Pennsylvania, United States
It was the first week of March when I watched a documentary about life under lockdown in the Wuhan province of China. I empathized with the people living under the constant threat of Covid-19 but not even for a second did I think of being in the same situation sometime in the near future. Somehow I felt that it was not possible for the virus to travel to our small college town in central Pennsylvania. I was not underestimating the scale of mobility in today’s world, but in fact, I was overestimating the capabilities of humans in containing the Coronavirus to China.
That same week I was leaving with three other friends for a week-long Spring break to Costa Rica. The only concern all four of us shared was that we did not want any hurdles in our vacation plans due to Corona. We were glad that we made it to San Jose, Costa Rica on March 6. Fast forward to March 16, we were arriving back at JFK airport in New York which had the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the US at the time. We were very nervous about landing in JFK. There were so many fears – what if we caught Corona while crossing through New York City, or worst what if they made us go into quarantine for two weeks. One of my friends is an expert of travel hacks. She did some online research and suggested all of us to take Tylenol one hour before landing at JFK to hide any symptoms even if we had caught the virus. To our surprise no one checked us at the airport. Next task was to take a six hour long bus ride to Pennsylvania. As a standard practice during a global pandemic, we cleaned our seats with disinfecting wipes before taking our seats in the bus. We made it to central Pennsylvania without getting any symptoms. This was a big relief.
Next, as a responsible citizen, I planned to keep myself in self-quarantine for fourteen days. I was mostly eating lentils as I did not want to go out for groceries fearing that if I had Corona I might infect other people. During this time I kept hallucinating Covid-like symptoms. I was scared, more so because I did not want to be the first case of Covid-19 in my town. Then by the time I was out of my self-quarantine, everyone in Pennsylvania was under stay at home orders Our town already had 26 confirmed cases.
My next worry was my productivity. How will I work from home? I don’t have the self-discipline one needs to work from home. All day in my PJs I was either stress-eating or spending too much time listening to news updates about Corona. Two weeks in a row I told my boss during our weekly meetings that I could not work and I needed more time to figure out what was going on around us. He was nice and understanding about it but I did not want this to happen for the third week in a row. So I called a few friends asking about their routine. I also listened to some podcasts and read some articles about productivity in the time of Corona. This was all helpful. I received some useful tips. I decided to dress up every morning, and to listen to news updates only once in the morning and close myself off for rest of the day. This has been hard, because sometimes I miss important current affairs updates but I am glad that I save myself from a lot of dramatic headlines. I work two hours followed by an hour long break, and repeat. During my breaks I love watching birds from my window. I have been living in this apartment for the last three years. Until this quarantine I never noticed that my balcony was hosting Blue Jays, Cardinals, Common Grackle, and the American Robin. These birds are my biggest joy these days. I have started going out for an hour long walk every evening to accomplish my 10,000 steps. Every time I go out I feel blessed to be living in this small college town in Central Pennsylvania during a global pandemic. I no longer complain that it is a sleepy town.
To keep up our productivity, my friends and I decided to hold Zoom writing sessions. The idea was to come online, share your writing goals with the group and go offline. Come back online after two hours and share your progress. Instead of following these set rules, guess what happens in these writing groups: we come online, we start chatting and we keep on chatting for two hours, the only thing that doesn’t happen in these writing group calls is writing itself. But that is okay, we know everyone is craving some human interaction these days 🙂