For the past few days, I’ve vacillated between panic, helplessness, and feeling like a prophetic, burning witch. I spent the first two months of this year watching the pandemic take hold of China—from the arrest of Dr. Li WenLiang for spreading “false rumors,” to Wuhan and the whole country going into lockdown, to my friends mailing masks back home to their families in China—sitting in my NYC apartment as the virus swept across Korea, Iran, Italy, making its way across the globe towards me.
This month, enjoy a new feature that celebrates the wonderful former interns and employees that have worked at The Common over the years. Though we miss seeing them everyday, we’re continually impressed by what they go on to accomplish. This month, we’re catching up with former Editorial Assistant JinJin Xu, an Amherst College alumna, Watson Fellow, and most recently, recipient of the Lillian Vernon Fellowship at NYU.
Every summer, we boarded the sleeper-train from Shanghai to Jiangxi and I squeezed through the crowds to claim the top bunk in a tight compartment shared with two strangers. The train always smelled of feet and instant noodles, and I loved the 16-hour journey because it was the only time I was allowed to have the MSG-flavored noodles. I rolled onto the scratchy bleached sheets that stuck to my sweaty body, and pressed my head against the cool metal bar to peek out the window, upside-down. Rocking to the train’s steady sway, I felt the soft, comforting crease of the cash my mother had sewn into my underwear against my thighs, in case of pickpockets. Meanwhile, she sat bent on the bottom bunk, purse clutched to chest, glancing up at my dangling head and legs, muttering, “Behave, you are a city girl.”