I. Plan: 1. My life in a pandemic. II. Main part: 1. My life in a pandemic. I don't think anyone remembers the pandemic era with good memories. It's true, when the quarantine started, all students were happy, they thought that now they can rest at home and get a salary without working. But later on, this quarantine leads to the economic stress of not only the citizen, but also the family, even the country, the laziness of the citizens, the people of various professions, and the ignorance of the students due to the fact that they have been transferred to full online education. many did not think. Imagine if a medical student spends more than 1 year studying online in quarantine, how can he be trusted to treat a sick HUMAN BEING after graduation. This is an example of one occupation. I don't remember the quarantine period with good memories either. Until the quarantine, I was temporarily unemployed due to the liquidation of our organization, my husband did not work anywhere, we had no income. In a difficult situation, I found a job in a private organization in the center of our region in the night shift and started learning. I had to support my family and pay off loans. Quarantine was announced on the third day after I started work, I left the night shift and went out in the morning. There is no one on the street, neither people nor cars. I had a lot of trouble until I got home, the fares have increased. When I was going to our district, they closed the border posts on the road and stopped the traffic between the region and the district. People were trying to move from district to region and from region to district in vehicles. I also lost the job I just got. In order to do business, I opened a store selling office equipment for rent in the center of our district. Quarantine measures were further strengthened. It was not possible to go out during the day or at night. Even if we talked with our neighbor near our house, the internal affairs officers would come and insist that we enter the house. We didn't have enough facilities in our house, internet, modern telephone or TV and so on. My 2 young children were very bored. Food was brought to our neighborhood every day in transport, but we saved money to buy it. In such a difficult situation, every day we saw information about daily illnesses and deaths of citizens on TV, and our morale was depressed. During the quarantine period, the Muslim holiday of Eid took place, and one of the good people gave us food from his son for our livelihood. Many thanks to the head of our state and other leaders, neighborhood workers and entrepreneurs, who during the quarantine period distributed necessary food products to the families in need in all 9255 neighborhoods in Uzbekistan. Quarantine has caused difficulties for some, but it has brought great benefits to others. For example, the price of a simple mask has increased up to eight times. Residents rushed to their homes and bought various types of food from the market, which led to an artificial increase in prices. This caused difficulties for poor families. During the quarantine, not a single person or car could be seen on our crowded street, which was a very boring sight. As soon as the quarantine ended, a person close to me offered to work at the university, I agreed and was very happy. I had a hard time until my first month, because we had just come out of the quarantine. Thank God, our situation is good now, we live happily with my family. I wanted to write many more life stories about the quarantine, unfortunately, it was limited. III. Summary Quarantine has taught us and our country a lot, showing the consequences of not having enough knowledge and practice of medicine during the pandemic, full online education of pupils and students, or citizens not leaving home, harming the future of education, and not following cleanliness. put One of the best news I heard during the quarantine was the partial restoration of the ecology and azan layer in various countries due to the decrease in tourism in the world. Everyone knows that the life of all living organisms on earth is closely related to ecology. In conclusion, thanks to our president who thought of our people during the quarantine, worried about them, took care of them and only thought of the people, put his family second and served the people, sleep and I thank the tireless doctors, internal affairs officers and other state employees. I would also like to thank the people who organized the contest of essays about quarantine, because everyone is relieved to share their experiences. I think that such pandemics will not happen again in my lifetime. I believe that by using the ideas in these essays, an article, a book or a documentary film will be published that will benefit people.
