When the virus started spreading in China in December, I remember scrolling through the New York Times and thinking, “that’s horrible” but I was still desensitized by the news and was scrolling past numerous articles without giving the coronavirus too much of a thought. Once the coronavirus reached my home, Hong Kong, I became increasingly worried and I began reaching out to family and friends through WeChat. My parents told me not to worry about them and they said that the Hong Kong government was handling the virus better than SARS, an epidemic that hit Hong Kong in 2002. Because my family had experienced living through an epidemic before, they didn’t think that the coronavirus was anything new and they assured me that they would be just fine.
By the time that the virus slowly began to spread in the U.S. around February, I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about a video of a person saying that the virus was much worse than what most people thought. I didn’t know which version of the story to believe. Was the virus serious or not?
When we were approaching spring break, on campus, there was talk about having empathy for the people being affected by the coronavirus, but the majority of the community were still downplaying it as people usually do. Funnily enough, Françoise, a faculty member, was telling me how every student should still bring their books with them over break in the event that we didn’t return to campus. Similarly, my parents told me to pack my bags. Reflecting back upon this time, I can see why a lot of international students were the ones who could see the potential severity of the situation. But there was just so much uncertainty out there…
School let us out for spring break and I was in New York City. My mom had come to New York before even spring break had started because the coronavirus was getting really bad in Hong Kong and she wanted to make sure that my siblings and I were safe.
The severity of the situation truly sunk in when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. I remember posting a Snapchat story of me defending my decision of going home to Hong Kong when everyone thought that I was ridiculous for considering that option.
A big part of the reason why we went home despite having an apartment in New York was because we didn’t have a doctor or a trusted healthcare professional there. Because of this, we would be much safer if we were in Hong Kong instead of in the United States. Luckily, my mom and I were able to get flights back home early enough. Looking back, if I had waited a few more days, I might not have been able to come home. My mom also prepared me really well for the flight and she even wrote me a whole guide for what to do before I went to the bathroom— like how to disinfect my seat, for example. In addition, we booked the plane tickets right before the Hong Kong government implemented the mandated quarantine procedure and I just remember thinking, “Thank God!” Considering everything, traveling back to Hong Kong was a pretty smooth process.
Honestly, once I got home, time passed pretty quickly during self-isolation because I’m the type of person that always finds things to do. It was also really nice to be home, because the last time I was in Hong Kong was last summer. I am very lucky to be home and have a house to stay in… It’s weird how it seems like things are back to normal in Hong Kong, apart from the fact that everybody wears masks.
The coronavirus has also impacted my music making process. At Deerfield, the challenge was not having enough time to do everything— because everything is just thrown at you every second of the day. I did not have time to invest in making music despite being involved with music organizations on campus. What I really wanted to do was to write my EP and looking back on it, I planned to release it in May and I would not have been able to put in time if I was still at Deerfield. I’m really lucky to have my EP to busy myself with and to have this much amount of time to work on it. This is my first project, and it truly is something special to me. I’m really glad to be able to take my time with it and not have to meet deadlines or rush the process. This pandemic has actually given me the opportunity to focus more on my EP, and make everything as good as it can be.
Written by: Tony He