quarantine

A Quarantine Gallery

Saturday, June 27th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 5 Comments


We did, indeed, get out of quarantine today. Fancy certificates, flowers and everything. TIme has nearly healed the wounds already (that and a couple of really, really good meals).

Looking these over, it’s clear that once we were out of the hospital and that first awful couple of rooms, China did well by us. Considering. And the people we talked to in Q seemed to feel that the government was “doing the responsible thing” and that cooperating was a civic duty. So we did our duty, too, I guess.

It wasn’t ever the quarters. It wasn’t the food. It wasn’t even the astonishing heat (which you can’t see in the pictures, but murdered sleep for sure.) It was the simple fact that–boggling as it is to the American soul–we couldn’t leave.

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The Pringle Fairy

Friday, June 26th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

If asked, I can state with confidence that the maximum number of days one family should spend pretty much cooped up a room together is…6. Not seven. Seven seems to be just that much too much.

But we are getting there. They just took our temperature for the last time. We just had our temperatures taken for the last time. We ate our last lunch. We filled out a form that even had a box for “comments about our stay”.

And Sam was the Pringle Fairy. After lunch, we walked the halls, choosing rooms with more than one lunch tray outside and where we thought we could hear kids’ voices. Then we chose a hiding place, and Sam ran up, left a can of Pringles, knocked hard, and booked.

I imagine there are some pretty mystified quarantinees out there right now.

Rob is back at the Grand Hyatt. We leave at 6:30 tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate Sam’s birthday. Sunday, we’ll see the Great Wall and fly to Fuzhou. Monday we meet Rory. Knock on wood, we’re back on track.

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In Which Rob Tests Negative

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 12 Comments

Finally, way later than we expected this afternoon, Rob got his results back from yesterday. H1n1 no longer courses weakly through his veins. One more negative–as in, the results from today’s test–and he can, as he so elegantly put it (with all due respect, I’m sure) “blow this kung pao stand.”

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Cicadas, lessons, card-playing

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

We woke up frustrated today. as a group. Last night was hot, hot, hot–it’s cooled off every other night, but not last night. There was tossing, there was turning, and two of the three of us in my room fell out of bed at least once. We woke up itchy and ready to crawl out of our skins, and with no appetite for another huge Guo-men breakfast. The troops were rebelling.

And, of course, there was nothing my mom and I could do about it but encourage them to make the best of what we had. Try the new flavor of steamed bun. (I bet they have a 7-day rotation). Have some won-ton soup for breakfast. Coke for breakfast, too–a great American tradition they’ve never before taken part in.

Back upstairs, we skyped. We made paper dolls (again). We played iPhone and Nintendo–again. We had lunch, and again, no one particularly wanted anything that was there but you know what? We ate it anyway. All of us. Not a lot of it, but we’ve learned we really don’t need to eat a whole lot.

And somehow, Lily and Wyatt found a way, after all this time, to band together again and start making their own fun (crushing sweet tart to put in water to make juice) and Sam read a book and practiced card tricks while my mom and I read, and then the three of us settled down for a card game while Lily and Wyatt continued their messy science project in the bathroom.

And then it was five, and time for the pigs, the penguins and then the sheep, a triad of Chinese cartoon that have been improving our witching hour all week. (Chinese cartoons, at least the ones we’ve seen, feature super-cute characters along the lines of Hello Kitty–only armed.) The pigs are on now. Next comes dinner outside, and then a movie, and then bed.
We’ve very nearly done it. It’s hard to believe nothing will go wrong, but maybe it won’t. Our appointments, our meeting Rory, are all being re-organized. Everyone is being helpful, expediting, doing what they can. In the end, this is going to keep us here an extra 6 days, but it could have been worse–it would have been fewer, if not for the 7/3 consulate holiday.
Fourth of July, China style. Maybe the embassy has a celebration.

