Flu Panic in Harbin

Protect yourself from the flu!H1N1 flu is serious and dangerous and very very scary.
At least, that is how most of the Chinese think of it. Where you already could see people with a mask a few months ago, nowadays they are everywhere.
Since a week, even the ladies at the desk of the dormitory are wearing the mask. Sometimes they put it off, but when you approach them, they put it back on immediately. Like you have a deadly disease!

When I was in Hong Kong, there were everywhere antibacterial soap dispensers and the elevators where disinfected every hour. I didn’t see this in mainland China. However, since two weeks Harbin is very scared of the flu, since in the Heilongjiang University 7 students were diagnosed with the flu. Immediately they stopped teaching in that university and people could not go on or off campus without permission. In my university (Harbin Institute of Techology) there were a lot of changes too.

The HIT campus is surrounded by four guarded gates and nobody could enter without showing a student card. However, there are also two gates without any guards which you could easily use if you forgot the card. After a week, they Public announcementdid put a fence there to prevent cars from entering, but still pedestrians could pass without any card because there are still no guards there.
But seems to be quite normal; I heard that on the other university, which had something like a lock down, international students can travel freely . So what makes them different? And international friends of international students could enter the campus. Huh? And then, also there, there is a hole in the fence with heavy traffic of students going in and out… So much traffic that the university has to know about it… So what is the point of a lock down if you tolerate an open back door?

Well, back to HIT. In our dormitory there are many many notices about how careful you have to be. There is a list on our door which we have to fill in. Just to put a cross everyday whether everyone did some cleaning, taking the temperature (with the thermometer we’ve got) and some silly other thing which I forgot. Because I cannot read Chinese…
At least once a day (once it happened three times) the ladies of the administration measure you temperature with the special Daily proceduregun when you leave or enter the dormitory. This measure came about five days after they had handed out the thermometer. Probably they found out that nobody really takes their temperature. Sometimes, when the gun is doing a round, they just feel your forehead with their hands…
They also pay everybody a visit in their room with a check list and you will have to say your temperature of that day or sometimes they measure it themselves. Of course, it is just saying a random number between 35 and 37 degrees. Because they already measured it, right?? It is just a big nonsense and I am wondering how many students are serious with this.

I suffered from food poisoning for a day and laid sick in bed. But I was really afraid that my temperature was too high, because of course my body was fighting and my temperature was probably higher than normal (the threshold is 37 degrees, which is a bit low I would say). So when they knocked the door, I pretended not to be home and luckily my roommate helped me out by saying I was not there. But it feels really weird to hide because More public announcementsthe consequences of having a high temperature is quarantine.

Another crazy thing; the university decided to use dormitory 3 as quarantine dormitory. One of my teachers told me that the said to all the students living there ‘we need your room, you will have to leave’. So without helping the students find another place to stay, they just kicked them out… How weird is that?
In our dorm, they just cleared one of the floors (because mixing international and Chinese students is unthinkable) and that is the hall where they put people in quarantine. A girl had to go there after having paid a visit to a friend with a high temperature…
It looks really scary, because they locked the entrance doors to the hallway from the outside with a lock. That means that when a fire breaks out…. well you do the math.

And than of course the cancellation of the holiday week. My program is different than the regular ones, so it didn’t count for my class (or maybe it did, but the group was quite clear about going on holiday anyway). For the rest of the HIT, they notified that the holidays were canceled to The door to the 4th floor is locked from outsideprevent the students from traveling a lot and bringing the flu to Harbin. And the funny thing was that the Chinese students completely understood it! What a cultural difference! I think there would be riots in the Netherlands if they would try that for a flu…
When it turned out that the measures were not effective, because some HIT students got the flu, they decided to cancel all classes immediately. That meant that now the holidays were back plus a few extra days… not really consistent, I have to say. Although, you do have to ask for permission to travel (which nobody I know did, of course).

The paranoid way of handling the flu is sometimes really getting on my nerves. There are many thinks that are very different from the Western way which I totally respect and accept and most of the times with a big smile because it’s just really funny, but this is so overdone (it is because of SARS they got really scared, I’ve been told) that it is sometimes hard to stick to the laughing. Now that the procedures are clear it is fine, but when they come with a new form which you The thermometerhave to fill in and another form and another thermometer and another person checking your temperature…. FOR WHAT? IT IS JUST A FLU!!! And if they would handle things efficient, but that’s word doesn’t exist in the Chinese dictionary…

On the other hand, it is pretty hilarious and very nice to experience, because it is the Chinese way of dealing with things. And by the way, for the rest China is great! I am just hoping that I won’t get the flu…

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