Chapter 7: Baduk (GO)

January 26, 2020
From COVID 19: A novel inspired by real events

Mrs. Emily Lee Parker was excited to see her neighbor Mrs. Kong finally come back from Wuhan, China on January 6, 2020. Mrs. Kong was there for almost two months. She left right before the Thanksgiving holiday to visit her sister’s family. Mrs. Kong lived alone in San Francisco after her husband passed away about two years ago.

She was becoming more and more lonely living in a big mansion all alone, so the trips to China became frequent and routine. She was even contemplating a permanent move to Wuhan, China, where her sister and sister’s family lived.

What am I going to do in a seven-bedroom house by myself? The kids are all grown up and have their own families to look after all over the States, and they’re not even visiting me in San Francisco, she thought.

The only friend she had was Emily, who lived next door to her, Pand they played the game Baduk regularly; on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Mrs. Kong, like Emily, was a woman of means and lived in a quiet residential area in Potrero Hill.

The Potrero Hill neighborhood house, affectionately known as the NABE, sits at the top of De Haro Street at Southern Heights Avenue, and has an incredible view of San Francisco, both the Bay and East Bay. It is also next to the Mission District in downtown, where there are ample restaurants and shopping, providing convenience to those living in a busy city.

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

When Mrs. Kong goes to China, Emily takes care of looking after her house. She opens the house for the cleaning lady, Bita, who was from Iran. When Mrs. Kong was in China, Bita came to clean the house only once every other week. Bita took a bus or train to get there and needed the money to live. Neither Mrs. Kong nor Emily knew exactly which neighborhood in San Francisco Bita was commuting from. Bita was a sole breadwinner of the house, and her parents, two small children, and husband all lived in a small apartment crammed up like sardines. Bita often talked about her living situation with Emily and wanted to clean Emily’s house when Mrs. Kong was out of town. But Emily already had a cleaning lady from her church, a Korean woman who also cooked Korean meals. Bita could not help Emily since she is Persian, not Korean, and Emily politely declined the offer but felt guilty.

Like Mrs. Kong, Emily married a wealthy Caucasian husband. Even though Emily was living and loving the American life, she missed Korean home cooked food terribly, and had to eat rice and a Korean dish for at least one meal a day. Luckily, her husband also acquired a love for Korean food after living with her during 50 years of marriage and did not argue too much about the kitchen table every day. He quietly wished, however, not to smell kimchee in his milk and cheese in the refrigerator.

Emily kept her life fairly busy after her retirement as a research coordinator under her husband’s laboratory, where she met Samantha’s father, Dr. Robert Parker. He was a renowned obstetrics and gynecology doctor at the San Francisco Medical School, and now he was an emeritus professor, enjoying his fully retired life playing golf. They had ups and downs in their marriage just like any other couple, but the most difficult problem they had to go though was infertility.

Luckily, much of the financial and medical access burdens was somewhat eased because of the position Robert had in medicine. They had only one child in their 40s, Samantha, whom they raised like a princess. They thought about adopting another child, but the application never went through, and they did not see the need as Samantha kept them very busy along with their professional careers.

Emily was enjoying her retired life with Robert playing golf and traveling around the world. She also attended the California Culinary Academy, which was located a few blocks away at 350 Rhode Island Street. She really enjoyed international cooking classes. The facilities included professional kitchens, student-staffed restaurants, lecture classrooms, a library, and a culinary laboratory. Emily’s hope was to learn more about Korean cooking, but the curriculum of the school had not reached Korean food yet.

Another activity Emily enjoyed was playing Baduk with Mrs. Kong. They usually met in Mrs. Kong’s house because sometimes they got noisy playing the game, especially at the end, and they talked endlessly over tea and cookies. Emily did not want to bother Robert, who read his books quietly.

Baduk (Go) is an abstract strategy board game for two players. It has two different colored stones; one set white and the other black, and an empty board which is a 19 x 19 grid. Players take turns placing one stone at a time, and the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. The person with the black stones plays first, and Emily and Mrs. Kong often fought to have the black stones. Although China invented the game 2,500 years ago, it was Emily who taught Mrs. Kong how to play, and since then they were both hooked. They played the game for hours. Sometimes, Emily experimented in cooking international food she learned from the culinary school with Mrs. Kong, but Emily truthfully did not really have much talent in cooking. Mrs. Kong usually ended up cooking delicious Chinese food, but she let Emily try out a few dishes to spend more time with her.