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How it all works

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 5 Comments

I’ve realized that it’s not really all that clear to everyone exactly how we got here, so I’ll try to explain.
The people seated behind Rob and the boys on the plane did NOT have a fever when we got off the flight. But once they felt sick, they called the authorities (and we don’t know how sick they are, so we will forgive them for that), and two of them tested positive for H1n1.
So they came for us, and presumably others on the flight, and anyone else they were in contact with. And quarantined us, after plenty of negotiation, in the Grand Hyatt, and tested us. And there we were.
Until Rob’s test came back positive. Then it was ROB’s contacts they were concerned with. Us. The hotel staff. The taxi drivers. The waiters.

Here’s why: Even if you’ve been exposed to the virus, you’re not contagious until it’s taken hold. So–everyone who was scooped up on account of Rob: us, the manager at the hotel, the person who drove us to the hotel from the airport: tested, and into quarantine. If any of them develop the flu, then they’ll go after THEIR contacts.

It’s an effective, but mind-boggling operation. The American mind can scarcely grasp it. Really? Really quarantine all those people…how would you even do it? Where would you put them, how would you feed them, how would you track them–and they would object, they would sue–it really doesn’t even feel possible. Seriously? Everyone Rob talked to in the last two days?

We want to argue–but you can’t get EVERYONE, what about random people we talked to, or who touched things after we left? The feeling is that they may not be able to get to everyone, but quarantining the ones they can find will at least slow the contagion rate way down, and it does seem to be working. That said, the result is hundreds of quarantined people. I have no way of knowing how many, but there are a few hundred at this hotel alone. It’s just–

I don’t know that I ever would have grasped how really, truly, utterly different life can be in other places, even though so much of it looks the same, without this experience. They can do this. They have, in fact, done it. It’s an astonishing feat.

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Things Get Much Better

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 9 Comments

Today, we got an upgrade. No more tiny room. No more holey sheets. No more stained wallpaper. I could go on, but I won’t. We’re movin’ on up, and now we have a sitting room, a fridge, a balcony and all the amenities. We also have a date of release: Saturday, at 5:30 am. Why 5:30? Not gonna ask. Just gonna be there.

So we’re bouncing along. At dinner, they had eggplant with pork–my favorite Chinese dish. And as we walked out out with our little plastic trays, my mom and agreed that the only thing we really still wanted was a cold drink (this was before we’d found the new fridge). Since we were eating outside, I asked for water at the desk–and they turned to a big cooler and produced five chilled bottles.

If we could, we’d go buy a lottery ticket.

We’ve made friends. Eric the hotel manager is fine–we’ve been given chips and chocolate, and we shared. Plus we gave him some of the treats we bought for friends–sorry, guys, Eric needs Sour Patch Kids and beef jerky more than you do. He’ll be heading out with us Saturday morning. There’s a family from Chicago and a high school student, and we shared with them, too.

The kids alternate between playing together and totally, utterly deviling one another. We tried to split them up today, and that helped. Lily and I took crayons and paper and sat outside and drew pictures, and for a minute, it felt like a real vacation.

Thanks for listening, everybody. We’re ok. Rob’s still pretty miserable in his cell–I’ll post pictures–but on this side of the fence, we’re fine.

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Update

Saturday, June 20th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 5 Comments

It’s 6:00 on what’s the Chinese friday–they don’t take Saturday off. They do have Sunday off. There’s been no word on our swabs. We hope they’ve decided not to tell us they were negative, because they think we’re going to start fussing about leaving, and we were very difficult about the hotel thing. They don’t, we suspect, want to come to back to us–although I’ve no doubt that if one of us is positive, we’re going down.

But I think I have to chill. I don’t think we’re gettin’ a definitive answer.

For what it’s worth, Rob disagrees with me about Wyatt and Lily. The trip is an extraordinary opportunity, and we extraordinarily unlucky. And I’m imagining the worst, whereas Rob is pointing out that we have done pretty well so far. We’ll stick together, we’ll work it out.
Plus we’re NOT SICK.

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Quarantine Fun, Day One, and a Panic

Saturday, June 20th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments


Duplicates, I know–I had some trouble uploading.
Ok, if all those swabs come back negative, I’ll be the best quarantine mother ever. I will make paper dolls, I will build card houses, I will teach sam to play chess. I will be 100% present, I swear.

We will know in an hour. If anyone is positive, it’s more quarantine for everyone, and the hospital for the positive person. The embassy has said they will intervene to make sure an adult can stay with a kid. I can’t even breathe for thinking about this.

