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World

Checking In With A Cameroonian National In Wuhan, China

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan has been going on for nearly a month. The rhythms of daily life in the city of 11 million people remain stilled, including for a man named Pisso Nseke. He's from Cameroon, but he's lived in Wuhan in China for five years. I talked with him a week into the lockdown back in January, and the experience was already wearing him down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

PISSO NSEKE: In the beginning, it was kind of fun because we could watch, like, movies - you know...

KELLY: (Laughter) Yeah.

NSEKE: ...Like, watch some Netflix. But - you know, but now it's - like, it's terrifying because you don't know how long this is going to last. So it's more psychological.

KELLY: That was three weeks ago. And with no end in sight, we wanted to check in again with Pisso Nseke, so he joins me again on the line from Wuhan. Hey there. How you doing?

NSEKE: Hello, Mary Louise. How are you doing there?

KELLY: I'm fine. Have you watched every single thing that Netflix has ever, ever produced at this point?

NSEKE: Actually, I started watching, like, "Narcos."

KELLY: Yes.

NSEKE: Yeah, I'm kind of watching a couple of series.

KELLY: And tell me what it's been like. When I spoke to you at the very end of January, you had been basically inside your home, not really able to go out except for just racing out to get food from the supermarket. Is that still the case?

NSEKE: Well, actually, a couple of days ago, the municipal council sent us a notice that we couldn't leave our apartments anymore, even to buy supplies. We needed to work with an intermediary.

KELLY: So your understanding is if you open your door and set foot outside, you - what? - could be arrested?

NSEKE: It's possible. And the other thing, too, is the government has started going house to house, apartment to apartment to check the temperature of people because they really want to identify and cure everybody possible.

KELLY: So how are you coping? Do you have food? Do you have supplies?

NSEKE: Honestly, my supplies have been running out. By tomorrow, I need to speak to the intermediary. But it's difficult to give, like, a grocery list to somebody. Like, oh, I want you to get me this kind of chocolate. Like, get me the Snickers, and get me that. Sometimes, I just like to shop for myself.

KELLY: Sure. Yeah.

NSEKE: But that's what I have to do tomorrow.

KELLY: When I spoke to you before, you were trying to figure - just monitor the situation in the news. You were reading local press, you were reading international press, and you were seeing really conflicting reports. How is that going? Do you feel like you have information on what's going on in your city?

NSEKE: Well, a lot of people, when they talk to me from out of China, they tell me, like, they're hearing that things are improving. So technically speaking, things have been improving in other areas, but so far, my city - we're still under lockdown.

KELLY: Do you have a window - like, an actual window that you can open and just at least reach your head out and try to listen to what the streets sound like?

NSEKE: Yeah. I do that almost every day, and I can assure you the streets are quiet.

KELLY: No traffic, no people.

NSEKE: No cars, no traffic - it's just empty and quiet.

KELLY: How are you holding up? How are you doing? This must be just exhausting.

NSEKE: I have to tell you that - I have never said this before, but I do miss home. I miss my family. I miss my friends. And I'm really hoping, like, when all of this is over, I can go back and just hug them because it's not easy being confined. Like, this is - it's almost like a luxury incarceration, you know? Like, it feels like prison for some people.

KELLY: Yeah.

NSEKE: So I'm holding it on for now.

KELLY: Well, we're thinking of you. Hang in there, and thank you for taking the time to talk.

NSEKE: Thank you very much.

KELLY: That's Pisso Nseke, a Cameroonian national who is living in and speaking to us from Wuhan, China. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.