One of the nicest things about right now is that I’m wearing a sweatshirt. Summers in the Bay Area are lovely – hot during the day but dipping at night. I was in the pool a few hours ago, but now I can see the stars, hear deer rustling in the creek, the tiki torches are going, I’ve got a new headband on. It’s a summer vibe you want to share with everyone you’ve ever met. Walking around the neighborhood, even in this pandemic, I’ve smelled barbecues, heard kids laughing, splashing into pools, dogs barking at nothing, tiny gangs of tweens on scooters and bikes, that one guy that rollerblades with his dog in a stroller, deer and peacocks and cows and the feral black cat I made friends with three years ago still guards her bridge on the trail.
I’m headed back to Home Kong tonight and whatever emotion you could think of, I’ve probably felt it in the last 24 hours. There is so much out of our control. It hurts that I didn’t get to see my baby sister, who is expecting her own baby. I only got to see one friend in the four weeks I was here. It hurts knowing that as I step on the plane back to Hong Kong, I won’t be able to come home for another year at least because I only get a certain amount of time off, and there is a mandatory two week quarantine in Hong Kong after travel. I have anxiety about going back on campus for school and I have anxiety that we will probably start the year online instead.
While traveling right now and doing quarantine alone feels scary, and I am dreading it, I’m also curious about how poorly or how well I will handle it. There’s a reason solitary confinement is a punishment in prison or as a torture technique. I do know a few things about when I land back in HK. I’m in a private Facebook support group for people flying in and going into quarantine that is already full of questions and praise or complaints about their experiences.
After landing, customs, baggage, etc., the process is about three hours to get tested, then you wait anywhere from 9-15 more hours in a convention center for your results before you are released to go to your home or a hotel to begin your quarantine. I am SO glad that it’s just me that I will have to take care of when I land. Besides the long waiting in a strange, cold place, and lack of food, I’ve been reading that if you or your child tests positive (oh and by the way, adults provide a spit sample to test, but you need to collect a fecal sample from children), you will be separated. You won’t be able to go to the hospital with your child. I can’t even imagine.
Then you you get a phone app and a nifty bracelet that GPS tracks you so you won’t leave your location (unless you’d like a nice visit from HK police) and you have to take your temperature twice a day and submit it via app. The support group I’m in advises bringing tents (to trick your kids into thinking it’s an adventure), blow up mattresses, blankets, food, tea, etc., because you will be there all day, and are only provided with a chair, desk, cold water, and a ham sandwich.
I am (of course) very stressed out about the idea of not having food or coffee, or a shower, after a 15 hour flight, in a room full of people also arriving internationally. Half my suitcase is snacks. I also got a portable charger and plan on making a little nesting area for myself under my table. I bought a pool raft to blow up to use as a mattress. Adventure is out there.
God does love me though, because Hong Kong just announced that the US is now on a high risk list since we have the most cases in the world. Starting Wednesday, three days after I arrive, all incoming US passengers will have to provide a Covid-negative test taken within 48 hours of your flight before you get to board. This is impossible – there aren’t enough tests in the States and the turnaround is more like a week for results. If you are able to somehow get that, you then have to quarantine in a government hotel, even if you already live in Hong Kong. That would have made me lose my mind.
So after I survive all the waiting for test results, then I head to the 150 square feet I call home and park it inside for 14 days! I’ve already spent so much time this year in shelter in place mode, but somehow knowing that even if I wanted to go outside now, I could not, is making me hyperventilate. And I always had work when we were staying home before. Now I won’t. For most of it, I had my roommate. But even my fish went on a vacation for the summer so it will just be me and my plants and the internet.
I’m trying to come up with ways to use the time productively, build a reward system for myself, plan some intentional variety in advance, because I could very easily just turn into a ball of mush held into a round shape by Vitamin D deficient skin. I am already quite mushy. But I could get mushier; I could just watch all the Netflix, order delivery, push the jeans I’m not sure will ever fit again back further into my closet, hike up the leggings and stay horizontal for two weeks.
In actuality, I would be bored in about three hours. But I do have some jetlag I will need to work through, and some detoxing from having unlimited access to my parents’ pantry with its Costco-portions of Cheezits and Oreos and other delightful goodies. But then what?
I looked into taking some online classes, but to be honest, they’re all a bit too demanding for my state of mind. I’d like to manifest some that I think would really benefit where my life is at the moment, so here is a short list:
- 10 meals that don’t require washing silverware afterwards (As a single person who has lived without a dishwasher for seven years, I could probably teach this course as long as you’re not worried about nutrition).
- Effective exercises you can do in your apartment without actually moving!
- Styles from the waist up that make it look like you put in effort!
- How to make sure all those meetings that could have been emails, which we now really know could have been emails, remain as emails when you get back to work!
- Hairstyles that hide the grey hairs that seem to multiply overnight, Thanks, Covid!
- The best way to leave directions for the guy delivering your next meal/Amazon order!
- How to trick yourself into drinking enough water when you really just want to start happy hour at noon!
- How to wake up from a nap and not hit the snooze button because you feel like your existence has some meaning!
It’s past bedtime now, but I can’t bring myself to tuck in. Knowing it will be a year before I see my dogs, sit on this couch, dip into the pantry and eat some artisan crackers I’d never buy for myself, annoy my mom or sister in person, eat real Mexican food, swim in a pool, see squirrels or deer. Or even drive a car and try to not hit them.
I’m blessed that I got to go home, if even for this short time. I saw the ocean. Family. A bit of a baseball game! Many of my friends’ home countries didn’t even have operating flights to and from HK, or were mandating quarantines that made the travel time not worth it.
My heart breaks for all my teacher friends here in the States who are being pushed into returning to work even though the plans seem unclear. In Hong Kong, we have experienced huge spikes and outbreaks of COVID-19 in a third wave, and so a lot of social distancing measures are being reinstated with talks of an official lock down, which we never had to do before. I can only imagine what it will look like in the US with a lot less direction and cohesion of plans, going back to school while still in the first wave of cases. I’ve had teacher friends tell me they’re making wills, that school districts are drafting the standard letter that will be sent when a student or teacher dies of COVID. I do not understand how this is acceptable.
Well, now I’m at the airport. One more hour until I board and so far it’s a row to myself. I’m decked out in PPE and gloves, didn’t manage to find a hazmat suit and lots of other people have them so I feel like a loser. I’m so grateful to have come home, be here with my family through some tough times, get all the puppy cuddles I wanted and fill up my heart a bit before heading back to Hong Kong for who knows how long? I do know I’ll be documenting every moment of these crazy times.
Keep me in your prayers and I’ll be keeping you in mine. Until next time. <3