Every time I walk through the gate of my university I get a gun held to my head. I smile and close my eyes while the guard uses his weapon to check my temperature. He laughs at me, then nods his head and lets me pass through.
These guns have been distributed throughout the university systems in China to help ward off the infamous swine flu. So far 16 people at my university have been diagnosed with the flu (that have been made public, who knows what the real number is). Mind you, there are over 30,000 students at the university.
In an effort to prevent the spread of the flu (and freak everyone out) several attempts at minimizing the risk of catching the flu have been made. All elevators have been turned off. Which means me and my fractured foot get to walk up 10 flights of stairs to my weekly meeting in the library. The air conditioner in the teacher's cafeteria has been shut down, which is the only air conditioned place on campus in our sweltering summer heat. And "special Chinese tea" has been distributed to all teachers to drink within a week. The taste has been described as "a little bittery" but no one can tell us what is in it. They don't know. I'm not drinking it
I am guilty of being severely skeptical of these attempts at keeping swine flu at bay. I know that in classrooms all across the world there are efforts being made to "increase social space" and keep everyone healthy, which is a valiant goal. But what really irks me is the fear that I find is such a - I need to be careful here - Chi.nese characteristic.
I have students who when someone coughs in class, freak out and pull out face masks. Several students have told me, "I am afraid of swine flu". People are living in fear of a sickness that closely resembles the average flu.
There is an entire area of our university that has been set aside for students who had a high temperature when coming through the gate. They have to stay in these rooms for a week and are brought food. One Chinese student explained that she was jealous of her roommate for being quarantined because she, "got 4 meals a day".
Next week was supposed to be a big singing, band, type competition on campus. Several of my friends are in the guitar club and expressed sadness at the cancellation of the event because of fears of having so many people together in one space. I'm so sad that school events are being cancelled because of fear of swine flu.
My advice to you, Ch.ina, is this. Put soap in the bathrooms. Stop hawking loogies. Throw away your trash in a proper receptacle.
Take some vitamins, drink plenty of water, and chill out.
Until you do, I will smile at the guard who has the glorious task of taking my temperature every time I want to come home.