COVID-19 Journal. Entry 4

I went for a walk early this morning and joyfully avoided all people. It was just as the sun was rising – I was awake earlier but I don’t like to walk in the dark. Correction: walking in the dark is fine, however it’s a better idea to wait for the sun to come up. I have planned my walks a couple of times now so that I’ll be walking with my back to the glorious sunrise (so the sun doesn’t get in my eyes). Twice now it’s been overcast in the morning so no gloriousness.

My habit in the morning in usual times to to listen to a podcast or two on my way to work – a nice accompaniment to my bus ride or walk. Lately I haven’t wanted to listen to podcasts: the news podcasts I usually listen to have been all about COVID-19, and the rest of my hoard is mostly true crime, which I’m just not in the mood for.

So I was listening to music on my walk this morning, and pondering COVID-19. Trying not to think about it in a big-picture way, which freaks me out a bit, but on a wholly personal level. I have the staying at home thing figured out, and have ideas for how to control things for the two days I will be spending at my workplace starting next week. But once I’m comfortable(ish) with that, what’s next? What to do with myself with extra time at home? No matter how long it might be (1 week? 2 months?) What if there’s no dance classes, which usually occupy a lot of my spare time and provides a solid social outlet, but also basically keeps my mental health in check? is there anything else that will keep me sane? What things make me feel happy and like i’m accomplishing something?… And/But will fit into current circumstances?

Lots of things.

I continued with my walk, making a pledge to think about this at a later time before drifting off to other subjects (e.g. keeping distance around a pair of construction workers on the way to a site and taking up the whole sidewalk.

So, here.

  • Dance (still an option – doing lots of online workouts- yoga too.) Note: not really a creative outlet in this form, but an easy way to do some exercise. (“Easy”… I think I pulled all the muscles in my hips this morning…)
  • Writing. Here we go.
  • Preparing and consuming food for myself
  • Colouring/Knitting/Crocheting – mostly not too much brain involved, mostly don in front of TV shows
  • Drawing. OK “Drawing.” Whatever. Filling paper with markings.
  • Texting friends/Phoning Mum. (In real life this reads having dinner/lupper/breakfast for lunch with friends, and visiting Mum and Dad.) More of this. One friend has suggested snail mail, which I haven’t done in a while.
  • I keep looking at the scissors sitting on the desk beside me and I keep wanting to put “scissors”. But at one point I did lots of scissor crafts: sewing, collage-ing, trimming, ransom notes. Good fun.
  • Keeping a journal, sometimes. Usually there’s nothing to share– I or say there’s nothing to share but I don’t have the time/energy to keep it. Proof that there’s never nothing to share: this week’s entries.
  • Socks. I really like wearing socks. Preferably more than one pair at a time. Not a creative outlet, but I find I function better with warm feet.

I want to expand on a few of these. That will be later because I’m tired now.

Socks.

COVID-19 Journal, Entry 3

It was my birthday yesterday. I didn’t leave my apartment at all. It was fine. If I was to plan a better birthday I might have gone out and bought myself presents. Actually, the best would have been going on the trip Mum and I planned to take to Campbell River, but things being as they are, this works too. I had some wine and smoked salmon. I did two online dance workouts, so I spent the later part of the day with sore legs. I watched some operas via the Metropolitan Opera. I drank some wine! Did I say that already?

(Note: I have turned on the opera for today, which is Das Rheingold, and even though I am not really following along and only giving it half my attention, the production is kind of blowing my mind. It’s crazy!)

I shared some photos on Facebook commenting on the contrast between my birthday last year and this year’s. I just remembered I wrote this just after midnight: I like to get in as much of my birthday as possible.

London was a special trip last year for my birthday (I plan to return sometime) and it marked the start of my year of travelling in 2019. I ended up not only going there, but also to Las Vegas for a weekend in September, and then China in October/November (as documented earlier in this blog). (As many many people have commented to me, I am very very lucky to have visited China when I did.)

Given all this travel in a relatively short time (for me), I was starting to feel traveled out before I even left for China. By the time I was getting back from China I was wondering to myself how long it would be before I got the travel bug back. I was exhausted from my trip, of course, but I was also tired of moving from place to place, and being in unfamiliar locations. The final straw was an eleven hour plane ride home and I was done. But, I am always “done” with travel at the end of the trip, so I don’t force myself to think about the next trip for a while. I had a loose plan to start planning my next trip around the end of November – just a couple weeks after I got back. And truthfully, this is often when I start getting excited to take another trip. But this time, it was too soon. I had gotten sick when I got back, and I had other things in my life I had to get caught up on.

