abortion- but of course other people have the right to make their own decision. 

I think... I have heard pro-choice people saying, "Oh I hate the argument 'don't say pro-choice people are pro-abortion, no one is pro-abortion', well hey, I am pro-abortion." I don't really agree with that. I think it's good that it exists as a safe medical procedure, because people really do need it- but I'm still sad about it. It's not just a medical procedure, there are a lot more ethical complications, because it is ending a life. And I don't take a position on "when life begins" (which, in this context, means something more like "when does it become a person whose life has value") or whatever- there's no way we can possibly know that. There's not an easy answer I would feel comfortable using as a soundbite to fling around in political debates.

And because it's a complicated ethical question, the only person qualified to make that decision is the pregnant person. It has to be their choice. They know the situation better than anyone else in the entire world. They can weigh all the factors- their health, their financial situation, their obligations to the children they already have, their relationship status, their career. I trust them.

And yes, for some people the decision to get an abortion is easy, and it's not a big deal. To them, it's not a big ethical question. That's also fine, I trust them.

Yes, maybe there's someone out there choosing to have an abortion for reasons that I would say are unethical. But there's no way to prevent that- if you don't let pregnant people be in charge of their own decision on abortion, who would you have instead? A bunch of male lawmakers deciding whose reasons are "good enough" to justify getting an abortion? No, they would do a much worse job than the actual pregnant person. It has to be the pregnant person's choice. Even if there might be a hypothetical pregnant person who chooses "wrong", no one else in the world is capable of doing a better job.

So... I don't really think abortion is a good thing- but you know what else is not a good thing? Pregnancy. Oh my gosh, when I was pregnant, I had to throw up over a hundred times in order to turn that embryo into an actual baby. Being pregnant was awful for me- but worth it because now I have a perfect child. So, yeah, pregnant people can weigh that and make their own decision about it.

I feel like, there's pressure that if you're pro-choice, you have to believe abortion is awesome and can't talk about any complicated feelings about it. Any hesitation is "giving ground" to the "pro-life" side. I don't agree with that. And actually, I think that kind of thinking is why we end up with people saying nonsense like "I'm pro-life, but I would never try to force that decision on other people" um excuse me THAT IS CALLED BEING PRO-CHOICE. People don't want to label themselves as pro-choice if they think it means you have to be all gung-ho about "abortion is great all the time" (which no one actually believes- we believe it should be a CHOICE, ie, if you choose to NOT have an abortion, we 100% support that choice).

My pro-choice philosophy is more like, I don't like abortion, but also I didn't like being pregnant! (In my case, I decided it was worth it, to have a baby.) And if you say that in your situation being pregnant would be worse than getting an abortion, I believe you, and you should have that right.

Anyway I've gone off on a tangent here- none of this is in the book. I was trying to say, the book describes the actual medical procedure of how an abortion is done.

---

"Do not judge" and situations where Parker refuses to do an abortion

In one of the early chapters in the book, Dr. Parker talks about how he doesn't judge women who come to him for abortions. Often they will try to explain or justify it to him- talking about what goals they have that are incompatible with pregnancy, or saying they don't usually have sex and it was just a one-time mistake- and he says none of this is necessary. He doesn't need to hear any excuses or reasons like that. He doesn't judge, he says, because the bible says "Do not judge."

And then, later in the book, there's a chapter called "Ethical Abortion Care", which is about the circumstances where Dr. Parker will refuse to do an abortion. He gives the example of a 12-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her foster father and became pregnant. He did not perform her abortion that day; the clinic staff reported it to CPS, the girl was removed from her home, and a few weeks later she came back to the clinic and he did the abortion for her.

He also says, "I will not terminate a pregnancy beyond twenty-five weeks. ... If you're twenty-eight weeks and you just don't want to be pregnant, or you just don't want to give birth- that's not an appropriate use of my skills." [p 194] This is totally judging! Just about bowled me over, reading this- what happened to all that "do not judge" rhetoric?

I mean, I agree with him- by 25 weeks, the pregnancy is really far along (full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks), and the unborn baby has already developed a lot, so I don't like the idea of having an abortion at that point. As I said, I trust women- so I wouldn't want to make a law about it, because the law would be much more likely to cause huge problems for people in desperate, heartbreaking situations, with a wanted pregnancy where a terrible medical problem was just discovered, than to catch the hypothetical evil person who wants to abort a perfectly healthy 28-week fetus for no reason. (No one does that in real life, it only happens in "pro-life" propaganda.)

