The Last Plane to Shanghai

On Friday at midnight in China, a ban on foreigners entering China went into effect. What may have been the last plane before the ban from North America to Shanghai landed on Friday evening, a flight from Vancouver. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for China and for her, my wife was on that plane. Though I joked that my wife was taking social distancing to a 6,000-mile extreme — “really, honey, six feet should be enough” — in reality my wife was driven by a profound sense of commitment to her students at the international school where she teaches math. Her employer and the students really need her as the school prepares to reopen. She’s been teaching remotely late at night here in Wisconsin for the past few weeks, but now as China has made great progress in controlling the virus, it seems that schools may open soon, and her employer asked her and all her fellow teachers to return. 

The suggestion (not a command) to return came on Monday last week while my wife and I were enjoying our time with family here in Wisconsin in spite of the pain and uncertainty created by the Corona virus. Since our “medical refugee” exodus from Asia (we were in Vietnam during the Chinese New Year and decided to flee to the US as flights were being cancelled and chaos arising over the corona virus), she had continued to work remotely, holding sessions with students late at night here (morning for the students). I had hoped and prayed that she would not be required to go back. Yes, it would be nice to recover things from our apartment and close out some bank accounts there, but if needed, I’d be happy to just lose it all and start life over here, where we were already planning to return this year due to my work in the US and the need to finally be closer to family. But when she saw that schools may be opening, she felt a strange urge to return quickly.

Getting back seemed impossible, though. Major US airlines did not have a way to get her back. Travel services like Orbitz or Travelocity did not show a way back was possible. She lost over a day seeking possibilities. The only route that could get her back quickly seemed to be through Taiwan, but  there were concerns about Taiwan’s strict and successful rules that might prevent her from the transit required between airports. It turns out that had she chosen the Taiwan route, she would have been sent back to the US. Finally, after many hours of frustration, she contacted a Chinese airline and learned that there were seats available. There were seats left on an April 6 flight from Chicago, not too far from our place in Wisconsin, and four seats left on a Thursday flight from Vancouver. She feared that the convenient Chicago flight would be too late. So on Tuesday, she booked a very expensive flight — the most expensive flight we have ever purchased, about $3000  for an economy seat — for that Thursday Vancouver-Shanghai flight, and had to buy additional tickets on other airlines to get to Vancouver, which required leaving Wisconsin early the next morning.

This whole time I was hoping that there would be some announcement coming out that would keep her here, at my side, because my life is quite wrapped around her companionship. She didn’t want me to go for several reasons, including my job, the need to take care of our old house that we just moved back into, the need to help family with some of their challenges here. That all made sense. It was losing her to China for the next 3 months that didn’t make sense to me.

That night, the night before her flights began at 6:15 AM the next morning, she asked me for a priesthood blessing. It was a very emotional time for us. We didn’t want to be apart, but we had important duties that needed to be fulfilled. For me, it felt like sending her off on a mission, with vastly more reluctance and concern than I experienced in sending each of our four sons on missions. When I put my hands on her head and gave her a short blessing, seeking to listen to the Spirit, I felt impressed to talk about the people who needed her there and the many souls she would touch, both in her work and in her fellowship with friends and fellow members of the Church, where she is also definitely needed. I think the blessing was really for me: I saw a much bigger picture in that blessing, and felt at peace that she was doing the right thing and would have the Lord’s help, no matter what happened. But I also recognize that I can’t pick the outcome. We are getting along in years, and this virus could cost one or both of us our lives before we meet again (and I still didn’t even have insurance for the US, just for China, a concern I’ve about got fixed — the system completely failed for me and the site’s tech support supervisor could not help: “Sometimes this just happens, sorry!”). But in spite of the fear, I’m at peace and so very proud of her.

