I received Carla’s message a few days ago. Recently, I invited people to write letters to me to create a sort of diary in which everyone’s stories will begin to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Carla is giving me the first piece of this complex chain of events happening around the world.
The last time I saw her was the morning of January 25th. During that period we were used drinking coffee in my bedroom and discuss the epidemic situation happening in China. She ran away from Hangzhou that day, terrified of being stuck in the dormitory.
In January her plan was to go to Taipei and stay there just long enough to find a flight to the United States, but at the end, things didn’t turn out to be that way. I remember entering her room a few days after she had left: everything seemed like abandoned, or just waiting for her to be back very soon.
Deserted places have a strange charm, they are photos that portray a normal life interrupted by something unexpected. The dormitory of my university now looks exactly like a post-apocalyptic scenario: empty rooms left waiting for someone to return. Many of my friends ran away at the end of January when the situation in China was getting worse. They left their rooms as they were, with the fruit left to rot on a table, an open book left on the bed, all because the fury of running away didn’t give them the time to tidy up their rooms and their thoughts.
My university a few days ago communicated me that I won’t come back to Hangzhou this semester, while in China life is beginning to return to normality, in the rest of the world it’s stopping. China has overcome the epidemic and doesn’t want to have the virus back from the outside.
I don’t know when I will see my friends again and if they will ever return Hangzhou to take back their clothes left to mould in the humidity of the dormitory in China. Everything seems to be a faded memory: all the years spent together, the parties born from a chill beer in a room, the shared lunches in cramped spaces, the crazy birthdays’ parties and the all-night-long conversation about life. Carla’s letter reminds me of all the nice time we have spent together.
Carla is still in Taipei, welcomed by a generous Taiwanese friend and this is the letter she wrote to me:
“I’m currently in Taiwan been here since January 25. I was optimistic to return to mainland but was informed a few days ago that international students cannot return as the virus is spreading throughout the world. I’ll have to graduate online after living in China over two years. It’s a little sad but I’m thankful for all the kind people who have taken me in or chatted with me while displaced in Taiwan. Taiwan and mainland China don’t exactly have the most amicable history and the sentiment of this is apparent at times. For the average American they don’t realize how different two places can be. I’m very aware of the differences and can only speak on the political matters lightly as I am neither Taiwanese nor Chinese. I will say that I have met very kind people in both countries.
I feel sad because I am not sure when I’ll be able to see my friends that I met from all over the world while in mainland. I didn’t get to say bye to my Chinese friends or my classmates. I hope that only means it was a see you later. Now, more so much, much later.
I have been procrastinating returning home to the USA because I have been in denial as to all the changes. I do miss my family and friends in the states, of course. But I have also had the most self-growth on the other side of the world.
As a the daughter of an immigrant from a working class family. I chose the path of a visual artist because that was what I had to do for myself. I chose this over a more stable profession realizing the risk involved. I’m used to landing on my feet wherever I land and gathering resources to the best of my ability. Also, staying optimistic in trying times and really putting the most positive energy out there in hopes to attract positive vibes.
Honestly, it’s really hard to be strong all the time and no one can do anything alone. I certainly haven’t. I’ve seen the bottom of the barrel but I’m always hopeful.
I try to keep a sense of humour about everything but sometimes you have to just cry. I did for the first time since arriving to Taiwan in front of my friends mother last night. I was very overwhelmed but I woke up today and kept going. I reached out to my friends and family and remembered of course I’m never alone.
Also, I drank some hot water this morning and felt better. I’m currently in one of the safest places in the world and I can say my health is fine.
To my friends in China in quarantine since end of January 加油。
To my family and friends currently social distancing in USA 加油。
To my friends all over the world 加油。”