Lessons from surviving the pandemic in two different countries
Part 1: Privilege and Inequality
March 2020 was supposed to be my big departure to Canada, a move I have been waiting on for two years. Little did I know darkness was spreading slowly throughout the world. I made it to Vancouver and then literally ran back home to Mauritius. I ended up spending 7 months back home, then took every little bit of courage in my bones and came back to Canada. This whole journey included 7 flights and tons of emotions, which I have journaled and will probably write a separate article about.
Part 1: Mauritius
I arrived at the airport a few hours before they closed the borders. That deadline was important to me as they will start enforcing mandatory quarantine in in hospitals then. As a hypochondriac, the thought of a publicly funded quarantine hospital in a developed country scared the hell out of me.
Thankfully, I made it before the deadline. I self-isolated in my room at my folks for a day until I got my bearings straight. The jet lag was horrendous. The next morning, I took the car and drove to my apartment which was 20 mins away. There were no restrictions then, but the atmosphere was heavy. That night, the government decided to go into lockdown. One full week of strict lockdown with everything closed. I would not see my close ones for a few weeks.
Again, grateful that we had a community in the complex I was living in. I did not have time to prepare for groceries or any sort of amenities. They closed down supermarkets, offices and you were not allowed to drive anywhere unless for a medical emergency. I had some food stacked in the freezer, but my neighbour and friend provided me with tons of fresh food.
I kept thinking about people who live on daily pay and how they were surviving. As It turns out, not very well. The problem with such a strict lockdown is that nobody had time to prepare, let alone think of next steps. It was a week of survival. Some of us were more privileged than others.
I spent half of my time, wondering whether I had COVID and the other half on WhatsApp. In March 2020, we were not that well-versed in COVID jargon yet. So, fake news spread, and a lot of fake google doctors turned COVID experts on WhatsApp. The most popular remedy was to drink hot tea constantly. Which I did while monitoring COVID chats. And no, I did not have Covid-19.
We had a group chat with my university alumni, and it is right then I realised just how lucky we are. Some more than others. While I was stuck in my apartment, albeit in a nice area where I could go a for a walk in nature, some were chilling in their beach houses. Their lives were not affected, they were going about their daily lives which include swimming in their pools, playing sports and gazing at the beach. The even luckier ones own supermarkets or food distribution chains and had easy access to provisions. But even if we were on different steps of the social ladder, one thing was true for all of us. We had a network and we had nothing to complain about.
The people living in poverty or who did not get paid that week told a different story. They had to depend on the police to bring them a ration of food and basic necessities.
The situation got better after a week, they started opening up supermarkets by alphabetical orders. Some online delivery shops cropped up slowly. Our movements were still restricted and monitored.
This situation lasted for two months; I was still working remotely for a company in Paris, so time went by, weirdly, quite quickly. The good news was the strict lockdown was fruitful and we were COVID-free for a while.
While we watched the dire state of other countries around the world, we almost felt like we were in paradise. Beaches were open again, we went to see our friends and families. I still worked from home during the day and socialise with my friends at nights. It was like NYE every day, trying to catch up on the FOMO of the last two months. The atmosphere was relaxed and happy. While we had to wear our masks on the streets and to get into restaurants, life was mostly back to normal.
But that intense period of forced lockdown marked me, I still kept thinking about inequality and privilege. Though I was aware that these concepts apply to countries around the world, I saw it and felt it, first-hand.
A few weeks later, my contract with the Parisian company was up for renewal. The sane part of me said let’s renew the contract and wait the pandemic out. I was also trying to make a budding relationship work at the same time. So, all the signs pointed to me staying home and postpone the Canadian dream. Afterall, the world was in chaos with no sign of abating.
Except, I did not renew the contract and decided to use the downtime as a sabbatical, work on my future goals, spend time with family and him and figure out next steps. Life was good. Except life was good before the pandemic too. The whole episode changed my perspective on life, how unfair the world really is and how blessed some of us are. Something did not sit right with me. I had to go, and it had to be sooner rather than later.
To be continued.