I see that China is doing all they can to bring their economy and normal life back online. The risk of disease needs to be weighed against the cost of shutting down education, of impairing health through poverty, of losing the fabric of society that can make life so wonderful in China. Cautious steps to revitalize the nation are under way. Meanwhile, we can also learn from South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan, where the virus is being brought under control without shutting down the economy. I believe Asia will rise swiftly from this crisis. And they will need sharp students with good math skills. My wife will be a small part of that.

She was so blessed to be able go. Shortly after she got one of the last tickets from North America to China, China announced a ban on foreigners that went into effect shortly after she landed. Half of the teachers in her large math department ended up being stranded outside of China, unable to return. She is desperately needed at her school. She was also blessed to not have to be quarantined in a government-run facility for two weeks, but has been allowed to do her quarantine in her apartment, with an electronic monitor on the door to ensure she complies with the strict and sensible regulations. She was treated with kindness, and the Communist Party cadre who managed her return to her apartment was very kind and showed her things like how to order groceries and so forth. There are so many kind people in China.

So many things worked together to get her back where she was needed — all counter to my wishes and prayers, but that’s how it often is.

Meanwhile, we both felt greatly blessed to have the time together we have had in the US. Her main hope in coming here, she told me before she left, was to have time to help our pregnant daughter-in-law in our town and to be around to see the new grandson. She did so much to help in the hectic couple of weeks before the baby came. The need for us to help take care of all the other kids was mitigated when the baby was born since our son was then able to begin a much-needed month off of work. Exactly one week after the baby came home with mom and dad, my wife was on the plane back to China. One mission accomplished, another begun.

Last night I participated via with our Shanghai International Branch’s church services. It was wonderful to be there, one of 40 remote connections, and to be able to watch her face during the service as she joined from our apartment. A better view than I normally get sitting on the stand during church. She looked so beautiful! I’m glad she made it back and glad for her school and for China. I wish I could have been with her on that last plane to Shanghai, but look forward to getting her back when she’s completed a vital mission in a place where we both feel she is needed now.

Kudos to China for its progress in controlling the disease. Kudos to Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan for your progress as well. Today I join many Latter-day Saints in fasting and prayer for the Lord’s assistance in helping the world to cope with this crisis, seeking both temporal and spiritual help to make the world a better place and to get over this problem soon. We may wish to pray for guidance in our lives, pray for our leaders to make wise decisions, pray for blessings to be upon our medical workers (one son and daughter-in-law are doctors, and I’m so proud of them for being able to help heal others — keep medical workers in your prayers), pray for those seeking innovative solutions, pray for those who have lost jobs and businesses that they may have hope and that the economy may revive to lift the burden of poverty on some many. (Poverty kills in so many ways, whether it’s missed cancer diagnosis, inadequate health care in general, poor nutrition, unsafe housing, unsafe cars, depression and suicide, etc. — these hidden tragedies may not have been considered in decisions to shut down so much of our economy.)

We need so much guidance from above!

Author: Jeff Lindsay

22 thoughts on “The Last Plane to Shanghai

  1. I am genuinely sorry for both of you that you'll be dealing with whatever comes 6000 miles apart. Having my husband home with me is a tremendous comfort.

    I hope you'll both stay well until you're back together. I hope that won't be a long time.

    (…but I think your church's idea that they can fast and pray this away is superstitious magical thinking.)

  2. Thank you!

    By the way, I don't think any of us think we can just pray it away, though we'd love for it to decrease fast and for the dramatic apocalyptic forecasts to be overblown. But prayer has resulted in many miracles. The miracles that may come here, if any, might be small ones or great ones. It might be a doctor finding an improved treatment, a nation with data and resources we need overlooking politics and sharing treasures that could help a city or state in need, a bureaucrat overlooking unneeded regulations that hinder production of urgently needed materials or that otherwise would discourage innovators from contributing their talents, a calm sanity among those who don't respect the need for social distancing and otherwise might have triggered massive new outbreaks, or many other small steps that could save many lives. Or it may be thousands of people preparing to share food from their food storage when supply chains break down and suddenly a city is at risk of rioting due to lack of basic food. We may not see or notice the results, but turning our hearts to the Lord and seeking guidance on what we personally can do and imploring Him for his mercy and help for millions is exactly the thing that the world should be doing at this time — in addition to washing hands, keeping a safe distance from others, cutting down on unneeded travel or gatherings, and vigilantly working with elected officials to encourage them not to cause unneeded harm.

