Thomas F. O'Neill
I’m back to teaching in the classroom, but here in China the students and teachers must wear facemasks. I don’t like wearing them because they are uncomfortable but it’s the law. China is worried that a second wave of the virus might hit and that it will be worse than the first wave.
I’ve been hearing from friends back home and watching the news about how bad the virus is in America. I know it’s scary, I never thought America would get hit so hard from the virus especially my home state of Pennsylvania. I’ve also been following the news about how fast the virus is spreading in the U.S.
Things are slowly moving towards normalcy for me but my thoughts these days have been on the pandemic crises facing the U.S. and other parts of the world. I hope America can overcome it with the same heroic resolve and strength that China has shown in overcoming this world pandemic.
I returned to teaching in China on March 30th, but like I said the students and I must wear facemasks at school. We also must practice social distancing which is somewhat awkward. When we go to the cafeteria, we must enter it at a certain time and eat by ourselves. I find that somewhat difficult because I enjoy eating and conversing with others.
On my first day back at school, I pretended I didn't know who the students were because of the masks they were wearing.
I said jokingly, "all Chinese people look alike when wearing facemasks."
One student then said to me, "all teachers look alike when wearing a facemask."
Another student voiced her opinion, "you look like Sylvia when wearing a mask." Sylvia just so happens to be their female Chinese art teacher so as you can see things are slowly coming back to normal here.
I told my students that the last 10 weeks were trying times for me with all the restrictions on movement, but they understand that the restrictions are slowly being lifted now. We still must have our temperature taken twice a day at school. When we leave campus to enter a nearby store, we wear a facemask and have our temperature taken by a store employee. When we return to the school campus, we must have a facemask on and once again have our temperature taken.
I recently learned that two of my friends are unable to return to their teaching positions because they did not try to return to China on time. On March 26th China canceled all entry visas by foreign nationals because they claim new cases of the coronavirus were brought to China. I’m glad I remained in the country during this crisis or I too would have been unable to return to teaching here.
I don’t think America will implement the same strict guidelines as I experienced here to combat this virus. Unlike, China, America is a free society, so I don't think the American Government can take complete control of people’s lives as I experienced. I told my students that living in a free society is something we Americans take for granted. The experiences I had over the past 10 weeks has also made me more appreciative of America’s freedoms. That makes me very proud of my heritage and that is something I always try to convey to my students.
One student asked me in class after she watched a news program at her home, “what is it about Americans and toilet paper?” She saw on the news, Americans fighting over toilet paper.
I said to her, “what would you like to tell America if you could?” Her reply, “America, stay strong, but most of all don't hoard the toilet paper there is plenty to go around.”
I also told my students in class last week, “we are not just human beings on a spiritual journey. We are also spiritual beings on a human journey. This crisis can bring out the worst in people and truly the best in people. Our words and actions truly matter and what we communicate to others in times of crisis and in times of controversy is our character. I would like to tell America to stay calm and to stay strong because this too shall pass.”
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
U.S. Voice mail: (410) 925-9334
China Mobile: 011 (86) 13405757231
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