Your stories from around the World
With the UK facing more lockdown measures, Margery Hookings, in the third article in a series about people and the pandemic, speaks to relatives and friends from around the world to find out how Coronavirus is affecting their lives.
Mother-of-three Marie Besson is back in her native Canada after living in America’s deep South for the last five years.
It was the third week of May and I was sitting with my seven-year-old son at home, working on an online school assignment. My phone ‘dinged’ and I blinked in disbelief as I saw the message from my husband: ‘Pack up the house, we have one week to get out.’ We were suddenly propelled into a state of simultaneous loss, grief, excitement, thrill, and anger.
My first two children, now seven and five, were born in Canada, our homeland, while my third child, now two, was born in Texas. For the last few years, I’d yearned to raise my children with ‘Canadian identities’. In the USA, we greatly benefited from the kindness and care of our big-hearted neighbours, friends, teachers, and church family but living under the constant fear of my family being killed or injured in a shooting (in 2019 alone, 37 people lost their lives in mass shootings in Texas) began to take its toll. This was compounded by a deep horror around what I perceived to be people’s gross desensitisation to this violence, the profound polarisation and disparities of socioeconomics, racism, nationalism and the structure of the medical system being solely based on one’s employment status. It was all just too much for me. I wanted out. Well, be careful what you wish for as the Universe/Creator/God, can be quite literal.
Shortly before Covid-19 hit, my husband decided he wanted a career change. I happily gave up my 20-year career as a child welfare and hospital social worker to invest in my own family life. I wanted to show my husband support as he showed me in that decision so I told him to go for it.
Unfortunately, the timing could not have been worse. We were filled with dread. During a time of mass layoffs and business shutdowns, how could my husband ever find a job? A few months later, he was able to secure a good position with a reputable company. As a Canadian citizen working in the United States, he simply needed to take his visa papers to the border for processing. But in accordance with President Trump’s ‘Keep America Great’ mandate to prioritise jobs for American citizens, my husband’s application was rejected. He was told to leave the country within one week. As he had travelled to Canada and, due to American’s own quarantine rules couldn’t leave the country for at least 14 days, our departure date was then approved for three weeks later.
The days blended into the nights as I furiously purged and packed our 3,800 square foot house we’d built a few years before. Yes, I wanted to leave America, more than anything, but not under these terms.
Settling into our Canadian life has been difficult. My husband was not able to sort out his work visa and we have been without an income since March. We receive some financial help through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit programme, enough to buy minimal groceries every few weeks. Canadian employers are not in a hurry to hire during a pandemic. We are swimming in debt and our personal belongings are in storage in Texas. Our house still waits for a buyer. We have no transport because we cannot bring our vehicles up to Canada. Presently, we live in a tiny townhouse owned by my husband’s uncle, who just informed us that he would like his space back. We have a plan but it entails burdening more family members.
Part of me is at peace despite our dire and humiliating circumstances. I found an amazing medical team and have already seen them twice. In America, this would have cost us several hundred dollars. People of colour in America are three times more likely to be infected by Covid, five times more likely to be hospitalised, and 1-2 times more likely to die from Covid (and at younger ages) than Caucasian people. You have a better chance of living through an epidemic if you live in a country with universal health care, don’t kiss a lot of people when you say hello or goodbye, don’t have to choose between food and health care, or, like President Trump, have access to an unprecedented level of care, day and night, have access to experimental treatments not available to the average citizen, have unlimited health care practitioners at your disposal and helicopters to transport you to hospital. The US has the world’s highest cumulative number of Covid cases to date.
Covid has taught me to live in the moment. My children perceive a situation based on my cues so I need to remain imaginative and upbeat about this ‘adventure’, no matter what.
We have slowed down, focused more on reading, walks, silly games and outings to the stunning parks of British Columbia. Coming home to the mountains, greenery and water has been healing. This period of life will hold many stories to tell my children later.
Arborist Dave Dennis is originally from west Dorset. He’s been in Nelson, New Zealand, since 1 March with his partner Megan McGovren.
Lockdown level 2 was lifted a couple of weeks ago and the country has returned to some sort of normality. Jobs, however, are more scarce and talk of future recession is a hot topic. Borders are shut to anyone without NZ citizenship and a two-week quarantine is in place which looks likely to continue for the foreseeable future. People seem more aware, verging on paranoid about the odd sniffle. I think with summer on its way the general mood in this area is one of optimism but we have seen how quickly this pandemic can re-emerge. Overall I feel lucky to be in a place which as a result of its geography and demographic seems to have a fighting chance against Covid 19.
Sports reporter Alan Nixon was born and brought up in Scotland and has lived in Warrington for 32 years.
During lockdown, if you see a scary man in a helmet riding a bike uncertainly that will be me. Need to keep up with granddaughter Isla somehow and keep the weight down. Covering football for The Sun is much the same until match day. Your own private game every weekend. Then a chat with the manager on Zoom. Bizarre. The second wave won’t be easy if you can’t go out at all. Then it really will be too long on the sofa, watching TV and betting too much. My main fear is children missing out on school and people getting out of the habit of leaving the house. It is an anti-social disease. I would probably emigrate but I hear there is a new series of Brassic coming. Simple pleasures.
Neville White is originally from Chard. He lives near Frankfurt and is global analytics leader at DuPont. He has been in Germany for 25 years.
