Dotun is an English teacher and a family man who has spent the last four years, living and growing his family in China.
He tells us about life in China, managing the Coronavirus while it’s running rife and makes his pick between China and Lagos in the face of the virus.
On a scale of 1 to that time we thought the world was going to end in 2012, how seriously are the Chinese taking the Coronavirus right now?
Whatever scale there is, the seriousness breaks it! First off, you know the city where the virus was discovered, Wuhan? Well, if you live there, just pray you can actually stand the family and friends around you because the whole city is on lockdown. Nobody’s leaving until the 14 days for the incubation of the virus passes, and maybe not even after. Residents were told to cancel any trips planned around that period. The country has been placed on a level 1 alert, which is the highest.
See, nobody is playing games with this thing.
Okay. So like 2012 plus that ebola that year, double bracket one or two Nigerian coups. That’s how serious things are. Got it!
For real. I live in a city that’s a long way off from Wuhan, and even there, they’ve directed that public gatherings stop. I left China for a little vacation about a week ago —
Haha. But yeah, I left about a week ago. By that time, they had directed schools to stop holding, no churches, no mosque service, no mass public transport. Just forget all of that for right now.
Wait, wait, hold up. My brain just booted. They let … Oh. So you can leave China right now to another country?
Oh yeah. Funny thing is, when I was travelling, there was a kind of health check leaving China. That was when my temperature was automatically checked. Same thing when I got to Ethiopia where I had a stopover. But when I got to my final destination, easy breeze. There was no stop, entered freely.
Gee. With entry into countries being this easy, however, could the Coronavirus have spread to dozens of countries in such little time? Hm, I wonder aloud.
We’ll get back to that. But speaking of China and travels, how did a Dotun find his way from waist training in Lagos with Ambode, to living in Zheng Wei’s backyard?
Oh so first, I came to China to get a Master’s in International Business in English. That was in 2015, right after that, I got a job teaching English to students.
The thing is, every year in China, there’s a big demand for English speakers to move to the country to teach. It’s a pretty basic process to get the visa, they make it that way to encourage applicants. You just submit the necessary forms directed and follow whatever directives are given. I applied for the work visa, got it and moved. That was four years ago. and that’s it really.
Interpretation: opportunity to japa seen and grabbed with both hands.
Well I mean…
But to add to it, it takes about one to two weeks to get an interview. It can go up to four weeks, depending on the load of applicants at the time. If you’re granted the visa, it can take up to seven days for the visa to be issued.
One of the best parts of the process is, you only pay for the visa fee if you’re granted the visa.
Oh nice! So, let’s say I’m a stranger to China, like you were four years ago. What’s one thing I definitely can’t miss about the country.
Oh, I know this one, and it definitely takes some getting used to. When you first visit China, you will definitely be overwhelmed by how many people are sharing the road with you. The population is crazy. See, them dey born in that country!
Really? So are we talking say, old Oshodi in Lagos type of crowd?
I’m talking you’re walking on the road and it’s as if a mob is following you, you’re saying Oshodi. That crowd is a defining thing about China. It’s crazy.
Got it! So what’ll take second place?
Phones! You can’t miss it. If you’re new in China, just pay attention. You’re going to notice people hardly use cash or cards or anything of the sort. Your phone is your wallet, debit card, credit card, everything. You kind of get used to seeing it all the time, but it’s actually the coolest thing.
Wow, everything just slaps different when you’re not living in a third world country. Now as an insider, what are common misconceptions about China that need to die by fire?
Definitely some assumptions about the people. The Chinese get a bad rep for being a certain kind of way, maybe selfish, but it is so far from the truth. I’ve had the most wholesome, kind interactions with strangers here, than I’d ever have had in Lagos.
A complete stranger can go out of his way to take you to your destination if you seem lost or confused. I’m saying take an hour out of his time just to make sure you get where you’re headed safely. It’s the nicest thing.