I already had ideas for my next trip– the fun part of travelling for me is organizing it, and since I book far in advance, planning periods always overlap. My 2020 plan was to go to Europe – at least France and Italy, and back to England, for departure in May for 3 or 4 weeks. There are many works of art from my art history studies that I wish to look at in real life. Since I didn’t start booking in November, I decided to revisit in January. When January came and I had to submit my request for vacation days at work, May seemed too soon to be going– I didn’t even feel like booking the trip, never mind go on it. So I made my request for October instead – still a good time to visit Europe, and some time to replenish my travel savings account (not that I was going to worry about that if I really wanted to go).

Then I sort of forgot about it and sort of thought I’d think about booking things in April, if I wanted to. But now the world has shut down, so just as well I wasn’t in the right state of mind to commit to anything. Lucky, but also sad.

OK, but also, I’ve done a lot of travelling in the past few years, so really, I’m feeling pretty content about not going anywhere for a while. Here’s a list of my travels since 2012 for filler:

  • Spain
  • Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand
  • Oregon
  • Across the Pacific on a cruise
  • Spain again
  • England
  • Mexico
  • England again
  • Las Vegas
  • China

So to sum up. I had a good birthday. No travel happening soon, obviously, but that’s OK.

COVID-19 Journal – Entry 2

Lazy day today. This is because I’m tired. I’m often tired on Saturdays due to working all week, so nothing strange going on there. But also I woke up at 4am for no good reason: I wasn’t worried or anxious or anything, at least not so as I noticed. I was just awake and trying to sleep again. So that didn’t help with my energy levels for the day.

After not being able to sleep, I got up at 7 and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. My regular route, people saying good morning as they usually do (except one or the other of us would step off the sidewalk for some distancing). Sometimes on these walks I’ll stop at the 24 hr Thrifty Foods on my way back, but I didn’t do that today. A) Thrifty’s is not currently open 24hrs. B) The early hour when I usually shop is for seniors, etc. The plus side of not shopping is I didn’t have to walk with my wallet/purse. Oh there was also a small gang of security people having a well spread out meeting in front of the Legislature! They all said hello to me. I walk by them a lot so we might be familiar to each other. And when I mention that we’re all greeting each other, that’s normal for a Saturday morning walk! At least in James Bay.

I’m bored of writing about my boring day. Here’s a billeted list of some activities I got up to today:

  • Folded laundry. A big deal because it’s only been 2 days since I washed it
  • Followed along to an on-line yoga class. The third one I’ve tried; the first one I’ve actually finished.
  • Tried and failed to put a dent in the podcasts I am hoarding. I really like downloading podcasts, and this might be the time I actually listen to some of them.
  • De-shelled some prawns. (“Tell Dad” I texted Mum.)
  • Naps. Plural, but I was awake at 4, so.

Ung. I have to stop listening to the news on CBC because it’s stressing me out. This is sad because I really like The World at Six on weekdays and The World This Weekend. However, these, along with the several news podcasts I listen to, have been 100% COVID-19 the past fees days and I guess it’s a bit much for me. The news usually has nothing to do with me.

It’s like, as a bad example, when I’m sick, I don’t like watching TV shows about people who are sick.

In another bad example, after Trump was elected, I way over-consumed media about him. It was a form of control – if something happened, I wanted to know about it and be prepared (if that makes any sense.) I’d been listening too many podcasts throughout the election, and was reading as much as I could about it. At some point around Jan or Feb of 2017 I realized I didn’t need to know as much as I did about the new American leadership and I cut myself off. I limited myself to anything I might hear by happenstance, on the aforementioned CBC news shows. It was a better balance! That’s what I need to figure out now: get the info I need, but not get overwhelmed.

Doesn’t help that I have my phone in my hand all day checking for Facebook/Instagram updates. Hm.

“Lindsie with pillow”
Digital selfie
circa March 21,2020

COVID-19 Journal: Entry 1

I’m having trouble organizing my thoughts about this. Every time I am talking about it with other people – and it’s mostly all anyone has talked about this week- I can only sum up with words that express astonishment: “it’s so crazy!” Or “such weird circumstances!” Nothing really truly expresses how unprecedented this all is. And don’t even try to get all big-picture philosophical about it because that’s impossible: how will this affect society? What are the ramifications going to be for our health? The economy? What are the ramifications going to be for me? I’ll only write what’s in front of me, right now.

My writer brain has kicked in, reminding me that I should clearly state the context of what is going on so readers who aren’t familiar aren’t left out. But that’s the thing: this affects everybody. So I’m going to skip context.

I’m still working. I was in the office this week, mostly. I’ve been working at home once a week, so that was Thursday. But going forward, those of us who can will be working at home two or three days a week, giving those in the office lots of social distancing space.

At the beginning of the week I was pissed off that we didn’t just get sent home. This was a combination of things. First there was peer pressure from social media saying we should stay home, and the feeling that I was shirking my social responsibility by going to the office and being around others. Second, I wanted a go home and not do work and still get paid. It was sort of a fifty-fifty deal there.

