Coming Home: From Wuhan to Canada

My family left Wuhan on Monday night. Our son Adryan was picked up on the other side of Wuhan and then the hired bus met Emily, Wyatt and myself in front of the school where I teach. After that we headed to the airport, getting stopped at a checkpoint for the longest 40 minutes of any of our lives, we arrived at Wuhan’s Tianhe Airport.

This was by no means the end as any number of things could have resulted in us being denied entrance to the plane. Green ribbons were placed on our bags so we could retrieve them quickly in case we were turned back.

The processing took more than five hours for the 200+ masked and exhausted souls who had gathered together in this otherwise deserted international airport. Emily has prepared fried rice, so we ate our fill at 17:00 and then again at 11:30. Wyatt was not happy that he had to throw some of his Nasi Goreng (Indonesian for fried rice) away.

We had our paperwork from the Canadian embassy and our letter of permission from the Indonesian embassy. While Wyatt and I are Canadian, Emily and Adryan are Indonesian citizens. This was the first of the possible reasons we might not get on the plane. The second was the possibility that we might already be infected. As we filled out forms while moving through the line, we tried to stay focused, but the question remained; what would happen if one or more of us couldn’t get through. We made it to the gate. We were ready to step through to the boarding area. Then Adryan disappeared.

Neither Emily I had any idea where he was, so after calming each other down we asked the guard. Automatic sensors had flagged Adryan with a fever. He was in a room about 200 meters from our location, but we couldn’t see him. Adryan and the husband of a woman from our group were part of a small group of similarly flagged passengers.

We waited. Emily walked back through the gate while I stood with Wyatt, alternately deflecting and answering our 15-year old’s many questions. We agreed then and there that we would stay, all or none of us would board the plane. Emily persuaded them to test Adryan again. He was wearing a winter coat and carrying a heavy bag. After 10 minutes his temperature was low enough to pass another 10 minutes passed and Adryan appeared.

We made our way to the boarding area.

Sometime after midnight, we boarded the plane.

We sat together in the center row and waited expectantly. The medical staff and the flight crew, all Canadian military, was introduced and our obligations to remain masked and to self-report symptoms were explained. the large airbus was set up with an isolation area we’re anyone who became sick or symptomatic during the flight would be sequestered. The jet airliner taxied out and within minutes we were airborne. The first meal was a box lunch, as was the second. The masks made things uncomfortable, but safe. Temperature checks were scheduled, and the medical staff moved about; checking passengers, and sometimes to ask people to sit down, and sometimes to ask them to mind their children. The cries of infants and toddlers were the soundtrack of this journey.

We were asked to disinfect our hands with hand sanitizer after eating and to change our surgical masks. the old masks were collected by a suited medical worker.

We landed in Vancouver, but we didn’t leave the plane. This was my first time back to Canada since 2005 but sitting in the center row I didn’t see the city lights.

Vancouver was were some refueling would take place and some embassy officials would disembark. There were some minor personnel changes, but like us most were masked. The medical flight crew’s head to toe gear made recognizing anyone unlikely.

The trip, running like a military mission, did not brook delays and we were soon on our way.

We arrived at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, a Canadian Forces base located within the city of Quinte West, Ontario. in the dark on September 11th, Tuesday morning. In the rush to get off the plane most of the passengers had quickly grabbed their luggage and placed it in front of them.

We were no different. Border and customs officers appeared, and it would have been hard not to be intimidated by large uniformed men in masks. Individually, and as a group, they were efficient but polite. they let us know there would be a delay as passengers were brought off in shifts. They asked that no one remove luggage from the overhead compartments, but that had already been done. I moved our four bags to my seat and sat on top so to be out of the way. uncomfortable to be sure, but it kept the way clear. 30 minutes later it was our turn to disembark. We were brought off the plane in shifts until we had all walked down the steps, through a sheep-dip disinfectant for our boots, onto a bus, and then into a large hanger.

In the hanger, we were fed the most amazing box lunch/breakfast. Who would have thought ham and cheese on a bagel would taste like heaven. A wave of relief washed over everyone and small conversations began to spark. We are social beings after all.

We were processed, had our health checked, and our immigration status verified.

Things took a turn here. Our oldest son Adryan collapsed.

We were able to get him back to a chair, and he appeared fine. After about 20 minutes he collapsed again. This time he couldn’t get up. We called for a medic and within 90 seconds the team was there and together we got Adryan onto a gurney. The paramedics from Health Canada assessed him quickly. There were no symptoms of Coronavirus. The medical team diagnosed Adryan was suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.