Back in March, I set up my computer in the cellar and started working from home. I was soon able to conduct meetings as effectively as ever and have now grown to love the arrangement. I’m using the extra time at home to advance my skills in music theory, data analysis and German grammar.
We can’t complain here. Infections remain relatively low, restrictions are reasonable and Kurzarbeit has saved many jobs. Losing our Christmas Markets has been painful but we’re able to meet up with family and friends. Christmas will be fine. Germans always find ways to celebrate.
We held our own family Oktoberfest in the garden this year since Munich was cancelled. It was cold and a little rainy but everyone had fun.
New Covid cases are increasing across Europe as we head into winter, but fatalities remain low. I’m optimistic that significant improvements will be made in 2021.
Bridget Strange lives in Boca Raton, Florida. Originally from South Petherton, she and her husband, Mike, have lived in America for 52 years.
Florida was one of the critical states just a couple months ago, but things have vastly improved. Masks are still very much encouraged although fines are no longer imposed. I can see things going downhill come November and December. Our Christmas will be the same as always, having our daughter and her husband here who also live in Florida. We don’t go out as much as we used to and we’re certainly not ready to hop on a plane. The majority of people are still being very cautious. We are lucky being retired, having no jobs to lose and no young children to care for. I see more layoffs looming. It’s been an horrendous year what with the pandemic and the protests and riots. And now our President has been in hospital with Covid, after downplaying the situation. Our election is imminent. Given the fact Mr Trump is dead set against mail-in voting as he says that will be rigged and has not committed to bowing out peacefully should he lose the election, who knows what the future holds. It’s definitely a very divided country.
Housewife Mrs Leena Sinha has lived in New Delhi for more than 26 years.
It was March 25 when the lockdown started and since then we have been living under a constant state of apprehension. We packed our homes with all the things we might need, but always it seemed that some necessary item might have been overlooked. We lived in constant fear of getting the disease and even more frightening was the prospect of being sent to government hospitals and quarantine centres since you would be in sort of prison where you might not even get to see your family for two weeks.
After July 18, the government began lifting restrictions and people resumed their day-to-day activities, albeit with masks and sanitisers. People who were infected were allowed to live in their homes in self-quarantine.
Now it seems people are not as perturbed by the disease and have resumed their social lives as was normal before lockdown. In coming months, people, especially the younger generation, are looking forward to celebrating our festivals like they used to. This trend will continue with our government deciding to open schools and colleges again. Amidst all this, we are still seeing a rise in the number of people affected by the disease, which will continue until there is a vaccine.
Distiller Tim Stones, who is originally from Bridport, has lived in the Northern Beaches, Sydney for nearly four years.
In New South Wales, we’ve been extremely lucky. With a total of 4,250 cases we’ve not been locked down as severely as Victoria, which with 20,237 cases was hit hard.
Post-lockdown, life is getting back to normal. Except for social distancing measures, capacity limits in hospitality venues, and masks on public transport, everything seems normal again. Twenty people are allowed to visit your household, so that shouldn’t impact on Christmas plans. Except for Victoria, state borders are opening and internal travel is starting again so families will be able to see each other.
Looking back on the government’s handling of the pandemic in general, I’ve been impressed. It’s not been perfect, but when I see how other countries have handled it, I’ve considered myself very lucky to live here.
In Australia, the future looks positive, albeit heavily sanitised. Aussies are a resilient bunch and, for the most part, are doing their bit to help get life back to normal as quickly as possible. Some people still have a lot of toilet paper to get through though.
Babette Schriks lives in Eindhoven, Holland, and is a professional in learning and development within organisations.
Besides all the negative aspects of coronavirus we experienced a positive one. During the first lockdown it seemed people got out of the rat race. Everything and everybody slowed down. There were restrictions that applied to everyone, no dining out in a restaurant, no theatre, bar, sauna, etc. Rich or poor, we were all in this together. For many people it felt like everyone was equal and there was a sense of comradeship.
Now we are heading for a possible second lockdown and my feelings are mixed. Of course, the economy will suffer hard from a second lockdown. But the camaraderie has diminished. Some people are opposed to the government’s measures which leads to polarisation. One is shouting louder than the other. I will miss the social interacting with friends and family. But on the other hand, the tranquillity of a second lockdown and the feeling of equality due to the restrictions is very appealing.
University lecturer Louise Matthews lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
The last few years I’ve somehow found myself flying back to Bridport for New Year’s Eve as well as catching up with friends and family. But this Christmas—our summer hols—I’ll be making the most of the situation and travelling around New Zealand to revisit some amazing spots, last seen when I lived here 17 years ago. That’s because while Kiwis are still free to come and go overseas, you still have the mandatory fortnight hotel quarantine on return. I am in no rush. There are places here I haven’t seen since the 90s. After lockdown, Kiwis have enthusiastically taken to domestic tourism with renewed appreciation.
Christmas for me will involve a combo of beach, swims, great food and a horse ride in the forest.
I feel very lucky to have a job that could continue, thankful for good health while Covid knowledge still develops (especially as family and friends overseas have all suffered); for the reminder of what’s important; beautiful surroundings to exercise and have peace in, and thankful for how New Zealand approached this. I am incredibly thankful and lucky to be here.