Local News

Carrboro woman, teaching in China, now stranded in Vietnam because of coronavirus outbreak

Posted February 5, 2020 5:48 p.m. EST

Carrboro writer Ashley Atkins had never even been to Asia before she moved to Shenzhen, China, to teach high school last fall.

She was on vacation in Cambodia for the new year holiday when the coronavirus outbreak blew up. She'd barely heard of it before she left, but by the time she was supposed to go home to Shenzhen, she couldn’t.

The U.S. State Department has issued a level 4 warning, telling travelers not to go to China.

Now, Atkins and other people who left China on vacation are trying to figure out what’s next.

She's currently in Vietnam, in a room she booked before the outbreak spread. But she’s not sure where she’s staying next.

Her Chinese phone number is making that difficult.

“I was looking at Airbnbs and other accommodations, and there were big notices that said they were not renting anything to people from China,” Atkins said.

There’s a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment in Southeast Asia right now, Atkins said, and a lot of fear overall that tourists from around the world could bring the virus with them.

“If you’re inside a store and, God forbid, you sneeze or you cough and you’re not wearing a mask, people will jump,” she said. “They will turn around and look.”

Atkins’ school is resuming classes online next week, so she had to buy a laptop – she left hers in China.

She's hoping to go home in a couple of weeks. But for now, she’s taking everything in stride.

She turns 50 on Friday, and that’s giving her perspective.

“I’m here,” she said. “I’m having an adventure. I still have a great job, and I’m getting to see a part of the world that I only dreamed of seeing before.”

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