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Weekly Blog #62 - Feeling free...

"2 weeks of quarantine - that's not a big deal."

Well, if you have the right mindset it probably isn't. But there's two ways to think about it and whatever way you pick defines if it is a big deal for you or not.

  1. Quarantine means spending two weeks in a comfortable hotel room where food gets delivered thrice a day, you have a functioning air condition and you do it for the sake of public safety. That's easy.

  2. Quarantine means that you get locked away for 2(+1) weeks, despite having several negative Covid tests including an antibody blood test within 48 hours before the flight and a test right after you've arrived here. You are stuck in a room that hasn't been cleaned properly for weeks without fresh air, can't open any windows, don't have much of an option but to eat food that is sometimes even hard to identify as something edible (I ate duck-blood jelly because I didn't know what it was...) and after being released people still cover their faces on the streets whenever they see you because you are not a local.

Choosing No. 2 can make you feel angry, discriminated, resentful. No. 1 helps you to cope with the situation and is - from a neutral stand-point - the more rational option that is closer to the truth. But a lot of people don't care for the latter. It probably happens to all of us that we get carried away by emotions in stressful situations, especially those that threaten to take our freedom, harm us or threaten someone close to us. That's normal, I suppose.

I do believe, however, that we have to try and take a more neutral stand-point whenever we can. I'm not saying that we can't have emotions or negative feelings. They are there to be heard and dealt with. But it is also important to prepare knowing that there is a situation at hand that could potentially harm us in a physical or mental way. What does it mean, to prepare?


A rational approach...

Here's how I go about it: First of all, I try to figure out what the worst case scenario could look like. Going into quarantine there are several things that could go wrong. One of them is being tested positive after arriving here in Shanghai. Not knowing what the consequences of that are makes it hard to create a scenario, but one could probably be put into isolation at a hospital, separated from your wife or kids, not knowing for how long, not knowing what kind of medical treatment awaits, etc.. So, that's one scenario that many of us, especially those that already feel anxiety when thinking about going to the yearly dental check-up, would probably identify as a worst case. The first thing is being able to imagine that this is a possibility. Don't push it away without thinking about it. That would be willful blindness. If you are aware, you can try to work your way "upwards".

For example, you can discuss this situation with your wife or husband. How does she/he feel about it? How would you prepare for it? Would you even leave the airport in the first place? Would you stay together, whatever the cost? Whom would you contact? What's their number? Do both have the contact of the Embassy/Consulate in their phones? Would there be a flight back home? When would that be? Etc... This is how to create a scenario and have a possible solutions.

Knowing about the circumstances of our quarantine here from having experienced it once before, it was much easier to prepare for the second time. We knew what kind of hotel room would be acceptable to us, so we made clear what we wanted. We knew the treatment, the procedures, the food. The first time we'd been separated for one week, this time it would be two weeks. Is that fine for us? How do we communicate? How do we get some physical exercise in? How do we spend the weekends when we are not working? All of these things are much easier and much less exciting to think about after experiencing it once already. Still, a lot of things can go wrong. One can never be too sure that procedures will be as smooth as they have been the first time. Maybe we were just lucky? What happened to other people since our first time in quarantine? How will our compound and the local neighborhood committee handle the additional week of health-monitoring? So many questions... but it is necessary to think about them and to find answers. Those answers only count as potential scenarios of course. All of them with different probabilities and risks attached to them. But they help to deal with the situation.


A mental state...

Here we are, 3 weeks later. My wife and I tried to create as much of a normal "life" as possible during two weeks of isolation and an additional week at home. And I think we succeeded for the most part. However, the moment I was able to step outside my door, leave the compound, get on my bike and joy-ride through the city was exhilarating! No doubt about it, not being free to move around as you like is no joke. You can act all "easy going" and worry free about it. You can prepare all you like, which definitely makes things easier. Still, you are stuck in one spot and you are not allowed to leave or you will face legal consequences. Nobody wants that. So, I though that it's fine. I can handle it. It's part of the deal of being able to travel in the first place. I am not criticizing that. I accept and support that.

I want to make a different point. One that is associated with the mental state of being free. Reconsidering what I felt after being free again... it's hard to put that into words. Let me make this clear: I didn't expect that. I thought I was cool about it. That there wouldn't be a rush of any sort of emotions after being "released" from quarantine. I even joked about not needing to go outside until Christmas because we've had everything we needed in our apartment. I was wrong. Freedom is no joke. Freedom is essential. And it's probably one of, if not the most taken-for-granted thing if you grew up in any form of functioning society. I don't want to claim any high-ground in regards to what it really means to be locked away for a long time. But I think I can now understand a little bit better how not being free can break people. Physically and mentally. And I don't think that anyone is ever really able to prepare for it.

2 weeks of quarantine - that's not a big deal. Not being free - that's a different story.

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