My Quarantine Story: Honorary Mention winner Alex Lin

Fall 2020 | By Alex Lin.

Editor's note: More than 70 students in the Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts program submitted entries into the "My Quarantine Story" contest this spring. This essay by Alex Lin was selected as an Honorary Mention winner.

Flashback to my last day of my Freshmen year on campus, March 22, 2020.

There are my five crates of cloths and things I packed up from my dorm, sitting outside the Earhart elevator. After depositing them at my friend’s house, I took a quick shower and boarded the shuttle bus at six in the afternoon. Just 15 hours ago, I was still chilling in my bed enjoying my last two days of spring break; three weeks ago, I was still excited for my skiing trip in Michigan during spring break; and a month ago, I was still answering i-Clicker questions in the BRWN building for chemistry. Yet with one phone call from my family, I was notified to pack up and go back to Taiwan. Everything happened so fast, too fast actually, for me to have anytime to hesitate, to say farewell to my roommate, and to take one good last look of Purdue University.

I heard a lot of news about the success of quarantine in Taiwan since the virus outbreak. Taiwan is a country sits in proximity of just 1300 miles from China, yet it is able to retain a low infection number of a total of 498 cases to this date (4/25). And from my trip going back to Taiwan, I was finally able to see, or experienced I would rather say, how Taiwan is able to succeed.

It was a one of a kind, lifetime experience. No, I am not talking about the privileges of the early boarding, or the leg space of flying the Loyal Laurel Class (first class in Eva Airline) during my flight. But wearing a face mask for 13 hours, along with full-body disposable raincoat, my chemistry 115 goggles and disposable latex gloves (and not eating on-board meal in first class, seriously)? That is a once in a lifetime experience.

Before I even pass through the custom, I am required to fill out a form asking for phone number and quarantine address. Required by law, every returnee must self-quarantine alone at their own house or quarantine hotels for 14 days alone before going out due to the virus. To make sure people actually stay home and quarantine, if the phone signal gets out of range of the quarantine address or fails to answer district police’s daily call, one could be fine up to $30,000. This set up a complete and reassuring quarantine procedure for returnee and the locals. Returning from the States, where even wearing a mask in Walmart would grant you a celebrity level of side-glances, it is astonishing to not only see the level of commitment for quarantine procedures, but also feel the discriminant-free comfort of wearing a face mask in public. The airport rails and other public transportations were not available for returnee, and before I could get in a government issued quarantine taxi, I was showered in alcohol spray from head to toe along with my luggage. Yes, my parents were at the airport when I arrived, just in their own car as they follow my taxi to my quarantine address to pay for my bill. All the precautions and measures may all sound absurd and going a little too far; back in January, while the World Health Organization declares the unnecessity to the world, Taiwan shuts down its border with Wuhan; maybe sometime what seems a bit too much in the beginning might just be the key to success.

Within 36 hours since notice, I have already set foot on my home country. It is beyond shocking how quickly the Coronavirus is impacting my life. But it wasn’t until I have settled down in my old grandparent’s house and think about what is happening in the world, when I was able to see how the world has been torn and devastated with this disease. It really shows how desperate times may bring out the worst of people. In early March, I tried to order a box of 50 face masks; 50 dollars. 8-flow ounce travel size hand sanitizers? 20 dollars, with Walmart, CVS all out of stock. A week after I came back to Taiwan, I saw a news about a man in the U.S. who plundered 150 bottles of 1 Liter hand sanitizer and is asking for return of purchase at Walmart when he couldn’t sale them out online (with a stacked price). Another news reported some merchants in China are selling millions of masks made with essentially tissue paper as layers. The selfishness and ignorance of some people to make money out of this pandemic and people’s lives is more than frustrating and sad to see.

During my quarantine, I have searched numerous poems and text for my SCLA class, with the poem “The Dream” by Edgar Allen Poe catching my eyes in specific. The poems for Edgar Allen Poe often have a dark and despairing mood in general and “The Dream” is no exception. In “The Dream”, Edgar portrays a dream of a dark, moody night without happiness where he dreamed of “a vision of the dark night…[and] dreamed of joy departed” (4). The world turned from this stabled, safe place to a place filled with all sorts of overwhelming uncertainties: an early end of the school semester, the whole world switching to online class, the chaos in the States from medical workers to food supplies, everything is real as it is happening right now yet so fictional like a long, miserable dream on a wild night.

However, mankind isn’t all wicked, where one could still see the good in humanity and not all hope are lost. Right now, all the bio-vaccine labs in the worlds are working faster than ever to try to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus. Acknowledging the deteriorating conditions in Italy, an Italian priest in Taiwan calls for donation, and fundraised over 5 million USD in six days. With more stabilizing situations, Taiwan has the ability, and have donated millions of masks to countries for their medical workers including the States, the Netherlands, etc. Maybe you have heard of the phrase “Taiwan Can Help”, and that is one way the Taiwan is helping the world. The world may not be in its best time of the period, and it does looks like the beginning for a post-apocalypse novel, but I believe that is what novels are for, where we could learn a thing or two before it happens and works toward preventing it. I have learned that what the world needs the most right now is not more discrimination, and not more protest nor more politics over lives of people, but rather stay united (while keeping social distancing), where that is the one and only way, we could overcome the coronavirus. The 14-day quarantine period living all by myself seems daunting at first thought but passes quickly now when I think back to it. After quarantine, I moved back to my house in Taipei; the streets of Taipei still flourish like every other day, and schools still open, where the park next to my house would still be filled with laughter of children by 4 in the afternoon, like any other day. And sooner than I would realize, I would be back in WALC studying for my next exam in Purdue University, and hopefully this time, returning without masks and raincoats.