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Checking In With A Wuhan Resident, Months After The Epidemic Began


The first time I spoke to Pisso Nseke, he'd been under lockdown in Wuhan, China, for five days. That was back in January. He was still adjusting to the eerie quiet and food shortages and life stuck inside, things all too familiar now to many of us here in the U.S. Well, Pisso Nseke remains in Wuhan and remains under complete lockdown more than two months later.

PISSO NSEKE: I haven't seen my friends in the past almost 70 days now. It's like, no familiar face in the past 70 days.

KELLY: I spoke with Nseke earlier today, and he expressed some optimism that Chinese authorities will, as promised, ease restrictions on April 8. He told me no firm plans yet for that day.

NSEKE: Maybe to visit my friends, maybe to just go out to the shopping malls, maybe to hang out with some of my friends I haven't seen since January. But I have no clue where I'm going to go, what I'm going to do.

KELLY: Do you have any just - I don't know - practical tips for when we're all stuck at home and we're trying not to go crazy, things you wish you'd thought of two months ago that now are helping you occupy your time?

NSEKE: This is an opportunity for people to rediscover themselves, to spend quality time with their families, to learn new skills. Thank God we're in the 21st century in the sense we have the Internet.

KELLY: Yeah.

NSEKE: We have all kinds of tools - YouTube, different things where we can learn something new. We can try to discover something new.

KELLY: I got to ask what you've learned. Have you tried a new hobby or a new recipe?

NSEKE: Honestly, I have been watching a lot of videos about meditation, videos about self-improvement, how to stay calm because one of the major problems I had in the beginning was some kind of panic or anxiety that was trying to come. I wouldn't say I was depressed, but I was feeling homesick.

KELLY: You were also working your way through the entire Netflix catalog last time we spoke. I think you'd moved on to "Narcos."


KELLY: How did that go, and...

NSEKE: Oh, gosh.

KELLY: What should we bother watching next?

NSEKE: I know I'm not doing an advert, but Netflix, if you're hearing this, thank God. Thank God for Netflix.

KELLY: So what are you watching?

NSEKE: I try to watch now, like, some African shows. You have some spy thrillers like "Queen Sono." You had other - some African good series on Netflix, "Lionheart" and "Chief Daddy." I try to watch different things.

KELLY: You're living in China for work, but you're from Cameroon. And since we last spoke, the virus has spread widely in Africa. What are you hearing from your family, from your friends there? Are they scared? Are they prepared? Is it widespread there?

NSEKE: People from my family, they are worried because they have been following up the crisis since it started here in China. But most of the people are not well-informed. A lot of people think it's a hoax. So far, the virus has been spreading, and from what I'm hearing, it's that we haven't yet reached the peak moment in Africa. So I'm very worried about the fragile health systems that maybe are not ready or adequate in order to fight this pandemic.

KELLY: You've had a lot of time to think in confinement these last weeks and months. Have you figured out what your life might look like after this? Will you stay in China?

NSEKE: To be very honest, after this, I'm going to look at the best opportunity for myself. So the best opportunity could be elsewhere. Obviously, one of the first things I would like to do is to visit my family because I haven't - as I told you last time, I haven't seen some members of my family for the past six years, like my mom. But this epidemic, this crisis, made me understand, like, my purpose in life is more about serving humanity, serving others. And we can only make sure that we do something that impacts as many people as possible.

KELLY: That's Pisso Nseke. He's a business consultant living Wuhan, China. I'm so glad to speak with you again, and I hope it's not so many more months we keep having these conversations.

NSEKE: I hope so, too.

KELLY: OK. You take care. Stay safe.

NSEKE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.