So yes, it makes sense to me that a doctor can say he personally is not willing to do that. Dr. Parker says in that situation, he would refer the patient to other doctors. I'm just pointing it out because he says he doesn't judge, but turns out he does. Which is fine- I agree that there are situations where you should judge. But then it's ridiculous to claim "I don't judge." What he actually means is there are specific categories of reasons which he doesn't judge you for (your financial situation, how/why/with whom you had sex, whether or not you used birth control, etc), while there are other types of reasons that he totally does judge. (He also says he refuses to do abortions if the reason for it is the baby's gender or the baby's race.)

And he refuses to do abortions in situations where he believes the patient is being coerced into it. This is a good intention, but honestly I find it hard to believe that he can really tell. He gives examples like if a woman says "if I don't have this abortion, my boyfriend will kill me"- okay that's obviously coercion- but if there's not some giant red-flag statement like that, how on earth would you know? Parker seems confident that he can tell. He says that it's normal for people to feel conflicted about their decision, or to wish they could keep the baby but realistically they can't- he says that's fine, that still counts as them being resolved in their choice to have an abortion, and he can totally tell that's different from being coerced. I am skeptical.

He says that for women who have an abusive partner forcing them to have an abortion, he will refuse to perform an abortion for them, but instead help them get to a shelter to get away from their abuser, and then after that, if they decide they still want an abortion, then they can come back to the clinic again. This is a different situation than when a woman has an abusive partner and she knows that if she's pregnant, she will be even more stuck with him- in that case, it's not "coercion" and Dr. Parker will do the abortion. Again, I'm kind of skeptical- yes, I recognize that these are different situations, but how can a doctor really know with confidence which one it is just by talking to a patient for a few minutes?

He also talks about pregnant teenage girls who come in with their mothers. He makes sure to talk to the girl alone to ask if she really wants an abortion. Oftentimes, if the girl says no, and Dr. Parker refuses to do the abortion, the mother gets mad and there's all kinds of arguing. I had a lot of feelings about this one- imagining myself in an alternate universe, where I get pregnant as a teenager, and a loving relative brings me to get an abortion... It would never even cross my mind that I should have a choice about it. At that age, I just followed along and did what the adults said to do, be a good kid- especially with doctors- I often felt like I wasn't "being good" because I couldn't tolerate invasive medical procedures

If this had happened to me, like what Parker describes in the book, I would have felt like "I'm so scared and I don't even want to be here, but I am trying to be good and do what the adults say, but I've failed so badly at it that I've actually triggered the doctor's consent detection, oh no, this is just getting worse and worse, I'm not being a good kid." The idea that it actually matters if I consent or not, that I actually have a choice- as a teenager, I just didn't have that at all.

So... yeah Parker is doing the right thing, but also that is just such a huge decision to put on a teenager. At that age, there's no way I would have been able to understand what pregnancy would actually mean for me, and what having a baby would actually mean for me. So... it has to be the pregnant teenager's own choice, because no one else in the world is qualified, but wow that is a situation that teenagers are not ready for. I don't have a good solution for this.

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Conclusion

Yes, I recommend this book to pro-choice people. Overall it gives a good reminder about why this is so important and what's at stake. Don't just write off the South- people there need abortion access, and we have to fight for their rights. 

---

Related:

What Pregnancy Taught Me About Being Pro-Choice

Why I Am Pro-Choice

Friday, May 13, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: Restrictions on Chinese Citizens Leaving China

"These walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized." Image source.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)
I'm in Lockdown (March 16)
I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)
I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)
Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)
Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government (March 31)
Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid (April 3)
Lockdown Diaries: Dressing Up, Free Medicine, Free Rice (April 6)
Lockdown Diaries: I am Okay, Shanghai is Not (April 9)
Lockdown Diaries: Part of Shanghai is Out of Lockdown (April 12)
Lockdown Diaries: Dystopian Madness (April 15)
Lockdown Diaries: 3 Covid Deaths Reported in Shanghai (April 18)
Lockdown Diaries: More of the Same (April 22)
Lockdown Diaries: This is a Human-Made Disaster (April 26)
Lockdown Diaries: Exciting New Definition of "Society" (May 1)
Lockdown Diaries: Some People Can Go to the Grocery Store (May 3)
Lockdown Diaries: More and More People Get to Go Out (a little bit) (May 7)
Lockdown Diaries: Taking a Whole Building to Quarantine (May 10)

--- 

Here's the updated timeline:

March 16-21: First lockdown. 6 days.

March 23-now: Second lockdown. 52 days and counting.

