It was our wedding anniversary in February and we usually eat out at our favourite Chinese restaurant but we cancelled plans to dine there and opted for another place
The first time I heard about this virus was early January. A friend who works for the United Nations warned about a kind of virus ravaging in Wuhan, China and stated the UN was warning its staff to leave the country with a travel advisory not to go to China. My first reaction was “how does this concern us if we are not in China”.  By the end of the month, it was all over the news. It was our wedding anniversary in February and we usually eat out at our favourite Chinese restaurant but we cancelled plans to dine there and opted for another place. Then the Chinese around the world were crying discrimination and lack of patronage. Everyone was just being cautious because no one really knew the details. I needed more details so I dug into the archives studying the coronavirus and this new strain from Wuhan. The World Health Organisation (WHO) information on the virus became helpful. A friend who is a health worker also gave me information on the virus. Then the WHO name it COVID-19. I spoke with my cousin who lives in Lagos and deals in protective and security equipment about the virus, she revealed how the Chinese had been ordering all her products wholesale. In fact, she lamented the lack of face masks and gloves and how the prices had gone up astronomically. “Anyway, we were just observer from abroad,” so I thought.

News came that the first case had been discovered in Northern Italy. A man who had been in China and whose contacts had also been infected, brought it here. We got in touch with our correspondent there and he intimated us about the situation. This was in the Lombardy area and the cases started increasing, then the lockdown began in the North. Life in central Italy still went on but with caution. I must admit, I attended football matches, concert and even visited a spa. We still gave hugs and kisses as we exchanged greetings saying “Ciao! Ciao!”

Then we had an index case discovered at the airport in Rome and then many more, you know the rate of infection is exponential, so it was no longer a “siddon look” situation. Then the casualties started going up. There was still partial lockdown in the country. “Oh Lord! What’s to be done?” My first instinct as a mother was how to protect my family. I discovered we have exhausted all the face masks we usually keep at home and we could not get to buy at the Pharmacy or stores. I was worried for my daughter who would be resuming College for another Semester. One of them goes for football games and he had been lined up to referee a crucial match in the Italian under 17 league. I started social distancing and avoided crowded places. My daughter assured me and we prayed, she attended classes for a couple of days and I told my son he would not attend any games until further notice. He felt I was overreacting. I was upset when the matches were not cancelled and the football leagues continued and there was even an indoor match without spectators. I pondered aloud, “Are they not human beings too?” But I didn’t wait for long before my fears were allayed.

When the total lockdown began on March 5 I heaved a sigh of relief. I thought it would be marched through and in a month, we would be done but it turned out to be a wish. If wishes were horses beggars would ride. Here we are 50 days later still at home. However, I am as a calm as a cucumber and trying my best possible to remain focused in a crisis situation which this generation has never experienced. Actually, It was disorienting at first but when I realised that it could be the new norm, I had to reorganise my home and work schedules.

With 50 days gone, I have been asked severally how I’ve been coping during the COVID-19 lockdown. With the “experience” gathered during these weeks of staying at home and working from home, I’ve become an “expert” of sort surviving the lockdown.
I must confess, everything was hazy in the first week and I was kind of confused and going in a twirl. I would say more like a robot. You know our bodies and minds resist change but with time we adapt. First, I turned to God and sought answers. Then I had this peace around me.

First, I went to stocked up on grocery and went on short walks. Each time we stock up on groceries, I cannot but think about those who could not, so my family and I decided to offer a hand to the less privileged. Days later, the lockdown rule was tightened and no one could go exercising outdoor. I had to draw a new schedule. I had to thoroughly clean the house with my family; all door hinges, window sills, countertops and every nook and cranny. We  emphasised the rules about hygiene and social distancing while out. Dan had to do most of the going out since only one person per family could go for groceries or visit the pharmacy. Though, we can move with authorisation because of our profession, we decided to limit our movements and urge all our correspondents to do the same, except absolutely necessary. We could contact most of our sources online and ask for whatever formation we needed. The Italian Civil Protection Agency managing the COVID – 19 in the country and the WHO, had been very cooperative to our organisation. I went out a few times to monitor the compliance level of the lockdown. The whole city was deserted  with an eerie silence that a pin drop could be heard. People complied totally and that was commendable.

