As cases in the U.S. reach a new high point with 280,514 cases on December 11th, Asia, on the other side of the globe, seems to be experiencing the “final stage” of the pandemic. Today, Lisa Liu ’22 from Shenzhen, China and Cherie Jiraphanphong ’21 from Bangkok, Thailand will talk to us about how the pandemic has influenced their hometowns in the past and present.

Coco: Hi Lisa, Hi Cherie! Can you tell us a little bit about the situation of your hometowns when the pandemic first broke out in the beginning of the year? 

Lisa: Yes! In China, the virus started to spread in January and, being very worried, I ordered 300 masks on Amazon and mailed it to my mom. At CA, I checked Weibo (a Chinese social media platform) daily in order to find out the number of cases at Shenzhen. Though the government imposed tough restrictions and locked down Wuhan and Hubei province, there were still people who travelled before that period of time, especially during the Chinese New Year, which made the whole situation more complicated. However, despite the challenges, my hometown Shenzhen still did a very good job keeping the cases low. Up till now, Shenzhen has had 400 total cases since the first case in January (which is extremely low compared to the statistics of other places in the world). The government pays for the treatment cost for all COVID patients, and citizens continue to socially distance and wear masks. I felt very safe coming back to the city in March.

Cherie: For Bangkok, Thailand, the situation at first wasn’t very optimistic since Thailand was the second or third country that had a COVID patient after China. The government locked down several cities, and enforced regulations and travel bans. I was very lucky to get back here before the ban and was able to quarantine 14 days at home rather than at state facilities (which people have to do nowadays if they travel to Thailand from another country). The shutdowns lasted for about one month, and soon afterwards, hotels, restaurants, and other public spaces all reopened, though people still have to wear masks all the time. 

Coco: Yes, being in Asia myself, I do resonate with you a lot. And how about right now? Is life back to normal for you? 

Lisa: I would say it’s still a lot different compared to before the pandemic. When you go out, everyone is still wearing masks when in public spaces. My sleep schedule has been totally different because of the remote learning, and I don’t usually go outside. My family and I are still being very careful since recently, there were 2 new cases in Shenzhen with the patients being workers at a fresh food company. However, the government usually traces the close contacts very, very soon, which makes us less anxious. 

Cherie: For me, life is pretty much back to normal. Businesses are open as usual, though everyone has to wear masks. Two weeks ago, there was a group of Thai people who travelled to Myanmar, got infected, and still crossed the natural borders and came back to Thailand without quarantining themselves. Some of them even travelled to Bangkok and other parts of the country later on, which caused the cases to increase. However, the government traced the close contacts very soon and the situation is now under control. Besides this incident, I feel very safe being in Bangkok, and enjoy the freedom of being able to do whatever I want — travelling to places, shopping in malls, eating out with friends, etc. However, I do hope that the situation in the U.S. gets better soon and I can go back to CA to see my beloved classmates! 

As the pandemic dies down in Asia, lots of Asian international students like Cherie are reminded of their life at CA, as they were unable to go back last STAC due to health concerns and travel difficulties. However, like Cherie said, hopefully the government improves how they handle the situations, or vaccines come out sometime soon, so that our international community could reunite with their friends and teachers at CA next semester. 

Photo courtesy of Sonny Tang ’22 | Photo Editor at The Centipede