It was about a year ago that the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Wuhan, China. The virus has been and is still affecting the world massively, and in this post I’m going to recount how it has affected my family and me.

On February 2020, I found and bought the single remaining bottle of hand sanitizer spray, in a supermarket in a neighboring city. My own city did not seem to have them in stock anywhere, it felt at that time. We were on a vacation to celebrate our second child’s birthday. There has been no official announcements, but everyone seemed to instinctually know that something terrible was about to unfold.

Also on February I was scheduled to talk at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand. The conference was cancelled. At that time the decision to cancel was rather controversial. After a few more weeks, it would then prove to be the exact right thing to do. Anyhow, we also had to cancel our personal trip that would have happened afterward. There were no refunds, because at that time our destination had not been declared to be in emergency.

Back at home, at the beginning, an inflatable pool was our main tool to entertain children, especially since schools were closed. As it turns out, inflating the pool was easy. It was draining the water once everyone was done that’s tiring. The excess water also wasn’t great to the grass on the backyard.

I told my wife on my birthday in March that that was the worst birthday I’ve ever had. Anxiety level was high, everything was unpredictable, and our government did not seem to treat the situation with the right level of urgency. Masks and sanitizers were hard to find, local information even more so. We had to fend for ourselves by doing what we thought was best: not leaving the house, getting a lot of vitamins, and pretending to be cheerful to our kids as if nothing had happened.

I had a few scheduled work travels that had to be cancelled. Team meetings were replaced by multiple-day Zoom calls. They didn’t feel great, like having instant noodle for lunch instead of a proper meal. It felt great as an idea, but left me with regrets.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch deserves its own paragraph here because it definitely has been the video game of the pandemic. It soothed not just our family, but seemingly the whole world. Even just the opening song was enough to give us a warm, fuzzy feeling. Our daughter played hours and hours of it. Her reading skill spiked up from reading conversations in the game. She memorized a lot of songs from it. One of the songs she turned into her nightly lullaby. She was not the best decorator, so our island in the game was an ocean of trash, but at least she’s happy.

Other games that get a lot of play time: Goat Simulator, Lego World.

Oh, Eid was cancelled. If there is a single holiday that’s uncancellable in Indonesia, it’s Eid. Yet it was, indeed, cancelled. Instead of visiting families, we had Zoom calls in the early morning.

We found that my wife was pregnant some time at the end of last year. I was so anxious I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for a whole day, something that never happened to me before.

Pregnancy during pandemic required many changes from what we’ve known from previous experiences. We had to avoid our usual hospital for doing regular check-ups, because the hospital was used to treat COVID-19 patients. We found another doctor who was good, had a practice at her own house, and the place had proper health measures in place. Masks required, outdoors waiting area, good airflow.

A few days ago I heard the news that the doctor and her husband got the virus, despite all that. I suppose it’s inevitable if you’re a doctor and meeting a lot of different people every single day. When we were there sometimes we’d see patients who were clearly coughing but still brought themselves there.

When it was time for my wife to give birth, we had to pick a different hospital also. It was a place that’s not familiar to us. We were asked to arrive the night before the operation, and the hospital was eerily quiet. Visitors were generally not allowed, but still it felt very unusual to be in an almost empty place. That night it felt like we were the only persons in there.

At the beginning of the year, I had thought that by the pregnancy’s due date on August, the virus situation would have already died down. I was so, so wrong.

Anyway we picked a room and stayed. Right away the level of service did not seem to reach the previous hospital that helped us with our two previous children. But overall it was comfortable.

The operation went smoothly, and we stayed for a few days after. It was the three of us there for those few days, with pretty much no visitors, which is something completely unusual if you’re a family with newborn in Java. The culture here dictates that pretty much everyone goes to visit a new baby at the hospital. The stark quietness gave us a great opportunity to relax and recover. During lulls I was able to play quite a bit of video games, watch Netflix, and rediscover the joy of Starbucks’s cafe latte. We also particularly enjoyed the hot tea that the hospital provided. It was the perfect amount of sweetness and warmth to help counter our stress.

Overall, our kids have been doing relatively fine, thankfully. Our youngest are growing healthily. For our first two it’s been a lot more games and videos than I’m comfortable with, but those are also important moments of rest for us parents. It’s a tricky thing to balance.

Online school has been particularly difficult for our first child. Even at the beginning it was obvious to us that the kindergarten we picked for her wasn’t particularly tech-savvy, but we thought it won’t be a big problem since our main goal was for her to gain new friends and socialize at the school. Who would have thought that school would suddenly move to Zoom? The hardest part for us has been to figure out what’s essential for her to learn during these lost school months, and what’s okay to let go. I don’t think we have it completely right. We’re trying.

And finally here we are, a year later. Like the constant hum of air conditioners, the presence of the virus and the uncertainty it brings keep on playing in the back of my head. It remains a factor to consider on top of all the things happening in our live. I see that things are getting worse in many parts of the world, especially those entering winter season. In my part of the world people have relaxed by a lot, even though testing is still low and there’s a lot of unknowns.

At the beginning I tried to keep myself updated with news, hoping that one day a glimmer of hope will appear. It was very tiring emotionally, and eventually I had to tune them out. Recently there were news about two vaccines, of Pfizer and of Moderna, that have over 90% success rate. These are actual, backed-by-science, glimmer of hope. Especially since there are also other promising vaccines in development with a timeline to share their findings in the near future.

A year from now, there’s a good chance things will be back to relative normalcy. Before that, with vaccinations, things will get easier and easier. Hopefully this writing will be it, and there will be no “Year Two” post. Hopefully, soon it will be a comfortable and relieving descent after this whole year of exhausting, foggy climb.

One thought on “Our Pandemic Experience, Year One

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