March 1st, 2020

mom walk

news from the market this morn

Today i went out to the market to get some supplies and the village is noticeably busier.

My favorite fruit shop has reopened, although they don't have any fruit yet. They said in a few days they will start getting deliveries.

The wet market has multiple stalls open again. For the past few weeks it has only been one vegetable stall, one meat stall, one egg stall, one bean (tofu) stall. This morning there were slaughtered animals hanging up all over the place and big white polystyrene containers with fish swimming around them. Several vegetable vendors competed for my attention, hawking their wares. Life is starting to go back to normal.

Well, sort of normal. It's true i am not getting my temperature checked by the building management any more, and there is no temperature check at the entrance to the wet market. But the fences are still up around the village and there are still checkpoints to get in and out. There was a line of people with suitcases signing up at the police station, presumably just returned from their home province and registering for self-isolation. There were still guys walking around in hazmat suits spraying everything with disinfectant. There were still party hacks taking photos of the guys in hazmat suits for propaganda or to prove to the bosses they're doing a great job or whatever.

But i also spied a few people walking around without facemasks. I think they're still mandatory, but a lot of things in China are mandatory and only half-heartedly enforced.

That's what i'm waiting for, to be honest. I am sure the government will still make everyone do performative bullshit for another month, but there will be some tipping point where everyone knows it's just for show and the local authorities will relax (except when party bigwigs drop round for inspection).

Shenzhen already stabilized 2 weeks ago at around 400 infections and 3 deaths. I guess if those numbers remain flat then the government will feel justified in having locked everyone down. We can never know what might've been, right?

God, i just want the local restaurants to reopen and the street food to come back.

We will be last on the list, i am sure. The local media is publishing stories about all the restaurants that reopened, but as usual it's only in the big, glitzy shopping malls. I guess those are the ones that can afford to comply with all the health and safety regulations, or (more cynically) the ones owned by friends and family of local cadres.

The Shenzhen that you see in the popular media of Shenzhen - the glittering skyscrapers, the luxury shopping malls, the manicured parks - that's the public face of the city, and no doubt the government is eager to get that public face looking good again.

The other half of the city lives in the urban villages up amongst the factories and cabbage patches and squats... and, yeah, also some glittering skyscrapers, except they're mostly empty because the rich people they were built for didn't move in yet.

In the here and now, in this relatively gentrified urban village, we still only have 肠粉 joints open. One halal restaurant. One guy making steam buns. KTV is closed. Bar is closed. 烧烤 BBQ is closed. 湘川 (Hunan and Sichuan) places are closed. Dongbei (north-east) dumplings closed. 沙县小吃 Shaxian snacks closed. 武汉热干面 Wuhan noodle closed. Even Cantonese style dim sum and noodle is closed. Not a single person is on the streets selling fried chicken, fried potatoes, pancakes... I don't know where the 烤红薯 roast sweet potato guy went.

When the food is gone in China, it takes my heart away. You don't come to mainland China for the arts and entertainment. The party cripples that. But the food, that is the fucking soul. No food. Fuck. What's the point?

It's why i am drinking a lot, i think. Living under authoritarian rule is tough enough already for me, but then when those small pleasures are gone too... I need to escape, find a window into a world where i can forget.

Something about this lockdown, it's made me rethink those fantasies i sometimes have of just saying "fuck it" and going to live in a caravan in the middle of nowhere. I love roaming and trying to find the quietest, most abandoned places. When i travel, i seek the vast empty spaces and drink in the serenity. I adore being alone. But, you know, i don't think i could handle a life in the country. I need people. I don't want to make friends. I don't want a relationship. I don't even need to talk. I just want to see people smiling, laughing, having fun. I want give strangers a nod, bump shoulders on the bus, touch knees on a plastic stool, eat at the same table, slurp a noodle, gobble a rice...

God i fucking miss people. I am an introvert. I never thought i'd miss people.

What i really miss is the public space. The greatest loss of this lockdown is the loss of society. I realize now i would be devastated in a world where people withdraw to their family units and go it all alone. Fuck, i don't have a family unit. Blood ties mean nothing to me. The city is my home. Strangers are my family. When we aren't out there, when our society is put on hold... there really is nothing for me. I'd rather die.

不自由,毋宁死