As panic increased throughout the world due to COVID-19, accounts and rumors spread about the lockdown, testing, and who to blame. We at ‘Africans on China’, want to demystify China for Africans and Africa for Chinese. Our September theme for human stories is the China Lockdown Experience.
Emmanuel Kwasi Anhwere has spent the last five months in quarantine at his university campus in Hangzhou, Zhejiang China. The past months have been a rollercoaster of experiences. At the early stage of the outbreak, some early warnings had been officially published by the Health Commission of Wuhan. However, a sluggish response in the first several weeks of the outbreak made it too late to contain COVID-19 in the early outbreak.
Most of his Chinese friends had traveled home in mid-January to celebrate the New Year Holiday, and then the coronavirus hit. He and a small group of international students have remained on campus ever since.
The 200-acre facility is fenced in with two gates. It’s a beautiful campus, with a lake and large trees. But when the quarantine started, it was winter. He describes what it was like in the beginning, with most of the facilities on campus being closed.
Xiasha Campus, the central campus of Zhejiang Gongshang University, occupying 280 acres, is located in Xiasha University Town in the northeastern part of Hangzhou City. The campus is near the famous Qiantang River, very famous for its splendid and miraculous tide.
It got really cold then, and even though experiencing a new start can be appalling, the firm part was to face it, and everything else will apt into place on its own time.
And so not being able to have any form of outdoor exercise was really hard for the winter months. Summer months have been way easier because I played volleyball two to four hours a week, things like that. I miss being able to just go out and buy Chao fan (Chinese fried rice) and going out for church service on Sunday. I missed riding on the blue sharing bike with friends. The school cafeterias were also shut down, for some time and the remaining student had to use an online platform to order groceries and fast food for a while until things normalized. Many of the international students didn’t speak Chinese, my undergraduate degree is in Chinese Studies and I speak fluent Chinese. I began coordinating food orders and assisting some friends to distribute food and necessary supplies to my peers around my campus. In August, I was honored with the University’s “Outstanding Excellent International Student Award” award for the year 2020. I feel like, despite the quarantine, I’ve been one of the blessed ones.
I also work with the International Student Union, which is (Association of International Student) AIS, that carry out missions under the leadership of the College of International Education (i.e. ‘CIE’) in association with the International Department of The Student’s Union of our University. AIS is dedicated to improving the standard of living and study on campus. We organize varieties of Cultural events and campus activities. I also work for The National Union of Ghana Students in China (NUGS-China) as a (volunteer liaison) the Senate Chair, presiding over all the meetings of the senate and acting as the Provincial Coordinator for my province. Representing the province on the National Senate, I relate to them and any news I can relate to the Ghanaian Student within my Province. So those are the little things that I incline doing on an everyday basis. My University has been really helpful and has functioned diligently to keep the students safe during the pandemic. And regardless of the challenges of such long isolation from family and close friends, we have found an upside to this experience.
The Ghana mission in Beijing was also supportive at the start, they assisted all Ghanaian students by sharing some food items and face masks which I was a beneficiary.
Chinese students are returning to reside on campus. Classes will still be held online for some students who can’t return for some reason, but I will be having in-person classes since my undergraduate degree is in Chinese Studies and all my classmates are Chinese. I also like the in-person classes compared to the online classes. I am hoping that, despite the ongoing pandemic, life will be a little closer to normal than it was last winter.
I would also advise anyone coming to China to learn the Chinese language and culture to enable the person to make him/herself familiar with the Chinese culture and enjoy his/her stay here.