If I don’t blog again, I guess you’ll know that’s what happened…
I wish we hadn’t brought the kids, for what it’s worth. The idea of the frightening experience I might be about to impose on Wyatt–if I’m taken away from him, if he’s sick, if he and I are both sick and can’t stay together…the inconvenience of everything else pales next to that. This wasn’t worth it. Not the adoption, but the trip. If I had it to do again I would make a different choice for both Wyatt and Lily. It’s no better if it’s Lily. Sam…he can take it, we will figure it out. We’ll figure it out. We’ll figure something out anyway, but oh, man.

I don’t have words.

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6 people, one room, Day One

Friday, June 19th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 5 Comments

It’s a lovely day here for staying in and not going to the Great Wall. Really, we’re all feeling quite festive about it.

After that first phone call yesterday, we were quietly encouraged to get the kids down to the pool while Rob met with officials. When they called us back up, they swabbed our throats (just about the only thing that could have made Wyatt less thrilled in general about the Chinese people as a whole was one of them, in a hazmat suit and a mask, sticking a swab down his throat…I am sure he would have preferred that they touch his hair and try to take a picture!)

And then they told us to pack, and then the negotiations began. Two officials from two different medical bureaus, one representative of the Beijing city commission, and the hotel duty manager, Eric–in many ways the hero of our story. It took a while to figure out who represented what, and who wanted and needed what–especially since the medical officials spoke no English, and the Beijing official decent but not completely fluent English. Eric spoke extremely well, but he was very careful about his role and didn’t translate unless George, the Beijing official, asked for his help.
I was able to understand a little, and I think convinced the medical officials that I understood more. That’s a common thing, don’t you think, not to be able to really believe that someone doesn’t understand you when you’re speaking a language that’s totally familiar to you. So they were wary of us.
We were polite, but firm–we didn’t want to move unless they could give us a room we could all share comfortably, like we have here. And everything they suggested, we checked. The American embassy helped by telling us what problems had happened in different official quarantine hotels. Eric was firmly supportive–if we could stay here, he would take care of us.
6 hours later…seriously, 6 hours of negotiation, about 4 of which I missed because I was coping with the kids, although I do think I contributed–we are still here, and they’ve said we can stay. I would not be shocked at all if they come back this morning to re-engage, but we’re hopeful that won’t happen.
I am sure the quarantine hotels are fine, and not that much different, but I really can’t have us split up. For one thing, you can’t have a 3-year-old wandering the halls of a hotel at night, and for another, I’m not really 100% sure we would be allowed in the halls. I was afraid they would assign our rooms and force us to stay there, and since this hotel was willing to accomodate us–in fact they seem kind of amused, as though they’d just acquired a family of gerbils. I’m sure that if nothing else, we won’t have to worry about bottled water. But they did make us turn off the a/c.
We will also know this morning if any of those throat swabs came back positive. Everyone feels fine, but it’s hard not to think things may go from baddish to worse. If we can stay here for four days, that’s the best possible outcome at this point, so keep your fingers crossed for us.

Sam and Lily are enjoying the Discovery network, Eric and friends will be back this morning with dvds and coloring books and stickers. I think they’re going to take good care of us–I HOPE they get the chance!

I’ll put up pictures from yesterday and of the room later. We’ll have lots of time. If anyone wants to Skype, let us know! Just make it ring–my handle is kryptonh, or search me.

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Welcome to Quarantine, post one

Friday, June 19th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 8 Comments

It all started with a phone call. Just a little phone call. A situation had arisen that the authorities needed to discuss with us.
It ends with us as the Hyatt’s most loyal customers ever.

To make a long story short, mostly because tomorrow I’ll have acres of time to tell you more than you want to know about it, we’re quarantined in China. The people seated behind us on the plane have the flu. As in, really have it, not have symptoms. For now–unless one of our throat cultures tests positive–we’re staying here, eating room service and watching bootleg dvds, until Wednesday. Probably. Things change on a dime.
3 adults, 3 kids, three rooms…think of it as Quarantine, the reality show. Maybe we’ll take videos.

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