Wuhan Diary #19: The Twenty-third Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 14, 2020

Graphic by 巴丢草 Badiucao 

February 14th The 23rd Day of the Wuhan City Closure

Today is Valentine’s Day. Before all this happened, I had planned to Hubei Theater and


 “Qin’s Moon”【武汉站】舞台剧《秦时明月之夜尽天明
2020.02.14-2020.02.15    湖北剧院

watch the musical Qin’s Moon. But now everything is on hold. From three meals a day down to two. I do some simple exercises after waking up, have brunch, read books. memorize vocabulary words, have dinner, finish the day’s diary entry, watch a movie and then go to bed. I’ve lived every day like this for three weeks. My life has never been this regular since I graduated from senior high school. I sleep go to be early, wake up early, don’t drink Coke, milk, tea or any junk food. I expect I won’t be able to live this way again until I retire. Life without junk food is no fun though.

It rained all yesterday night. I couldn’t sleep very well because the noise of the rain. Raging thunderclaps woke me up at 6 AM. While having lunch, my Mom told me there’s an old saying “Thunder in January drills penetrates deep into the bones”. I checked the lunar calendar. Today is the 21st day of the first lunar month. Suddenly I felt depressed. I shook all over and had goose bumps.

Since the day before yesterday, every Wuhan officially locked down each and every neighborhood. This didn’t affect my family one bit. I’m the only one who throws out the garbage and picks up packages. My parents haven’t been outside for twenty-three days. I couldn’t remember without checking my diary the last time I went outside. Nobody pays any attention in our community. People are still entering and leaving. I am in a WeChat group with friends I’ve known for years who live all around the three component parts of Wuhan– Wuchang. Hankou and Hanyang. Every day we discuss and compare the anti-infection measures of each of our communities. My community is definitely in last place.

But I don’t want to criticize all the community workers in Wuhan. They have faced huge risks and pressure. Many have caught the coronavirus these days. There have been many misunderstandings, people have abused them, and they have been expected to do things and to handle pressures far beyond their capabilities.

A few days ago, some posted a plea for help online: an old man with Parkinson’s disease had been left alone at home without any help. His wife passed away due to coronavirus pneumonia. His children and grandchildren were all either away from Wuhan, in the hospital or in quarantine. The notice included the telephone number for his community office. My friends outside Wuhan even shared it with me and asked if there was any way to help him. I happened to have a friend living in that community and so I asked her about it. She told me a completely different story: the children of this old man hadn’t been taking care of him. The grandson, who was perfectly healthy, lived in another building in the same community. The community had been sending the old man food. The old man could not be independent due to his Parkinson’s disease and his children had the unrealistic expectation that the community to provide nursing care. I do not want to “totally reject the original story” nor do I mean to say that what my friend told me is 100% factual. I just want to say that grass-roots community work involves many details and complications. Human nature is not something that we can alter to suit.

The saddest part what happened to the old man. A friend told me that he passed away two days after being admitted to the hospital.

No matter what people on the lower rungs of society should not be harming one another.

A few days ago. a former classmate’s community purchased rubbing alcohol in big bottles. He asked me if if I wanted some. I hesitated but eventually turned them down. A 5 liter bottle is too big for my household. I was surprised that my classmate was able to put some into a smaller bottle for me and drive over to deliver it to me. That was a big help with my most serious emergency.

When all Wuhan was locked down, and the everybody was worry about the virus, my friend sent just what I most needed. I will remember his kindness for the rest of my life. I thought it very strange that group purchases of medical alcohol could be arranged online. Last week a seller canceled my order for alcohol wipes today I had placed a week ago. The seller told me that the government had requisitioned their entire stock. This was not the first time I got this kind of message. My friend put a lot of effort into placing an order for 300 face masks. The seller, however, cancelled the order minutes before they were to be shipped because the government had requisitioned them. I asked friends working in hospitals about medical supplies. They replied that the hospitals are severely short of almost everything. Meanwhile, many protective materials could still be group purchased online.

Who on earth prevents citizens from buying things the normal way but then forces us to buy in a “special way” at much higher prices? Why are hospitals still short in medical supplies if the government has already requisitioned many supplies and many donations have come in from all over the world? What is the story here? I don’t know. I may never know.

During mealtimes my family talked about the epidemic prevention work in Qianjiang. Hubei. which many people have been praising.

Mom: Qianjiang’s approach illustrates that the leader is someone who assume responsibility. That kind of person ought to be promoted.
Me: The leader’s excellent work makes the leaders of other cities look bad. They will want to be rid of him.
Mom: How can that be! When someone themselves can’t do well, how can they not allow others to do well?
Me: What “well” depends on who is doing the talking. These officials are all responsible to their leaders, their superiors, not to us common people.
Mom: The ordinary people have all expressed their opinion! Shouldn’t the leaders listen?
Me: It doesn’t matter what the citizens say. The citizens have no voice at all in the selection of these officials.

My original thought was. since I had already gone that far. and that the next logical step should be “people should have the right to choose their leaders”. I never thought that.


Mom: Nevertheless I still think that if someone wants to be a leader he should get there by his own efforts!


For a a moment I was struck dumb. I didn’t know what to say.

I watched a Taiwanese drama last night. and there was a line: “The more people understand what freedom is. the more freedom they will have.”

Chinese text:
































About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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