The Coronavirus outbreak that swept the planet showed me humanity's true colors. I saw the news stories of doctors and nurses living in their garages to protect their families. I watched interviews and live feeds across social media praising teachers for finding ways to continue teaching. I watched communities come together to take care of each other with free mini libraries and food pantries. I saw neighbors put up signs thanking frontline workers, while others put out drinks and snacks for their delivery drivers. And yet, despite all that bravery and love, I became bombarded with what can only be described as my breaking point. Videos of frontline workers being assaulted filled social media feeds. Heartbreaking stories emerged of people attacking hospital staff in parking lots. Customers fighting in shops for “necessities”. Infamous Karen videos became the norm. The world had become a violent terrifying place. Not only were we fighting an invisible virus; we were trying to survive against the losing battle of self-importance and entitlement. My parents instilled in me the belief that every single life matters and thus deserves nothing less than the utmost respect. The janitor mopping the floors deserves to be treated the same as the CEO, as one without the other could not succeed. I always held this belief in my heart, and it crushed me to see that this was not a universal belief. Being a retail worker myself at the time, I was afraid. Every time I left my house my body was preparing for fight or flight. In my head I would come up with ways I could defend myself physically if someone came at me; my go to was a pen in my hand at all times. I had only a mask at the time to keep me safe from a virus coming for me… It would do little against a fist. Taking the TTC; the Toronto public transit system, I had to keep a close eye on those around me. Backing away from those who refused to social distance, and biting my tongue until it bled under my mask when people would take theirs off. Sometimes I would speak up, but I always knew the risk I took doing so. Someday someone would come at me, and I wouldn't be able to physically defend myself. I reached a point where I no longer cared. I was tired of fighting an uphill battle. All I could think of was my family and of families like mine; who were doing everything in their power to make things safe; taking care of each other in such trying times. I would stare at the mask less, proudly smirking because no one could tell them what to do, as they would yell out in victory, “We won't be controlled.” and “I'm not wearing a muzzle!” My hatred for them grew every day; the more bare faces I saw the more frustration built. Why were they more important than my mother? My father? My sister? Why couldn't they get that this wasn't a political issue? No one was trying to silence them. They were free to believe whatever they wanted. Policies were made to prevent the spread. You don't want to wear a mask? Then don't. But then you can't complain online, or scream at employees when you're denied entry. You can't scream that your freedoms and rights are being violated when stores have the right to refuse service, while police remove you from private property. They wanted others to follow the rules so that they could be safe, but then turned around and refused to do the same for others. Time and time again I was baffled by their selfishness. Why is your comfort more important than someone's life? How can anyone be so cruel? Did they have hearts of stone? How could you see the footage of bodies being pulled out of long term care homes and pretend it's normal? How could you watch videos of exhausted nurses barely able to take off their PPE gear while tears rolled down their cheeks, from hours of calling codes? How could it not crush your soul to hear the cries of families mourning their children. We were losing mothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, best friends, and yet they still didn't care, because it wasn't them. My family should have been safe, protected by you and yours, just as we did for you. But in your eyes, we weren't worth the inconvenience. Our lives didn't matter. The pandemic not only taught me I can't trust others to do the right thing, but it stole a future from me. I lost my faith in humanity, and with it, my dreams of ever becoming a mother. There is no sense to bring another life into this world just to witness this exact scenario in the next pandemic. For them to feel the fear, disgust, hopelessness and rage I felt. That so many of us felt. This isn't a world I want to make another suffer through.. So in a weird way, I have a pandemic to thank for showing me humanity's true colors. It took so much from us; years, resources, loved ones, but, it confirmed that we will always be creatures of habit. And even in the most dire of circumstances, people won't ever change.
I would like to take this opportunity right here, right now, to show my immense appreciation and gratitude to teachers. You do what I cannot do. You have the patience that I will never have. You amaze me every day. Teachers, I love you. And I respect you. Will you marry me? I'll do anything, if you'll only promise to never leave me again. School is a point of contention in our household. I love it, my husband loves it, my daughter likes it occasionally, and my son hates it. I can't say that I blame him either. He has ADHD and is the square peg trying to fit into the round hole when it comes to getting along at school. In the couple months leading up to spring break 2020, he was completely unable to be in his classroom all day. I would get phone calls from the school telling me that he was hanging out in the hallway with the Education Assistant because the class was too distracting. We toyed with the idea of homeschooling him. But after a trial period of about 5 days where we brought him home at midday, we realised that we didn't have the stamina for it. He asks a lot of fucking questions. They come rapid-fire, like bullets out of a semi-automatic, and he doesn't wait for the answer to the first one before asking the next twelve. The vast majority of them are obscure, or require a PhD in something like mechanical, aeronautical, or medical engineering. Despite our best efforts, he wasn't interested in going on hikes or bike rides, or doing any at-home learning. He just wanted to watch tv and play Minecraft. In the end, we worked to get him back to school for full days and agreed that we would not be bringing up homeschooling again. Ever. Obviously we all know how that turned out when lockdown rolled around. Can we just agree that there are certain things that you need an actual human in front of you for? Yes, we have amazing technology at our disposal. Yes, it has opened up the world and made things possible that were previously impossible. But as a species, we have not yet evolved past the need for human connection. The in-person kind (I can't even believe I have to specify that.) We'll know when we've evolved past it because we won't ever feel lonely. In fact, we probably won't feel anything at all. We won't feel an urge to fall in love, or have sex, or make a real friend. Until that day, a day that I hope never comes for