My COVID-19 Story: When Reality Hits

Yours truly

This night owl is up, as usual, getting some writing done. I suspect most of us had compiled ‘to do’ lists, missions and objectives for 2020. Well, that was before the COVID-19 pandemic came knocking and everything came to a screeching halt. Here is my account of the build up to that grim but interesting reality.

On the first week of March, I took two week’s leave to relax and unwind. For travel enthusiasts like me, that moment when an awaited countdown to a trip comes to an end and you find yourself at the Airport is nothing short of priceless. It feels like you have waited a lifetime and joyfully stroll down the corridors to the boarding gate, eager ears adorned in headsets that ooze sounds from your favorite music. That feel like you own the entire world. I have replayed that scene in my head a thousand times and my reaction is still the same. Priceless.

I got to Frankfurt in the late afternoon, purchased tickets and took a 3 hour ICE Bahn (Train) to Stuttgart, a city in Germany’s Southwest Capital of the State of Baden-Württemberg. By this time, news of the rapid spread of the novel Corona Virus were doing their rounds, though no travel restrictions had been put in place then. My friend had, two days earlier decided to do an impromptu run to Amsterdam and would be joining me in Germany in another day or so. I was thrilled.

Our plan was to stay in Germany for about 5 days, drive or catch a flight to the neighboring Austria for two to three days and finally return home. If we only knew.

Lucky enough, she made it to where I was when the time came. Then the lockdowns began and everything was so surreal. Days later, news of how bad Europe was hit by the pandemic were everywhere. States were asking their citizens and residents to return home, as a matter of urgency. There was talk of countries and airports shutting down. I never imagined that day would come.

Deserted public areas

The snow I looked forward to never showed. Enjoying the outdoors never happened. Neither did Austria. Our vacation started and ended indoors, with great company and incredible hosts, a serene environment, lots of tasty home made food and a guitar full of champagne and wine, books, more books and a wide array of movies and series to binge on. Indoors. Relaxing, eating, drinking, bonding, reading, partying and sleeping. One of the most memorable times I have spent indoors in the midst of an impending crisis.

During our stay, we stepped outside of that environment thrice, to grab supplies from the supermarket, to do my last minute personal shopping and seeing my rafiki off as she had to return home earlier.

By the time I got back home, it was mid March. The reality of the seriousness of the virus hit me like a hurricane. At some point, it felt like everything was being blown out of proportion. Until I got on the empty trains to the city. Streets were deserted. The empty shelves in supermarkets due to panic shopping. I had to swipe my card countless times during shopping as no cash was accepted in outlets to curb the spread of the virus. Whoah!

Empty tissue paper stacks.

It was time to return home. I could not get on a flight back to Frankfurt and had to instead fly to Munich to catch a connecting flight to Dubai. The airports were ghost towns. Flights were almost empty. Announcements within the airport went on every few minutes, reminding passengers to maintain a social distance.

The State of Baden-Württemberg was, at the time I was leaving, having the second highest number of COVID-19 infections within the entire country standing at 2,188 right behind Nordhein-Westfalen standing at 4,312. I fussed.

Social distancing at Stuttgart Airport

That scared me for a bit. I began to get extremely nervous at the realization that I had been in the heart of the heavily affected areas. I crossed fingers and kept hoping that I had not and would not pick it up along the way. I wore the facial mask for the first time and struggled to breathe, a clear sign of anxiety. Worry.

I got back home just in time, in the wee hours of the morning to find out that all entry/arrival flights would cease from midday of that same day. To say I was lucky not to have gotten stuck out there was an understatement. I was released to go home after thoroughly getting tested.

Homeward bound

Later on in the day, yours truly was notified that she could not return to work as it was required for any returning citizen and resident to go on a mandatory 14 day self-quarantine upon return from high risk countries.

The first week, I was a nervous wreck. Every headache, cough or sneeze would send me typing away on Google to re confirm the symptoms. Second week was better, I counted the 2 weeks down to the last hour. I was virus FREE. Happy to be back home and ready to get back to work. Then I got the call not to report to work as operations would be shutting down.

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It is now exactly 54 days since my last day at work. Feels like a lifetime. What are my take aways during this lockdown period? Here they are:

1. Gratitude. For everything I have ever taken for granted including tissue paper.

2. This has been a great time to virtually bond with friends and family, away from our usual work routines and shifts.

3. It has been exciting, putting the self care articles I have shared earlier into action. We are taking time and having fun coloring, taking part in tiktok challenges, taking some well deserved rest, meditation, exercise and so on.

Do you know about that app yet? I am talking about none other than the House Party app, yeah. It has truly saved many the hustle of spending hard earned coins on data and call minutes. You can now get on audio, video, connect with loved ones near and far, meet new peeps and play games. Beware, it can get addictive. Which app works best for you?

4. My kitchen, which had been abandoned with little activity has now sprung back to life. I baked a cake for the first time since 2012. I enjoy getting lost in there, trying out different recipes as well as developing some of my own. That experience has been nothing short of therapeutic. The anxiety and all the mother of wrecks are now a thing of the past.

5. The opportunity to reflect on our personal growth, development, the future among other things was probably something you would make little time for. We are learning so much about ourselves in the process. Our adaptability to change, living a minimalist life and our ability to find ways to keep our creative juices flowing among others.

What is this time like for you? Please share and let’s get talking.

Do not hesitate to drop me any questions, suggestions and ideas on justqat@gmail.com

As always, your feedback is very much appreciated.

Stay Safe and do not forget to Social Distance and Sanitize.

Cheers.

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