dressing table near window

Shanghai: August 2020

Shanghai is a very international city.

There are a lot of people coming in and out.

At first Wuhan was the most serious city for coronavirus and after Chinese New Year the Government wanted to lockdown Wuhan.

Before this was announced a lot of people  – with inside information –  got into their cars and  left.  

They could not go to Beijing, they could not go to Guangzhou  and so their destination was Shanghai!

 At that time the local people in Shanghai were very scared. 

How we spent our biggest festival this year….

The Chinese New Year holiday usually lasts seven  days.

This  is a time when we can go back home and get together with our family. CNY is the most important holiday for we Chinese!

We are used to having all kinds of activities together as a family and the whole country is immersed in an happy atmosphere of social gatherings and the prospect of a better year to come.

However this year it was  the complete opposite!

It was dead quiet.

No Chinese New Year was ever like this before! 

Where my family live  only the  CNY firework display could bring us a little  bit of joy. We didn’t even have one family to hang out with.

It was just my parents and me, the three of us together to celebrate our CNY…. and hoping that the virus would go away soon.

That was our family’s biggest wish – and presumably the whole country’s wish. 

bed and bed-side table Shanghai

What was it like on my first lockdown day?

I work in Shanghai and my  family live in my home town.

When I look back…. when coronavirus first broke… we all panicked. The emotion was very strong.

We were very scared because of the unknown.

Because of the virus, travelling by train could be dangerous.  

I was scared. I asked my mum if I should just isolate myself here in Shanghai? My mum said no, definitely come home.  

My mum gave me the courage to buy the ticket and take the train.

When I was on the train home I messaged her:

You don’t need to come out and meet me.. you just stay in your room we had better keep our distance…. because maybe I’m infected, and I don’t want you to get infected”.

That was my most intense memory at that time – because of the fear inside us.  

Then after a week of self-isolation things got better. My family and I started to get closer again.

What am I most grateful for?

The internet!  

When I first  came home, first thing in the morning, every day, we watched the news. 

It was very disturbing because the numbers increased so quickly. That time was scary.

I remember it took two weeks before numbers started to go down as the situation came under control.

The internet keeps us up to date with whatever happens outside.

Also, it keeps family and friends in touch on a more frequent basis so we can be ‘closer’ during this special period.

In a community sense, our government  managed our movements.

First, people  from different communities stopped visiting each other.

Then we stayed at home other than shopping for groceries.

After some time, people started to take and upload short videos for entertainment. This was how we developed a nationwide community online, even we couldn’t go to visit other communities in real life. 

food  and crockery on chequered cloth

How I spent my time during lockdown

When I first came home I felt protected and safe.

As this was the place  where I was going to spend all my time during lockdown it was an opportunity re-think it

First: I practised my minimalism style in my home by throwing  away a lot of useless stuff and organising what was left.

Second: I practised violin a lot, focusing on pieces I always wanted to try.

Thirdly:  My mum and I developed an early  6am  morning-walk routine ( in order to avoid other people).

Last but not least, I got a chance to show my parents my cooking skills.

I think that this period offered a chance for us to re-think and recreate our living style. 

How Coronavirus changed our working situation

Because of coronavirus, the way students take their classes had to change. Online courses were suddenly popular all over the country.

However, the technology was beyond many teachers who are in their late forties –  like my parents.  So the government had a few capable  young teachers to record courses and upload them.

The others still had to monitor students online.

I work in a bank.

Lots of client-based work could be done at home but because of confidentiality issues, work that is system-based can only be done at the bank.

We were called back to work after three months of self-isolation.  I got an extra week to isolate myself in my place in Shanghai.

This pandemic made many companies accelerate  and introduce  WFH ( working from home). 

Things are changing for the better

Currently things are not so serious in Shanghai.

There is still some monitoring and we cannot go to the dangerous areas. We wear masks and still wash our hands often.

I am a little bit concerned in case the virus is going to be here longterm – it’s been almost a year. But I’m not afraid.

Before coronavirus I lived with other people but their personal hygiene was awful  so I didn’t like to hang out with them.  

The two girls I’m living with now are very compatible with me.  I am happy and check in  with my room mates on a regular basis and they seem very satisfied with our living  situation. 

To make my room more homely I changed the light from white to yellow.

I also like to play badminton so I have a racquet at home. To do more exercise at home I bought a yoga mat.

To add some life to my room I bought a guitar from a student and sometimes I practise it.  

The things I own are my ‘friends’.

I don’t like to have posters or pictures –  white walls look great to me. Also I do a lot of cleaning to maintain my level of hygiene.

I was very excited and happy to get back to work again. It definitely feels more normal. I feel more hopeful now that I am back working five days, full time.  

tidy  clothes and belongings open wardrobe

How coronavirus changed my view of my home

I think coronavirus does change how you think of your home.

As a young person I have always longed to travel to the outside world. Because of coronavirus we are forced to self-isolate.

I used to  think that home was a place that was very restrictive, because  in Asian countries parents are on the ‘top hierarchy’.

That made me want to run away.

But this  coronavirus helped me to revisit  my sense of domestic values –   one can feel protected and safe at home. 

I feel that home is more like ‘home’ – there is more warmth.

But also there is a spirit within the family. We face things together, we aim for the same thing. 

All photos by respondent

See also: Lockdown Shanghai 2022


Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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