COVID-19 left me in limbo in the United States, full of fear and anger. Then I returned home to China to face criticism before reuniting with my family.

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An empty John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York (All photos by Jasmine Li)

So this is where I am going to spend 14 days of quarantine. A bed, a desk, a stool and a bathroom. Not too bad. At least I’m home, nothing to complain about.

I put down my luggage and disinfect my belongings and every corner of the room using alcohol and antiseptic spray. Then a quick shower with the shampoo that has just been delivered to my doorstep.

My first day in quarantine.

COVID-19 filled me with fear. Then I returned home to China.

Lying on the bed, I think back. When I left school for spring break, I did not expect my journey would last almost three months. First stop, North Carolina. I went to stay with Wang, one of my father’s students. No one expected the pandemic to spread so quickly in the United States.

At the end of spring break, I could neither return to my school in Connecticut nor go home to China. So I was stuck in a tiny bedroom in North Carolina. I did not know what was wrong with me, but most of the time I was scared and could not find a way to release the fear. The fear turned to anger that eventually radiated everywhere.

Finally, my parents managed to book me a ticket back to China.

On March 27, I landed at Kennedy Airport in New York. I had been to JFK many times, but this was the emptiest I had ever seen it.

On the flight to China, all my fellow passengers wore goggles, masks, gloves and protective suits. Thirteen hours later, we arrived in Tianjin. It was almost midnight; outside it was freezing. We were sent to a nearby building for COVID-19 tests. Then buses came to take us to our hotels.

My quarantine room

I consider myself lucky compared to those who were unable to book a ticket.

I woke up the next morning to a door knock and someone telling me that my breakfast was on a stool outside my door. It was my first breakfast in quarantine and first meal in 24 hours.

My first breakfast in quarantine

Checking the news on my phone, I saw my flight number and an official report on it. There was one confirmed COVID-19 case on my plane and three suspected. I swiped down to the comments. Many people were calling us traitors and telling us to leave because China is not our home.

If this is not my home, then where is it? I feel hurt and start to question myself again.

But this time, my family will be here to support and help me. There is nothing I should fear.

Three questions to consider:

  1. COVID-19 left the author in limbo, and around the world the pandemic has isolated many people from loved ones. How has COVID-19 affected your life and your feelings?
  2. What does returning home mean to you?
  3. Why did some Chinese accuse fellow nationals who were returning home from the United States of treason?
Alistair Lyon author news decoder-150x150

Jasmine Li is from Beijing, China and in her third year of high school at the Westover School in the U.S. state of Connecticut. She likes to travel and to watch documentaries and cute animals. 

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World China COVID-19 filled me with fear — until I went home to China