Living in a Pandemic
Kuwait City, Kuwait - Coming back from Winter holiday the mention of Coronavirus seemed like a heux. The students would make fun of their peers anytime they coughed or were absent. The laughter quickly came to a halt when we were released to celebrate Kuwait’s National and Liberation days, February 25-26, and the news broke that schools would be closed an additional two weeks due to increased numbers of people affected by COVID-19 also known as Coronavirus.
According to the Center for Disease Control, Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
In only a matter of days the number of confirmed cases grew rapidly. People arriving through the airport from certain locations were taken to evacuated hotels for quarantine. Nationals were brought home, visa processing cut off, land borders closed and other strict regulations were put in place to contain and control the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible. In Kuwait by order of the ministry it is illegal to have public gatherings of more than 12 people. Those found going against the law will be fined.
For those of us not affected by COVID-19, we were bored, stir crazy and had lost all sense of a schedule. Many schools implemented online learning which proved to be a challenge for teachers and students as it was not a regular practice for many schools.
Many people have elected not to go to public places, as a result there has been a great loss in business for restaurants, shopping malls, entertainment facilities, etc.
Many of us have tried to go about business as usual with house chores, grocery shopping, cooking etc. We didn’t realize how dependent we had become on food ordering services until we dedicated ourselves to only cooking and not ordering in. Because Kuwait relies heavily on the import of food we saw an increase in food prices in less than a week and low to no stock on certain items. This was a very overwhelming experience because we knew the boarders most likely wouldn’t be reopened and trade resumed within two weeks. We wonder what the food supply will look like in the coming weeks and if COVID-19 will be our only problem?
"I ate all my quarantine food"
At the beginning of writing this, I thought I would be able to provide updates to a situation that would last for about a month. I thought I would keep this piece objective and not inflect my personal views and opinions. I thought I would return to work to see my cohorts and we would end our school year festively, probably without students present but teachers and admin working to close out the current year and begin preparing for the next. It got personal! Little did I know that this piece would turn into a documentation of my almost three months in socially distanced self quarantine.
I live in Mahboula, Kuwait, a highly populated expat area, with residents from South Africa, Syria, many parts of India, Egyptians, other Americans and some Kuwaiti nationals. In early April we were informed that the State of Kuwait would be going into a total lockdown. This news was intense as we've never experienced a situation like this before. The result of this news was a partial curfew for all of Kuwait from 6 am - 5 pm and select areas, one including Mahboula, would be closed for a minimum period of 2 weeks, meaning no one in and no one out of the areas. The Kuwait military has been placed on guard at all entrance and exit areas of Mahboula. The school I work for arranged transportation to the grocery store before the lockdown so we could prepare ourselves with necessities. We went to Lulu's and I prepared like I was hunkering down for hurricane season. I'm a native Houstonian so sheltering in place is not a new concept for me.
The lockdown wasn't as dramatic as Stephen King's novel Dome, but it did feel that way after a few days. The residents of Mahboula had been restricted to the area. Deliveries to stores were allowed and even the deliveries were scarce, there are no restaurant deliveries as most are either closed or just outside the Mahbola zone. Since Mahboula doesn't have a large grocery chain the residents are limited to the smaller grocery stores, the Grand Hyper and OnCost, and the bakalas, what is know in America as a c-store without the gas. The smaller grocery stores don't carry most of the products available at the larger stores and the fresh selection is extremely limited. There is an exchange zone near the police station where people from the other side can bring groceries or other necessities to those in Mahboula, this definitely wasn't announced as I'm sure most people would have gathered to collect items from the exchange zones.
After a few weeks the partial curfew was increased to 8 am to 4 pm, people can't go outside before 8 am and must be home by 4. People that are out after curfew must have a special permission which only includes going to the hospital for emergencies. Extreme? Maybe, but it has been so peaceful, there is no constant blaring of horns from people in a rush to go nowhere. The air is fresher, the wind is still blowing the dust all over the place but the smells of toxins from the cars is gone. It was such a blessing that the school I work for was able to purchase and deliver a bulk grocery order that included lots of fresh vegetables and a box of shelf stable products. This was much needed since the availability of fresh and shelf items is limited, plus who really wants to go to the store to risk becoming infected with corona.
A little birdie told us that the lock-down for Mahboula might be lifted on May 24. Looks like that bird left the room early because after about one month in lock-down it has been announced that the entire State of Kuwait will be in 24-hour lock-down until May 30. People are allowed to go outside for fresh air from 4:30 pm-6:30 pm, however, no cars are to be allowed on the roads only walking and jogging.
In the mean time I'm building relationships with friends and family I don't regularly talk to, I'm relaxing and thinking of nothing at all, I'm reading and writing, I'm recognizing the many blessings God has bestowed on me and I'm taking it all in. I'm looking forward to hanging out with my friends at the café and the malls, I'm looking forward to returning home in 2021 to see my family and I'm excited for the healing of the earth. I'm excited to experience what the new normal will be.