In the two weeks that Adryan had been trapped on the other side of Wuhan, he had eaten what was available and had not drunk enough water. Adryan was brought to the emergency clinic where he was put on IV.

Emily, Wyatt and I were brought to our rooms in the Yukon Lodge, the VIP visitor’s hotel at the military base which had been refurbished and set aside for the 14-day quarantine of evacuees.

Within 3 hours Adryan was being escorted across the exterior quad by base personnel, looking quite stylish in his long white coat and Korean popstar hairdo.

Emily decided Adryan was to be our Drama King for the next few days. We had our first meal in the hotel, delivered to our room. Wyatt pronounced the WiFi excellent.

Our meals are all delivered, we have two temperature checks per day where we’re also asked about symptoms. when medical staff Health Canada and the Red Cross knock on the door we are expected to appear masked. this is not inconvenient, it is necessary. Coffee, snacks, and fruit are available in a common area. We have four one-hour periods a day when we can move about outside. These fresh air exercise periods are staggered between four groups.

The meals that are delivered are excellent and I’m eating things I haven’t had for years. The best was a small package of Dad’s Oatmeal cookies.

We have 10 days left in our quarantine. On Thursday morning the snow was falling, and we took Adryan outside to see his first snowfall. To see the world through their eyes, fresh, pure and hopeful.

We can’t help but be concerned about our colleagues, students, and friends still in Wuhan. The situation continues to worsen, and in other cities, friends are either locked down or self-isolating.  We are trying to keep the world’s attention on the situation. I continue to do interviews in the hope that aid will get through. The evacuees have put together about CAD $18,000 in donations for the Red Cross.

After this, we will travel to Toronto and spend time with friends. Tim and his wife Kisha are nurses, and they have two small ones. They had visited us in Indonesia just after they got married. Tim is also Wyatt’s godfather. Tim and I have been friends since high school, and even our short unremarkable stint in the military hasn’t dampened our friendship.

This experience has not changed my appreciation and love for China and her people. They will weather this crisis.

For Canada … Canada has stood up for us and brought us home. I’m indebted to our government, this nation, and the Canadian people. We are grateful to the people at Global Affairs and the Canadian embassy who put this evacuation together.

We are thankful for the medical staff and flight crew who brought us home. We have been in the care of the Canadian military, the Red Cross and the health care professionals who always stand on the front lines of these operations, and they have been brilliant, professional, generous and kind. They have gone above and beyond.

A special thank you to the Indonesian embassy in China who helped us to organize a private taxi, without which we’d still be in harm’s way.

To our friends, and family who’ve stood by us, offered guidance and listened to my inane prattle from time to time, thank you. We could never begin to repay the love and support you’ve provided.

The Secrets for Living An Invigorated Life

Health and fitness

Being healthy is often our goal, but just as often our well-being is one of those many things that are put aside. We prioritize ourselves to distraction and to our detriment. Our health, physical, mental and emotional often fluctuates on the smallest upsets. We skipped breakfast; we stayed up late to finish work; or the lady at the counter was snarky. We cannot change the world around us, but we can modulate our reaction to life’s little hiccups. More often than not we don’t need to make drastic changes, as the small changes can have dramatic benefits.

Routines

Adding small routines like a morning stretch or an evening walk. There are benefits to having a glass of water with lemon before the coffee, or getting up a bit early so you can enjoy the solitude of a quiet living room. Just walking around your office/workplace/school periodically is helpful. Change up your routine from time to time by choosing a new restaurant, going to a foreign film, or visiting a new area of the city.

Take a dance class.

Shake your cares away and sweat off a few pounds with salsa, pole-dancing, ballroom dance or even hip-hop.

Volunteer

Soup kitchens, food banks, the Red Cross, the hospital, veterans homes, retirement communities, Boys and Girls Clubs. Get out and pitch in.

Read a book. Lead an aerobics group, or a Tai Chi Chuan class. Deliver mail and smiles around a hospital ward, or serve sandwiches and split pea soup. Run or walk a couple of 10K charity events. Walk with seniors, or help to organize a morning mall walk. If one doesn’t exist, create it. Your hours of dedication will brighten a life. It will most likely make your day as well.

Join a Martial Arts class

It takes a certain kind of person to walk willingly into a Muay Thai ring, but kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do, Karate or Judo instruction are all within a more prosaic range.  If you aspire to be Bruce Lee or Batman after a few classes you can always hop a plane east.

Movies

Get out to the movies. There are still good movies being made, and the smell of fresh popcorn can be a tonic for a tired soul. Lose yourself in a movie for a couple of hours. Go with friends or people from the office. Discuss the film over dinner.