Prior to now, I worked on and off from home but with the total lockdown, I had to put a daily plan that will work for me and my family. We all have to work or study from home, so all computers and phones are busy.  My phone battery goes down every now and then while I tried to stay in touch with colleagues, family, friends and my students, yet I had to keep up. Working from home gave me tech-savvy opportunity and I set up a work corner that is comfortable. Working from home can be demanding with lots of meetings, webinars, lectures, teaching and taking care of home. However, finding balance is what makes it work. I always have a daily schedule but if it didn’t work as planned, I reschedule. Writing and teaching are the elixir for me as I enjoy doing both. One important thing is my daily prayer and scripture reading which is the stability I need during this lockdown. As much as I’ve always done this, there’s no better time to get more closer to God. Psalm 91, which I learnt as a little girl became my everyday prayers. My family and I recited it by heart every time. Whenever the situation seemed overwhelming, I turned to singing praises and worship. I cannot underestimate the power of my faith in God.

My main exercise routine was taking walks, and I wasn’t doing much of indoors exercise but mainly stretches and aerobics. I tried to walk around the house and also enjoyed making dance moves to exercise even though I am not a good dancer. My daughter even suggested I could be a choreographer. I love nature and living close to it took my mind off the outside. I had enough time to observe it and the way it became pristine during the pandemic. It was therapeutic. I tried to avoid negative emotions and news as much as possible. I must confess at some point it was depleting and disheartening hearing of high casualties. Then the blah, the sigh, the hisses, the annoyance, the anxiety, the waiting for the curve to flatten, looking forward to hearing what the government had to say. I mourned with the families that lost their loved ones despite the fact that they were far away from me. Some days, I would lose appetite for food just listening to the news. Even though I had a duty to monitor news, I kept my mind positive and spoke and wrote biblical quote daily and shared my hope on social media. I made sure I checked up on others to encourage and assure them all would be well. I had to sensitise and educate others as their countries started to lockdown.

The outpouring of love and concern I got at the beginning of the lockdown from a lot of my friends and family was so deep and touching. The calls and chats keep me connected to the outside world. It also made me reunite with old classmates and friends that I haven’t heard from in years. The use of technology kept us all connected. How those calls, prayers and messages kept me going! They were comforting and assuring. One of my favourite pastime was cooking and baking different recipes which the whole family got involved in. The cutting and chopping of vegetables, making and punching dough, mixing of ingredients, stirring sauces, splashing of water, and noise of pans all have a way of relieving me. At a point, flour and yeasts became scarce seems like everyone was baking but eventually Dan was able to get me some later from the grocery store so I happily resumed baking. 

Reading, studying, writing and preparing lessons got a better part of my day, so no boredom. I enrolled for many online courses and webinars in areas I am interested in. I sometimes did not have enough time to finish my to do activities but no pressure, I could always do it the next day. I slept late most days but I had extra hours of sleep in the morning since I didn’t have to rush out in the morning except when I had early morning conference calls. I tried  to find balance between working from home and family time. Since everyone was at home doing his or her thing we all came out for lunch, interacted, went back to our different activities and had snacks later. I made sure I close for work at the same time.

The lockdown gave me time to bond more with my family. We sought one another out and wanted to know how everyone was doing. No one was in a hurry to meet up with appointments or classes. No need to run to catch trains or buses. Not much driving needed either. We played games and do quizzes as family, analysed the news and discussed the probable solution to the crisis. We cooked together or take turn to prepare our favourite recipe. We discovered new recipes that we shared with one another and the person who discovered prepared it. We watched movies together at night especially during weekends. We also enjoyed singing. We had our Easter holiday during the lockdown and we made it special and different from the other days just as it would ordinarily would have been.

I was also able to see more of my neighbours. We rarely see one another. When I took a walk down my street, I saw a lot of my new neighbours that I wouldn’t have seen and we greeted, of course from a far because we had to observe social distancing. Everyone around put on his or her best behaviour. One thing I always looked forward to was our Sunday house worship. It was an unforgettable time of fellowship. I took care of my health, spiritual and emotional wellbeing and that of my family. I stayed hydrated with lots of water garnished with fresh lemons. Taking warm baths and enjoying spa moments in the bathroom was calming and blissful. I moved around a lot in the house during the day and avoided taking naps. 

It is a time of crisis but it also came with opportunities that we may not have had. Waking up everyday is a privilege that I do not take for granted and each morning I keep hope alive.  Although, the pandemic disrupted a lot of my plans, I understood that when there is life we could always restart. I’ve also added a few kilos but not to worry, I could easily lose them as well. I miss the children I teach, the hugs and kisses, the daily walks, the outing with family, the church, seeing the city… 50 days in lockdown and with a few more days or weeks to go, I am optimistic that there is light at the end of tunnel. I believe we will all come out of this experience with more understanding of our world, society, family and self.