mankind, we still need each other: not virtually, but physically. Which is why this whole virtual schooling thing is not going to work. The platform our school is using for online learning is meant for adults, therefore it has a chat box as well as the video function. At any point, students with unlimited access to their technology and minimal parent supervision can contact their teachers day and night. And they have. At all hours of the night. The school has sent out numerous emails to the parents asking them to get a handle on their kids so they don't interrupt the private lives of their teachers. It's been a disaster. But that doesn't even begin to describe the online learning portion. Each day the class has a morning meeting from 09:30-09:50. It goes a little like this: “Good morning Tiana…good morning Tiana…can you unmute yourself please? Tiana? Please can you unmute yourself? Okay I think there's an issue there, good morning Rashid, can you mute your mic please, there's too much noise in the background. I need those students that are currently using the chat box to post memes and videos to please stop because it's distracting.” That carries on for a few minutes. Then the teacher says, “Okay so now that everyone is here, we're going to do our greeting chain.” The first time I heard that, I thought, surely there must be a mistake. She just greeted everyone, didn't she? But alas, they must now greet each other. The greeting chain has a theme based on the first letter of the day of the week, such as “Wine Guzzling Wednesday” or “Fuck This Pandemic Friday.” Its success was dependent entirely on the students' level of interest (somewhere in the negative numbers for my son) and willingness to participate. While I think the exercise was an unprecedented waste of time and resources, I found plenty to be amused by. My personal favourite was when the class was playing 20 questions. The teacher held up a paper bag and asked everyone to guess what was inside. After about 47 questions, the kids had it pinned down as a food item and proceeded to list off every variety of orange they could think of. Kid: Is it an orange? Teacher: It is not an orange. Kid: Is it a clementine? Teacher: It is not a clementine. It's not an orange. Kid:…Is it a mandarin? Teacher: O.K. you guys, it's not an orange. Kid: Is it a blood orange? Teacher: *exasperated* It is NOT an orange. Kid: Is it a tangerine? Teacher: IT'S A BAGEL. A BAGEL! IT'S A BAGEL! NOT AN ORANGE! A BAGEL! AND NOW IT'S COLD! *sigh* Lets work on multiplication now.
My brother and I had not spoken to each for about 5 years. All due to an argument that his girlfriend caused. She single-handedly alienated my entire family and my brother. It wasn't until years later when I was officiating at my nephew's wedding that my brother and I spoke again. I told him that I would forgive him for what he put our family through but not forget. It was soon after, that COVID-19 reared its ugly head. It started a pandemic that the world had never seen before. It claimed millions of victims by the time the virus showed any signs of subsiding. Little did we know that one of the victims would be my brother. My brother had been diagnosed with some type of blood disorder that his doctor's claimed would take his life in two years. That was eight years ago. My brother, Joe, had surpassed his “death date” as he called it. He beat those odds only to succumb to COVID-19. It started as just a cough but being a longtime smoker he didn't pay much attention to it. Joe started to exhibit other symptoms besides the cough. Muscle aches, fatigue and vomiting is what made him decide to go to the doctor and be tested. The results were in and although my brother did not get the answer from the doctor that he was hoping for he was prepared for the worst. He was put in quarantine for the next two weeks. His health began to deteriorate as time went on. It was decided that it was in my brother‘s best interest to be sent to another hospital for physical rehab. COVID-19 had weakened him to the point of needing help walking, feeding himself and dressing himself. Many things that most people take for granted. Our entire family helped as much as we could. We all knew that we were ignoring the inevitable, especially when he was moved from the physical rehab hospital to the hospice. They didn't know how much longer he had but they wanted him to be comfortable. It was bad enough that when he was under quarantine nobody was permitted to see him but it was even harder when he was in the hospice. In his weakened state the visits had to be short in order for Joe to get as much rest as possible. To be honest, I preferred the limited visits. It was devastating to see my big brother just wasting away. During this ordeal my brother and I talked. Rather, he talked and I listened. It seemed to me that all he wanted was an ear to bend and a sympathetic heart. I asked him how he felt about knowing that he's going to be dying soon. I expected him to be upset or frustrated. Angry, sad, something. Somehow he was fine with it. He knew it was coming sooner or later and he told me that he didn't have any regrets. There was nothing that he needed to do. Everything he wanted to do in life he did. Joe saw his kids grow up and have their own children, his grandchildren. He got a chance to see his grandchildren grow up and have their children, his great grandchildren. What he said is true. Not too many people get to be around when their great grandchildren are born. I doubted that he was okay with all this going on but the more he and I spoke the more I knew he was being totally honest about how he felt. The only thing he was saddened about was that he wasn't sure if he would be alive to see his youngest daughter, his baby girl, have her first child. Unfortunately, he passed away about two weeks before his last grandchild was born. His last granddaughter, Ava Delilah. Growing up I saw my brother as a certain type of person. A troublemaker, opinionated, arrogant plus a few other choice words. During our many conversations I got to know Joe, the person, not Joe, my brother. I began to understand why he did and said many things while we were growing up. I had truly misjudged him and for that I apologized to him. My brother was very spiritual and believed that everyone had a Guardian Angel. He believed that his was with “El Indio” which translates to “The Indian”. “El Indio”was his Guardian Angel and was to be his guide once he passed. During our conversations I kept thinking about “El Indio” and what it meant to my brother so I decided to draw a picture for him. He was gone before I got a chance to give it to him. At his wake I went up to the casket to pay my respects. I put the picture in the casket with Joe and told him that he now has his guide to show the way. At my nephew's wedding I told my brother that I would forgive him for what he did to the family but not forget. After getting to know my brother with all our talks I got to know the real person. The reasoning behind all his actions are somewhat clear to me although not everything but it was enough to have closure and move on. It was time, to forgive and forget and I'm glad I did it before it was too late. Love you big brother, R.I.P.
