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A quieter May holiday in the gradual warmth of spring in Beijing

Updated: 2022-05-10 08:10 ( China Daily )
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Outside our apartment window, a modest track oval and a row of basketball courts would normally be full of students running around in youthful exuberance.

Some would shoot hoops, others would jog around the track.

On a mild, slightly chilly morn, the courts were empty after school was called off as omicron swept into Beijing like a very much unwanted guest who seemingly refused to leave.

The emptiness which greeted me while I waited for the coffee pot to boil was a bit disconcerting.

Part of my morning routine had been to rub my eyes awake, walk over to the windows in the kitchen, look out on the courts and watch the kids play.

It's almost three years now since the pandemic hit the world and the plague is still around.

Vaccines were developed, social distancing introduced, masks given out.

The situation is a bit better than 2020, but the May holidays sort of drive home the point how tenacious the virus is.

In all this time, I kept up my routine of doing the weekly groceries for the household of two I have on the 10th floor.

I would go down to the small grocery, an easy 10-minute jaunt from the apartment, where I could be alone with my thoughts to prepare for the day ahead.

There are usually a lot of people on the road, huffing to work, casually nudging baby carriages, or letting their dogs spring ahead.

That early May morning, I strode over to the Bank of China branch in front of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and ran into a bare handful of people. The streets were devoid of anybody else.

The next few days were spent falling into line. They were called nucleic acid tests.

The swab by the medical worker tickles your throat and I have to resist a gagging reflex.

That is a whole lot better than having someone poke something up your nose and the discomfort it can cause, not to mention how it can bother your sinuses.

I remember past May Day holidays. We'd go around the city, hit the parks or just visit restaurants to relax and unwind.

There was a bit of a different atmosphere this time around.

I got real familiar with the walls of my apartment. Since dining-in was suspended, we got real familiar with food ordering apps.

We would grab our masks when the food got there and then wash our hands before opening our food orders.

There were days when I would have a second cup of coffee and then a third in the evening.

The feeling of isolation is palpable-brought home by the near empty streets, the shuttered restaurants and the almost daily throat swabs.

I understood the necessity of all the measures to protect our health, and contented myself taking in the NBA basketball playoffs or watching movies like The Batman or series like Moon Knight over video on demand.

I would love to see the streets return to the gaiety of a routine spring afternoon. But that may take a while.

At least the kids in our compound still enjoy frolicking in the building shadows of a spring day.

They squeal in delight and remind one of normal times. May those times return soon again.

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