Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: Coming home during a pandemic

I spent the month of January travelling with my family in Asia. We visited Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Just before our return we heard about a new virus in China. Coronavirus was just shutting down the city of Wuhan as we flew back from Cambodia through the Guangzhou airport in China. As COVID-19 started to spread, I thought we dodged a bullet leaving Asia when we did. Our concern was for my sister who was returning to Shanghai, China, where she lives with her husband. They were then flying to Taiwan to spend Chinese New Year with his family. Soon after they reached Taiwan, it closed its borders and they were stuck. 
Luckily, Taiwan had a plan and systems in place for a situation like this as a result of their experience with the last SARS outbreak. They have weathered the pandemic extremely well. The only new cases in more than 30 days are Taiwanese nationals returning from abroad. These individuals are identified at the airport upon arrival and quarantined. Almost everything has remained unrestricted; schools are in session, businesses are open, you can go shopping, and you can eat out in restaurants. Despite my sister’s physical proximity to the outbreak, it turns out that here in Vermont I have been at more risk of contracting COVID-19 than she has. 
Due to travel restrictions, my sister’s two-week trip to Taiwan for Chinese New Year was extended to several months. We have spent a lot of time talking online. We like to jokingly ask her how the future is looking, as when it is Tuesday evening in Vermont it’s already Wednesday morning in Taiwan. Baby chicks I got this spring featured heavily in our video chats. We share links to many amazing videos people have been posting during the stay-at-home and quarantine orders. We talk extensively about what Taiwan has done well in response to COVID-19, and what that U.S. has done poorly. We have been frustrated with bad connections, but entertained by new Skype features that allow us to change our backgrounds, leading to virtual chats from such varied locations as the top of Mount Fuji and Hobbiton in New Zealand.
After being delayed in Taiwan much longer than anticipated, my sister’s husband just returned to China to start a new job. He is working from a hotel where he is quarantined for two weeks. My sister’s current dilemma is that her tourist visa to Taiwan (already extended once) will soon run out, but she is not allowed to return to China. Her husband was able to return because as a Taiwanese national he is considered a Chinese citizen by China (China does not recognize Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty). Even with her valid residence permit, a job in China, and as the spouse of a Chinese national, my sister is not able to return to China. If her Taiwanese visa runs out, she will have to return to the United States. 
Ironically, this is probably when she will be the most at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 since the start of this pandemic. She will have several long plane rides and pass through many airports on her way to Vermont. Once here she will likely have to self-quarantine for two weeks. She literally cannot return to her life, her job, and husband in China. Compared to these challenges, putting on a mask in public places or not being able to get a haircut seem rather insignificant inconveniences. 
Claire Corkins grew up and lives in Bristol and studied Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic in Maine. After college she worked abroad teaching English as a second language. She currently works with her father in such various endeavors as painting houses, tiling bathrooms, building porches, and fixing old windows. She hikes, reads, plays ice hockey, travels, and wishes she could wear flip flops all year round.

Share this story:

More News
Op/Ed

Editorial: The case for Dean, while Scott’s burden is heavier

Could this year’s “tough” legislative session have been less bitter, more productive, and … (read more)

Op/Ed

Community Forum: How to hire a home improvement contractor

My Consumer Assistance Program is here to help with tips and resources for homeowners and … (read more)

Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: We can learn from other nations

Driving in western Ireland is a unique experience. Although there are a few “dual carriage … (read more)

Share this story: