Belen teacher stuck in China, now in isolation in the U.S.

Coronavirus New Mexico

BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – Going through this pandemic in isolation is tough. Imagine having to do it twice. That’s the reality for a Belen teacher. “It’s comical. I was telling a friend of mine, that it’s almost like my life is on rewind because I’m having to do it all over again,” said Sheila Armijo.

Armijo picked up her life in New Mexico and moved to China in December. She would be there for a year to teach English, but she got caught in a nightmare when the Coronavirus broke out. “When the government says nobody goes anywhere, all the roads are closed, everything just came to a halt,” she said.

After being stuck in her Chongquing apartment for weeks, she finally got out and got a flight back home. “It took a long time because everywhere that we went, we had to do a medical exam. On the plane, they would bother us every few minutes, just to take temperatures and that kind of stuff,” Armijo said.

But when she got back, her life hasn’t become much easier. “When I left to China to go work, I sold my home so I really don’t have a home, so I’ve really been kind of staying with family and friends,” she said.

And then she was forced to stay inside again, once New Mexico got it’s first confirmed cases of Covid-19. “When I came back, I thought, oh okay it’s back home and back to normal, well it really wasn’t back to normal,” Armijo said.

And as she says she’s often recognized from reports on the news, people have been unkind to her. Saying she’s even been asked to leave certain places. “Even online there’s been kind of hate mail and phone calls. So it’s been pretty difficult. I’ve been turned away from jobs because of it,” said Armijo.

But having gone through this once before, she has some advice. “It’s so easy to get behind the wheel and go down the road and do whatever you want to do.. but it’s so very important to stay put. Stay put and that’s the only way to contain this thing.”

Sheila did just get an email this morning saying the foreign teachers like herself would not be getting paid for the month of March until they return to China. Sheila says she hasn’t yet decided if she’ll be going back.

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