The New Normal

It’s currently 7:32am in Barbados and it’s eerily quiet for a Saturday morning.  As of now, the only sound is the rustling of the leaves of the coconut tree outside of my apartment.  It’s strange because Saturday mornings in my part of Barbados are rife with activity, cars zooming past on the road which passes immediately outside of where I live (ok, just heard the faint sounds of some sort of heavy-duty vehicle on what we call the ‘Top Road’), lawnmowers, music, voices and my neighbour welding something.

However, it’s Day One of our 24-hour curfew due to the real-life Thanos that has brought the world to its collective knees.  Now we’ve been ‘inside’ in Barbados (the opposite of the ‘outside’ we’ve been hollering about for the past few months, lol.  See Viking Ding Dong if you’re unsure of what I speak) since March 30 but things changed drastically and dramatically within the last two days.  Last week Saturday morning, the day that a limited curfew began, my boyfriend took some photos of the Barbados Hilton which was almost emptied of guests.

Standing on the pristine beach, I imagined that we were in the first stage of the quintessential disaster movie, you know, right after everyone is forced to retreat from social life and the structures that we once enjoyed were now left to fend for themselves against the elements.  Dramatic I know, but art always imitates life in some form or fashion and while there, that’s how it felt.

At the Hilton we met one of the few remaining persons making up the skeleton staff (whose name I unfortunately I didn’t get) and Jenny, one of the guests.  The Hilton employee told us, from a distance of course, that he was one of the few staff members who remained working there in order to ensure that the few guests, mostly flight crew, were taken care of.  Jenny was a flight attendant for a private jet service who said she didn’t want to leave Barbados as she was afraid to venture back to New York where she lived.  She and I carried on a conversation over blustery winds on the beach to ensure we maintained our social distance.  In both instances, we ended our conversations with the two words we are all now so familiar with, ‘stay safe’.  Apart from 2 local fishermen, we were all alone on the beach.  Well, except for the black crabs on the rocks who continued along, unbothered.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen how intricately our lives and businesses are intertwined, how much we absolutely depend on each other and how much our island depends on its main industry, tourism.  I cannot even imagine what it will take for us to get back on our feet but I know we will.  I suspect that as with the occurrence of 9/11 some 19 years ago (19!!) we will be changed forever and be forced to adapt.

Now, it’s a week later and we are mandated to remain inside unless we are physically purchasing food from Village Shops (not supermarkets, as they are closed), going for medical attention or the pharmacy.  If you work for an essential service, you are allowed to leave home as well.

It’s a sobering thought that so many countries have had to resort to these measures in order to ensure that Covid-19 does not eat us alive and I am going to cover my thoughts on government’s response and some other things in another post.  The truth is, I am afraid.  I am trying not to become consumed by the news.  I want to be able to learn about the evolution of the disease and know what is happening in other countries without falling down the rabbit hole of information.

I have not been successful.  Events in Barbados yesterday brought the situation to a point where I was almost moved to tears.  I am not convinced that we will be able to re-open for business on April 15.  As of yesterday we had a total of 51 cases in a population of just over 285,000, which per capita, is scary.  I am saying all of this to say that based on discussions with friends here, we all fall somewhere along the spectrum of being ‘on edge’.   We feel that way for good reason too as we are watching countries much bigger than ours grapple with this pandemic and still losing so many people to the disease.  So what can we do about it?

I’ll tell you what I am doing.  STAYING INSIDE.  Our Prime Minister, fresh off of surgery, made an impassioned plea last night for us to stay at home.  Now I am one of the first to get ‘cabin fever’ and I am sure that by the end of this week I’m going to want to pull my hair out but it’s for the best.  I’m working remotely so that will take up enough time of my day for it not to seem as though I’m idling.  I’m going to work on painting, my paints and canvases have laid there neglected for some time so I will start that up again.  Having been almost totally inactive for a while except for one or two yoga classes here and there (now the little boy who lives next door is awake, lol), I’ve been exercising at home thanks to the Nike Training app which is now free and online yoga classes with @yogabarbados_manipura. Of course, I am staying in touch electronically with friends and family.

Life will not go back to normal anytime soon if we don’t make this a collective effort.  My heart goes out to everyone in the medical field who is battling this disease in some way or another.  Like many of us, I have very close friends and family around the world who are on the Covid-19 front lines.  I thank them immensely and I eagerly await the day when they don’t have to do this anymore.  Let us be sensible and do our best to stop the spread of this disease, let us support each other.  Our lives depend on it.

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