Cover Picture of Julie's Grandparents in Zhengzhou, China

Faces of China: Life in Zhengzhou with Julie

This interview follows Faces of China: Life in Wuhan with Julie.

In Faces of China: Life in Zhengzhou, we speak with Julie about finding solace in her grandparents’ home at the height of Wuhan’s 2020 lockdown.

Julie in Wuhan, Hubei, China.

Hi, my name is Julie.

I’m 28-years-old and a third-year PhD student studying economics at Wuhan University. Outside of academia, I enjoy outdoor activities like travelling and swimming. If I have time and money, I’d love to learn how to paint and learn an instrument. Oh, and I love animals. 

Wuhan Lockdown 2020

What was the year 2020 like for you?

That’s a very big question <laugh>. I think 2020 was special because I’ve never experienced a pandemic before in my life. 

That summer, I went to visit my grandparents in Zhengzhou. I was lucky because Wuhan went into lockdown a few days after I left the city. Before the lockdown, no one knew anything. And because I couldn’t return to Wuhan, I stayed with my grandparents until June 2020. 

Wuhan to Zhengzhou in Google Map.

Finding Solace in Zhengzhou Lockdown

What was it like living in Zhengzhou?

In Zhengzhou, we were also in lockdown. I spent so much time with my grandparents, in the same house, every day, because we couldn’t leave our suburb. 

It was the first time that I didn’t need to go anywhere; I didn’t need to go to class, and I didn’t need to go to work. I felt I got to experience another reality. And by the end of the six months, I was happy just staying at my grandparents’ home.

Julie & Grandparents in Zhengzhou, Henan, China.

What made staying at your grandparents’ home so enjoyable?

Even though I rarely left the house, my grandparents didn’t interfere in my life, and I didn’t interfere with theirs. We could coexist in the same place without disrupting one another, and at the same time, we enjoyed the feeling of each other’s presence.

Sometimes when my grandparents do things, you think they’re being slow; in reality, you’re the one responding fast.

So watching them do their routine – at the same time every day – made me feel calm. It made me feel happy. 

Julie's Grandparents in Zhengzhou, Henan, China.

Could you tell us more about their daily routine?

My grandparents wake up around 6 to 6:30 am to do their morning stretches. Then after breakfast, they read books and do calligraphy in their library.

After lunch, they take an afternoon nap before my grandfather goes to his recreational centre. At his centre, he rotates between choir group, table tennis and swimming because even in his 70s, he likes to keep active. 

During the lockdown, he would practise the piano at home and go for walks with the dog.  

After dinner, it’s their TV time, or they will play computer games like ‘Jewels of Atlantis’ (消消乐 xiāo xiāo lè); mahjong and cards.

Around 10 pm, they go to bed. 

So watching my grandparents do their routine made me feel calm and at peace. They live their days with meaning, and together, their lives are complete.

Do you miss your grandparents?

I do, especially, as their health is declining.

As people grow old, illnesses and diseases can start to appear. You feel sad because you want them to stay with you forever. So that every time you go home, back to their house, they will be there, doing the same things; and living the same life.

You will think just how lucky you are, knowing that you have a place to go that’s always warm and welcoming.  

But I’m scared. I’m scared that they will leave, and it makes me sad just thinking about it. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, and live those days in lockdown, over and over again.