Nucleic acid tests (conducted by baymax, ie, the workers in white hazmat suits): 25 times (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, April 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29, May 2, 4, 6, 10, 12)

Antigen self-tests: 24 times (April 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 [twice], 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 28 [twice], 30, May 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13)

(The above info is specific to our apartment complex. Other apartment complexes in Shanghai will have a similar situation but not exactly the same.)

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Stats

I haven't written much about the actual stats about covid cases during this lockdown. But let me give you an overall summary. The number of cases has been going down. Way down. We had like 20,000 per day a few weeks ago, and now it's something like 1000 to 2000 per day.

That's great, but it's not zero, so this could drag on for a long time.

Also for some reason nobody is publishing a decent graph of this. Wish I had a graph to show you.

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WHO says China's zero-covid policy is not sustainable

On May 11, a video of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying China needs to move away from the "zero-covid policy" because it's "not sustainable" was being shared around on WeChat. 

And then, of course, a few hours later, the link didn't work because it was censored.

Also, on May 10, a study was published in "Nature", by researchers from Shanghai's Fudan University and also from the US, modelling the effects of different strategies and how many people would die of covid. The study found that if China just stops "zero covid" without doing anything else, 1.55 million people would die. They also modelled other strategies like increasing vaccination rates among elderly people, which has a much better result. The study is here, and this article gives a good summary of it.

So... Honestly I don't agree with "it's time to end zero-covid" but I do agree that something different needs to happen. A lot of things have gone wrong in this lockdown, and it's not okay. 

Here's another thing, though: Right now all the focus is on Shanghai and all things that are going wrong here. But what about all the other cities in China? There are many many cities in China that have 0 covid cases now- that have had basically 0 for the past 2 years. It doesn't make sense to give up on zero-covid and let those other cities (which are currently living normal lives without a fear of getting covid) get overwhelmed by the new omicron waves that would result.

Beijing has had a few covid cases recently, and people there are in a bit of a panic. I have also heard of some other cities doing lockdowns and mass testing. But there are tons of other cities in China which don't make the news because this isn't happening there. They're fine.

So... it definitely can't be "oh let's just stop this lockdown, stop the zero-covid policy"- you have to put more thought into it than that. (Even though I personally would benefit A LOT from ending zero-covid. I would finally be able to travel freely between China and the US. I have been stuck in China for the entire pandemic, you guys. But also, my son is too little to be vaccinated, so I am concerned about that.)

---

Not letting Chinese citizens leave

So it was announced that Chinese citizens are not allowed to leave China unless it's "necessary." That's kind of, umm, scary, but also I don't really know what it means. Is it different from what they've already been doing? For the entire pandemic, China has made it more difficult for Chinese citizens to get new passports or to renew their expired passports. Generally you need a really good reason, like a job offer in another country, or you're going abroad to study, or you are visiting relatives who are on their deathbed. This was the policy about issuing new passports- but if you already had a passport, it didn't affect you, you were still allowed to leave. (I mean, there are of course hoops to jump through for that, like requirements for covid-testing before your flight, the risk of flights getting cancelled, etc, and then the big huge problem of how to get back into China later- but yeah, people were allowed to leave.)

So, now they're saying Chinese citizens shouldn't leave China unless it's "necessary", and I don't know what that actually means in practical terms. I have heard anecdotes of Chinese citizens being questioned before getting on flights to leave the country- but these are just anecdotes, we don't really know what the situation is overall.

My husband and son are Chinese citizens. (My son also has US citizenship, but China doesn't recognize dual citizenship, so it doesn't do us much good in this situation.) I feel like of concerned about being stuck here... but also I'm fairly sure that if we were moving permanently, that would be seen as a good enough reason... probably the issue is they don't want people thinking "oh I'll just go abroad for a few months and come back when this lockdown is done" (lol remember all the people who tried that in 2020 and it didn't work out well) and then it'll be a big problem having all these Chinese citizens from covid-infested places trying to reenter the country. Or maybe it's more like, they're concerned about a mass exodus of Chinese citizens who are young and educated and have international connections and know that this lockdown is bullshit.

Anyway... yeah, kind of worrisome. But we weren't planning to leave during the lockdown anyway, so, it shouldn't actually affect us. Still, though, makes me feel stuck.

Sixth Tone article: China Restricts Citizens From ‘Non-Essential’ Foreign Travel (May 12)

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And an update on us

Well our complex has been a "precautionary area" for several days now, which is the best category to be in, but we still haven't heard anything about being allowed to leave the complex.