I can't remember the first time I experienced the cognitive dissonance of looking at my body and knowing logically it was mine yet feeling like it was a completely separate entity from my inner world, but I remember the first time I tried to talk about it with someone. I couldn't have been more than seven or eight. This was before the impending deaths of my father and grandfather, and my grandparents were driving me back home after a weekend spent staring at the opium weights they had purchased on a trip somewhere in South Asia. My gaze remained steady as I listened to my grandfather's stories about his time in a camp in WWII, his voice trembling as he vacillated between dark jokes and terrorized tears. My grandmother always said he never left. It was as sunny as always as we turned down the street in San Diego where I spent most of my childhood, claustrophobically so. I peered out the window at a plastic green lawn then down to my hands and thighs, a familiar dissociation overwhelming me as I flexed my tiny fingers, examining the peeling skin around nails I bit so short that they bled. My wrists were always bleeding too, along with the back of my knees and the tender skin around my chapped lips, symptoms of my eczema. Even with medical creams underneath layers of bandages, I still scratched while I slept, ripping myself open over and over. I wonder now if I was trying to penetrate this flesh in an attempt to find some connection to this mind underneath. I'm reading a book about trauma called The Body Keeps the Score. One scientific study found a correlation between autoimmune disorders and significant past traumatic events. These events set off a fight or flight response, and the body can overcompensate so greatly that it begins attacking itself. Eczema is an autoimmune disorder. My recollections of my childhood are shrouded, vague shapes, but mostly obscured. This memory in the car is one of the few I have. Maybe this can be attributed to it being a key exemplifying moment of the disconnection I always felt between both pieces of myself and between myself and others. As I gazed at my tiny thighs- how strange it was that they were so slight! Microscopic in the scope of this planet- I asked my grandparents if they too looked in the mirror and saw foreign beings staring back. I assumed it must be universal, and I wanted to understand why it happened and how to cope with it. My grandmother said she had no idea what I was talking about. I now understand that this fracture was made sometime during the course of my life and is not an intrinsic state, but it's still hard to fathom the idea that most people have never experienced this sensation. I don't remember a time where it wasn't always occurring to some extent at any given moment whether I'm thinking about it- naming it- or not. Even when I do not give it attention or words, it scuttles around in the background of my consciousness. I've found ways to alleviate some of the most distressing aspects of this reality. Tiny needles filled with ink have penetrated my skin, depicting visions congruent with my inner world, reminders that this body is mine. As they increase, so does the reassurance that I'm connected to these limbs. Still, there have been times when the chasm between here and there have felt deeper, even recently. Last spring I spent exactly seventy days alone. Towards the end of this period I was tormented by a delusion I knew to be intellectually impossible, yet some part of me still felt it was real, like experiencing fear while watching a horror movie. You know it isn't happening, but it doesn't stop the nightmares. It consisted of the idea that if I was to look in the mirror I would see nothing there. If I looked at my limbs, they'd disappear before my eyes. The only thing confirming my existence was the heaving inhalation and exhalation of the walls of my apartment. Weeks of words unspoken can make you wonder if you're real. What is the difference between me alive and me dead if there is no evidence that I'm still here besides my own perception? I've come to the conclusion that seeking this sort of reassurance that I'm real from others is futile. When I think of that moment in the car, I am most struck by how much more isolated I felt when there was no solidarity, even lonelier than the seventy days I spent alone. Now I'm trying to connect the veins that pump blood through my body to the veins where intangible, hidden, ancient parts of my being reside. Just as my body is mine and mine alone, so too are the chasms. I'm the only one who can navigate them. I'm hoping someday that this archeological dig through my consciousness that I've embarked on might make me feel present in this corporeal form. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm starting to become the understanding adult the seven year old inside me still aches for. This body might still feel like a complete stranger sometimes, but she doesn't.
