Letter from Beijing: Life is slowly returning to normal

“This week promised to be full of joy, fun, parties and laughter – my daughter Haley turns 13. Instead, we will calmly and quietly celebrate at home, sing “Happy Birthday to You” for her and her husband and share the cake for three.

Am I disappointed? Well, of course, Hayley is also very upset – she had been planning her party for many months, she was eager to become a teenager as soon as possible. On the other hand, after weeks of home “confinement” and the implementation of strict government regulations, the coronavirus situation in Beijing has been brought under control. Perhaps now we live in the safest big city from this point of view – only a couple of new infected are found here every day, they all returned home after foreign trips.

Hayley understands everything. Or kind of understands, in her language. She knows that she had to go through the worst crisis in the history of modern China – she cannot go to school, see other children, and she also realizes that it is impossible to leave the country anywhere, at least now.

The quarantine regulations in Beijing are widespread and must be very strictly enforced. Last weekend, my husband Mark had to fly overseas, and upon his return he was in quarantine for two weeks. You can’t even go jogging in the park. To make matters worse, my mom, Haley’s grandmother, cannot visit us as she is still in the hospital after her hip surgery.

Six weeks ago, the prospect of being locked in your own home for so long seemed unrealistic. What can we say about what is happening now in Europe and the United States. I returned from trips to Paris and London in January – life was in full swing in both capitals, people only heard something about coronavirus out of their ears – and plunged into gloomy Beijing, where hundreds of patients died every day.

The authorities in Beijing, where I live, have done a lot to try to stop the spread of the virus. Their efforts helped. At the entrance to houses, shopping centers, office buildings, everyone was sure to measure the temperature, people stopped going to places of crowds, everyone wore masks, schools were closed indefinitely, restaurants and bars lost customers, and the streets usually loaded with cars and buses were empty. Such tough measures have halted the spread of the disease. At least for now.

After six weeks in the most severe isolation, our life is gradually returning to normal: shops are open, however, there are only a handful of customers, restaurants and bars too, but there is a condition that no more than three people can sit at one table.

In general, it seems that the rhythm of the big city has recovered, but at the same time we feel that the very course of life has changed. Here in China, we seem to wake up from a nightmare. Slowly, even hesitantly. No one is celebrating, everyone just feels relieved and grateful to be alive and well.

Looking at Haley, I can see that the transition to online learning mode went smoothly, the teachers had a strict routine. She doesn’t miss the long bus ride to school, Dulwich College, at all. Now the fees take exactly one minute. Of course, she really misses friends. You can chat online, which they do, but now every day is so similar to the previous one that there is not much to discuss with the children.

For me, as the editor-in-chief of Vogue China, telecommuting has proven to be very effective. I host many online meetings and conferences every day, with only a short lunch break. I had time to talk to those employees with whom I usually do not interact, to get to know them better. This is not always possible in the conditions of a crazy office life, when every now and then I host designers, brand representatives and constantly fly on business trips.

From this whole terrible situation, I tried to make something positive. I focused on the further development of the magazine and digital direction, analyzed the work of the team, and carefully revised the structure and methods. After the crisis is over, I think we will be ready for the beginning of a new chapter.

Of course, there is a lack of communication and heated arguments at the editorial table, which often lead to incredible ideas. The lack of any travel is also frustrating (I missed all four Fashion Weeks – watched the live broadcasts).

In fact, my opinion here is a bit contradictory. Yes, I confess, I missed this exciting feeling that arises before the shows, I wanted to see new amazing images on the catwalks live, and I also wanted to chat with friends and colleagues over dinner in a restaurant. But now I understand that, perhaps, those who say that there are too many shows and we travel too much are right.

Surely this topic will be at the head of the global agenda when the fashion industry, and everyone else, will get used to and adapt to the world after the coronavirus. Personally, I’m sure of only one thing: when Hayley can finally throw her long-awaited birthday party, it will be something. A holiday dedicated not only to the fact that she became a teenager, but also to life itself. The dresses have long been chosen, they hang a little depressingly on the door of her closet, ready for battle. “

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