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‘I Don’t Care if it’s 27 Below Zero. I Want To Sit Downtown’ Evanston Man Stranded In China As Coronavirus Concerns Continue

CHICAGO (CBS) — An Evanston man is trapped in China.

He’s spent the last few weeks in a small apartment and he can’t come home.

In a story you’ll see only on CBS 2, he told Vince Gerasole what his life is like on lockdown.

We’ve seen the desolate streets as China confronts the threat of coronavirus.

But the pictures given to CBS 2 were taken by Evanston’s Kurt Mitenbuler, who spends winters with his wife Xue Mei at their Wuhan, China apartment. They’re coping with the threat first-hand.

“At this point, I am just looking for a way out,” Mitenbuler said, who added that he’s concerned he may not be able to return any time soon.

“I’ve got nothing but concerns,” he said.

The Mitenbulers are now hunkered down with family in an apartment tower in Enshi, a city about six hours west of Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter.

“We literally got out just before the problem,” Mitenbuler said.

The couple was on an excursion outside the city when travel bans were put in place. Mitenbuler shared videos with CBS 2 of Enshi police patrolling vacant streets and urging caution.

“What that’s saying is ‘don’t go out, wear a mask, don’t talk to people. It’s more than an ask, it’s a command,” Mitenbuler said. “It’s just bizarre because if you have ever been to China, it’s wall-to-wall people, wall-to-wall cars. The streets are just empty.”

Some grocery stores are open. To get there, the Mitenbulers must wash their hands with alcohol at several checkpoints, fill out a nine-part questionnaire and submit to temperature checks at each one, and do the same on the way back.

When asked how he’s coming to terms with the restrictions, he said he takes his cues from the people who live there.

“I try to be Chinese when I am in China,” Mitenbuler said. “And (the) Chinese are used to living with hardship.”

He is on lockdown and can’t leave to get on a plane because he missed the evacuations.

The Mitenbulers spend hours each day trying to procure a travel pass from the U.S. Consulate that would let them access blocked off highways and drive to an airport 10 hours away. Thoughts of home in Evanston keep them going.

“I want a pastrami sandwich from Hewn’s. I don’t care if it’s 27 below zero. I want to sit downtown. Evanston has taken on a mythical, dreamlike status for me at this point.”

The Mittenbulers original travel plans called for their return in early April. They are hoping at the very least they can procure travel documents by then.

For now, Kurt is down to his last book on his Kindle, he’s out of United States coffee and keeping busy teaching his nephew English.

Source: CBS Chicago

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