Read

Books offer whole worlds of new insights and explorations. Reality and imagination in-between a couple of thick cardboard slices. Get out of whatever space your head is stuck in and explore biography, science-fiction, horror, travel, or even a good detective story. Pick up the Narnia or Harry Potter series. Perhaps you’re into female archers or sparkly vampires? Rediscover a few classics at your local library. Amazon might be a good place to explore. Start a book club. Share the book with children, seniors or veterans.

Food

Eating right isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity. The balance of calories, proteins, carbohydrates and fats determines how well you feel, how well you think, and how quickly you can deal, or even bounce back, from an emergency. Apples, bananas, pears, peppers, and grapes are easy enough to find and easy to pack for lunch. Many fruits are natural antioxidants and refreshing, tasty snacks.

Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health by helping to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA.

1. Prunes

The deep taste and sticky, chewy texture of this dried fruit is high in antioxidants, as it is considered a cancer protector and a good source of vitamins. Prunes can effectively lower your cholesterol and boost your bone health.

  1. Raspberries

These fruits are loaded with antioxidants and help you lose weight. They’re also very beneficial to maintaining cardiovascular health. “While all fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, the so-called “superfoods” with the higher amounts include berries (wild blueberries, goji berries, acai berries, red berries),” Alissa Rumsey, according to registered dietician and spokesperson for the New York State Dietetic Association.

  1. Cloves

Cloves are known to be a great antibacterial and anti-fungal medicine. They are typically used in spices, but they are effective in reducing inflammation, toothache, and even improve our sexual health. Foods in the brown family like cacao and cinnamon are also excellent sources of antioxidants.

  1. Strawberries

It comes as no surprise, strawberries make the top 10 best antioxidant-rich foods list, especially since they can be very health to eye health and maintaining healthy skin. This fruit reduces the bad cholesterol and can contribute to heart health.  Strawberries boost blood antioxidant levels and can help prevent chronic diseases. Strawberries have a large concentration of phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids known to have antioxidant properties. At a cellular level, they fight free radical production, and therefore, lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.

  1. Cranberries

This super fruit can help boost the immune system. They are most known for their effectiveness in treating urinary tract infections, and kidney stones.  Cranberry products have the highest level of phenols — a disease-fighting antioxidant — and can even reduce the risk of heart disease.

  1. Walnuts

This super nut is known to deliver a powerful dose of cancer-fighting antioxidants. The American Cancer Society has noted ellagic acid — found in walnuts — may have anti-cancer benefits. These nuts have been known help in the treatment of type 2 diabetes as well as  important for healthy hearts.

  1. Blueberries

This fruit is packed with antioxidants and can, like walnuts, be extremely helpful when it comes to heart health. They can balance blood sugar levels and are considered a diabetic medicine.

  1. Pinto Beans

Although they may seem unlikely to make the list, pinto beans are actually full of antioxidants and very high in fiber. In the U.S., it is estimated 8 lbs. of beans are consumed each year per person, as pinto beans and navy beans are the most popular. They are very beneficial to our digestive health.

  1. Blackberries

Blackberries are considered to have one of the highest levels of antioxidant compared to other fruits.

  1. Soursop

Being abundant in vitamins and minerals, soursop offers several health benefits. It is often recommended by the practitioners of herbal medicine to cure various ailments.

  1. Garlic

Not just for warding off unclean spirits anymore. Garlic may be the wonder cure for all sorts of ailments, but the jury is out on how much is good for you, and how much is too much.

  1. Small Red Beans

Small red beans are known to be very beneficial to bones and teeth, and even lower the risk of heart attacks.

  1. Tomatoes

Sorry to put the tomato all the way down the list. They are very good for skin health. Like a lot of the wetter fruits and vegetables, tomatoes can help to keep the body hydrated.

Mix fruits and vegetables into your meals. Do not skip meals. Breakfast remains important.

Add supplements whenever possible.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Often vitamins are available in fresh foods, but a few can be supplemented, such as A,B and Omega 3. Zinc is important for the bodies’ immune system and while zinc is available in pumpkins, it can be easily supplemented.

Sleep

Get at least seven hours. Take a nap if possible. If you can’t focus, or you’re ready to kill every time the phone rings, nap.  You aren’t helping anyone by trying to tough it out. Sleep is a restorative and it is the time the body and mind need to heal. The early morning hours between two and four are when the body is detoxifying. It’s the reason you stumble to the bathroom in the morning. Your mind is also clearing the detritus of the day, psychically at least. No wonder you’re groggy and irritable in the morning, your biological hard drive hasn’t been defragged.

