Corona. Covid 19. Lockdown.
Words crossing everyone’s lips, world-wide, right now. Oh, and of course, vaccine.
Social media is on fire, full to the brim, an absolute plethora of this topic. Everywhere you look, read and even listen, you will find it as the central point, as the entire globe faces a pandemic it has never known before.
Quotes of positivity, joyous, inspiration, encouragement, reflection, are abound. Likewise fears, anxieties, observations and reports of economic collapse, relationship breakdowns from too much time together, stressed out parents, highly vulnerable elderly, exhausted medical workers; all of this, right now, is omnipresent.
So, I am not here to add to all of this, to give you a tale of woe, nor a story to uplift. I don’t feel it is my place to confirm the unease many are feeling with the uncertainty, nor do I have the right to suggest everything is going to be okay. I don’t know about either. None of us do. And that, is the crux of it. NoFor the first time in my lifetime, I do not have even a tiny sense of what may come when I open my eyes upon the next dawn. And whilst I can take comfort in knowing ‘we are in it together’, we aren’t, not really. Parents are finding themselves navigating an entirely new world, as they try to work out how to home-school the children that have befallen upon their every waking hour. Medical workers around the world, who have been fighting for better pay, working standards and conditions, and credit where credit’s due, are now all of a sudden being celebrated each week, by an evening clapathon. (How this negates the life and death risks they are putting themselves under, nor the millions of hours of hardship they have already suffered within their careers, I cannot fathom. But anyhow, it makes people feel ‘like they are doing their bit’ so…..) Employees around the world, myself included, are fearing when they will receive salary, if at all, employers and huge businesses are just the same – watching crestfallen as the economy crashes, companies go bust, airlines are grounded and basically, the entire capitalist world comes to a standstill.
(The planes are not the only thing presently unmoved).
But this is not all that is happening. Whilst the first world suffer their losses, beg the banks to give them payment breaks, citizens soothe their minds and conscience by doing dog walks and food deliveries to the elderly and the vulnerable, there are also the ‘less well-off’ countries, who simply cannot overcome this, if the wind gets a good hold of it.
Life, as I knew it, is Lagos, Nigeria. I feel blessed to call it my home. The country feels etched in my heart, it’s rhythms feel part of my veins. Yet I am writing as one who is a deserter, like other expat friends of mine have also been called. Right now, my phone goes crazy, almost every ten minutes receiving reams and reams of messages and emails from back there. Fear is getting exactly what it wants out of many of my dear friends and loved ones there, and I fully understand.
Back in the Europe, though it is strange for so many people to be ‘stuck’ indoors right now, there is still food, help, resources. Over there, and elsewhere in the world, there is not.
When I received the call that my work were now advising it was recommended to fly out, should I ‘want’ to, I knew there was no way I could stay. A neighbour in my compound sadly died from the Corona virus only just a few days ago. And I knew that I would never forgive myself if any member of my family caught it, and I had no way to at least be somehow near to them. Nor could I reason the same, if it were the other way round. Likewise, my sensibility was this – I could stay, I had built up quite a stockpile, and my home is more than comfortable. But why would I? Why would I stay and take resources away from those that need them more?
Right now, not all of the people I communicate with back there are feeling the pinch, nor are they experiencing the same sensation as many Europeans, Americans and Asians have been feeling, as life morphed into some sort of apocalypse movie. Many are telling me they don’t think it is going to come to them, that they have basically ‘dodged a bullet’, and I truly hope so, as right now there are many many nations that simply cannot survive in a lockdown situation.
As I type, I have also just received news that the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been rushed to ICU as his symptoms have worsened. May he receive good care, and recover from this.
So, if I am not here to tell you everything is going to be okay, or to remind you that none of us are immortal or impenetrable from the situation, why am I writing? Well, I am simply taking this opportunity to write the latest blog, since I haven’t managed to do one in almost a year. For me, it seems like I am as busy, or if not even more, right now, than usual. There seems to be an expectation somehow, that as I cannot physically move around, I must be far more freely available with my time and therefore able to give even more of me to others than I usually do. Of course, I am not. My job continues, my thesis still needs to be written. My relationships still need attending to. Money matters do not just dissipate. Alora, for now, I am jumping off that treadmill, and remembering me. Coming back to my blog, as I love to write it, to write to you, and my fortnightly habit is something I greatly miss.
It would be remiss of me I feel, however, not to make some referral to the situation many are feeling right now, so let me first quote a dear friend of mine, with his summation of the current situation (at least as the Western world sees it):
Just so I NEVER forget….. April 6, 2020
-Week 3 of Lockdown
-Cannot leave your home for any reason except essential grocery shopping or medical reasons
-Petrol price R13.76
-School cancelled – yes cancelled
-Self-distancing measures in place
-Measures to help distance shoppers from each other.
-Limited number of people inside stores, therefore, lineups outside the store doors.
-Non-essential stores and several businesses mandated closed.
-Parks, trails, entire cities locked up.
-Entire sports seasons cancelled.
-Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – cancelled.
-Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings – cancelled.
-No masses, churches are closed.
-Don’t socialize with anyone outside of your home.
-Children’s outdoor play parks are closed.
-We are to distance ourselves from each other.
-Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers.
-Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill.
-Shelves are bare but restocking as fast as possible
-Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer and PPE.
-Government closes the border to all non-essential travel.
-All flights grounded – local & international
-Fines are established for breaking the rules.
-All medical procedures cancelled unless urgent
-Father’s not allowed staying with mothers in most hospitals post birth
-Press conferences from the President
-Daily updates on new cases, recoveries, etc
-Barely anyone on the roads.
-People wearing masks and gloves outside.
-Essential service workers are terrified to go to work.
-Medical field workers are afraid to go home to their families.
This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 2020.