  3. Jeff, thanks for your post! It brought some relief and enlightenment to me. While not in the same situation as you and your lovely wife, my wife and I face similar challenges with our jobs.
    I pray that you and your wife continue to have the ability to stay in touch and may the Lord bless you both as she carries out her mission.

  4. I am curious as to your moral and intellectual rationales for supporting an oppressive, irresponsible regime guilty of spreading death and destruction throughout its own borders and the world at large? And yes, you are supporting the regime by tacitly providing legitimacy by your ongoing presence and work. Plus, you laud the state’s behavior in your comment above.

  5. PaulM –

    I could not help but think the same thing. Jeff is a-constitution-party-ideological-extremist, pro-deflation-causing-gold-standardist who is constantly striving to identify Gadianton robbers who permeate Western society and America particularly. Then, after telling us how insidious Western establishment is, he tells how kind the communist party is and how competent Asians are generally.

    I guess that is what I should expect from a supposed Mormon "apologist" who openly declares Mormonism an "errant belief" no matter how "dearly held" it is, who favors modern obfuscation over modern revelation, and does things such as openly criticizes official LDS doctrine for believing planet Earth had a baptism by immersion.

  6. Being grateful for the progress against the disease in China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, and other nations should not be taken as an endorsement of all actions and policies of any of those nations. To recognize the kindness of individuals and officials in China toward my wife or the kindness of anyone anywhere else is again not an endorsement of whatever political system or party they belong to. I am very much for the old American way defined by the Constitution, including limited powers to government, economic liberty, and religious freedom. As I've pointed out here several times, China's economic rise came from backing off the heavy-handed centrally planned economy, the kind of thing US socialists want to inflict on us even more than has already been inflicted, and instead opening up the economy starting in 1978 with systems that seem closer to free markets and economic liberty than to Marxism. They call it "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Viva those Chinese characteristics!

  7. Paul said "you are supporting the regime by tacitly providing legitimacy by your ongoing presence and work." As noted in my post, my "ongoing presence and work" is in the US. Wisconsin, actually. I live here now, as my post explained. Are you saying that by being here I'm responsible for supporting the US government in the wrong things they do? Or ws your concern about recent atrocities from Wisconsin? Yes, I pay taxes, but even when I was in China I was required to pay hefty taxes to the US. We all have to be somewhere as either citizens or residents. There are few nations that are free of shameful flaws, so there's always something to be troubled by. I'm not sure how to minimize those concerns. Is there an index of, say, number of bombs dropped on civilians per year per tax dollar paid? That might be a measure to help one choose where to minimize one's military footprint on the planet. Maybe Burkina Faso is the place to be, I don't know. Suggestions? But yes, there are things in China that I don't like. And much that is praiseworthy. To speak of the goodness of their people and their progress in many ways is not to endorse all that is there or all that is behind its lengthy and painful history. One can love China, just as one can love California, without endorsing the things one may also object to.

  8. Been reading a harrowing article detailing China's Covid-19 lies. Very sad about all the well-meaning healthcare professionals working in Wuhan who tried to save tens of thousands of lives around the globe by getting the word out early. Their thanks? Oh, they were disappeared by the benevolent Chinese gov't. No good deed . . .

  9. I see, so being hyper-critical of one society and frequently silent on another, does not make you “anti”, a “critic”, or necessarily “pro” anyone. I tend to agree.  Analyzing Mormonism on a Mormon blog does not make a person “anti” LDS / Mormon or a “critic” either. Don’t you agree?

