The word quarantine can sound scary and intimidating. It can also raise a lot of questions.
What will I eat?
Where will I stay?
Will my family be taken care of?
In March 2020, all of our teachers who had gone abroad outside of China for the Chinese New Year holiday were asked to return as there was a strong expectation the border would close. On March 18th this became reality, and all of our teachers and their families who returned were required to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arriving in China as part of government health and safety protocols.
BASIS International School Nanjing Primary Dean of Students Quinnesian Joyner shared with us about her quarantine experience…and the once in a lifetime opportunity that followed.
What did your quarantine experience look like?
“I returned to China a week before my family, not knowing how that was going to pan out. We didn’t know if I would be moving back, or what else was going on. There were so many unknowns. My family landed in China a week after me, and only two days before the borders closed.
I was told I was going to be in quarantine and I didn’t know what that meant. How am I going to eat? Who’s taking care of my day to day needs? For our two weeks of quarantine, they put us in a wonderful hotel called Atour Hotel in Nanjing. This hotel laid out the red carpet for us. The Atour Hotel was there for us, whatever we needed. All we had to do was send a message on WeChat and they were there for us.
When you think about quarantine and somebody paying for your hotel, it might not be what you’re used to, or sometimes you see scary pictures online, but it was nothing like that. It was 5 star, it was beautiful, it was clean. It was a breath of fresh air. Because I arrived earlier, I was on a different floor from my husband and children, and from other staff from BASIS International School Nanjing. I didn’t know what to expect, and for me to be a part of this experience with the support of the Atour Hotel and the health workers here was a relief. They actually recruited other individuals outside of the community in Nanjing to help with this large process. Every floor had a designated worker to accommodate and support us for the 14 day quarantine. From tissues, to soap, to food, to all of the health checks, COVID tests, even things for work.”
What inspired you to write an email to the Atour Hotel about your experience?
“The health workers were able to connect with BASIS International School Nanjing and ensure we had our necessary equipment, laptops, and supplies for us to continue teaching. They were amazing, so the email I sent expressed my sense of gratitude for all of their hard work. I also expressed how I came back to Nanjing not knowing what would happen, and this was a pleasant surprise, even when my family arrived later, they were there to ensure I was comforted and supported, my family were provided additional care. It still gives me chills to think about it.
The operations staff from BASIS International School Nanjing also brought care bags, anything I needed, they went to my office and grabbed whatever I needed. The sweetest thing was when my children arrived, and we had to do Zoom for classes, they provided a laptop for my 6th grade daughter, and an iPad for my son in Pre-K. All of the materials they needed, all of the necessities to make sure we were ok. Then the extras, like “what does Rueben (Quinnesian’s husband) like to eat? Let me grab a few snacks.”
Then the staff said, “we are going to bring a basket of fruit for you.” When they said “whatever you need,” they didn’t just say the words, they were people of action. That helped a lot. From the Atour Hotel, to the health workers, to the BINJ staff, it was all very heartfelt. It was so smooth, and the process was effortless. I missed my family during the quarantine period, but I knew they were ok. It made the separation better for us than many people. It was a long three weeks for us, but we got through it because of the experience we had.”
Did you receive a response to your email?
“I received an email from our HR Assistant, Bella Jin, in March after our quarantine was complete, saying “The Atour Hotel was in awe of your message, expressing gratitude.” And I thought, “Well, that’s what you’re supposed to do, you’re supposed to say thank you.” She said, “They are shocked. They are working on a project to acknowledge the people in the community who helped with the process. They want to possibly bring you and your family in as part of this project.”
At the end of June, as we were wrapping up our last few weeks of school, I heard from Bella again, “They are putting on a program, and if you and your family will join them, to recognize the health workers.” Of course I said “sure, we would love to!” Not knowing all the details behind it, it was just me saying thank you, my family saying thank you. We just wanted to show appreciation. We’re southerners from Georgia, U.S.A., we believe in thank yous, and appreciations, and hellos, and welcomes, and we’re going to keep doing that here in China. My email was really heartfelt and genuine because they did something amazing for our family, and kept us calm, and safe, and prepared us to re-enter China.”
What was the program to honor the health workers like?
“The program was held on August 16, 2020. They awarded about 21 health workers with this huge golden plaque and sashes. It was a moment for some of them where I don’t know if they had ever been honored in that way, but you knew they were very appreciative of the moment as well. They showed an amazing video of when COVID hit to the moment where we were sitting in our seats. From the beginning to this moment where we had some relief. To see the faces of the individuals who worked tirelessly to help people, the organizers put a lot of effort into wanting to showcase the hard work of those who worked behind the scenes.
The event was amazing. Everything was very high tech, bright lights, everyone beautifully dressed. As part of the program, my family and I stood on stage to express our gratitude to the workers. My daughter actually spoke Mandarin for them on stage, which was very surprising to everyone. We allowed her to shine a little bit with the CSL (Chinese as a Second Language) training she has had at school. It was a great feeling to be a part of something like this. Our quarantine experience was one of appreciation, and in turn they favored us. I’m still smiling from it!
“It was such a simple thing, I didn’t think it would catch on. I’ll just continue to be me with that southern charm!”
Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Quinnesian Joyner is the Primary Dean of Students at BASIS International School Nanjing. She is a founding member of the leadership team at the school, and is a leader in the social emotional learning program for students.