After having hastily fled from Côte D’Ivoire, I finally have the time and mental capacity to round up my thoughts and start writing again. It’s our 3rd day in France, and 2nd day to be fully under the quarantine. I’m at Augustin’s Dad’s house here in Bordeaux. Luckily it is big and spacious with a garden in the front and in the back. The sun is shining and the sky is bright blue.
It’s hard not to be angry. It’s hard to have gratitude. It’s hard not to feel resentment. It’s hard to accept that this is our new reality. But I constantly remind myself that I need to be grateful and at peace. I also remind myself that it is okay to explore and have these feelings. It’s traumatic to book a flight and be taking off 3 hours later, especially when you did not imagine such circumstances waking up that morning.
It was not an easy decision, but in the end, we agree it was the right one.
The quarantine here in France is a bit surreal. We had read and heard all about it. We had seen the numbers and seen the fear and panic cross the world. Being so far away felt like the looming apocalypse or like a movie we were experiencing in surround sound.
Being here in France we see the reality of all we had read. There really are police everywhere and they really are checking that you have an attestation with your information. But at the same time, there are so many people going unchecked and not respecting the guidelines and the rules. On the plane back to France, we took the vomit bag from the back of the seat and wrote our attestation. Coming into Orly airport it was empty, unlike Charles De Gaulle in the north of Paris, which I’ve heard is full of people trying to flee back to their own respective countries. Equipped with FFP3 masks we made our way to the Orly bus, still running, but only filled with 5 or 6 other passengers. We arrived at Denfert-Rochereau and started the process of finding some sort or rideshare or Uber to get to Gare Montparnasse (the train station). We called an Uber. It came and rejected us upon seeing all of our baggage. We called a Bolt. A couple of police officers started walking towards us. Augustin readied the attestation, in case we needed to show it. To our surprise they walked right past us. 2 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 3 backpacks, and 1 other bag was probably enough to explain that we were returning to France or on our way out. Not to mention how we were standing right next to the airport bus. The Bolt finally arrived. The dude was a little shocked by how much we had, but after we explained, he understood, and did his best to help us. He even let us put one of our carry-on trolleys in the backseat. An action many rideshare personnel refuse on principal.
A police later stopped our car. The driver explained, showed some card he had, and we were ushered through.
The train station was a mess. Not too crowded, but definitely too many people not being careful at all. Only about 20% of people had masks, but what was really shocking were the amount of old people in the train station not having any precautions at all. While sitting in front of a closed shop, waiting for our train, we watched two groups of old people start talking about their journeys. We saw them getting closer and closer, exchanging a couple things in their hands. No masks, no protections.
We continued to wear our masks in the train, on the tram in Bordeaux, and finally until we reached the house we would be confined in for who knows how long. After having worn the mask for so long, simply taking the mask off did not provide relief. For even hours afterwards, I continued to feel like I was wearing a phantom mask; something hugging my face, a specific tightness, a feeling I was unable to shake.
It is now our 3rd day inside the house, living in the quarantine. In many ways, it just feels like a boring weekend in Bordeaux, where nothing interesting was happening. Biggest difference being that we aren’t going to visit Augustin’s mom, we aren’t going to the bakery together, we aren’t complaining about how all his friends are away or their latest news, etc.
The other biggest difference I’ve begun to experience lies in the meals. The meals are becoming more creative and interesting. It’s Saturday afternoon and we cooked on the grill and ate outside. It’s a beautiful day in Bordeaux. Hot and sunny. The sun is shining bright.
I have a list of things I would like to accomplish during this time stuck at home, but luckily I don’t have all the time in the world as I still have work. I switched to online work upon moving to Côte D’Ivoire and it could not have been a better time. I started teaching English online to Chinese children and I could not have fallen more in love with the job. I work with a company called VIPkid and they are always looking for more teachers if you are keen to get started online. Click here to read more about it! Anyways, back to my list of activities. One thing that really kept me positive and gave me a glimmer of hope was knowing that there was the fourth Harry Potter book (in french) in Augustin’s house. I had recently read the first three books and was itching to start the fourth one when I returned. To my dismay I could not initially find it, but thankfully with some help, it was recovered along with books five and seven, the sixth to be hiding somewhere especially well.
Aside from Harry Potter, I have an embroidery kit I’d like to finish, some clothes I need to alter, and again several other books I’d like to read. On top of that, I’ve started doing almost daily yoga videos from Fightmaster Yoga on YouTube and I hope to continue to expand my yoga ability and practice. To add even more on top of that, I would like to expand my english teaching trainings and continue to self-improve as an english teacher online. But I can’t forget that I must also train my french and work on all my french books! So you see, even under quarantine, there is still so much to do, and so little time. Don’t even get me started on the time I need to dedicate to blogging….. another thing I have been ignoring. At the same time, this was the same life I imagined for myself in Côte D’Ivoire. I imagined I would spend most of my time just chilling, relaxing, not worrying about things, and just taking a break from the busy city life. So I guess in a way, I still have exactly what I wanted, except now there are no coconut trees, it’s slightly colder, the internet is better, with the new exception of not being able to go anywhere anyways.
I hope for the sake of the world this will not become the new normal, I hope that come summer, things can begin to go back to how they used to be. But at the same time I hope we can instead move forward and learn from our mistakes. I hope for a change of system, an increase of solidarity among humans, and a true decrease of pollution moving forward. It’s calming and incredible to see how the earth has reacted to a reduction of human activity. I only hope that we humans can learn and thrive off of this and now that we know it’s possible, we do our best to preserve it.
Let’s hope that coronavirus is not just something that passes us by, but something that we can learn from and come together. For now, stay at home and call your loved ones.