Confined to your room

Posted 7/16/09

“You get very creative,” said Judith LaPlante of Clark.

The LaPlantes were forced into confinement last month during a two-week tour of China, when a passenger on their flight to Shanghai became ill the day after they arrived. As a …

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Confined to your room


What do you do when you're confined to a small hotel room for nearly a week with only one companion?Faced with just that situation last month, Judith LaPlante of Clark and her daughter Emily improvised with origami, a lot of solitaire and a few pillow fights among other activities.

“You get very creative,” said Judith LaPlante of Clark.

The LaPlantes were forced into confinement last month during a two-week tour of China, when a passenger on their flight to Shanghai became ill the day after they arrived. As a precaution out of concern for the H1N1 flu virus that has spread around the world since April, Chinese government policy required everyone who had been seated near the victim be quarantined for up to a week after their arrival in the country.

As a result, after the LaPlantes' first day of exploring in Shanghai, they were called back to their hotel and their passports were confiscated. They were transported to a different hotel and isolated for six days.

The trip to their new location was not a pleasant experience.

“Probably the scariest part was the ambulance ride over,” said Emily, who turned 14 during their ordeal abroad.

“They took us out of the hotel through a service entrance, and it was really awful.”

No one spoke English, so they had no way of knowing just where they were going, and they couldn't see much through the windows.

“I almost got carsick,” Emily said.

What she could see was pretty scary.

“The cars didn't stop for the ambulance,” she said. “I was afraid we'd get in a wreck.”

Once they arrived at their new hotel, the two were assigned to separate rooms, a situation Judith said the American Consulate had advised her to avoid. As they looked for their rooms, she found the one she was assigned to had two beds, so they took refuge in that room, and Judith was successful in resisting the Chinese efforts to move Emily to another room.

There they stayed for six days that revolved around the delivery of three meals and twice-daily checks of their temperatures. They were not allowed out of the room, and when they opened the door to receive food or have their temperature taken, they were required to put on surgical masks.

Although Judith did have her laptop computer and was able to communicate with the outside world, Web sites offering entertainment from outside China were blocked.

“The only English we heard was when were talking to each other,” Judith said.

The meals were not very appetizing, the LaPlantes' said. Often they would save part of what was least objectionable from a meal so they would have something to eat in case the next meal was worse than the last.

“It got really old, really fast,” said Judith.

Despite the long days cooped up together, though, the LaPlantes managed, for the most part, to avoid getting on each other's nerves. Although Judith said Emily did begin to show the strain by day five, her daughter seemed to cope better than she did.

“There was only once when she complained about being hungry,” Judith said. “I was hungry all the time.”

Finally, after six days, the LaPlantes were able to resume their tour, or what was left of it, and headed for Beijing and a trip to the Great Wall of China. Unfortunately, weather intervened, and it rained the day they visited the Great Wall.

For Emily, who will be a freshman at Powell High School this fall, the greatest disappointment was losing her chance to see the Terra Cotta Warriors in the city of Xi'an, a large group of figures dating from 210 BCE that were discovered in 1974.

“I really wanted to see them,” Emily said. “We were going to see them on my birthday.”

She added that some of her cousins were going to be in the area at that time, and she missed seeing them as well.

Would they go back to China again?

“I do wish we could see what we missed, but I don't know if I'd go back,” Judith said.

Still, Judith said, the experience, aside from the quarantine, was not unpleasant.

“The people were nice and the cities were clean,” she said. “There were a lot of people, but it didn't seem crowded. It was above what I expected to see.”

Emily also commented that the city did not really seem crowded, and she was impressed that they often saw people using branches of leaves sweeping the streets.

“There were crowds,” Emily said. “There were people, but not, like, mobs of people. It was better than in New York City.”

Unlike her mother, though, Emily thinks she would like to revisit China some day because “I want to see places.”

“Maybe I'll go sometime when there's nothing going on and nothing they're worried about,” Emily said.