I’ve been a bit quiet recently due to the onset of a severe case of mid term exams. On the one hand this has not been as bad as I might have feared but on the other it has been a lot more time consuming than I would have liked. I don’t know if this time around I took the lessons easier or every time it feels like I am unprepared. It’s been a few years since I last sat any exams (as my babiest classmate keeps reminding me) so I doubt I’ll remember.
You may be aware of the spread of the H7N9 virus which made its way to Beijing a couple of weeks ago and now across the Straits to Taiwan. Meanwhile the media coverage here has died down though that may not necessarily be good news, especially not for Sichuan – the reaction to which has been quite interesting but perhaps for another post.
So far in precautionary measures our authorities have just stuck up a sign called “Warm Tip” which could be read a number of ways. Top advice includes washing your hands with soap (I would if they kept any in the school loos) and staying alert for symptoms. I think the notice also said stay at home if you get sick, which wouldn’t be very helpful to the other people in the dorm or indeed a sufferer. At least the threat is sufficiently distant that they have not yet started taking the birds’ nests out of the trees as they did in the Shanghai universities.
I’ve heard a few accounts now of when SARS hit in 2003 and this is as good a guide as we can get to what might happen if things get bad this time. In a nutshell: the school went into quarantine without warning one weekend. If you were in you could get out but once you were out, tough luck you ain’t coming back. Any student who had gone home for the weekend was stuck although given that all lectures were ultimately cancelled they probably didn’t miss much. We have the Mayday holidays next week so for the non-graduands there would be general celebration if we hit lockdown while everyone is at home.
For the graduands however it is exam term and in 2003 the prospects for a whole year of students were pretty catastrophically altered. With the economy as uncertain as it is currently this batch would be even worse off. It is also interview period around now but the quarantine rules barred interviewers from entering the campus. Prospective employers had to stand a metre outside the school railings yelling questions at their candidate who stood a further metre back on the inside. Meetings with loved ones were a similar affair.
For those lucky enough not to have such concerns the atmosphere approached that of a holiday camp. The weather was fine so after a morning lie-in students would evacuate their dorms into the gardens to play cards or sport while their rooms were fumigated. In order to keep people out of each others’ dorms they all wore placards slung from around their necks with their dorm number on in huge figures.
Of course those measures seem a bit pointless when you consider that catering staff were still free to come and go and even though entering other peoples’ dorms was verboten people still hung out together outside. At least the staff temperatures were monitored as they came and left. The best thing I learned from all this is that being such a big campus we have dedicated food suppliers; our own producing commune. I was very pleased to hear that as I’m now back on pork and chicken, though the latter may come off the menu soon.
If the above does not offer sufficient comfort then there is always the option to leave. In 2003 students who had somewhere to escape to left town pretty swiftly. Apparently the Koreans were first out of the blocks and the Americans last; some of the latter actually stayed since they now had captive language partners with no lectures. Much as I value my language progress I won’t stick about if it comes to it and if the shutters come down during the holidays I’ll hang out in HK. There are worse places.
Happily it’s not all bad in town right now. The grass is suddenly green all over campus and the blossoms have finally burst. Now I can see why our Forbes campus rating is so deserved. I’ll be posting some pics just as soon as I get sufficient bandwidth.