My Experience In China During The Pandemic: “My View Of China Has Definitely Changed”

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.

Khanya sittting near water with sunset
Credit: Khanya Gundwana

I’m Khanya Gundwana. I’m South African from the city of Port Elizabeth. I’ve spent the past year (since September 2019) in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China. 

I’m an English teacher with a keen passion for all things media and communications. 

When the COVID-19 outbreak occurred, I was sitting on the shores of Phuket in Thailand. I realized it was a serious problem when I heard of people’s flights who wanted to return back to China being canceled. My fear was that I wouldn’t have an easy journey in trying to return to China. The spread of the virus in Wuhan was also seriously troubling. 

Khanya Gundwana in garden
Credit: Khanya Gundwana

I think China handled the pandemic quite swiftly. Just in the case of my province’s situation alone – when I returned to Suzhou (27 February), the number of cases was very close to being below 100 and each day from then on, no new cases were reported. My city had below around 80 cases and it was reported that patients were being discharged by the dozens. This knowledge was comforting. Life was already slowly returning to normal. I, of course, expected much worse. I must commend the people of China for their discipline on this part. As much as the government can enforce new rules and regulations, it helps nothing if the people don’t choose to abide by them. The Chinese people saw the bigger picture, and they are currently seeing and living the rewards of their selflessness. 

Khanya Gundwana standing with mask on face
Credit: Khanya Gundwana
Khanya Gundwana near mountain
Credit: Khanya Gundwana

I was in constant communication with my family during this time, especially before returning to Suzhou. I often refer to my family as my “advisors in life”. And this was the first real-life adulthood issue I had to deal with completely alone. They managed to calm me down and tell me what I needed to hear before making the journey back to China. 

Khanya Gundwana holding umbrella in empty street
Credit: Khanya Gundwana
Khanya Gundwana in China
Credit: Khanya Gundwana

I was happy to have made the decision to return to China. As it appears, that was the best decision in my situation. Had I returned to South Africa, I would’ve quite literally been stuck and in lockdown. Which is something I never actually experienced. I underwent a mandatory 7-day quarantine period in the comfort of my apartment. After a holiday that was much longer than expected, this was just what I needed. At the end of the day, I moved to China, so my life isn’t in South Africa anymore. So I had to return to where my life actually is and deal with the issue head-on. 

Khanya Gundwana in China
Credit: Khanya Gundwana

I am likely to continue staying in China. Initially, I intended to stay for two years, at most. With the rise of the pandemic in other parts of the world, this has changed so much about the way I think about and plan my future. Now, I see the possibility of pursuing other opportunities in China that I initially didn’t think would be possible prior to the pandemic outbreak. I’d like to begin my career in media and communications here in China. 

Khanya Gundwana in China
Credit: Khanya Gundwana

In light of my experience during the pandemic, my view of China has definitely changed. It was heartwarming to see a nation come together in the way they did to stand against the same cause. This was a time of great loss and grief. I also saw the true power of the Chinese government too and understood more their position and role in the world. 

Khanya Gundwana wearing face mask in China
Credit: Khanya Gundwana

Connect with Khanya Gundwana on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Her e-mail is khanyagundwana@gmail.com.

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