Yeah. Oh, and because China is this big industrial force, you kind of assume it would have industries and factories everywhere, but it is so far from the truth. China is definitely at the top when it comes to using tech to improve processes. It’s not number two or three either.
Oou, fancy! So I’m curious about accommodation. How has manoeuvring that in China been like for you?
About this! Remember I mentioned I came here for school? My campus accommodation was added to the fees I paid to the school, so I never had to worry about that. And now, working as a teacher, my employment comes with free accpmmodation, English teachers get that here. So I’ve never had to worry about it really.
Wow, you weaved total package and agent’s fee? Must be so naize. So flexing rent-free must be something to love about living in China. What are your top three picks for the things you love the most about living in China?
See, the ease of life in this country? There’s no part two. It’s so easy to get services here. The second thing would have to be the excellent transport system. Short-distance, long-distance, they’ve got you.
Now that’s not to say there’s no traffic. But the thing is, if you’re tired of being up, you just go down. They have an excellent subway system.
Hm. I need you to help me translate ‘Nigeria can you see your mate?’ to Chinese, quick-quick.
Ah, small-small. I’m not fluent, I only speak a little Chinese and my colleagues speak a little English. That’s how we cope.
So what else do you like?
I’d have to say being able to have three months off every year because I’m a teacher, that’s pretty great!.
I’m not jealous at all. Now let’s flip it, what don’t you like about living in China?
Hmm, let’s see. First thing has to be the crowds in the big cities. I;ve never lived in a big city, but when I have to go to Shanghai or Beijing, it gives me a headache.
And you’re sure Lagos Island during Christmas…
You have to see this crowd first. Well after that, I’d have to say I really don’t like that I don’t Christmas Holiday in China.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?
Haha. So China doesn’t have a Christmas holiday. The Chinese New Year is usually one or two months after Christmas and that’s the main holiday.
Now speaking of holiday. Were you at all scared about the coronavirus when you were on the plane heading to your vacation?
Um, to be honest. Not at all. I feel the Chinese government has things under control to a reasonable degree. I mean they just completed a 1000-bed hospital in six days because of the Coronavirus, just to make sure it’s better managed and there’s a reduced risk of a spread.
Six days? 尼日利亚你能看到你的伴侣吗？
Oh yeah! And they’re about to launch a second thousand bed hospital this week. So they’re prepared to a degree. They built similar hospitals in record time when there was the SARS outbreak in China and Hong Kong, they did built similar hospitals in record time.
You know, there’s something interesting about the Coronavirus and the Chinese New Year I mentioned.
So the Chinese New Year is just like Christmas, but you know, Christmas for the largest population of people in the world. They’re travelling between countries to be with family and friends and moving all over continents. That’s one major reason why the coronavirus is spread so widely on the globe.
It actually gets worse. Because the Chinese government was unaware the disease could be transmitted from human to human; they allowed the free movement of people, provided they weren’t coming in contact with sources of the virus. By the time it was discovered that the virus could pass from humans, it had gotten to a worrying stage.
Man, this is terrifying. How does life with the Coronavirus match up with life pre-virus?
It’s like living in a ghost town. It’s so lowkey. Before the Coronavirus, In China, especially in the evenings, you’d get people gathering in parks, just hanging out, You’d see old people just dancing at squares, that’s a very popular thing in China, or it used to be.
People just stay in and with the government’s directive, they only go out for the absolute necessities, getting food etc.
Scary. Are you worried about returning to China after your holiday?
Truthfully, not at all. I’m sure things would have been under control to a certain degree by then. Or at least I really hope so. Not letting it phase me now though.
So, returning to Lagos or weathering out the Coronavirus in China, what’s winning?
You know what? I’d still pick China over Lagos any day.
Can we take it that China is your final bus stop?
Oh no, definitely not. My wife is Batswana, and we’ve talked about the idea of moving there permanently. I guess we’ll see.