Two and a half years, three visits to the States, living next door to China, multiple close contact exposures, but I still hadn’t been infected. There was a small part of me thinking I might have superior DNA or was just super healthy (ha), hoping that I’d end up being someone worth studying as Patient Never. Maybe a steady diet of Hot Tamales, sauvignon blanc, and massaman curry had effectively neutralised any chance of getting infected with the corona?
Living in Hong Kong, getting Covid still carries a stigma with it – “where do you think you got it? were they vaxxed? which one? what precautions were you all taking?” are common questions and generally easily answered because we all scan into all locations here via a QR code in our phones that is tied to our vaccines records and previous locations. Therefore Covid is still easily traceable. Because of Big Brother, I can say with confidence I probably got COVID from a really good friend at a beach party in Hong Kong in the probably total of 40 minutes we spent close together. Besides myself, only two other people at the fiesta had not previously been infected with Covid, but I was the only one who got sick.
Curse that one nice hug we shared, Ricky Bobby.
The worst part of it is that I woke up infected on the second day of school. The SECOND DAY OF SCHOOL.
Here in Hong Kong, all teachers and students have to take a daily RAT test and record it as negative in order to come to school. I think government workers must do the same, I don’t really pay attention to the rules that don’t directly affect me anymore because there are SO MANY FREAKING RULES. Hong Kong loves a rule and still conducts daily press conferences to tell us which ones they might change that day.
My first day of school already had me riddled with anxiety because I had been moved against my will to a different age group. I had been quite comfortable teaching fourth grade, and now I had to teach first grade?! Where the odds of being called “mom” are twenty times as high? Where vomit and wee are a thousand times more likely to appear in my classroom? Where kids eat boogers as a sport?
Somehow I planned out and got through that first day – channeling the spirit of my Gma Susi, I guess, who taught first grade for approximately a million years out in Antioch, so surely I could handle a few upper-class Hong Kongers, right?!
I felt pretty okay with it, running on pure adrenaline and supported by awesome friends, but then by the end of the day, I got the woozies. I went home right at 3:30 hoping a nice nap might magically make it all better. I tested that night – negative. Thank you, sweet baby Jesus. But in the morning, I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I took my temperature, then had to look up what the Celsius meant in Fahrenheit to determine the level fever. Then I shoved that Q-tip up to my brain for my RAT test, and while it process, I gathered smell-test supplies – nail polish remover, minced garlic, and Tiger Balm . . . but it all was a ghost of a smell under my nostrils.
The timer went off and I looked at my test and teared up with frustration. Twas indeed the Covid. I texted my VP, started the next test, and started my most commonly used yoga pose – downward spiral.
It was beautiful how supportive my work and friends were – not shaming, not making a big deal about me having to stay home, offering to drop things off, praying for me, etc. I was physically sick but also annoyed. How was it I was able to go on a tour of “a face-mask is the end of my freedom” America for seven weeks without getting sick, but then five days in Hong Kong and I’m canceled for the first week of school? This was not in my calendar! I mean, I was in Nashville, Vegas, Colorado, danced at two weddings, almost begging to get COVID while in the States because I was with my mom and she would take care of me and the dogs would be my co-Netflix-bingers and it would have been ideal. But, no.
I haven’t felt that sick in a long time. I still had to work, answer texts and emails, couldn’t rest because I felt like I was letting everyone down. Plus there is demolition happening in three out of four quadrants around my house right now, which requires like deep-sea levels of jack-hammering or something; it is so effing loud that one cannot catch a wink of daytime sleep. I lost my sense of taste, but I’m so stupidly competitive and ‘try again’ that I just kept eating things to see if I could taste them, totally undermining what should have been a helpful post-summer detox.
In Hong Kong, you have to register your results of Covid to a government website daily. Then someone comes to your house (in a full-on HAZ-MAT suit) to give you some PCR tests and installs a GPS tracking bracelet and government app on your phone to monitor you. If you live with lots of other people, you could be carted off to a mandatory isolation facility, which is so bad that several people have attempted suicide there in the last 2.5 years it has been running for COVID.
I had skull-splitting headaches and fevers of delirium; too sick to even watch any new TV properly – I just put old episodes of Parks and Rec or Downton Abbey on to fall asleep to. I was so congested I had to sleep upright. My nose was running so badly that I shoved wads of tissue up there to hold it while I tried to sleep, thinking it would be more efficient to just use a lady product but aware of the international tampon shortage.
After three days of drugging myself on colorful combinations of pills I found in random ziplocks I had labeled “Cold and Flu” that had expired in 2018 because I haven’t been sick in that long, I was finally a bit better. We also had a massive typhoon during my days off – big enough that school was canceled for the day, so I felt less guilty that day for missing it.
It’s terrible to feel super sick and be alone.
We’ve had over one thousand days of COVID here in Hong Kong, and I’m still waiting for any of the policies to make sense, but at least my personal wait for Covid is over. There were a terrible few days, but I ramen-ed through them, thanks to Leslie Knope and expired Nyquil. Now that I’ve finally caught the ‘vid, there is a weird but welcome bit of mental and emotional freedom in my brief period of immunity. I’m licking handrails and kissing strangers and shaking babies with the best of them. We love a good handrail.
Disclaimer: I write this blog, often about silly things, but want to acknowledge that an unnecessary and unforgettable amount of people have died and are continuing to needlessly die in this pandemic, due to misinformation, lack of care, unfortunate exposure, etc. In no way do I want to make light of the loss experienced by so many in this pandemic. Please point any anger in the right direction by writing to your closest representative.