Home country in conflict: China

Quarantine Chronicles: A Tale of Misery

Woman wearing face mask
Photo: Pexels

After three years and several months, I finally made the decision to fly back to China to visit my family and friends during the Christmas season. Despite having to pay three times more than before the Covid-19 pandemic and facing an eight-day quarantine period, I took the chance to be reunited with my loved ones.

During the twelve-hour flight, I regretted not purchasing food or drinks at Schipol Airport as I was not expecting that there would be no meals on the airplane, only some cookies and water. When I stepped off the plane in Guangzhou, I was filled with excitement but this feeling quickly dissipated when the worker from customs shouted at the passengers who tried to remove their masks after the long flight, including me.

Upon passing through Guangzhou customs, I was struck by the robotic behaviour of the workers, who looked like they could barely move. The silence on the bus was palpable as we made our way to the unknown hotel where we would be quarantined for the next eight days. The journey home to China was filled with mixed emotions but I remained hopeful for the chance to see my loved ones soon.

My experience there was far from pleasant. It was unlike anything I had ever encountered before. Instead of seeing real people, I was surrounded by thousands of QR codes and WeChat contacts. The hotel was lacking in personal interaction and human connection, the digital nature made it feel like I was in a parallel world, making the experience feel impersonal and sterile. The experience was far from what I had envisioned but I remained hopeful that I would soon be reunited with my family and friends.

It was difficult to determine the cost of the hotel in normal times but, during the quarantine period, the prices were higher than I had anticipated. We have no food choice but to take whatever was offered. Every time we ordered food, the delivery person would hurry away as if we were carriers of the disease. It was as if they were afraid of us, which only added to the already unpleasant experience. However, I am aware that, at that time, most of them have Covid-19 because of the coughing noise on phone and when they delivered my food.

One day, I was suddenly overcome by heavy smoke filling my hotel room. I quickly realised that my neighbour was smoking inside their room and the smoke was seeping into mine. I was shocked to find that there was no fire alarm activated and I was struggling to breathe.

Desperate for help, I tried calling the hotel staff, but they told me to simply use an air freshener to alleviate the smoke. I was horrified to hear that they thought it was safe for me to inhale the smoke and that they had no solution for the issue. I asked if I could open the window to get some fresh air, but was told that it was sealed shut by the police station. This only added to my frustration and desperation. To make matters even worse, there was no first aid kit available when I started to experience nosebleeds from the smoke inhalation.

Exhausted, angry, and desperate for a solution, I spent the whole day calling various service numbers to complain about the issue. After a long and tiresome day without sleep, I finally managed to change rooms and escape the smoke-filled environment.

After the eight days were over, my husband developed a rash and I was diagnosed with food poisoning. Regardless of the truth, the quarantine period will always remain a unique and noteworthy chapter in my life. It was a time of hardship and uncertainty but also a time of resilience and perseverance. And, while the story may fade into legend, the impact it had on my life will remain forever.

Linge Li

Linge Li is a PhD candidate in Environmental Biology researching plant environmental signaling in tomatoes. She is affiliated with the Utrecht PhD Party and is currently one of the international members of the university council, representing international PhDs. Her current working committee is Student Affairs & Education (SO&O).