As we come out from the latest restrictions, I wanted to take some time to reflect on how this year has been and to share my experience dealing with the pandemic as a foreigner living in a country where I don’t fluently speak the language. I took things for granted, such as where to get accurate information in the current situation, what I should do as far as following the restrictions, and how to navigate online work and living.
First news about COVID
It began early in 2020 when I was planning on taking the trip of a lifetime to Thailand, a place on my bucket list that I had wanted to visit for years. A perfect time to escape the coldness of winter as we were to have spring break from school the last week of February. As the date for my departure drew closer, there were more and more reports of COVID in countries other than mainland China; however, at the time, it still felt safe to travel.
The trip to Thailand did not disappoint; it was stunning, beautiful tourist sites, excellent sandy beaches, the ever-present hand sanitizing stations, and someone taking your temperature at the entrance to every building. Even though Thailand only had 19 reported cases, I felt myself begin to shy away from open markets and crowds of people. Little did I know that upon my return to the Czech Republic, this would soon become a way of life, yo-yo-ing back and forth in the year to come.
Foreigner in lockdown
When the state of emergency was declared, and the first lockdown was introduced, I found myself searching for information. Online forums, news and government websites frequently had misleading information that was mistranslated or incorrect. Most of the time, it was due to no English presence on the website and heavily relying on Google Translate. In fact, the website that the government set up about covid wouldn’t come for a few more months. I was lucky because I have a Czech partner who regularly would watch the news conferences and explain what was going on throughout the country.
Once the initial confusion had passed and we began to adapt to our new life of being indoor/online/socially distanced, I began to find a new routine. As much as I thought I would enjoy the prospect of rolling out of bed and logging in on the computer to teach a grammar lesson, I quickly came to realize how social of a person I was. I missed the interactions with people, going out and enjoying a coffee or beer with a friend. Something as simple as a handshake or a hug. After 3 weeks of being inside, everything came to a point, and I had to get out of the house. Walking around where I live was as eerie as the dystopian societies my students were reading and learning about. Shops were closed, and after months they became boarded up (though some I must admit I won’t miss – I Love Prague souvenir shops), and now to this day, I wonder what will take their place.
What I learned from pandemic
In the following months, there became a new normal that has involved changes every few weeks. This led to the biggest lesson I learned during the pandemic, which is flexibility to change doesn’t come easy but is needed in a world where we must adapt to ever-changing situations. So now as warmer times approach and restrictions are relaxed, I am looking forward to the possibility of returning to my hobby, travelling out into the world, and seeing friends, family, and new places