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Calexico Native Teaches Kinder in China During Pandemic
Rene Edward Lee Jr., a Calexico native and Calexico High School Class of 2007 graduate, wears his mask on the streets of Guangzhou, China. | COURTESY PHOTO

Calexico Native Teaches Kinder in China During Pandemic

GUANGZHOU, CHINA — What was once a magnificent country was silenced. The busy streets … empty. The overcrowded malls … empty. The classrooms and school halls … empty.

During the height of the pandemic in China, we were celebrating the Chinese New Year, the nation’s (and some of the southern Asian countries’) biggest family festival. All of a sudden, it was canceled.

From the moment I landed in Guangzhou, China, on Jan. 29, after a brief holiday, I knew what I was getting myself into. I was immediately isolated, locked in my apartment, blocked from everyone.

But most importantly, I was protected, just like everyone else was in China. We are now in May. You do the math on how long I have been locked in. How long have you been locked in?

Despite these hardships, China’s government had to protect its people first. Of course, everyone continues to point a finger toward China. Everyone continues to blame them for the virus. But have you ever stopped and wondered, “Why did the cases go down? How did these cases go down in China?”

China survived one pandemic (maybe more). America survived multiple pandemics, and even other countries around the globe have survived pandemics. Yet, all these countries’ citizens still did one common thing. They understood.

The numbers in China went up quickly, and then Italy became the next country with significant numbers. But America skyrocketed out of nowhere, surpassing China and Italy. As I sit in my living room, watching every bit of news from home, from “fake news” to real news, it didn’t (and still doesn’t) matter to me. I watch and it hurts. I fear that a second wave will hit you, my people! Mi Gente. China did not get a second wave because, again, they did one thing.

They listened.

I know that I am not the only Calexican or American out and in other areas of the world. They can share their experiences of being locked in their apartments. They can even express how well their governments have and are protecting them. They can tell us the differences between our government and the other country’s government. Of course, nowadays, many people think that such stories are fake, or that it’s a “government-controlling scheme” dealing with amendments and rights. This isn’t about your amendments, your freedom, or your rights.

IT’S ABOUT YOUR SAFETY and the safety of your family and your community.

Put all that away for one minute and please listen. There’s an old phrase that goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I understand the hardships that everyone has taken, from closing down a business, to not being able to pay their employees. I know that many businesses (both big and small) want to open again, but how can you safely do it?

How can you protect your business? Your employees, your costumers, your family? I hope that I can teach, or at least guide you, in this matter. Wearing a mask became law in China. America took up that idea and even enforced it, which is a great first step. China took it to the next level with an app that shows your health information. Again, without that app, you can’t come in a place, and this applies from the elderly to the children because safety comes first.

Here are some other easy steps that I have seen and learned from here in China:

All employees and customers must wear a mask and have hand sanitizer.

Take everyone’s temperature and have them sanitize their hands.

Politely asked them to write their name, cellphone number, and temperature upon entry (This is to keep a record that way if something happens, you can contact people to get tested).

Remind people to keep their space and limit the number of customers you allow in your business.

Most importantly, keep your workstation clean.

If they are going to lift the “stay-at-home” orders, try these steps. Train your employees on these safety measures. You can be one step ahead of everyone by showing that you care about business and about the health of both your customers and your employees. You have made it this far. It’s time to try something new. Wear a mask. You can do it. Si se puede.

At this time, I would like to give a shout out to everyone that is in the Imperial Valley and outside the Valley. Together we can fight and win this pandemic. Please keep yourself safe and protected. Stay strong, mi gente. Mi familia. Saludos. And remember to wash your hands.

Rene Edward Lee Jr., a Calexico native (born and raised) from the beautiful Kennedy Gardens area, graduated from Calexico High School, class of 2007 (GO BULLDOGS!). He also graduated from Imperial Valley College and San Diego State University, then worked at Calexico Unified School District for five years. Currently, he is a kindergarten teacher in Guangzhou, China.

This story is featured in the May 14, 2020 e-Edition.

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