There is a little corridor one has to walk through before facing the four walls that encircle my room. Inside, there are three curtain less windows that do not let me sleep past eight. The tiles on my floor resemble wood, and the wall underneath my desk has black marks on it. My room became my bunker during the pandemic. Everything I needed to survive was in there. I did not have to leave if I did not want to. I could not leave if I wanted to. When school started, I made an effort to prepare my desk for the laborious work that Junior year harbored. I made a sign for my lamp that read "home desk" on one side and "school desk" on the other (something I had heard students should do from a "how to study video on youtube). I made a book stand for my computer and cut a string that would separate my bed from my desk (so I would not be tempted to cross over.) Then, the real struggle began. It was not that I lacked motivation for school. On the contrary, motivation, which, in some ways, became a bit too stubborn, was ever-present. Instead, it was the feeling of falling into a hole, a cocoon of unreality. Every day, at 2:30, I logged off my last class and gulped down a strong black coffee. Homework and studying stretched to 11:30. Then, I woke up at 6:30 and repeated everything. For six months, I was consumed with five APs, an intense religion teacher (who made us write essays on papal encyclicals every other week), studying for the SAT, and pre-college essays. Everything happened in those four white walls.. Although my body slacked with emptiness, my mind sometimes managed to escape for a couple of hours into the lessons of Physics or US History. When it landed back to the present, my mind found my legs contorted in odd shapes, my neck sore from reading, and my eyes dry as paper. Every day I breathed in what seemed to be depleting oxygen But I kept going. My room, once quaint and lively, became a suffocating vacuum. When I went outside, my eyes strained to adjust to the light, and I grew anxious at the unfinished homework lying open in my desk. Week after week, it seemed like I was flying with school but going nowhere in the real world. In my room, silence became sound. Mute, I was stuck in my stiff purple chair, staring at empty-eyed classmates through screens. Around the end of the third quarter, the lack of sunshine made me feel like I was decomposing. Things were opening again, yet I had to keep up with school. That was the only thing that had gone right, and I had to see it through. I was sleep-deprived, and my black coffee now tasted like water. That did not matter to me. I kept going. The SATs came and left. Then came AP tests and my sister's graduation. I dreaded going back to my room after coming back from testing. I disliked sitting at my desk for more than an hour. I wanted to regain the six months of high school that had passed by. It reached the point where I felt out of place in my room. My thoughts wandered to ideas of walking school halls, laughing about whatever nonsense teenagers laugh about with friends. But those thoughts stayed thoughts. I remained surrounded by four white walls. Then, alas, summer began. The shadows of senior year and college were whispered through emails as I closed my computer screen and prayed that next year would be different. Though my junior year was less than ordinary, I am incredibly thankful that I could continue my education and stay on track. I doubt that if we had been in person, I would have been able to accomplish what I did. At home, I had more time for everything. Even though my mental state was robotic and I felt trapped, there is no denying that all my studying paid off. The question that I now pose myself is how to accomplish the same feats while not turning into a coffee churning machine. I want to keep doing well in school, but I also want to create memories that do not end with closing textbooks or turning assignments in. What makes me feel better about the whole ordeal is that when I talk to friends about the past year, they all mention the pandemic. It is as though we have unconsciously bonded over the baggage we carry from the last year. Covid impacted everyone's life. Learning how others coped with their hardships and helping them through their struggles has helped me move away from the encroaching four walls of my bedroom and into the world. As summer comes to a close and high school opens its doors to me one last year, I wish for the balance that Junior year lacked and the good grades that it flowed with.
I sit here, in the same place a sat yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. Wishing. Waiting. It's been a year now, hasn't it? It feels much longer... When was the last time I've been outside? I never thought I'd miss it so much - outside. Going to school, walking home, talking, laughing, seeing, being. Enjoying nature's tranquillity. Talking to the trees, listening to the wind, Feeling the crunch of dried leaves as I walk home. I miss it. Life is a cruel master but I think even he was unprepared, Not quite anticipating for the torment of his victims to fall into new hands. But COVID-19 cares for no man, wrapping around the world like a python, Squeezing us, draining us, life by life. But it's outside, we thought. Our little island is too far away, we're too far removed, we'll be fine. And, for a time, that was true. We were fine. Until we weren't. I remember the day clearly; I was working when news of the first case came in. I didn't feel scared; at the time more focused on my upcoming exams. I'll be fine, I thought. Then schools closed. Cases rose, the country became strict and, for a time, that was enough. Cases fell, they stayed down and everyone exhaled a united sigh of relief. Then the masks became beards. And come on, what's one hug? Why so serious? God is a Trini, the cases down, relax nah man! So I did, we all did, and things were fine. Until they weren't. Cases skyrocketed. Non-essentials closed, curfew enacted, State of Emergency declared. Trinidad is quieter than she's ever been, Mourning her people, some still too stubborn to face reality. The reality that God is not a Trini, that people are dying. That you need to get vaccinated, that you need to be responsible. If only they would realise that the vaccine is safe. If only they would realise that staying home is not the end. If only they would realise that all the things that they miss, the parties, the celebration, That it could be given back with some discipline, some tolerance. If only they would realise... But they don't, and as the old saying goes, 'those who don't hear, will feel'. So here I sit, through yet another online class I'm half listening to. Here I sit, looking out the window wondering when I can walk home again, Feeling the crunch of dried leaves under my shoes. I sit wondering when next I can hug my friends. I sit missing the trees and the wind's ever-changing song. Here I sit in the same place I sat yesterday. And the day before that, And the day before that. Wishing. Waiting. Waiting for the day things will return to how they were.