    “limited powers to government”: That was the Articles of Confederation, and it was a failure. James Madison’s constitution was about fine tuning the English system of balance of power, not limiting power, balancing power to empower stably, implementing Aristotle’s constitutional polity.  It is inferior to a benevolent king, but superior in transitioning from generation to generation, crisis to crisis. It was New York that refused to ratify the constitution without limits on power, resulting in immediate amendments, the Bill of Rights. It was also New York, led by Alexander Hamilton, that pushed the federal government to be as powerful as possible to ensure true economic liberty.

    Freedom of the Press is perhaps the most important limit on power, but if you notice it is also the ultimate balance to power, something Joseph Smith struggled with.

    As for freedom of religion, there is no such thing. The US Courts have made it clear that it only means congress will not regulate trivial things, but it is the US courts, not anyone’s prophet, that will decide what is not trivial as seen with peyote, polygamy, pedophilia, denying your children blood transfusions, and on and on. And as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, it is the ability of the lowest courts to initiate review of what is not trivial that completes the American system of balance of power missing in the European system.

    As for “US socialist”, let’s not kid ourselves, the US is already socialist, and it is not all bad. A favorite conservative sleight of hand is to call oligarchical dictatorships, such as Venezuela or Cuba, socialist to sully the word by association.

  10. Does your Governor in Wisconsin have the power to free Brendan Dassey? If so, why hasn't a Wisconsin Governor done so? Of course, it is only because of Freedom of the Press I even know about his situation.

  11. Some of you are obviously missing something about China: the lack of freedom of speech and the risks one might face when one "spreads rumors" or says impolite things. If someone has a wife in China, they'll be motivated to keep things polite and civil when it comes to discussing China. Even Americans who kinda like China or really dig it still may object strongly to many things, but must be careful in what they say.

  12. Seems pretty unfair to accuse Jeff of supporting communism, of aiding and abetting Chinese repression, etc. He’s not exactly Helmuth Hubener — who among us is? — but he’s not Arthur Zander either.

    — OK

  13. OK – PaulM's "supporting" might be hyperbole, but Jeff has clearly shown a fantastic double standard. With Jeff, the West and America in particular, every peccadillo is to be magnified and every criticism of its leaders is useful. With Asia and China in particular, their competence knows no end and any shortcoming is best addressed in private.

    Such home team hate is more common of dishonest intellectual liberals, than prepper religious fanatics. In this respect Jeff is unique. This type of behavior sees the My Lai massacre and forgets that it is an American officer that stopped it and an American congress that thoroughly investigated it.

  14. Yes, unfortunately, when it comes to China, Jeff has too often acted as Tedros of the WHO. It really damages his credibility as he engages in apologetics. And I'm quite discouraged about the prospect of a future with China taking more and more control of people's lives. A "novel" dark ages awaits us in the decades ahead.

  15. While I'm not in a position to comment on China's internal policies, I think I'm pretty clearly on record being for personal liberties and prefer the inspired Constitutional principles, while recognizing China has a much different system. While I don't have any right or practical ability to tell China what to do, US citizens have a responsibility to be vigilant for their liberties and to ensure that their lawmakers follow the Constitution. Handing the unelected, unaudited, secretive, and unconstitutional Federal Reserve Bank unlimited power to debase our currency by printing all the money they want and to act on their own, without the normal requirements of the sunshine provision, is a radically dangerous step implemented by the crooks who passed the recent legislation to fix the virus threat. We can't be ignorant sheep who simply trust these kind of moves as somehow for our good. There's too much money at play here for us to assume it's all being handled in good faith. Follow the money — crooks and gangsters sure do. So guess where they end up? This is not condemning the American way. This is what the Founding Fathers tried to do: to not trust any one man or group with excessive power, to impose constant checks and restrains, to recognize the tendency for the corrupt and greedy to use government to steal and enslave. So I do have a need to speak out against the corruption, not because I dislike America, but because I love it and its ideals.

