Asia Family Traveller

Expat travelling mum

Quarantine woes


Whiling away the pandemic in England, I was chatting with a friend back in Hong Kong last week. “How are you?” I enquired. “Oh, exhausted!” came the frazzled reply.

I could only admit that I felt exactly the same way, despite having been lockeddown to within five kilometres of my home for the last four months and spending inordinate amounts of time watching reruns of Midsomer Murders while eating fried egg sandwiches on the couch. In the normal run of things, I should be feeling incredibly well-rested.

But, it turns out we’re all suffering from ‘semilockdo­wnitis’. Which means that although falling infections and the introducti­on of vaccines suggests we’re no longer facing a full-on

Covid threat, neither has the pandemic completely disappeare­d. We’re still a little bit braced, unable to exhale with relief quite yet.

I chanced upon an interestin­g article about stress and the ‘flight or fight’ response this week as I spent my usual 26-and-a-half hours a day scrolling through social media from my bed-desk (that’s a thing, by the way, you can buy them from Amazon). It explained that we have every right to be feeling absolutely knackered. When we’re confronted with a stressful situation (i.e. the pandemic) our bodies release adrenaline for energy and cortisol to activate the flight or fight response.

Once the threat passes, of course, hormone levels return to normal. But this pandemic is ongoing with no end in sight. It seems to be made up of waves that sort of reach a crescendo at times, but never quite break and recede. As a consequenc­e, it’s apparently normal to be feeling constantly weary.

We’ve all had a year now of surfing various coronaviru­s waves. I spent last year buffeted by rippling waves in Hong Kong and monster waves in England.

And when you’re riding double waves, well, it’s doubly exhausting. Britain found itself cresting the wave of all waves in January, and just as it began to subside and I allowed myself a small sigh of relief along with a medicinal G&T, Hong Kong began navigating the infamous ‘gym cluster’ wave.

‘JUST DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE!’ I hastily WhatsApped my gym-loving children in

Hong Kong. ‘STAY IN YOUR BEDROOM!’ I added to the England-based Blonde Child, just in case slightly better infection numbers were giving her any ideas.

Most of my friendship circle has been managing families split across continents; children studying in Australia or the UK or US, either at school or university, while parents hold down jobs back in Asia. The drama, the endless quarantine, the copious amounts of paperwork that travelling during a global pandemic demands, is enough to send anyone into a stress-induced coma.

A friend admitted that as a result of the general exhaustion, an epidemic of ‘can’t-be-bothered-to-go-outitis’ has set in. Months of social distancing, gallons of hand sanitiser and never-ending face mask requiremen­ts have made drinks on the roof at home preferable to cocktails behind a plastic screen in a restaurant.

I have to admit, over here in England, I was momentaril­y excited about the village pub being able to reopen to al fresco diners and drinkers. And then I remembered that it’s still quite cold and anyway, a night out might clash with Line of Duty.

In further proof that we are not back to normal, our regular ‘Ladies Long Lunch’ WhatsApp group lies dormant while upstart group ‘Crochet Tips’ is pinging with life. What’s happened to us all? Too much quarantine, probably; we’re all now worryingly adept at ‘doing something interestin­g’ with hotel-issue boiled rice and a bottle of chilli oil and whiling the day away with a ball of wool and a pair of knitting needles.

So until we’re finally and properly free of virus restrictio­ns, I’m getting with the countercul­ture. Turn on (the telly), tune in (to a nice police drama) and drop out.

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