“My immune system is so rubbish, I bet I’ll be the first person to contract Corona. I bet ya I’ll be the reason our school closes.”
Well. It’s all fun and games and ha ha ha until you suddenly feel feverish and your boss sends you home early, and on the way home you almost fall asleep at the wheel and that’s when it hits you: I’ve jinxed myself, haven’t I?
In Qatar, the first COVID-19 patients were diagnosed and isolated into quarantine in February but for the most part, life continued as normal. School continued as normal. And my morning routine included conversations like this:
Student (also a budding conspiracy theorist): Miss, you know the virus already reached Doha.
Me: Where did you hear that? There’s been nothing on the news.
Him: Maybe not Miss, but it’s true.
Me: * sceptical look*
Student: Wallah Miss. I swear.
Me: Whereabouts exactly?
Student: Not sure
Me: Ah okay, how did you find out? Do you have a family member in the government or something?
Student: My cousin told me.
Me: Mmh. Sounds legit.
Student: I told my father, I pray for my family and then Miss Kubra. Because she has the worst immune system. She had her wisdom tooth taken out and was knocked out for weeks. Miss you just need to eat lots of garlic and you won’t get it. Guaranteed.
(Jokes aside, I have the BEST students in the whole world! I miss you guys so much!!)
I think we can collectively agree 2020 isn’t about to be anyone’s year.
And I think at some point, all of us have convinced ourselves we have the virus, right? I don’t by the way (alhamdulillah). Just thought I’d clarify that in case you’ve been holding your breath since the first paragraph.
It turned out to be tonsillitis. But in the run-up to finding out it was tonsillitis, I did think it might be COVID-19. I missed World Book Day which made me even more miserable. For a fleeting couple of days, I occasionally succumbed to gushing waves of dread and panic. Thankfully it was a milder dose of the Mind-Numbing-And-Brain-Boggling panic causing people to stockpile thousands of bog rolls and 10KG bags of flour or rice. I mean hello? It’s a virus, not curry night!
In the beginning, the whole thing felt like deja-vu. It was like I had travelled back in time to Ramadan 2017 when the severance of political and economic ties with Qatar meant travel was uncertain, food supplies were cut off, and everyone freaked out. BIG TIME.
Supermarket shelves were wiped out and we learnt very soon that either you join in with panic-buying and hoarding, or you get left behind without any food for iftar/suhoor. Of course, things turned out well in the end and Qatar came out stronger than ever. So having lived through that experience, I think I was more prepared this time. The news of a lockdown or flights being closed didn’t have the same impact as it did on residents of other countries.
It wouldn’t be wrong to admit COVID-19 has taught me an awful lot about myself. As Ross from Friends once said, “No-one likes change,” least of all someone like me – an INFJ personality. We thrive on routine and cling on to stability. Well, as it turns out, change was definitely on the horizon this year.
On Monday 9th March, school was suspended for students (learn from Qatar, Boris!) I stood at the gates waving goodbye and frantically reminding my Year 11s to take their folders home. Everything rolled out in slow motion (I might have been humming a Bollywood melody) and a strange stillness settled.
Was I suddenly in a dystopian movie? What on earth was going to happen now? Where do we go from here? Nobody knew and days later, still nobody knows.
In a matter of 24 hours, my colleagues and I transferred entire syllabi onto online platforms and trained both ourselves and students to use technology. We’ve become experts in online teaching. I feel like now might be the perfect time to quit teaching and become a Youtuber, what with my awesome screen recording/narration skills and the extremely affordable plane tickets to exotic locations. Just kidding.
So it’s been 2.5 weeks without the kids and work carries on as normal for teachers in Qatar. Or as normal as can be, given the circumstances. This has been emotionally difficult to adjust to. I really miss the banter and Year 11’s lame attempts at roasting me. I miss being on my feet; I miss ‘real’ teaching’. The most enjoyable part of teaching is the daily interaction with your students –
even the conspiracy theorists, especially the conspiracy theorists. Without my students, both school and my life feel awfully empty *sob*.
Nobody likes change but if we never experience change, how will we ever grow?
How To Stay Sane during this mass-pandemic-panic:
- Repeat after me: stop stockpiling food and other goods. If anything, your house is going to be the first place that gets robbed in a riot.
- This difficult time should bring out the best in you. Sharing is caring. Look after and reach out to people who have no-one (such as elderly neighbours or the homeless) and stick up for victims of racism.
- Be grateful. Whether you believe in a greater power or not, be thankful that you have a comfortable life because let’s be honest, if the only threat to your life is COVID-19 then you are already richer than millions of others.
- Practice hygiene. I’m talking specifically to the people who never wash their hands after using the restroom. Now is the time to change for good!
- Lastly, put things in perspective and look at the bigger picture. The vast majority of people will recover so it’s about taking the right measures to prevent and reduce risk.
I figure that as a teacher I probably have a higher chance of tripping over a student’s gigantic rucksack and splitting my skull open than I do of actually dying from Corona (there I go again, jinxing myself). But you know what I mean, it’s important to put things in perspective.
In short, don’t fuel the panic machine. Don’t put others at risk. Just don’t be stupid. It’s not that hard.
I have lots more to share seeing as I have been silently reflecting for a whole month, but that’s for another post. Tell me: how are your daily lives affected by lockdown or COVID-19? Any pro-tips for my How To Stay Sane list?