Like... nothing is open out there anyway, why would we even want to leave? Though I am super curious about what the empty streets look like- I would go out for that reason, if they let us.

---

Links:

Sixth Tone:

Shanghai Sets New ‘Zero-COVID’ Target, Plans to Reopen Schools (May 13) When I saw the announcement today, on the Shanghai government's WeChat, that laid out the steps toward reopening, I was just like, lol. It's a nice idea, but does anyone believe this is actually going to happen? My favorite part was how they're going to achieve "zero covid" in "mid-May"... do they realize it ALREADY IS mid-May?

Shanghai’s ‘Psychological Emergency’ Warrants Attention (May 11)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: Taking a Whole Building to Quarantine

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)
I'm in Lockdown (March 16)
I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)
I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)
Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)
Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government (March 31)
Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid (April 3)
Lockdown Diaries: Dressing Up, Free Medicine, Free Rice (April 6)
Lockdown Diaries: I am Okay, Shanghai is Not (April 9)
Lockdown Diaries: Part of Shanghai is Out of Lockdown (April 12)
Lockdown Diaries: Dystopian Madness (April 15)
Lockdown Diaries: 3 Covid Deaths Reported in Shanghai (April 18)
Lockdown Diaries: More of the Same (April 22)
Lockdown Diaries: This is a Human-Made Disaster (April 26)
Lockdown Diaries: Exciting New Definition of "Society" (May 1)
Lockdown Diaries: Some People Can Go to the Grocery Store (May 3)
Lockdown Diaries: More and More People Get to Go Out (a little bit) (May 7)

--- 

Can you believe I am still in lockdown?

Here's the updated timeline:

March 16-21: First lockdown. 6 days.

March 23-now: Second lockdown. 49 days and counting.

Nucleic acid tests (conducted by baymax, ie, the workers in white hazmat suits): 24 times (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, April 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29, May 2, 4, 6, 10)

Antigen self-tests: 22 times (April 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 [twice], 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 28 [twice], 30, May 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9)

(The above info is specific to our apartment complex. Other apartment complexes in Shanghai will have a similar situation but not exactly the same.)

---

Things are basically the same for us

So, we continue to work from home. We continue to let our kid watch a lot of TV. We continue to order food through group buys with neighbors- which means we have plenty of food, but not many options about what specific foods to buy, and not certain when it will be delivered. We continue to spend a few hours every day cooking our own dinner. We continue to get tested every day- about half the time it's self-testing, and half the time a team of doctors comes and we go outside and do the nucleic acid test. We continue to get free groceries from the government every day or two (recently it was rice, milk, kleenexes, and vegetables).

Our complex is a "precautionary area" now (there have not been any covid cases here in the past 14 days) which is the best category to be in, but actually nothing has changed. Okay, 1 change: we're allowed to take walks outside, but only within the complex. We saw some kids playing outside, that's nice.

Supposedly, people in precautionary areas should be allowed to, you know, leave occasionally, but no, we haven't heard anything about that yet. We are still in lockdown, no matter what they decide to call it.

Sometimes I think about how our life used to be, before this lockdown... we used to just be able to do whatever we wanted. Traveling between cities was a bit of a pain, but if we stayed within Shanghai, we could totally go wherever we wanted, and didn't have to worry about covid or covid-related rules or anything.

Thinking about this one time, last year, when I took my cat to a vet to get vaccinated, but when I got there, they didn't have the vaccine that he needed, so I got in a taxi and took him to a different vet. Rushing around at night to make sure I got there before they closed. Like... I don't know why I am thinking about this specific example, it's just like a very mundane everyday thing, like... changing plans on the fly, getting a taxi, checking maps, making sure I have the right paperwork for my cat, going here and there and everywhere to get things done... Like all of these things I used to just do all the time, but now it's so far away from the way we're living.

Hard to even imagine what "normal" life was like. Now we are just home all the time. We cook, we check the group chats to see what's available to buy, we do covid tests whenever the building leaders tell us to... that's basically it.

---

Whole buildings getting taken

So there have been situations recently where someone tests positive for covid, and then all the residents of their building are taken to quarantine. I have seen posts on WeChat about it, and also it happened to one of my friends- her whole building was getting taken to a quarantine center, but she contacted her consulate (she is international) and her consulate helped her with how to communicate with the pandemic workers in order to convince them to let her stay at home. She ended up able to stay at home, but all her neighbors got taken.

Like, WTF? This doesn't make any sense, taking all the residents of a building to a quarantine center. Why can't they just quarantine in their homes? 