  16. Anon, it's fair for you to be worried about what other countries are doing, but shouldn't you be even more worried about the steps being taken in the US to take more and more control over people's lives? Or have you not noticed the steady impact of increasing regulations, domestic surveillance, civil asset forfeiture, the transfer of much of the GDP into the hands of bankers and politicians, etc.?

  17. You see what I mean. Every pecadillo is taken to extremes. I guess we could all say if you loved the LDS Church and its ideals, should you not treat it the same way? For example, if the inspired principle is "not trust any one man or group with excessive power", should not someone like Boyd K Packer have been allowed to review the church's trust fund, instead the first presidency alone?

    I guess nothing requires you to say two positive things for one negative about America and being hypercritical doesn't make you anti-American or a critic, after all it still had an "inspired" (suggestive of divine involvement) formation, even if it sanctioned slavery. Maybe you should reconsider your use of "anti-Mormon" and "critic".

    As for repeating questionable libertarian claims, I sure with only a few additional course someone like you could land one of the many vacancies in the Federal Reserve's OIG. The Federal Reserve might be characterized as a private bank, but all shares are owned by the US Treasury, after administrative expenses, all interest (dividends if you will) are deposited in the US treasury.

    Can't you congratulate the US Congress for recognizing it was exempt from insider trading laws at one time and not to be trusted with the role of how to debase the currency and giving that role to academics that report to the Congress constantly. Tomorrow congress could easily transfer any amount of the Federal Reserves balance sheet to the Social Security trust fund. If they do, there will be a political cry of against attacking the Fed's independence and separation of powers.

    As for debasing currency in general, Benjamin Franklin musing on the conundrum in his autobiography. Of course in his time, humanity was only beginning to understanding the automation genie was out of the bottle. Today, the deflationary pressures of technology and globalism is unprecedented. The only thing that has stopped a deflationary spiral is the central banks printing presses around the world. In America, it is the housing policy of local governments (not the Federal Government) that help the Federal Reserve achieve its completely transparent target of 2% inflation.

    I am sure Japanese pension funds re-balanced nicely after the US Congress and US Federal Reserve sent them reassuring messages a couple of weeks ago that investing in the US is one of the best options.

    The global currency is the dollar, and on the back "In God We Trust". I can see how that is offensive because that makes the Federal Reserve God.

  18. Jeff: "While I don't have any right or practical ability to tell China what to do,"

    This is quite a telling statement, Jeff. You do have the right, as a human being, an unalienable right, but it's completely understandable that you don't exercise that right in this case and tell China what to do, since you have at least one family member in China and you'd be endangering her life. Who knows, you might be endangering your own life in Wisconsin. The arm of China has grown long, indeed, like the arm of Sauron. They might disappear you even in Wisconsin. In contrast, any strong criticism you might level against the US gov't and high-ranking officials won't endanger the life of family members. They won't disappear you.

    That said, this obvious reality makes it so your readers must take what you say about China and even about the LDS Church, with a grain of salt. You rarely if ever give us a full, accurate appraisal of matters in China, so it degrades any trust we might wish to give you that you're giving us an accurate, objective appraisal of many LDS issues.

    Furthermore, in today's brutal reality, any refusal to criticize Chinese governance, or giving aid and comfort to the regime, which our mere presence there can do, is increasingly troubling and annoying. I, for one, will never go to China to work, until there is first a dramatic change in governance, since my working there would directly benefit the Chinese gov't, which is continually attempting to expand its evil reach and control around the world. The LDS Church should also reconsider any of its programs that might strengthen the Chinese gov't. If so, then they should withdraw those programs.

  19. The LDS such as Jeff and their fantasies of a potential billions converts — no different than corporations of Western societies. Pat Buchanan complains that the GOP worships GDP — he wonders, isn't there more to a country? No different, the LDS at reassessing and modifying their stance from Prophet Benson's "double it" new member acquisition strategy to one of improving the quality of what they got.

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