I woke up to the ringer of an incoming message from my mother. “Don't worry about the outstanding tuition fees. All these financial strains will pass,” it read. She was the sole provider of the family and she, among the many working-class in Botswana, was still recovering from the cut in salaries from the previous year 2020 due to businesses failing to operate during the Covid-19 virus pandemic for safety measures. Actually, it was just a coincidence that I woke up to her message, I instinctively wake up every morning to entirely close my curtains so that I can lengthen my sleep in my university dorm room in China away from the bright lonesome day. I began following this routine religiously from the onset of the winter holiday; the beginning of 2021 new year; the beginning of yet another Covid-19 virus lockdown in my university campus as a consequence of newly surging cases in China. To my surprise, I drew the curtains open. I must have been subconsciously tired of the despondency. Well, I didn't sleep but I was immediately consumed by thoughts from the previous year's lockdown. As an international student living in the school dormitory, I spent the entire year of 2020 quarantined in the school campus and abiding by my dorm room curfew of nine pm. I might have found myself privileged compared to the majority of the world because I was mostly safe from the Covid-19 virus. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of my freedom. But I understood, everyone lost something or even worse someone to the virus. The whole world mourned. It started to feel unfair when we continued to be quarantined in school despite the nation seemingly having held the virus by its reigns after about five months. I recall taking walks about the university premise border with my friend, looking out from in at the city thriving with life. We saw families taking walks together at dawn, cars and even buses moving up and about, heard raucous noises from the street vendors against the harmonizing voices of the elderly women who sang in the streets opposite our university. The masks across everyone's faces were the only thing to give away that not everything was as it was before the pandemic. This to us felt like segregation, to say the least. Nothing could be done about it because of instructions from the government enforced to make sure that all international students were kept utmost safe. Fortunately, these restrictions loosened a bit around August when Chinese students returned to the university for offline lessons. Occasionally we were allowed to go out for a maximum of four hours. I continued to think, the brightest silver lining was that this horrible situation brought out the humane part in my fellow international student peers. Despite a dent in a lot of our allowances, no one ever lacked, we shared whatever little necessities we had.. In late January when all cities in China went into an emergency lockdown we hardly had enough time and money to buy all necessities before every shop stopped offering their services. Rumours about the lockdown only came as speculation since our city was a bit further away from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus. Therefore, I soon found myself either making meals with ingredients given to me by my peers or cooking enough food to share with them. This was also true for them. I was most delighted by the fact that I didn't have to ask for anything, it was offered before I even had a chance to. We developed empathy for one another. Even when our university finally found a way to help us buy groceries on our behalf we continued carrying on practicing this act of generosity. I can attest that we truly followed the famous Setswana saying that can be loosely translated as, “A person's children share everything, even if it is as little as the head of a fly.” A good morning text from my boyfriend brought me back to the present. And sadly, instantly I remembered that I had to collect a package consisting of a Christmas card that had been returned to me after I tried sending it to my boyfriend who lives in an adjacent city. He could not receive my gift of endearment. His city had suddenly gone under a strict lockdown. So I immediately got up, showered and had time to meditate, another good consequence of the virus, then headed for parcels and posting shop on my campus. While walking I came to the revelation that the universe gives us a chance to grow and learn from the experience from the previous season to do better in the corresponding season. That is why I immediately decided to start the current university lockdown with a steadfast heart eager to see more goodness in my peers and learn more skills than before. Also, it might take a couple of weeks until I see my boyfriend again, a few months for my family to recover financial and it might take the world a few more years but in the moment, goodness and love conquer the vileness in the world brought about by the Covid-19 virus.