Ugh, so anyway. I've been hearing about this kind of thing happening for a few days now, and then this afternoon the city of Shanghai posted an article on their WeChat that says residents of a building with a covid case are not considered close contacts; they are considered secondary contacts [if they're on the floors immediately above or below the infected person], and don't need to go to centralized quarantine. (But in apartments which share a kitchen or bathroom with other apartments, those residents would be close contacts. This is apparently a common design for older buildings in Shanghai- I've never lived anywhere like that though.) (SHINE posted an English version of this too.)

So... So it seems like this was happening in some places- everyone in a building was being taken to quarantine- but then the higher-level government decided no, we shouldn't do that. I guess? (But even though the city government said that, I wouldn't be surprised if it keeps happening.)

---

Disinfecting homes

Also I saw a few videos recently of the baymaxes disinfecting people's homes. I guess after someone tests positive and gets sent to a quarantine center, their home gets disinfected. Which, based on the videos I've seen, means spraying a ton of chemicals everywhere.

Uh... 

One of the videos shows the baymaxes throwing away all the food from someone's fridge. And I also heard that a lot of stuff gets damaged just because of the amount of chemicals that's being sprayed on it. And there was one video today from a guy who got back from quarantine and discovered most things in his apartment were gone- his clothes, bed sheets, food, money. Now, it's social media, we don't have any way to fact-check it. We don't even know if he is in Shanghai or not. Still, it's... it's believable. It's very concerning.

Yeah, not cool, damaging people's stuff by spraying all that on it. 

So anyway, today the city of Shanghai published an article with guidelines about how the disinfection should work, and the article says that the residents and the pandemic workers should communicate beforehand about if there's anything that needs to be treated more carefully because it could be easily damaged. (SHINE posted an English version too.) I guess they posted that in response to complaints about it. Hopefully that means things will get better, but who knows?

Honestly this whole thing about disinfecting homes doesn't make sense to me- if people are being taken to quarantine, and they're out of their homes for, say, a week or two, the virus can't survive in their home that long anyway, right? Why is it even necessary to go in there and spray stuff at all? There's no way it's safe to have those chemicals all over all the kitchen surfaces and table where people eat.

Seriously, look at this. It's like a leafblower blasting chemicals everywhere. Why????? (Screenshot from a video posted on WeChat.)

---

Links

Sixth Tone:

Springtime in Shanghai's 'Precautionary Zones' (May 10) A video about what it's like on the streets, for people who finally get to go out.

Escaping Shanghai’s Lockdown (May 10) "The entire trip cost around 7,000 yuan ($1,040), including a 14-day hotel quarantine bill in Xiamen, Fu said. She added that others who end up renting a car to their final destination had shelled out as much as 20,000 yuan."

Shanghai’s Lockdown Rules Aren’t the Same for Everyone (May 9)

Exhausted Shanghai Volunteer Dies on Duty (May 9)

Shanghai’s Delivery Drivers Describe Life on the Streets (April 18)

SHINE:

[SHINE has posted a lot of bullshit propaganda during this lockdown, so in general we should glare at them suspiciously. These 2 articles are worth reading though.]

How a trip to the local supermarket became such a privileged treat (May 9) Yep, this paints a pretty good picture of how bleak it is here.

Community offers shelter for home-alone fluffy residents (May 9) Good news for pets.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: More and More People Get to Go Out (a little bit)

A worker in white protective clothing (ie, baymax) feeds dogs in cages in Beicai. Screenshot from this video.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)
I'm in Lockdown (March 16)
I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)
I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)
Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)
Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government (March 31)
Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid (April 3)
Lockdown Diaries: Dressing Up, Free Medicine, Free Rice (April 6)
Lockdown Diaries: I am Okay, Shanghai is Not (April 9)
Lockdown Diaries: Part of Shanghai is Out of Lockdown (April 12)
Lockdown Diaries: Dystopian Madness (April 15)
Lockdown Diaries: 3 Covid Deaths Reported in Shanghai (April 18)
Lockdown Diaries: More of the Same (April 22)
Lockdown Diaries: This is a Human-Made Disaster (April 26)
Lockdown Diaries: Exciting New Definition of "Society" (May 1)
Lockdown Diaries: Some People Can Go to the Grocery Store (May 3)

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Here's the updated timeline:

March 16-21: First lockdown. 6 days.

March 23-now: Second lockdown. 46 days and counting.