Emily was picking Mrs. Kong up from the San Francisco airport that afternoon, as she had done for years now. Her drives to the airport had become more routine. It had been two months since she saw Mrs. Kong, and she missed her and was looking forward to having her friend back to play Baduk. Emily would also demonstrate her ability to make crème brûlée, a dessert dish she recently learned.

“Ne hou, Emily! Long time, no see, xie xie,” Mrs. Kong exclaimed as she came out from the narrow terminal to where the luggage was being picked up. Mrs. Kong spoke increasingly more Chinese mixed with English when she came back from China. Emily also spoke “Konglish,” a mixture of Korean and English to her many times. Between the three languages they often mixed, they understood each other fairly well and had no problems communicating.

“I worry, you come from Wuhan. You okay? Many sick from Wuhan,” Emily said. She could speak perfect English, but for some reason, when she was with Mrs. Kong, she did not want to speak English perfectly.

“Okay, okay, no sick.”

“Your family okay? Your sister?”

“Shi, shi.” Emily gathered that meant yes in Mandarin.

“Miss you. Your house ok. Bita came yesterday—clean your house,” Emily said.

“Xie xie, let’s play Baduk. No people, family play Baduk. I miss playing.”

They drove back to the NABE. Emily noticed Mrs. Kong was sniffing and coughing a little. Emily gave her the Kleenex tissues from behind the seat while she was driving. It was a very long reach to get the Kleenex tissue box. It is rather common to have sniffing after a long flight, Emily thought.

To read entire book, go to COVID-19: A gripping novel inspired by real events

Psalm 119

I came across reading God’s words in Psalm 119 in my morning quiet time and learned that this Psalm is the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It has carefully constructed 22 sections each corresponding to a different letter in the Hebrew alphabet and each verse beginning with the letter of its section. And the thought came to me that I should write 26 English alphabets with each verse that either begins or signifies God’s words that touch my heart.

A: (Revelation 1:8)

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

B: (Matthew 5: 3-11)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 

C: (Matthew 11: 28-30)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

D: (Psalm 37:4)

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

E: (John 10:28-30)

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

F: (Proverbs 3:5)

Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous hand.

G: (Psalm 145:3)

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

H: (Revelation 4:8, 11)

“Holyholyholy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

I: (Exodus 3:14)

I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.

J: (Jeremiah 15:16)

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.

K: (Proverb 16:24)

Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

L: (Psalm 119:105)

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

M: (Psalm 121:1-3)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

N: (Isaiah 42:8)

I am YAHWEH. That is my name. I will not give my glory to another. I will not let statues take the praise that should be mine.

O: (John 16:33)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

P: (Psalm 102:1)

Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.

Q: (Zephaniah 3:17)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

R: (Hebrew 1:3)

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

S: (Psalm 46:10)

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

T: (Isaiah 25:8)

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.

U: (Job 36:26)

How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.

V: (1 Corinthian 15:57)

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

W: (Revelation 5:12)

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.

X: (Proverbs 21:1)

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. This is referring to King Xerxes, the king of Persia in the time of Esther. (I had a difficult time to find a Bible verse, starting or related to the letter X).

Y: (Job 23:10)

Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Z: (Roman 9:33)

Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

Campaign for Prayer to eradicate the Coronavirus

Reading the Hosea chapters of the Bible, I hear God’s voice using the prophet Hosea to warn the people of Israel the calamity they are about to face because they no longer seek God, obey His commandments or acknowledge His presence. The people of Israel have rejected what is good, appointed kings without God’s consent and princes without His knowledge. Not only that, they worshipped the manmade calf—the idol, and used the Temple of God to make sacrifices and burn offerings for other gods, prostituting with priests, both men and women and sold themselves to many lovers. They lost a sense God’s holiness, moral obligations to help less fortunate people, and used the very altars for places of sinning. The people of Israel had forgotten their own history; how they were brought to the land of milk and honey from bondage of slavery in Egypt within 800 years (1500 BC to 8th century BC). However, God still calls the people of Israel to plead with God to help them, to repent and seek His name to prevent His impending punishment of exile and dispersion of Israel people to Egypt and Assyria.

