My husband and I lived in Hangzhou (pronounced HONG-jo), China in the 2012-2013 school year. Like many Americans that travel to China, we taught at a University there. We taught engineering majors all about English pronunciation and Western culture. We each had over 300 students in our classes, collectively.
Before that, I had taught conversational English for a semester at a University in Wuhan (pronounced Wu-HAHN), China. My husband lived in Uganda, Africa for six weeks, teaching the Let’s Start Talking version of conversational English. I also did that very thing in Wrocław (pronounced VRAWTS-lahf), Poland one summer.
These experiences, shared and separate, I believe have helped us cope during the pandemic.
Aside from the fact that my husband and I are both homebodies, we had experience being isolated before. Overseas, when language is a huge barrier, as well as just being a foreigner, you feel very alone. We had a small group of friends in each location we traveled to. We learned to rely on each other during that time.
Has this pandemic made us feel isolated? Yes.
Having experience overseas, though, helped us feel comfortable with that role. It helped us power through. We knew what we were headed into. We knew we would have a small group of loved ones to interact with and rely on.
The pandemic also took away our in-person worship at church. Early on, it felt like living overseas to me. Gathering with a few other believers in an apartment or home was routine overseas. I often watched online sermons when I lived in China. Fast forward to the pandemic, and we’re doing the same thing, watching our church’s online worship services.
We’ve all experienced a shortage of some kind of consumer goods over the past year, whether it be toilet paper, hand sanitizer, yeast, bread, meat, canned food, you name it. This was the norm overseas. If we wanted Dr. Pepper, certain spices or sauces, Kraft mac & cheese, certain feminine products, Crest deep clean toothpaste, and even things like an Easter egg dye kit, we had to either bring it with us on the plane initially or have someone spend the money to mail it over to us and hope it arrived. It taught us not only to use our resources wisely but also to live without and adapt.
As far as wearing masks goes, my husband and I witnessed this normal behavior in China. Anytime someone was sick, they wore a mask around others. This minimized the possibility of spreading sickness. It’s not a new practice. My husband and I also wore them voluntarily during the winter, anytime we needed to ride our bikes somewhere. That was mainly for warmth, though. However, in doing this, we were comfortable with the idea of wearing masks during the pandemic here.
Somehow, experience brings us a feeling of comfort. It doesn’t feel so abrupt and uncertain. Your body has a way of utilizing memories to help you adapt.