Nucleic acid tests (conducted by baymax, ie, the workers in white hazmat suits): 23 times (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, April 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29, May 2, 4, 6)

Antigen self-tests: 20 times (April 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 [twice], 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 28 [twice], 30, May 1, 3, 5, 7)

(The above info is specific to our apartment complex. Other apartment complexes in Shanghai will have a similar situation but not exactly the same.)

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More and more people get to go out

So last time I talked about how I'm starting to see that people in "precautionary areas" (防范区) are kinda-sorta occasionally allowed out of lockdown. There are a lot of rules about it, like, only 1 person per household can go out, twice a week, for 2 hours.

Well yes, more and more people have gotten the chance to go out, under those kinds of rules. I had a video call with some friends a few days ago, and several of them said they went out and rode a bike, but nothing is really open so there isn't much of a point to going out.

Our apartment complex has now been designated as a "precautionary area" (hooray) but they haven't announced any guidelines about being able to leave, so actually nothing has changed. Oh wait, one thing changed- they announced that we are now allowed to walk around in the complex, like to pick up packages, walk dogs, take out trash, etc. Honestly we were all doing that on the down low already, so... yeah nothing has changed.

But hey, hopefully within the next few days, they'll tell us what the rules are about being allowed to go out, and they'll give us our very official-looking passes.

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Happy update about the pets in Beicai

So you may remember I mentioned Beicai in my April 18 and May 1 posts. This was the village in Shanghai where all residents were forced to pack up and leave so that their homes could be disinfected, because there had been a lot of covid cases in the area. 

They were told they had to leave their pets behind, and I was very concerned because we've seen news stories of pandemic workers killing pets in China (we all know about the pet corgi that was beaten to death in Shanghai). I said in my April 18 post, "Also I would trust the pandemic workers 0% with pets. I hope they are not killing people's pets, but they probably are."

Well, good news! They did not kill the pets. They got a team of vets to set up a pet quarantine area and take care of them. You can even see videos about it on Douyin. (Tiktok is the international version of Douyin.) Douyin user Agrass has posted a bunch of videos.

[Not sure if you'll be able to watch these if you're outside of China? They're extremely slow to load when I have my VPN on]

April 23 video where you can see the outside of the big shipping container (?) that they are using for the dog quarantine area, and then you go inside and see the dogs in cages

April 23 video showing the second shipping container with dogs in cages- except for an Alaskan malamute tied up outside- I guess they didn't have a big enough cage for it

April 23 video showing 2 birds (parakeets?) in a cage in someone's home- the volunteers are giving water to the birds

April 23 video of a cat hiding under a bed- also there is an automatic feeder and a bowl of water left there for the cat 

April 22 video of the baymaxes giving food and water to the dogs in small cages at the makeshift pet quarantine center

April 22 video showing volunteers taking care of an Alaskan malamute dog that had been left there

April 22 video showing how the volunteers feed the dogs- several dogs are crowded together in the cages

I mean, it still sucks, because they got all these dogs in small cages, which is not good. But at least they're going to be okay.

(Also, I love how they use the word 毛孩子 in the video captions. Literally means fur child.)

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Hot pot

One fun thing was, a hot pot restaurant reopened- only for delivery, not for actually eating at the restaurant- and we were very excited to get a bunch of food delivered from there, and have hot pot at home. Hooray! We got it delivered and it was great.

Seems like stores and restaurants are kind of starting to reopen- but still, very few.

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Overall, it's really hard

Being in lockdown is just really tough. I feel like I've forgotten what it's even like to go out and go places. And be able to just buy whatever I want online. (Bread! Ice cream!) We're not anywhere close to being "back to normal"... I feel like it's hard for me to even imagine what that would look like.

Some international people are saying they plan to leave China because of this. I feel like, this is going to have a long-term impact on Shanghai's international community. Well, overall, the pandemic has definitely had the effect of decreasing the number of international people in China. It's so hard to enter China now- it's been so hard since 2020. Easy to leave though.

For me... well, we have been planning to leave China anyway, but our plans have been very delayed due to the existence of covid. (Anyone remember that post I wrote in 2019 where I said I was ready to be done living in China?) Still don't have an actual plan. I feel like the lockdown does change my feelings about it, but I'm not sure on exactly how yet. After the lockdown ends we'll be in a better position to make decisions about it.

Who knows when that will be. June?

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Links from Sixth Tone:

Marooned in a Business Park, One Man And His Dog Face Lockdown Alone (May 6)

A Volunteer's Diary (May 5) About a French woman in Shanghai working as a volunteer during lockdown

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