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The Silent Cherry Blossom Season — Wuhan

cherry blossoms in Wuhan
Cherry blossoms in Wuhan

Located in central China, one of the six megacities, Wuhan, has become globally known as the epicenter of the COVID-19 since Jan.. On the confluence of the Yangtze River and its largest tributary, the Han River, the city was historically divided into three different regions/towns, named Wuchang, Hankow and Hanyang ever since the East Han dynasty, thus comes the umbrella name Wuhan.

With 9 million people being trapped in Wuhan for two months, people went through some toughest times in life: anxiety, disappointment, depression as well as sadness about illness, quarantine, disconnection and grief…nevertheless, they are not easily defeated by the virus. Among the regional cultural differences in China, the wuhanese personalities are often depicted as optimistic, flexible and inclusive. Here two wuhan citizens are sharing their experiences:

Jun Xiao, an accountant, works at a local company, mother of a five-year-old daughter

The first two weeks of the lockdown were very challenging times for all of us, scenes of overrun hospitals and blogs of patients were shared on all sources of social media. I drove my family nuts with all of my worries. The house had the least atmosphere of celebrating the lunar new year festival though decorated with paper cutting for the year of the rat. With some evidence that the virus could be transmitted via the air, we were suggested not to open the windows, which caused more tension in the house, a strong feeling of being imprisoned. The only thing I could focus on was staring at my phone screen, checking all sources of online news, with a daily average of 7 hours according to the screen time report, and so did my husband.

Soon came the time we realized that we were running out of food, especially dairy, fruits and vegetables as people have the tradition of making and preserving large quantities of meat for big family gatherings during the lunar new year festival. As all the markets were closed to customers, the only way to get food and other daily supplies was to order online. Early the next morning, the delivery man came. According to the touchless delivery policy, he rang the doorbell, through the door viewer we saw him waving his hands like an old friend, carefully he put the grocery bag outside the door, gave us a victory hand sign and walked away. Though wearing a mask, we heard him humming a song! His joyful face occupied my mind for the rest of that day. His warm greeting, his optimistic attitude towards the risky job made me temporarily relieved from the melancholy atmosphere in the house.

Out of curiosity, I began to observe those delivery men on the empty streets from my closed window on the 46th floor. Besides policemen and dustmen, they were the only people I could find on the deserted streets. Every two or three minutes, a uniformed delivery man appeared, riding an electromobile delivering food and necessities to each household. Before the lockdown, people often joked the food delivery was a tedious and low-paying job for its lack of creativity, now it turned out to be so meaningful and lifesaving. The high risk of getting infected didn’t stop them from working, which guaranteed our basic needs of the current freezing lifestyle. Then what about us? Why are we still so upset staying at home with our families? I put my phone and anxieties aside, looking around my house, my husband, our kid, our life, it’s a time to reevaluate regular practices we have long taken for granted. Thanks to the delivery man who brought a gentle breeze to our plain life. One week later, we ordered some food again, before the delivery man came, we put a thank-you note next to the doorbell button, with a cute heart drawn by my daughter.

Leilei Xu, self-employed, single

“A city of heroes”, “Devote to the country and society by staying at home”, “Lying in bed helps the community, going downstairs brings the trouble”…those witty slogans are spread loudly and widely, and the truth is I have sheltered in place at home for 74 days, I am in Wuhan.

Being self-quarantined, life is unreal, especially for me, a nature lover. It is no easy job staying in my apartment without going outside, close to nature. My desire of nature resembles the caged birds longing for soaring high in the sky. Those fragments of gloomy emotions reflected in my recent dreams, though the similar scenario appeared in earlier dreams as well, it is closer to the real life now: I found myself lying on the floor in a dark room, failed all the times trying to move the stiff legs and arms even a little bit though not bound…when I woke up, the dream continued…Fortunately, all these darkness went away one day when I found the stunning view outside the windows. The beautiful, light pink cherry blossom! Wait, something went wrong…normally, hundreds of thousands of tourists would be swarming into this city for the beautiful cherry blossom season since early March. Many local residents complained about the foot traffic since as many as 500,000 sightseers daily visit the cherry blossom park in the East Lake area and the cherry blossom boulevard in Wuhan University. While, for 2020, it is so quiet. Rather than be crowded with cameras and compliments, only honey bees were found collecting pollen and nectar from cherry blossoms. Though not being visited, these beautiful flowers brought sweetness and warmth to us trapped inside, they brought Spring. Percy Bysshe Shelley once said in his poem Ode to the West Wind: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” Now Spring comes, can final victory be far behind? Let us look forward to the day when we can embrace nature and find the sunshine. Will you come and visit next year?

by Lusha Sa, PhD

Dr. Lusha Sa is collaborating with Dr. Jing Ge, Department of Anthropology University of California Berkeley, to conduct a two-year project (Digital Technology, New Media and Disabilities) funded by ABILITY Corps.   ABILITY Corps aims at collaborating with scholars internationally to advance our mission – creating a world of inclusion and awareness for people with disabilities through art, media, housing, employment, and volunteer opportunities. 

About: Dr. Lusha Sa is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at South-central University for Nationalities, Wuhan, China. She received her Ph.D in Ethnology from South-central University for Nationalities. Her research interests embrace the heritage and ethnic tourism development in China. Lusha has been selected by a National Social Science Funding Project ‘Intercultural Communication and Ethnic Culture Reproduction’ and is currently investigating the intercultural communication as well as heritage protection in ethnic tourism in China. 

The Rainbow bridge in Wuhan without traffic
The Yuehu Bridge in Wuhan without traffic

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