Editor's note: In this series, we share stories and experiences showing how expats are dealing with the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak.
An Eritrean student who experienced the outbreak, spread, and curbing of COVID-19 in Wuhan, Hubei province, is planning to publish a book to tell what happened as the city was fighting the virus.
"If the virus couldn't kill us, it makes us stronger," said Henok Neguse Negash, 34, a doctoral candidate at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. "The book will be named Straight from the Horse's Mouth."
When the city announced a lockdown on Jan 23, he and his friends thought it might last only for a few days or a week. They did not expect the situation to get worse.
About three months later, his home country, Eritrea, announced a nationwide lockdown.
"Locking down a city must be a very hard choice, but it is the most effective one," Negash said. "Chinese people always say shede, or 'give and take', one cannot take without giving. In this way, China has managed to curb the epidemic and even helped other countries later. I am personally very appreciative of China's approach."
When Negash and other overseas students were asked to stay in their dormitory, the university staff helped them access online platforms for shopping, studying and sharing information, he said.
Negash said he prayed for China every day. He exercised, read books, watched movies, listened to music and played the guitar. He said he also called his family in Africa every day to let them know he was safe and well in Wuhan. He also did his best to help his friends around him.
One month later, while talking to his friends, Negash realized he needed to do something special to make a record of the time and the people affected. They thought people would one day forget what happened, so they wanted to make a record.
"Many people lost their family members and friends. I regard Wuhan as my second hometown. Personally, I can feel the pain," he said.
Negash first came to Wuhan in 2011 and obtained a master's degree in finance and economics two years later. He went home and worked as a teacher in a business school. In 2017, he decided to return to Wuhan and learn more.
"I have special feelings toward this city. Every time I left, I soon began to miss it. I eat Chinese food every day, and my favorite is reganmian, hot dry noodles," he said.
Negash referred to the city's slogan, "Wuhan, different every day!", saying it is a dynamic city that is changing for the better every day.
What happened in the city deeply touched Negash and his friends, he said. What impressed him the most was that medical workers from around the country came to support Wuhan. Even newlyweds left their hometowns and families to fight the novel coronavirus with no hesitation, he said.
When Negash proposed the book, many of his friends wanted to contribute, including a doctoral candidate from Fiji, a teacher from South Africa, an undergraduate student from Samoa and a doctoral candidate from Algeria.
Nine of them decided to write eight stories.
"In fact, some of us are not in Wuhan but stranded in Southeast Asia while traveling there or back in their motherland. However, as witnesses or observers, we all have different perspectives on the real-life conditions of ordinary people during the fight against the epidemic," Negash said.
"We are still collecting material as the pandemic is still not over. Our friends from other countries are sharing their stories too. People from different countries are sharing same stories. We will continue to write and record," he said.
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