Why, you ask, do I write this status?
One day it will show up in my memory feed, and it will be a yearly reminder that life is precious and not to take the things we dearly love for granted.
We have so much!
Be thankful. Be grateful.
Be KIND to each other – love one another – support everyone.
We are all one! ❤️
(ευχαριστώ τον όμορφο φίλο μου/efcharistó ton ómorfo fílo mou)
Let me also take the time to throw in an old poem of mine, that I in fact wrote almost three years, as it seems fitting for the emotional journeys some/many are experiencing right now….
I’m lost dear one, I cannot see the way.
I’m scared dear one, I cannot feel the source.
I’m hurt dear one, I cannot feel your heart.
I’m nervous dear one, I cannot hear the music.
I’m numb dear one, I cannot remember the touch.
I’m tired dear one, I cannot find the dream.
I’m immobile dear one, I cannot find the steps.
You are loved dear one, you do not need a map ahead.
You are strong dear one, follow the compass of your heart.
You are held dear one, know it is not taken from you.
You are calm dear one, use the rhythm of your breath.
You are stroked dear one, notice the caress of the breeze.
You are resting dear one, lap up the stillness of this.
You are a wanderer dear one, observe the steps of your soul.
There is love, in all that there is, dear one,
even when you feel some of it is lost.
There is love, in all that was, dear one,
even when the pain has been strong.
There is love, in all that lies ahead, dear one,
even though the unknown is the only truth.
There is love, in all of you, dear one,
even though, even though, even though.
There is love. This is you.
Almost four years ago now, my left leg was badly broken. I was living in Uganda at the time. Each time I received health care, the damage somehow seemed to increase. A move to Nigeria ensued, and finally, I returned to the UK for incredible health care and surgery, wherein I had intensive corrective surgery upon my knee. Due to my work being overseas however, I became locked down almost overnight, as it was not safe for me to fly for 6 weeks and I couldn’t walk anyway. (In fact, given that the anesthesia hadn’t worked in the operation other than to put me to sleep, I was immobile immediately, as I was unable to receive the same-day discharge I had been expecting). I became completely reliant on friends, to bathe me, feed me, support me, encourage me, calm me. Though the world was out there going on without me, sometimes it would take an entire day for me just to be able to sit up.
In short, I was locked down.
It was only a few months later that I wrote the poem above, in fact. Because on that intensive journey, I went to pains, both physically and emotionally, that I can never describe. And I came through.
Right now, uncertainty is on my doorstep again. Only this time, it is at my waterside. I find myself living with my mum and stepdad, having basically ‘abandoned’ my life just two weeks ago. We agreed before I landed, that I would self-isolate once here. Not because I was showing any form of symptoms. But because of various risk factors between the three of us. In this time, I have basically remained in my tiny, yet more than hospitable, cabin at the end of their narrow boat, the AreandAre. I have an incredible woman as a mother, who has served me nonstop food and drink, as well as heating, blankets, good humour, an ear to bend (via WhatsApp mostly during the quarantine time!) and unlimited Wifi to ensure I can get full access to my work when needed. (Not that she has been able to control the strength of the signal nor the blackspots that seem to come on a daily basis for an hour or two).
I have felt the pinch of the cold. I have felt the unease of separation. I have felt the confusion of whether I have abandoned people that I have left behind. And I have certainly felt guilty for not having been able to bring my pet cats along with me. (That said, I dont think Fela minds too much….from what I hear, he’s a ball of a time whilst his mummy is away…..
(Can someone hurry up and get me a drink please….)
But, though it appears to be odd to some of the people that know me, perhaps the old adage is true – people only the side of us that we give them. Yes the outgoing, social busy me is restless. The one who thrives on your company is pretty confused too. Yet, right now, I also feel great. I feel soothed. I feel comforted. And I feel deeply loved.
If this nasty beast of a virus gets its grip on someone in my family, I can somehow be near to them. I do not feel I am taking away resources in Nigeria that someone else is deserving of. I am able to keep up with my work, and keep up with my students and families in such a way that they know we are soulfully still together. With communication as it is these days, I am able to talk with people to stay connected. And I am able to sleep in a warm bed (albeit one that I pull out of the cupboard each night!). I am able to write this to you, whilst I hear the raucous laughter that is my mother’s, as I know she is soothed knowing I am here with her, whilst we do not know the course ahead, therefore she is just that bit more able to face the situation. And for now at least, I am able to fill my lungs with the sensational fresh air that is the namesake of the English countryside, be kept from sleep at night due to the sounds of the hooting owls and the barking foxes. And finally I am able to be here, with you, just like I have always been, and always will be.
(Just like a Rubik’s cube, everything has it’s correct place and positioning here on board!)
None of us know how this story ends. But let’s face it, neither did we before. I don’t know when I can return to my home, to my ‘life’, to what I know. I do know that when I get there, it won’t be what it was anyway. And let us remember that at least, life never was the same as the day before. And never will be again.
In the words of my grandmother, or rather a member of the resistance in WWII, that she used to tell me over and over again as a child….
The life that I have,
Is all that I have.
And that life that I have,
The love that I have,
Of the life that I have,
Shall be yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall,
A rest I shall have.
For death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years,
In the long green grass.
Will be yours and yours and yours.
The Queen of England spoke to the nation last night, and told us to be stoic, to be strong, and to trust that we will meet again. And together, not only are we are giving the earth a chance to recover, from atrocities we have befallen to it, but we are somehow regaining our kindred spirit, closing the gap on our break from humanity. Let’s hope that it hasn’t come too late….(take a glimpse of the destruction of the glaciers, as a small and poignant reminder…accompanied by the exceptional talent of course, that is Ludovici Einaudi). And, if I leave you with nothing else, let me give you one final snippet, of something to make you laugh…why? Because, why not?