One day we will brag about surviving the pandemic while working abroad. We will talk about leaving the house every third day to get food, about our temperature being taken multiple times a day, and showing the green QR representing health as a key allowing us to enter shops, taxis, and even our own communities. We will remember being scared, desperate, lonely, and extremely unsure whilst figuring out how to teach online, building puzzles, watching dozens of movies, and jumping rope just to create the illusion of movement.
However, there will also be things to remember fondly. As an employee at BASIS International School Hangzhou, I literally felt my stress levels dropping one day when I got a message informing me of a box of supplies was awaiting me filled with apples, oranges, bread, milk, and even a few bottles of wine. It didn’t stop there though, when China was running out of face masks and the prices for these annoying pieces of fabric soared through the sky, we got another welcomed message. “If in need, face masks will be available for every staff member at our school’s front gate.” We take so many things for granted: movement, access to food, access to water, toilet paper, transport, friends, and our jobs. It was quite something to see many teachers from other schools also living in Hangzhou who suddenly got a much smaller paycheck or worse, waking up one awfully isolated morning without a job.The peace of mind of our usual paycheck and the knowledge that we have jobs (and will keep them) in such an uncertain time made all the difference.
And yet, some of us still felt that we were losing our minds. One colleague shyly recalled literally crying over spilt milk when she realized that for the third time she had ordered yogurt instead of milk. The bottles look so similar! Shortly after this, almost God sent, we received a few more emails and messages from the operations team: If in need of translation, help will be happily offered; if in need of assistance for mental stability an online counselor is constantly on standby; and God forbid if illness arises, assistance at various hospitals.
Yes, we will remember this time. We’ll remember the rules, the face masks, the online platforms, the tears, desperation, and the helplessness. However, we will also remember boxes of apples delivered to our doors, check-ins, wine deliveries, full salaries, and the knowledge that whilst also trying to survive this pandemic, the BASIS International School Hangzhou operations team put our needs first and not only understood our fears, but tried to console them.
Thandiela Goldman is an elementary humanities teacher at BASIS International School Hangzhou.
Read more about the care and support for teachers provided by operations teams at BASIS International School Park Lane Harbour and Guangzhou.