It has finally come. After years of watching action and thriller movies that depicted some contagious disease that the CDC can't wrap its collective minds around or some random strain that turns humans in to mindless zombies, IT HAS HAPPENED. We are in the midst of a pandemic. There is a virus that is threatening the lives of people around the whole world! I am one of the lucky ones. I have prepared for this. In the case of a zombie apocalypse, I learned how to survive on the move and how to drive a stick shift in the case that it is the only vehicle available for a quick getaway. In the case of a quickly spreading virus, I have considered different ways to acquire the essential items like food, shelter as wells as ways to protect my family. Okay, if I am being totally honest most of my apocalyptic prep has come from watching too many movies. When it boils down to it, what you need to do to prepare for an apocalypse surrounds toilet paper, trusting no one, and avoiding Florida like the plague because it will give you the plague. The reality of a pandemic is not what I thought. Sure, the CDC, like in the movies, releases a bunch of information as they learn new information or to just say they have no information, the president speaks and people lose their minds a bit as the fear of the unknown creeps up behind them, taking hold and refusing to let go. But in the movies, I never and I mean I NEVER saw people go crazy over TOILET PAPER. Yes, you heard me right, toilet paper. As a woman, my biggest fear in the early stages of the pandemic went from how to stay safe from the virus to how I was going to wipe after using the bathroom as I watched my last roll of toilet paper dwindle down. This scenario was not a part of my survival strategy but alas there I was going to every store I could think of to find the rare item. Eventually, like any pandemic survivor would do, I adjusted. I got in good with some of the employees at the store, showed up on delivery day at opening time and the treasure was mine!!!!! With the precious nine pack of ultra‐soft toilet paper you'd think I was in the clear right? Wrong! There is more. You cannot trust anyone. This is a hard one for extroverted people and huggers like myself. During this pandemic, many people lost their jobs, others were fortunate enough to be able to work from home and the rest of us who are considered “essential workers” must brave the world avoiding as much contact with people as possible. With the exception of healthcare workers who must be close to people in order to, you know, save their lives, we must not trust anyone. If someone clears their throat or coughs, assume the worst, get out of there or at least create distance between yourself and the suspect. More importantly, if someone is coughing, sneezing or has other cold or flu like symptoms and they excuse it away by saying “it's just my allergies”. DO NOT BELIEVE them. Those same people usually say that during cold/flu season, next thing you know, you are using your sick days. If you don't believe it during cold/flu season, don't buy that crap during a pandemic! One of the most important survival tips I think I learned during this time is to avoid my home state. I am from Florida. I love it for its beauty, greenery, beaches and southern hospitality meets big city party vibe. Even with the greatness that Florida brings, Floridians are NOT missing their summer. People have consistently flocked to beaches and other popular areas in their respective cities to drink, swim and or party. The virus cases there have sky‐rocked. Luckily, I am working away from home right now, so I am just watching my beautiful state get infected one person at a time and listening to the wild tells from friends and family from afar. If you go to Florida, the second tip of trust no one will be almost impossible to follow. Fun events, sunshine and the beach will yell at you to come and play until you do. If you are already in Florida, do your best. If you are not in Florida, STAY AWAY! Well, at least until the pandemic is over, then definitely go to Florida. Though this is not a survival item technically, I do have a bonus tip that I think has greatly helped my survival. This is something that even my movies forget to show while the characters are making their way through survival. Go to the liquor store and get yourself your favorite wine, beer or spirits because frankly, the coronavirus, COVID‐19, Rona or whatever you want to call this thing sucks and at the end of your day when you are done with your essential worker duties, during another video conference call or worrying about a friend or family member who has caught the virus, you are going to want a drink.
The year 2020 has not been what any of us expected. That's an understatement to say the least. But a new year feels like a new start, and we welcomed 2020 with the blind optimism and hope that began every year. For my fiancé and me, 2020 held even more promise than years past. The light sparkling off my engagement ring mimicked the stars in our eyes, and we eagerly leapt into planning our wedding. Well, maybe it's more accurate to say that I eagerly leapt into planning our wedding. After all, I was the one who had literally spent hours (ok, days, who's counting?) of my life dreaming about this day. As my tastes had evolved through the years, so had the vivid details of my dreams. Elaborate, sparkling ball gowns transformed into simple, understated A-lines. Fancy venues and churches became scenic woods. Formal, brightly colored bridesmaid's dresses faded into flowing, natural hued gowns. Fall leaves blew away red rose petals. Casual, fun invites erased formal, fancy invitations. I could see it play out like a movie. Red and orange leaves whip through the air on the crisp, cool breeze. The green leaves left on the trees contrast sharply against the slate gray clouds threatening rain. Guests, dressed casually and prepared for weather, sit in chairs facing a clean white arch. Pachelbel's Canon begins, softly, cuing guests to turn around. My father stands next to me, waiting to walk me up the aisle. My family and friends smile in the audience. My bridesmaids stand in front of the arch, dresses blowing with the wind. There was just one detail that was never clear...my future husband. No matter how many times I revisited the dream, nothing changed; not until the moment I heard those four words I had been longing to hear: "Will you marry me?" The most beautiful words, coming from the most incredible, amazing man I had ever known. And in that moment, everything snapped into focus, and I saw him standing there, watching me walk up the aisle toward him, waiting to start our life together. And so, with the final piece of the puzzle in place, I waited (impatiently) for October 23, 2020. Then, COVID-19 flipped the world upside down. Cases escalated, every day life halted, and nothing was certain anymore. The world fell apart around us, and we were left with a decision. As reality set in, I retreated to my daydream of our special day. And I realized that something had changed. I watched the dream play out, but the details seemed different. The breeze had faltered, the colors dulled, the music muted. It was as if everything had faded—until I looked at him. I saw him smile at me, in full focus and clarity, and I realized that the wedding day I had dreamed of for so long wasn't as important to me as I had always believed. In that moment, I knew that what really mattered was getting to marry my best friend. Our wedding day was April 6, 2020, not October 23, 2020. Dead leaves rustled across the lawn in the soft, cool breeze. The green leaves growing on the bushes contrasted softly against the smoke gray clouds suggesting rain. Our five guests, dressed casually and hoping for good weather, sat in chairs facing a tree with sheer curtains draped over the branches, forming a makeshift arch. In lieu of Pachelbel's Canon, the young children next door provided running commentary loudly in the background. And my best friend and I walked up, hand in hand, to be married. As we started our life together, in a way we never would have expected, in a world that no one was prepared for, the details were suddenly more vivid, more beautiful, and more real than I ever could have imagined. And I knew that the memory of our wedding day would be far better than any dream.
