Having one Qtip jammed up into my brain and then another one scraped against my esophagus by a stranger dressed in a hazmat suit while I am locked inside a hotel room was decidedly not how I expected to celebrate my four year anniversary of moving to Hong Kong, but here we are. Thanks, Covid.
I’m also ‘celebrating’ the halfway point of my mandated quarantine. To reiterate from previous blog – never had Covid, not planning on getting it, and feeling quite confident I won’t because a. I’m vaccinated and b. I live in Hong Kong, where although all the restrictions can be a bit tiresome, there is a village mentality where we don’t kick up an absolute fuss about doing things for the greater good, like wearing a mask. We’ve had zero local cases for two months. However, the Hong Kong government thrives on having the strictest inbound traveling policies going on a year and a half now like there’s an award for it, so even with a vaccine and four negative tests in the last two weeks, I am required to do a hotel quarantine for 14 days! On my own dime! I love it.
Okay, I don’t even like it, but I can respect it.
Everything is fine. I’m fine. It’s fine! I’m – fine. ish.
Look – I am an extremely extroverted, outdoorsy person. So preparing to spend two weeks alone, locked in a 150 sq ft room without open windows gave me considerable anxiety. Beyond just ‘how will I not lose my mind,’ I was also playing out the many things that could go wrong. Even here on my 11th day of injury-free lock-up, I keep wondering when I will fall over in the tub for no one to notice until the smell of my decaying corpse floats out into the hallway? (quite a real fear, as I had a really good slip in there the other day).
There are 360 degrees of monotony to my days. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve added “take shower” “make bed” “eat lunch” to the daily to-do lists I’ve been making, just to know I’ll have a few things I can easily check off and feel accomplished (#quarantinehack).
Today I mustered up the energy to change sheets and duvet. I’d been afraid to see what was underneath the hotel’s bedclothes, but it all came out okay. The hotel has provided extra linens for the stay, which is nice. However, there is a crunchy plastic wrap on the pillows we’re not supposed to take off because germs, I guess? Which is really fun to wake myself up to in the middle of the night. My other ‘big chore’ today was ordering more water bottles, which I give myself an adult gold star for because it means I’m hydrating. But I hate the second-hand tragedy of how much this pandemic has driven the single-use plastic industry we so desperately need to eliminate.
So how do I spend my time? To keep from completely melting into the bed, I spend two hours a day on the treadmill watching the Olympics, trying to get back into my running routine and undo the damage from this summer. I got a decent VPN, almost investing in some bitcoin on accident in the process, so I’ve been able to watch endless volleyball and also develop all kinds of false expertise on sports I’ll never play (does this sound familiar).
I often stare out my rain-streaked window at the cemetery and the fading traffic lights and imagine I’m in a music video, and today I got to see a bus and a car collide gently. I’ve also done laundry every day, because that is time-consuming, and it takes two days to dry anything since I’m in constant air-con. All the washing by hand just makes me realize that despite how much I romanticise pioneer life, I would have died on the Oregon Trail under a pile of dirty clothes. Laura Ingalls Wilder, I am not.
I did a less harsh version of quarantine last year, when I did two weeks in my flat, back when the government still allowed home isolation. The tedium of that particular overture was broken up by a *very cool* visit I had to take to the ER because I was growing a hole in the roof of my mouth due to a tooth infection from an implant I’d had started over the summer. (A major reason I had to go home this summer was to finish the procedure and give my dentist a solid piece of my mind while putting his kids through college.) But being within my own home last year meant I could cook food, wash clothes, go outside, tend to all the small chores and life admin and organising we let pile up throughout the year.
I’d thought one and a half years of pandemic social-distancing would have conditioned me better for this, however, this amount of time alone has simply made me depressed. I’ve had two days where the idea of a shower was too much. I got up to make coffee, then just scrolled my phone for probably 12 hours and ate all my snacks. I’ve already consumed all my Valentine’s Day candy (oops).
All the uninterrupted time alone makes me nostalgic, makes me hyperfixate; I spend hours thinking about how the song “Come on Eileen” experienced a revival during my senior year of high school while propped up with a mirror and tweezers in the window going HAM on my face. I watch vintage Disney movies while I clip my toenails too short. I enter the dark interwebs stalking new colleagues, ex-boyfriends and their new girlfriends, that one girl who said one mean thing to me in sixth grade at Waterworld. Much to my neighbours’ delight, I’m sure, I play songs on repeat and try to harmonize. Every morning finds me watching TED talks on ageing and trying to stave off the inevitable by binging on crossword puzzles, watching Spanish tv without captions, and practicing my new obsession – Sudoku (thanks, Mands!).
I’m still a bit jet lagged – awake and asleep at odd times and emotionally fragile after a hectic last week in California and then the stress of traveling here, so I also get to overthink absolutely every interaction I’ve ever had with anyone ever and host hypothetical arguments with my reflection in the window.
I wish I could breathe some fresh air, could walk more than three steps without having to turn, wish I knew the rules to field hockey so I could follow the practices in the sports field across the way, wish I knew my right from my left better so I could make heads or tails of the hair-braiding Youtubes I’m following of these gorgeous 15-year olds with twitter-verified channels for hair hacks. Looks like another year of a side braid for me. At least sometimes a student says I have Elsa hair.
It’s been nearly two weeks of a mostly Horizontal Life, which, coincidentally is going to be the name of my upcoming athleisure wear clothing line . . . but I’m nearly, nearly done.
I can do hard things. I make lists each day for what I can be grateful for – and there is so much – the least of which being that while I’m in quarantine, I’m in Q healthy, as a precaution in an overly cautious country. And I am not sick. And God bless the Olympics. And at least I can order cookies and wine and the Wifi is strong.
To those who have reached out to check in on me – means more than I’ll ever be able to tell you face to face, so please take all the love I’m sending down the line. Hope to see you soon on the other side.