Why an Expat Stood Silent in China This April

It was very different this time. No togetherness during the spring outing to enjoy the fresh blossoms that usually brightens up this solemn time. The rice balls and peach blossom porridge didn’t even taste the same. There were no kites in the sky. Who would have thought that a day dedicated to welcoming the spring season and paying respects to ancestors would be so empty feeling?

I have lived in China for 5 years now and this is the first time the Qingming festival has been so quiet, lonely, and bleak. This year we all made a promise to stand in a silent tribute for those who died while fighting against Covid-19 infection for 3 minutes on April 4, of this year. I went out on the balcony of my highrise apartment as did the majority of the other tenants. We sometimes nodded as we made eye contact to acknowledge solidarity during this unique point in history. The clock struck 10 am, an alarm blared in the distance signaling the start of the commemoration, and I closed my eyes. During those 3 minutes, many thoughts ran through my mind. My thoughts wandered between the patients who did their best in a fight against the virus and didn’t make it and to the medical staff who continue to struggle day and night to protect communities all over the world and who have sacrificed more than I can imagine.

Those 3 minutes were long as I faced the reality and complexity of the situation. Before the entirety of the 3 minutes passed, I opened my eyes and scanned my neighbors, whom I’ve never met, and it really sank in. This is what’s important. It took a horrible epidemic for me to see that there is no other thing more precious than to stand with your fellow man and work as a collective to protect the future at any cost. Protect the children that stand in front of their parents gazing at an uncertain future.
But it was still quiet in my neighborhood after those 3 minutes were up. Perhaps we all had that same realization. We must protect the future. We have already done so well staying at home. Things are getting better! That is why it is so important for every other country to use us as an example. Stay home as much as safely possible. It will all be over faster and with fewer casualties that way.

I know it’s hard for some of us that are used to going out every night after work or school or going on long trips over the weekend. Even going to work at all might not be an option right now as many of us have taken to online study and school. It’s possible to keep sane and still improve on yourself while staying inside, however. If I’m able to do it, so can you. I started studying Chinese online a few months before all of this started and it continues to keep me grounded. It gives me goals I can set and have been continually achieving. It also helps that its live interaction. For a moment I get to forget that we are going through something and I get to make a connection with someone who is going through the same thing I am. I have a hard time listening so just letting my teacher talk while I really tune in and focus is great stress relief as well. So what I want you to do, is find something that has a similar effect. Pick up anything that you have been saying, “one day” about and start it now. It will keep your mind engaged and your heart full while this passes.

It will pass. And you will come out the other side more grateful and fulfilled than when it all began. Just do all of us a favor and stay home. Just think of why we are staying home. The health care workers know we are all worth the sacrifice so think of someone or a cause that you are willing to stay home for in order to protect. Someone appreciates that you did your part. Even if you don’t know it.

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