Corona Update (Month I)
It’s been quite a month! Staying home with my husband and two kids while continuing to work “full-time” has been a challenge. Especially in the beginning of this crisis, I was full of questions. How long would it take? Would our move to Berlin be delayed? And when are they going to have enough tests for everyone?!!
But I’m becoming a little bit more accepting of the lock-down situation by the day. I suppose we just can’t predict how long we’ll have to stay home. The State Department definitely isn’t making long-term plans. I’m sure they worry about what to do with their diplomats, but they only send us an update every once in a while. And all it really says is: stay home for now, at least until the end of May.
So I’m just trying to live in the moment… a goal I’ve never quite achieved. For us, it’s not about avoiding infection—we’ve experienced suspicious symptoms last month (total loss of smell and taste, and it still hasn’t fully come back yet), so we think we already had it. At this point, it’s about following the new norms (staying home, ugh) and making the best of it.
Being social 2.0
One thing that notably changed was how we interact with friends and family, who literally live all over the world. It started with an explosion of activity via Whatsapp. I got included in many new groups made up of family, local friends, or colleagues. Then someone invented the Zoom happy hour and the next thing you know we’re doing Zoom breakfasts, Zoom beer-pong, Zoom poker nights, Zoom daycare songs, and my six-year old wants to Zoom his girlfriend.
Frankly, it’s been nice catching up with people this way. It’s almost as if some inhibition has disappeared. Where we were once scared that others were too “busy” to want to talk to us, or would ever consider spending hours chatting with us through a webcam, now it seems everyone is proposing online dates to everyone. It's pretty fun.
Pretending to work full-time
Work-wise, our lives changed little since the beginning of the Corona crisis. My husband and I are still working full-time. The pace slowed down a little, but we’re expected to meet the same goals as before. I’m in online language class for four hours each day while he attends conference calls, writes reports, and coordinates environmental programs in far away Africa.
But there’s a little bit of pretending going on, too. It’s impossible to focus fully on learning a language when your two-year old daughter is using her brother as a trampoline while yelling music requests at Google Home. But it’s okay. I’m going to get the score I need (and nothing more than that, thanks to new guidelines for remote testing) so I’m not worried.
Lots of “essential” shopping
I. Must. Get. Out. Of. The. House. As. Often. As. Possible. This makes me the shopper in chief of our household, which I’ve always been anyway. Never did I enjoy those BJ runs more than I do now; never have I walked around Target more fascinated by the latest selection of board games; and never have I driven all the way to McDonalds for an ice-tea.
Besides shopping trips, I can’t come up with many ways to justify being outside. The only other thing I do is running and going on short walks with the kids. And putting out the trash—by god, we produce a lot of trash. Plus I drove all the way to Maryland to pick up a stroller from Craigslist so I can take my daughter for longer walks around the neighborhood.
New kinds of family time
The main thing, I suppose, is just spending lots of time with my family. Having two small kids is a lot of hassle, but it also has a major advantage: the things we love and enjoy most in the world are right here with us, all day, every day. It’s amazing to watch them grow without most of the usual distractions.
I always felt like my kids had a high entertainment value, and these days they’re really outdoing themselves. My son took the training wheels off his bike the other day and rode away as if he didn’t even notice the difference. My daughter, who never showed an interest in Dutch before, is suddenly asking me to translate everything. We do more puzzles, games, and crafts together than ever before.
But I’m not gonna lie: Corona has made us a little bit (more) crazy. Unfortunately, Kemi regressed in her potty training, basically doing her business anywhere but on the potty. There are days when my husband, who generally has an admirable amount of patience, sits on the balcony because he feels his head is going to explode.
My moods go up and down. Sometimes I’m happy to find time and energy for things I usually wouldn’t even consider doing, like Origami—creating sharks and dinosaurs while my kids cut papers in tiny pieces. Meanwhile, my alcohol consumption has spiked. I bought a bottle of Peruvian brandy and made Pisco sours with it until the whole things was gone—which took only a few days.
It’s sad to think I might not be going to my first posting, Berlin, which is truly my dream post, as early as June. But I don’t want to think about it too much—we’ve got so little to worry about that I’d feel selfish for complaining. The only thing I wonder is… isn’t this when diplomats have to work overseas, helping fellow citizens and working with foreign governments to mitigate the problems the virus is creating?!
I don’t know. I don’t even know how many diplomats are still at post, and how many have chosen to come back. I guess I’m just used to being overseas and dealing with crises there—not sitting back home, doing little of professional value besides learning a few new words of German every day…