American history as I learned originated from the religious pursuit of Christianity where the territory that would become the Thirteen Colonies in 1776. Largely populated by Protestant settlers seeking religious freedom from the Church of England (est. 1534), these settlers were primarily Puritans from East Anglia, especially just before the English Civil War (1641–1651).  In the year of 2020, merely 244 years later, I hardly hear the significance of Christianity in this country. Seeking God’s name is no longer heard. Quite the contrary, even the current textbooks and education systems have removed most religious connotations and the name of God. In the name of contemporary political correctness, and tolerance, the name of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are uniquely removed from the contents of our conversations except in the church settings.

God took away over 350,000 people from the U.S. and 1.85 million globally by Coronavirus in year 2020 and the number is expected to grow even further in 2021. Natural question is then, are we facing the similar fate as the northern kingdom of Israel because our country has forgotten the original love of seeking God? Is God punishing us? Can we ask God to stop this disaster at once? Didn’t God save Lot and his family when Abraham asked God, “What if there are a few righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah? 

Can a few Christians pray for this country so God can save us?

The fact in life is we have to pay the taxes and the virus will mutate. It has been documented that the recent mutation B117 strain is more infectious that the original virus from China which started COVID-19. Currently, researchers have catalogued more than 12,000 mutations in SARS-CoV-2 genomes. As seen in the last pandemic in 1917-18, the herd immunity, we are hoping that the new vaccine against the coronavirus will win over so we pass through this calamity. But I think in 1918, it was not just the herd immunity but also the mutation of the influenza virus (H1N1) that lost virulence after killing 100 million people within two years.

I heard a funny sermon. A small town in the Midwest had a new liquor store opening next to an old church. More people began buying liquor and not attending church on Sundays. The preacher in that church began to ask the congregation to pray that the liquor store get destroyed from lightning and fire. The people began to pray to God. One day, the liquor store owner came to the church and pleaded with the preacher not to pray such a prayer. The preacher was fascinated by the liquor store owner. Why did he think the store would be burned in fire by lightening? It was the liquor store owner, not the preacher who actually believed that God could do anything. 

I hear no churches praying to stop the virus from spreading and killing people. It will take just one deadly mutation on the virus to stop replicating. God can do that very easily and much more effectively and faster than the heard immunity by vaccine. We should pray to God to kill coronavirus by its own mistake in mutation. Pray with boldness and confidence that God hears our prayers. Just like the virus, transfer this request of prayer to one of your friends, a prayer to eradicate the virus by God’s mighty power. 

Let us have unified voice in prayer to kill coronavirus in the year of 2021.

Chapter 6: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Ed Liu was constantly calling Samantha, but his cell phone calls did not go through. It just said, NOT AVAILABLE. He left multiple voice messages. Texts did not go through either and kept saying, DELIVERY FAILED. 

Where the hell is she, he thought. He knew she was rather apprehensive about the new autopsy rotation and mentioned something about Hart Island. He did not even know where that was. He thought it was some autopsy place in the Bronx near her apartment. It had been a long time since he last saw her because he hardly had time and they lived far apart. 

He lived in Washington DC, had finished his PhD in infectious diseases in the pandemic division and worked at Abby Laboratory as a scientist focusing on virology. The last time they saw each other was right before Christmas time when he stopped in New York for a few hours before he took off to Ohio to visit his parents. The CDC sent him to Atlanta multiple times during his internship year, and to South Africa once last year to visit their lab for a collaborative research project on the Ebola virus. 

This time, he was back at the CDC where several people with expertise in virology gathered to visit Wuhan, China to determine the origin of the coronavirus. He could not believe they had chosen him to represent the US group. His boss, Dr. Allen, trusted Ed more than himself to represent Abby and to understand the virology, and often said Ed “is the guru of viruses.” Ed had extensive expertise in viruses and was widely recognized for his intelligence. Dr. Allen trusted Ed exclusively, and made him the Associate Research Director only after a few years. Dr. Allen was the company CEO who dealt with the financial and overall control of Abby Laboratory and did not have the technical and scientific knowledge as Ed.

There would be ten people going to China. The World Health Organization (WHO) went to Wuhan, China in early January 2020, but they had failed to return fully informed about the magnitude of the contagious nature of the virus. 

In fact, it was reported as an epidemic only in the region of Wuhan and was not expected to spread like SARS in 2002, which spread worldwide within a few months and then was quickly contained. Now, the CDC did not trust WHO reports for obvious reasons. COVID-19 was thought to have arisen from a seafood market, perhaps in smuggled pangolins used for both food and medicine. 

