The Pandemic’s Silver Lining
By: Michelle Liu
The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) started in December of 2019 in the city of Wuhan in central China. Within months, it has affected the daily life and national economy of every populated continent. People have found new ways to live their lives indoors and connect over the internet. Social distancing is reinforced and numerous schools have closed.
My family planned to go to Shanghai and neighboring cities such as Suzhou, I. M. Pei’s hometown, and Hangzhou during the spring break of 2020 but obviously with the COVID-19 situation, it was cancelled. Today, we spend our time at home and interact only with our family members. But even through hard times, it is always possible to find the positive. It is just a matter of how you look at things. I found this to be true with my experience of connecting with a Chinese pen pal, Yue, a sixth grader, who lives in Suzhou, China! My parents and Yue’s parents are old friends, but they haven’t seen each other for over 20 years. When our trip was canceled, she contacted me and now we write to each other on a regular basis.
Yue and I communicate with each other by email and write mostly in Chinese. We became pen pals since February of 2020 when America has not yet been impacted but China was shut down. I was still in school and had my regular activities.
In our emails, we like to talk about our daily lives. Living in China is very different from living in America. It is fascinating to see the differences in our cultures. For example, school is quite different. Yue has at least two hours of homework to do everyday while we get much less. Yue and I also talk about the books we read, especially Chinese classics. We both like the Chinese fantasy “Journey to the West”. Together we celebrated Chinese and American holidays such as Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter and the Dragon Boat Festival. As the coronavirus got worse in America, we talked about how China and America were changing everyday. We both were experiencing the effects of social distancing and self-isolation. We couldn’t see our friends, or go to parties, or visit a movie theater, or eat at our favorite restaurants and going to the mall was definitely out. These similarities brought us together and made us feel that we understand and support each other.
Although we have never met in person, we hope to keep being pen pals. Our conversations let me see the contrast between American and Chinese cultures and opens another door for me.
The COVID-19 situation has made me realize that through hard times, there are good things that will change your life, even though they may be small. It truly depends on you finding the silver lining during hardships in life. Of course, we need to be cautious and concerned about the current situation, but we can also try to turn it around. It is important for all of us to keep an open mind when we look at problems and reach out to help others. At this time during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving back to communities and doing good provides opportunities for everyone to find a new path or a new interest.
Michelle Liu is a rising 8th grader at Longfellow Middle School in Northern Virginia. She was born in Illinois, grew up in Texas and moved to Northern Virginia in 4th grade. She loves Chinese and she loves helping others learn Chinese. Currently, she is the instructor of the Conversational Chinese class at Hope Chinese school and teaches kids ages 5-14 how to speak Chinese. Michelle is the winner of several local, national and international level Chinese language and cultural competitions. Her Chinese essays have been published in local Chinese newspapers.
She is a member of her school’s debate team and a member in American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (AYPO). She likes to play violin for family, friends and the community. In her free time, Michelle enjoys tap dancing, playing tennis and taking care of her dog and cat.