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    Home / Opinion / Jocelyn Eikenburg

    No longer 'Sleepless in Beijing' after sharing my epidemic experience

    By Jocelyn Eikenburg | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-04-09 10:50
    Spring scene of the Summer Palace in Beijing, March 17, 2020.[Photo/Xinhua]

    If my life in March were a movie, you might call it Sleepless in Beijing, as I spent much of the month worrying about the health and well-being of family and friends in my home country of the United States, where the coronavirus epidemic was getting worse.

    Only a month or so earlier, I had been the one they were concerned about, as they inquired about my situation in China and wondered if I was safe. But the tables had swiftly turned as the epicenter of the pandemic had shifted to Europe and experts predicted the US would be next. So there I was, dashing off anxious text messages to make sure nobody in the family had coronavirus symptoms, and even pleading with loved ones, sometimes in tears, to cancel meetings and other social gatherings.

    At the height of my fears, I woke up one morning and decided to send out an email to my closest family and friends in the US, detailing my own personal experiences in Beijing with epidemic prevention and control over the past few months. I thought they might better understand the importance of the measures we had already lived-such as going out less, avoiding contact with other people, and not gathering together-if they heard it from someone they knew and cared about.

    I hit the send button, crossed my fingers, and prayed at least one of them would actually read my words and heed the warnings.

    Yet in the following days, many of the recipients responded with an outpouring of gratitude over what I wrote, including in comments such as these:

    "Wow, your account should be published for the world to see!"

    "I was thinking of contacting you for recommendations on prevention and then you sent this email, which is very helpful."

    "This is valuable and so good to read. Thank you for sending it. This is something good to pass on."

    "This is super and I ask permission to share with my tough older friends who insist on going out and traveling all over."

    "It was interesting and informative-in fact I've forwarded it to some of my family."

    All I had done was essentially share a simple story of what my daily life looked like in Beijing in terms of epidemic prevention. But to them, my experience here in China served as a guide for how they could safely live their own lives during an unprecedented and difficult time around the world. It told them, if she can do it, so can we.

    Every one of us who has lived through the epidemic prevention here in China can serve as a kind of ambassador to others around the world in countries that are now battling the coronavirus, or just beginning the fight. When we tell our stories of how we have survived and ultimately witnessed that day when local transmission of coronavirus cases dropped to zero, we send a message of hope to all of them-that yes, you can defeat this virus, if you stay united in your approach.

    I feel a little more united with my family and friends in the US these days, after reaching out to them. And thankfully, that has helped me sleep a little better at night here in Beijing.

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