BEIJING, CHINA – The streets of Beijing are quiet. The Chinese city has a population of more than 20 million yet it is hard to tell these days as deadly coronavirus cases rise to more than 64,000 globally. The first case of the virus hitting Texas was just reported on Feb. 13 in a patient quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
For self-quarantined Sinton native Wally Trevino, who lives in Beijing with his Chinese wife and five-month-old baby, the global catastrophe is right outside their home.
From Sinton to China
After leaving Sinton, Trevino taught Social Studies in San Diego, California where he met a student from South Korea. The student would eventually go on to work for the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China and when they were doing a mass hiring of English teachers, he contacted Trevino.
While Trevino wasn’t exactly an English teacher, he was definitely interested.
“So I thought I’ll go to their and teach for a year,” Trevino said. “I taught in South Korea for one year, then one year turned into two years. During holiday breaks I would travel around to Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and China where I eventually got a job.”
That was five years ago. Since then he met and married his wife and had a child.
Life in the city
“There’s no one on the streets,” Trevino said. “No one.
“Beijing’s big. There’s around 25 million people in the city and when you go out, nobody’s here.
“All the businesses are shut down. All the schools are shut down. Factories are shut down. I know they’re trying to open them back up a little bit, but people are scared to go to work. Or they’re stuck somewhere in their hometown where maybe the whole towns is quarantined. People aren’t coming back to the city just yet.”
Trevino said the only time he leaves his home is once or twice a week when he needs to go to a corner grocery store, passing through a security checkpoint both ways. Being the only foreigner in his neighborhood, the guards already know him and he said it’s gotten easier to come and go.
“I run into people at the grocery store but no one talks to each other,” he continued. “Everyone has masks on and goggles and are just staying away from each other. People just buy groceries and scurry on home.
“I don’t blame them, I do the same thing.”
Trvino said that the government is keeping grocery stores stocked so far and is also keeping an eye on price gouging. While prices have gone up since the virus became an issue, they haven’t gone up too high.
When he leaves his home, Trevino dons a leather motorcycle jacket, goggles and a facemask with replaceable filters that he and his wife bought months ago when the coronavirus wasn’t even on anyone’s radars just yet. They purchased them to battle the pollution but said they are glad they bought them when they did because masks all over the country have virtually sold out.
What the Chinese government is saying
Because Trevino’s wife is Chinese, she can read what the government is saying about the outbreak. He said their website is essentially shut down and only has a list of precautions to take like — sat indoors and stay safe.
“But it’s the numbers that are kind of fuzzy,” he added. “The government wouldn’t let the World Health Organization (WHO) or the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control) into the affected areas where the outbreak actually occurred. So nobody knows the real numbers, but everyone is saying on Chinese social media if the government says 50 people died, that means almost 100 people died.
“And every time something comes out on Chinese social media, it gets deleted by the government. They have their hand in what’s being broadcast on the internet.
Family life during quarantine
Trevino said the family watches a lot of movies since there’s nothing else to do. They even took up cooking and he shared a photo of his wife making tortillas in a wok.
While they try and make the best of their current situation, one issue is still at the forefront – their baby.
“We are scared,” Trevino said. “Our baby’s still going through the whole vaccination process. We’re worried to take her to the hospital to get her vaccinated because there’s people from different parts of China around.
“We don’t want to take her out in public while people are sick on the streets.”
The long road home
Before the virus began spreading across China, and eventually across the globe, Trevino was preparing to bring his wife and daughter home to the states in September, but those plans may have changed.
“It takes about six months for a spousal visa to get processed but with this going on, I put a request for it to be expedited,” Trevino continued. “But we know that part of the process for my wife to get her visa is to go in for the interview, either here in Beijing or in Guangzhou near Hong Kong.”
Those branches have been shutdown, at least for now. Trevino said they’re stopping all immigration from China for the foreseeable future.
“That’s where we’re at,” he said. “We’re hoping things are going to get better instead of worse.
“We’re just like sitting here waiting for something to happen.”