I just turned 11 and was preparing to get into High School, I was going to leave for boarding school the following day and mom had said she wanted to talk to me about something. My mind began racing, I had never had such serious conversations before. My heart was pounding, I was shy and didn't know exactly what to expect. My mind did go to Menstruation but having such conversation with my mom would be weird, I thought to myself. Prior to that day, I had had a lot of discussions with my friends (females) in Primary School. We couldn't wait to have our periods, we talked about this only behind our class during break time. We talked about all the myths we've heard about menstruation, the blood is bad blood, smells badly and so on. Finally it was time for mom and I to talk and yes I was right, it was about menstruation. She told me about how it's an "introduction into womanhood" as I could get pregnant and have children the moment I start menstruating. Being a typical African Woman, she didn't forget to mention that I should never tell people I'm on my period. When I finally started menstruating, the cramps (dysmenorrhea) were so unbearable and I'd just lay in my bed in the hostel and groan in pain since I wasn't supposed to tell anyone except for those who came close enough to find out what was wrong with me. Yes I attended an all Girls Boarding Secondary School. I had the opportunity to speak with GDSS girls, a secondary school in Kalgo LGA of Kebbi State, Nigeria & then it dawned on me how deep the culture of being "hush" with our periods had eaten deep into our consciousness. These beautiful school girls were too shy to share with me their experiences on period. Period is NOT a taboo, EVERY woman experiences it. Its amazing how something very normal & common is treated like a plague or curse. Menstruation, also known as a period or monthly flow is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. It happens when your ovum (egg) wasn't fertilized by sperm. Menstrual cycle ranges from 21 to 30days with the commonest being 28days (that's why it's called a cycle). The first day of your period is calculated as the first day of your menstrual cycle, the counting continues until the first day of another period, ovulation usually takes place at the middle of your cycle depending on the length of your cycle. For example if your period two months ago came April 2, and comes May 1st, it means you have a 30 day cycle, study your period for at least 3-6 months before concluding on your cycle length. Also the cycle doesn't necessarily remain the same for the rest of your life, it could change. For example you could get started on a 28days cycle and change to a 26days cycle and so on. Factors that cause changes in cycles include menarche, hormonal imbalance, change of environment, anxiety, fear, medication and even infections. Menarche is the term given to the "First ever menstrual flow". It usually takes about 2 years from age of menarche for menstrual cycle to stabilize. Although it may be less or more than two years for some other individuals. It is wrong to feel less of yourself because you're on your "Special Day" especially for those of you who are in Mixed Secondary Schools. It isn't wrong to take pain relievers if the pains are unbearable, use good sanitary products, bath regularly and don't forget your deodorants. Feel comfortable and be yourself. In the typical African especially Nigerian home, our moms tell us that once we start menstruating, if a man "touches" us, we'd get pregnant. In our young, naive minds, we ingested those counsels hook, line and sinker. I remember a friend of mine who got hugged by a male student in school, ran home crying she was pregnant. This is a myth. Myths like a girl menstruating is unclean and should be locked out, not permitted to cook and involve in social and domestic activities are what they are, myths and myths are not true. There is no better time to advocate for removal of tax on Sanitary wares than now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, menstruation is NATURAL and will always be with us as long as man exists. For this reason, my team and I continue to work to ensure girls have access to eco-friendly, sustainable and cost-effective Menstrual Hygiene Products and are looking forward to fruitful collaborations. Be proud of your period, feel beautiful and be glad you're a woman!