Moran native reflects on life in China during pandemic

Molly McEwan and her fiancé have been living and teaching in China. The past year has been marked by a global pandemic that began in the country.

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December 31, 2020 - 10:00 AM

Moran native Molly McEwan and her fiance, Tyson Carpenter, live and teach in China. Their school year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but has mostly returned to normal. Courtesy photo

It seems appropriate to end the year’s coronavirus coverage the way it began, with an update from Molly McEwan. 

The Moran native and her fiancé, Tyson Carpenter, are living in China, where they both work as teachers. McEwan shared her experiences with Register readers at several points throughout the year. Late in the summer, as Allen County schools prepared to reopen, she talked about the challenges of teaching online.

Since then, she and Tyson have remained in China and continue to teach. School began Sept. 1 and has been pretty normal, she said. 

While COVID-19 was first discovered in China, the country was able to quickly control the spread of infection. A country of 1.4 billion, it has reported a total of 87,053 infections with 4,634 deaths since the pandemic began. By comparison, the U.S. with 331 million residents has reported 20.2 million cases with more than 350,000 deaths.

Molly McEwan, second from right, and her fiance, Tyson Carpenter, far right, hang out with friends at a mall. Life has mostly returned to normal in Zhejiang, China. Courtesy photo

Because of the high rate of infections in the United States and other areas of the world, McEwan said she and Carpenter could leave China, but they would not be able to return.

That means they haven’t been able to visit family in the U.S., nor has their family been allowed to visit them in China.

“The only thing that is very different is that we can’t travel too far, and if you are in a big city everyone is wearing masks. Definitely the most dramatic thing was it all beginning back in February,” McEwan said via email.

Typically, most people in China will take a vacation at the end of the year. Last year, McEwan and Carpenter traveled to several countries in Asia. They live in Cixi, a suburb of Ningbo, in the north Zhejiang province in eastern China.

“We can leave the province to travel, but our school will put temporary restrictions on how far we go depending on the number of cases. This week Hangzhou and Shanghai have had some confirmed cases, so we have been asked not to leave the Ningbo city area for the New Year holiday,” McEwan said.

“But for us in our small city, we don’t need to wear masks anymore, everything is open and operational, aside from travel restrictions everything is pretty normal here. We have a great group of friends here, so staying put is not so bad.”

MCEWAN REFLECTED on the past year, and said she feels like she has grown a lot.

“I’ve gotten a lot better with my own self discipline and motivation,” she said. “I have grown a lot in my relationship and we’re much better at communicating and listening.”

“I also learned to be grateful for the things and opportunities I have, because you never know what things will be like in one year, or even a few months in the future.”

The pandemic has put its own unique twist on her adventure in China.

“What a mix of memories! Immediately I think about my mom staying up late to video call while I went wedding dress shopping with my friends. All the video calls and time I spent talking with my family and friends. Getting to learn about my fiancé on a totally different level during the quarantine, all the games we played, food we cooked, and silly things we bought to entertain ourselves. Maybe the best memories are the picnics and bike rides in the spring, when school had not started back up in person yet and our little group of friends went on all kinds of adventures on those nice sunny days.”

The Register also asked what she knows now that she wishes she’d known when the pandemic began.

“Mostly I wish I had known how important time is, and not to put things off,” she responded. 

“So much happened so fast and we didn’t get to do some things we had planned. I’ve learned to really value the time I have, the things I get to do, and the people I get to spend time with.”

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