Insomnia

Prepare yourself to sleep. Turn off the phone. Turn down the lights. Don’t bring work into the bedroom. Lie down and stretch a little. Close your eyes and feel yourself breathe. Do that for a few minutes. It may feel silly at first, just ignore that. Imagine a white light at your feet and imagine as it moves up your legs, over your thighs, up your stomach. It’s at your fingers and hands. As the light passes over, at least in your mind’s eye, allow that part of your body to completely relax. The light moves up your shoulders and chest and up to your neck.

Now do nothing. Float for a few moments. Then get up. Fold the covers down. Get into bed, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Quiet time

If you can’t tune out the world for a few moments every few hours then burnout is a very real possibility. This is not just true of people in high-stress jobs, but anyone who is meeting deadlines, dealing with children or just getting back and forth to meetings. This could be a time for meditation, yoga or relaxing with scented candles.

Know your limits

Set boundaries. Know what your comfort zone is and stay within reach of it. That doesn’t mean you don’t stretch yourself from time to time. It does mean you don’t stretch so far that you can’t function or return to a place of comparative safety.

Exercise

Regular exercise is tough.  It takes time, dedication and special shoes, doesn’t it? In fact, it only needs a bit of time each day and the dedication to do it three of four times a week. You only need shoes if you intend to run, or take up parkour. A bit of planking, stretching, push ups and some quality time with dumbbells will do wonders for your mood, your waistline, and your appetite.

Start simply with a simple goal to do five push-ups, 20 crunches and a few curls with dumbbells.  Yes, you probably will need to buy them. Add some stretches. Within a few days, you’ll be past the initial aches and pains and you can add five more push-ups and 10 more crunches. Increase your repetitions. Go swimming. Don’t join a gym, unless you want to socialize. Gyms exist on the basic premise that people will sign up, and for the most part, never attend. Imagine the fun if everyone who bought a membership turned up on the same day. It would be like a scene from the Producers.

Theatre

Speaking of theatre, go see a play. Or better yet, join a community group and get involved in acting, stage management, or set design.

Massage

There are real benefits to reflexology, shiatsu, and the other forms of manipulation. Whether it’s deep tissue punishment you seek, or a more relaxing sleep-inducing pampering, there are many schools and styles of massage.

Yoga

Yoga is a mental, physical and often spiritual pursuit. This is not about religion, but about connections. You are pushing past your comfort zones in a safe place. You are making a connection with the deeper and more quiet parts of your mind.

Water

Everyone has advice on this. Drink a lot of water, but not too much. Drink mineral, or filtered, squeeze a cactus or straight from the tap(the cactus might be safer).  Often we feel hungry or tired when we’re actually thirsty. An amazing number of people walk about in a state of mild dehydration. Avoid the sugary drinks. Avoid juices, unless they’re actually squeezed and without sugar. All of this is a matter of routine. One can of soft drink is unlikely to cause major damage; unless it’s thrown at your head. Water is always the default and a few glasses in the morning, after lunch and then at home will help. Get a refillable sports bottle to take with you. People will think you’re an athlete. Clean it or people will think you’re unsanitary.

Certain teas have natural healing properties and can aid hydration.

Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. Although it’s sometimes referred to as Kombucha mushroom tea, Kombucha is not a mushroom — it’s a colony of bacteria and yeast. Kombucha tea is made by adding the colony to sugar and tea, and allowing the mix to ferment.

Matcha is a finely milled or fine powder green tea. The health benefits of matcha tea are supposed to increase as when drinking  matcha you ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water.

Relationships

As with good tea, good relationships take time. Relationships begin with contact. Get out and move around. Join a club. Fitness and bars are fine if you’re the type that can interact with strangers, if not a hobby group or a college course may expand your social network. Spend some time with family. Get out in the yard, or the park. Get out of the city and hike. Explore the city. Go to a farmer’s market. Grab a camera and take shots of sunsets and sunrises, or the cityscape from different locations. Just don’t do this alone. If someone is around, engage them. If not, make an effort to meet people.

None of these ideas are revolutionary. The secret is that it only takes small changes to have dramatic results. Some of these will work, some won’t. Try the next one. None of these ideas take any great investment in money or time, but they need a commitment. Make an appointment with yourself to spend a few moments each day enjoying life. That’s perhaps the true secret; allowing yourself to enjoy your life.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ffj.1951/abstract

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/sep00/beans0900.htm

http://berryhealth.fst.oregonstate.edu/health_healing/fact_sheets/blackberry_facts.htm

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/phytochemicals

http://www.nutritionisyourbesthealthinsurance.com/about_us.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12601669