By Mary-Anne Desai
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.
He was 19 years old and grew up with the four seasons that Cape Town, South Africa has to offer. He has always believed that life is an open door. He studied hard and was given an opportunity to teach English in China. Upon taking this opportunity, he was mesmerised by the beauty of the country and in 2010 he studied their native tongue. While working, he ended up falling in-love with a woman who he could never have imagined. He got legally married last September, and life just felt complete. Then the great coronavirus decided to join the party.
“It’s not about the car you have as things easily disappear”. Suddenly it’s always grey and green and without the culture and vibrant environment that he fell for, he is lost and in limbo. China has fallen in a way that history has never seen. Lester Maneveld experiences this along with his wife, Dandan and in-laws.
It was the Spring Festival, “the equivalent of Christmas” Lester said. He was sitting at a family gathering, doing the mundane things he once took for granted. Every television station has the same headline, “Coronavirus in Wuhan”. The reports of the virus eventually turned into panic with people saying, “Stay indoors, do not go outside, do not interact with anyone, do not speak to anyone”. They were all terrified.
Lester, proudly South African, wanted to return home with his newly wedded wife but was found trapped by the new Spouse Visa laws in South Africa which were recently changed. Not leaving without his wife, a new option arose. They tried to escape the virus by visiting nearby countries. Unfortunately, by the time they tried, the fear had fled to those countries and they shut down their borders.
“Looked like the end of the world” said Lester.
Its February 2020 and fear really set in as Wuhan closed. Now his favourite cafés, street fairs, foot massage places are shutdown. Everyone indoors is his new reality. At approximately 600 infections and counting, he saw the ghost town that Nanjing, China became. China had a major Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus that occurred between the year 2002 and 2004. Lester believes this could be a big reason why Chinese people “take no chances” and have hidden away from the world.
Buses and transportation stopped due to infection clusters. Dandan’s family stays behind living with her and Lester. Lester, Dandan and her father all began teaching online, even though each day looks the same – cloudy skies and no fresh air.
It’s almost three months after the scare and he has stuck with his newly wed’s family and the China lockdown has come to an end. They all decided to celebrate Dadan’s grandfather’s 90th birthday. He noticed that being very privileged and able to work, he felt secure. While the value of family and time is the most important thing since being quarantined.
Going through a pandemic far from home can be scary but doing it with the ones you love can be life’s biggest blessing. Lester created a YouTube channel at the beginning of the coronavirus scare and we can continue to travel with him through his family’s journey in China post-coronavirus on Ltmaneveld.