January 27th, 2020

mom walk

heroes of the village

It's a wasteland out there. I need to stress that the lack of people on the streets and the huge number of closed shops is Standard Operating Procedure in the week following Chinese New Year. It is very common to be able to get on a bike and cycle down a deserted highway. However. Normally only a couple of sick people are wearing facemasks. Now i'd say upward of 80% are wearing facemasks.

The fear is definitely stronger amongst the middle class. I guess they have more to lose.

I went to Starbucks to make sure i had an extra packet of coffee for the week, and there was only one foreigner, one local and one cop there. Starbucks is normally one of the most hopping spots for well-heeled locals to shoot the shit.

Next i tried to go to 天虹 Rainbow, which is a local department store with a reasonable import selection. I was only going to stock up on baked beans, but i was barred from entry. It seems Rainbow can afford to hire security guards with electric thermometers and they're happily banning entry to everyone without a facemask. I told him i had no food in my house and just needed to go shopping. He said i was forbidden to enter without a facemask. Which, of course, i couldn't buy at the store because they wouldn't let me in. I might not have had much luck buying at the store anyway considering every fucking pharmacy is closed and has signs up saying to visit the hospital if you need supplies. Fuck if i'm going to the nexus of sick people to get a facemask.

So, quite frankly, fuck fucking Rainbow and their bull fucking shit. I was absolutely livid, but i also know it's not worth making a scene in China when police outnumber civilians, which they certainly did around Rainbow and their hoity toity customers.

I was saved by two cheerful street vendors. One was selling sugar cane, both raw as a stick and squished to make 甘蔗汁 cane juice. The other was selling 烤红薯 roast sweet potato. I complained that i wasn't allowed into the department store. The sweet potato guy said it wasn't a great loss because there's no food in the shops anyway. I said this is crazy, i have no food in my house and also cannot buy it anywhere. He said, well, you can have a sweet potato.

Fucking, the sweet potato guy is officially the hero of the village. (He's from the village over the river from mine, the one closer to Rainbow.)

So i headed back to my own village, where almost everything has been closed for a week. Fortunately, the local supermarket was open, but that's when i saw exactly what the sweet potato guy had been talking about. They still had fruit, but literally every Chinese vegetable was sold out. No choy sum. No bok choy. No gai lan. No ong choy. No garlic. No ginger. I bought a western cabbage and a couple of ragged leaves of napa cabbage. There was also no tofu left (tofu is sold like cold cuts here, at a counter where you can choose different ones). There were still rice and oil stocks - Jesus, if they ran out of those there'd be a fucking riot - but the situation was grim, dear friends. People were buying entire carts full of Dettol and instant noodles. Looks like i will be living on cabbage, peanuts and water crackers for the next few days.

The only other place open on the village main street was 1点点, a bubble tea chain from Taiwan. Those heroic kids were serving up oolong and milk tea for everyone left in the village. I took a peek down a food alley where it looked like one of the 热干面 Wuhan hot dry noodle places was open too... and on the way back to my building i found one 肠粉 Cantonese rice noodle wrap joint and one pizza place open.

Downstairs from my house the convenience store is open, of course. I asked if they had a restock of alcohol since Friday when i bought their last bottles of Tsingtao. They said yes, so at least people in the area can sit at home getting drunk if nothing else.

Anyway, although the lack of open shops and fresh produce is reasonably common over here during the Chinese New Year break, the mad rush on supplies and the banning of people from stores is not. It's only going to get worse, too, by the looks of it.

Today it's chilly but the sun is shining and i can see Yangtai mountain crystal-clear from my window. It looks beautiful out there. I'm still feeling a bit sick from the flu/virus/whatever i had a few weeks ago, but maybe tomorrow i'll go for a hike.