Another possibility was bats, because these two animals have similar genetic codes as what we find in the coronavirus. Exactly how the virus jumped from a wild animal to other animals or humans remains a mystery. It amazed the CDC group China already had the full genetic code for COVID-19. Their speed in research was impressive. However, there was a rumor now that the virus may not have originated from the seafood market.

According to Wikipedia, Wuhan is the 9th largest city in China with 11 million people, and may be the location of the pivotal Battle of the Red Cliffs, which stopped Cao Cao’s incursion into southern China at the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. In comparison, New York City has a population of less than 9 million, founded perhaps 1,400 years after the end of the Eastern Han dynasty.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) lab is located just three miles away from the seafood market. A scientist from the WIV said that COVID-19 was most likely spread from a bat since its genetic makeup is 96% identical to the sequence of COVID-19.

There was speculation that patient zero in Wuhan did not contract the virus from the seafood market, but from within the lab led by a local scientist who also worked on bats at the Wuhan Municipal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Chinese government withdrew this from newspapers as speculation and stated that there was no evidence the virus came from laboratories in Wuhan. They emphatically denied any link to the institute and proclaimed that they have a strict regulatory regime and code of conduct for research.

The WHO also supported the Chinese government, stating that COVID-19 did not come from the laboratories in Wuhan. They added that the only reason the Wuhan lab knew so much about the coronavirus was because of Dr. Shei, the Director of the Institute, had studied the topic for most of her life since SARS in 2003.

Ed did not think he was qualified to be there. They chose him to visit Wuhan, China, along with other gifted scientists from all over the US to determine several things; the origin of the virus, its evolution in nature and spillover to humans, and whether it was an accidental or deliberate release from a lab, or a genetic manipulation of a pathogen as a bioweapon. He was excited for the opportunity even though only reason they chose him was because he is Chinese, but he hardly spoke the language. At least he could speak some and communicate the basics.

He was born in Ohio to Chinese parents who immigrated there as scientists. They were both PhDs at Ohio State University and worked in the research laboratories in the medical field. It disappointed them that Ed did not go into medicine, but his younger brothers saved him by becoming medical doctors. 

The middle brother was already practicing, and his youngest brother was in residency. His parents always said that Ed was the smartest, tallest, and most handsome of all his siblings. Ed was fit, especially after his ROTC military training, and he maintained his muscular and fit body and postures. Ed was not satisfied with simply learning medical knowledge, but he had to dig deeply with one focus—he preferred to understand viruses that can cause pandemics, devastating the entire globe much more than any human diseases. To develop a vaccine against a specific virus could be more powerful and heroic than what any medical doctor could achieve, in his opinion. Ed was proud of his accomplishments and confident in his own ability to save the world when the time came to show his heroism. His parents had an innate bias that Ed should be a medical doctor or lawyer, but Ed knew a PhD can discover cures for diseases more than medical doctors. Ed did not want to argue against his parents for he was an obedient and honorable son who would never lecture his parents.

They were not too happy about Ed seeing Samantha for many years. They wanted their firstborn male child to carry out their names and maintain their Chinese heritage by marrying a Chinese girl. Also, they were devout Buddhists and Samantha and her family were Christians.

Ed was a source of disappointment from his parent’s perspectives. His parents expected too much of Ed, maybe because he was a first-born son. No woman was good enough for Ed because he was “so smart, tall, physically fit, stunningly handsome, kind and gentle” as his parents always put it. Deep down, Ed was confident his parents accepted him. Perhaps his parents worried most about his future income as a scientist, just like themselves, who were less than medical doctors.

Ed thought going back to Wuhan, China as a virologist expert would make them even more proud. They indeed were immensely proud and joked with him over the phone about getting a cute, young Chinese wife while he was visiting China.

They expected the trip to be at least one week, depending on the progress of their findings. They were all staying at the same hotel near the Wuhan lab. Wuhan still had a strict lockdown and curfew orders from the government in place. So, unfortunately, a tour was not on their agenda. Also, the Chinese government was reluctant of their visit to the WIV, and Ed was not sure how they would treat a bunch of US scientists. After all, the WHO scientists came, checked and approved of all the findings from the WIV.

They were all expected to fly to China late tomorrow evening, and it frustrated Ed that Samantha was unreachable. He did not have much more time to call her since there were a lot of meetings scheduled before their departure. 

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Now in paperback: A female perspective on Covid-19, life, medicine and God

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The Unseen Doctor

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