Thursday, July 23, 2009

h1n1 virus

Everyone I talked to in the weeks leading up to our trip knows how worried I was that we would be in some way affected by the h1n1 virus during our stay in China. Now that we're home, I feel safer confessing how we were affected by it. I didn't really mention it during our trip because I didn't want to jinx anything! I can't help it; I'm a little superstitious.
During our flight to Beijing, we were very cautious. We used Clorox wipes to wipe down our tray tables and arm rests. We used hand sanitizer even after we washed our hands in the lavatories. I would even turn away from the aisle if someone lingered near our seats too long.
Once we landed in Beijing, we were instructed to stay in our seats until health inspectors came on board and took everyone's temperatures. They wore protective eye wear and masks and gloves, and they pointed an infrared thermometer at everyone's foreheads. It was very quick. It probably took less than 10 minutes for them to scan everyone on the plane. I did notice that when the woman who took our temperature was walking back up the aisle to leave, she was stopped by another inspector, who then pointed at a passenger. That passenger's temperature was taken again, and then the health inspectors left the plane.
We were then allowed to gather our things (unfortunately, we didn't realize Rachel's DS case and all her games were NOT in her carry-on, but that's another story for another time) and leave the plane. Walking towards immigration/customs there were several thermal scanners we went through, and at one checkpoint, Rachel was pulled aside into a curtained-off area. I was not allowed to go in with her, but I could see her the whole time. Other people were also being pulled aside. After they took her temperature again, they tried to turn her over to a Chinese woman who was standing next to me. That woman and I both laughed about it a little, and I tried to remember how to say in Chinese "She is my child," but I was flustered and couldn't get it out. Motioning did the job, and after we got her passport and papers back, we went through immigration. No problem there. Walking towards the train to get to the main terminal, Rachel was stopped again, but this time they only looked briefly at her carry-on bag.
We made it to our hotel and took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and the next day. The next night we had an orientation dinner with OCDF staff, and I was informed there that someone on our plane did test positive for h1n1. Fortunately, they were not within three rows of us, so we were not quarantined; however, we were required to take our temperature every day for three days, and we were given three kits, pictured above. The kits each included three masks, a thermometer and a bunch of literature written entirely in Chinese. Believe it or not, I did not panic or freak out.
The next morning we dutifully recorded our temperatures and gave them to our guide, Bing, who I assume then called them into the health official responsible for the district we were staying in. When we came back from our tours that day, I half expected to see people in hazmat suits waiting for us in the lobby, but that didn't happen. (That's what happens: folks in hazmat suits come to take you away to a quarantine hotel in an ambulance.)
During our stay in Beijing, there were some drunks staying on our floor, who we believe were from Kazakhstan or someplace like that. That night one of them tried to get in our room around 3 a.m. I heard the distinctive "beep beep beep" of an incorrect key being tried in our door, and since it was 3 a.m. and I was kind of out of it, I immediately thought it was the health department coming to take us away. I didn't open the door, mind you, but I did look under the door and through the peephole to try to determine if whoever it was was wearing hazmat gear. Only the next morning did I realize it was our drunk neighbors, who I believe were still up and drunk at 7 a.m.
Long story short, we took our temperatures for the three days, tried to avoid the thermal scanner in our government-run hotel lobby and expected to see the hazmat suits every day. On our last day in Beijing we turned our final temperatures in to Bing. She told us to keep the kits, that she had spoken to the health official and when she told them we were leaving that day for Xi'an, the health official basically said "bye-bye!" I think she was just happy to have us out of her district!
We did turn this around into a positive, though. We donated the three thermometers to Rachel's orphanage, along with our other donations. When I handed them the thermometers separately from the bigger donation, there were no questions asked. They just seemed genuinely happy to have them.

1 comment:

  1. OK, I'm happy that I didn't know all this while you were still in China. To me this is another example of a world going more controlling and crazy. The fact that a child can be seperated from her mother and father and the parents being held back sounds like Germany in the 1930's. Happy that the three of you are home safe and sound. Love Dad