The Wuhan We Know: My family’s post-quarantine life

Society & Culture

As Wuhan slowly opens up after 76 days of lockdown — which began on January 23 and was officially lifted April 8 — Laura Gao wants to share some stories from her relatives who are still there.

Consider this a follow-up to a comic she made last month called “The Wuhan I Know.”



Grandparents in the city (爷爷, 奶奶)

I am closest to my grandfather (爷爷 yéyé) and grandmother (奶奶 nǎinai), and check in on them frequently. Before Wuhan was shut down, I was scheduled to visit them in late January for my grandma’s 80th birthday.

While people are now allowed to walk outside, my grandparents are playing it safe, given their age, and will stay indoors for a little longer. They miss their daily walk around the West Lake and saying hi to the children playing downstairs.

My uncle gets them groceries every week. If he wasn’t available, a government official assigned to their neighborhood would check in to see if they needed anything. During the quarantine, they filled out an online form noting which bundles of groceries they wanted. The stores only sold in bundles to maximize efficiency.

The health guidelines are still quite strict. Every building you visit — store, restaurant, apartment complex, etc. — you must show health documents that prove you don’t have the virus, and get your temperature taken before entering.


Hopefully, my grandparents can leave the house soon so they can stop pestering me about getting a boyfriend.


Uncles in the city (小舅舅, 大舅舅)

小舅舅 (xiǎo jiùjiu, “Little Uncle”) worked at a hospital, so he didn’t quarantine like everyone else. He worked, delivered groceries to my grandparents, and made sure his son didn’t play games all day when he should have been taking online classes or studying.

大舅舅 (dà jiùjiu, “Big Uncle”) has decided to retire after the quarantine is over. He says the work is no longer interesting, though I wonder if he came to the realization that life is too short and precious.



Uncle Chan and Aunt Yanny in the countryside (二爷, 二妈)

My 二爷 (èr yé, “Second Uncle”) and 二妈 (èr mā, “Second Aunt”) in the countryside, outside Wuhan, weren’t as lucky as far as employment. Uncle Chan was a self-employed taxi driver.

Aunt Yanny worked in a small factory. Neither could work during the quarantine and didn’t get paid for three whole months. Thankfully, they had enough savings to support their families. However, I’m worried the economy won’t jumpstart fast enough for them to recuperate.



Grandparents in the countryside (婆婆, 爹爹)

My other pair of grandparents (婆婆爹爹 pópo diēdiē) in the countryside are tough as cowhide and stubborn as a bull. They were barely fazed by the quarantine.

They simply played mahjong day and night like before, and had no need to travel outside of their 20-person village.

One day, the phone line broke and Grandpa went to fix it himself. He tried to climb up to the roof but fell off the ladder and dislocated his tailbone. Thankfully, he was treated at the hospital and is recovering.

When my cousins and I heard, we were livid. Doesn’t he know we are in the middle of a pandemic? If he got seriously injured, who would come to his house? Would he even be safe going to a hospital? He ignored our complaints and took a swig of his morning baijiu.



Cousin (姐姐)

My older cousin (姐姐 jiějiě) works as a nurse in Hangzhou. She got stuck in Wuhan when she went home for Chinese New Year. Thankfully, the hospital paid her salary while she was quarantined, but she will need to work overtime when she gets back to repay it.

When Wuhan opened back up, she left for Hangzhou. However, she needed to self-isolate in a hotel for two weeks. She called seven hotels — all of them rejected her for being Wuhanese.

我们不服务武汉人 (wǒmen bù fúwù wǔhàn rén) — “We don’t serve Wuhanese.”

By the eighth phone call, it was getting very late and she was on the verge of tears. Shaking, she told the voice on the line that she was from Wuhan, expecting another “no.” But this owner was sympathetic and took her in.

谢谢 xièxiè — “Thank you.”

Now she’s back at work and happily living a normal life. To start working again, she showed proof to the hospital that she tested negative for the virus. Tests were quite easy to do: she went to a hospital, got swabbed, and got her results back by WeChat the same day. She says her coworkers don’t treat her any differently at all.



Aunt Mai

While masses of people crowded the airports and train stations to leave Wuhan after it opened up, my Aunt Mai, on the other hand, was dying to get back in.

She had left for a business trip in Shenzhen right before the city closed and could not see her family for three months. The moment the city opened up, she took the first flight to Wuhan and is now reunited.

Wuhan has gotten over the worst of the virus and is now beginning to recover. While people are still cautious, my family exudes hope that change will bring better days. While the city may not return to the Wuhan we once knew, we can learn from this phenomenon to build a better Wuhan, a Wuhan we’ll all know.