Social distancing, though. I decided to not use the bus, and walked to and from work all week. Lucky it has been beautiful and sunny. Then work was harder to figure out and I realize now that I have definable not been keeping a 6-foot distance from my co-workers. I only got into that today, Friday, when there were only 4 of us there. That’s been the nature of the week, however, things getting more and more serious each day.

Sunrise is Victoria, March 18. This is down the hill from my house. The Capital Park government office structure is on the right; the trees on the left are part of the Legislature grounds.

I think things really started to get to me on Wednesday night. Mum had been planning a trip for my birthday next week – just to Campbell River, just to explore a bit and eat at restaurants. I like to book my birthday week off work so I can celebrate with trips and visits. When we spoke about it last Sunday we decided not to decide anything about it until later in the week, because there was no way to tell what was going to happen! But by Wednesday I knew that it was not going to happen- mostly because the restaurants weren’t really going to be operating, but also because it seems really inappropriate right now to go flit to someone else’s community when we’re all meant to be social distancing. So the decision was made and that’s fine and it’s the right decision. Then I also decided to not even go visit my parents in Duncan, either. This was also the right decision, because there would have been too many worries for everyone if I went. But it’s sad, anyway. I think it’ll be a while before I can visit again.

Anyway, all these things happening, or in the case of all the things I had tickets for, not happening, caused me to have the mildest of anxiety attacks last night as I lay in bed. It was the “oh hey things are different” moment, and I still haven’t quite caught up yet. I was joking a couple days ago about how excited I was to be in quarantine all by myself. All the crafts, writing, and cleaning I could do. But the reality of that happening, to not have a choice, is daunting. Because, ok, secret, isolation is my bag. I love it, and have spent staycations all alone, doing my thing at home. And actually, this is what I aim for most weekends. But it’s different when it’s everybody and when it’s for a common and scary cause.

So now I have all of next week off, and I get it all to myself. I really am going to get into some crafts and writing and cleaning. (Although maybe not cleaning if I am having fun doing the other stuff! Tonight (Friday) that anxiety thing is happening some more, so I’m trying to write it out. So far it totally hasn’t worked! Sometimes I have to luxuriate in it for a while and let it burn out on its own.

More later.

November 7 – Train to Hong Kong

I’m travelling from Yangshuo to Hong Kong right now. There will be a delay in the middle while we do a bunch of border stuff. I think all that’s planned when we arrive in Hong Kong is to have our last dunner together as a tour group. The tour ends tomorrow and people will start flying home. I leave on Saturday.

I am keen to get home. I am not so keep for an 11 hour plane ride.

Side note: I got some more dried peas to try. These are garlic flavoured. They’re fine but are not as fun as the crab flavoured ones I had before.

Backtrack to a couple days ago

I forgot to write about Tuesday, or Out in Nature in Yangshuo Day. The day started with a bike ride around the countryside. I haven’t ridden a bike in close to 20 years, so I was a bit shaky at first, but I remembered how pretty quick.

We made many stops to look at fruit trees and farms and nice views. The ride ended at a place for lunch with lots of vegetables.

After lunch we had a boat ride along the Li River, which was good for taking photos, bit also a nice cool rest.

After dinner that evening we watched the Impressions River Light musical show, and I was very impressed. It was an amazing spectacle. There are 600 in the cast. The stage is the river and is 1.6 square kilometres. The backdrop is mountains, which are lit up suddenly and everyone said “ooooh” when they realized what they were. I said Oh my god! And basically started gurgling. One of my favourite parts was that everyone went “ooooooooooh” whenever a new scene was presented. I spent most of the time pointing at bits I found fantastic and making various ooh and ahh sounds. I didn’t see a gift shop, but that’s for the best since I probably would have bought one of whatever they were selling. I love a theatrical spectacle.

Yesterday I attended a cooking class to learn how to make some regional dishes of Yangshuo. Most importantly, I made some dumplings, which I ate and enjoyed.

November 3, 2019 – Sleeper Train

I’ve just boarded the train with my group, travelling from one place in China to another. I can’t remember and I’ll look it up later. My mum knew last night when I chatted with her so perhaps I’ll reference that transcript.

Boarding the train was a titch stressful. It is a busy train so it looked like us solo travellers (myself and my roommate) might have had to share a compartment with strangers instead of other members of our group. It’s just the way the tickets were bought – wherever space is available. But there was luck, as when we boarded the train, there was a whole compartment that was empty so four of us from the group occupied it very thoroughly with our massive suitcases and ourselves. Two other solo travellers from the group would have shared it otherwise with out group leader. A nice gentleman (stranger) also would have shared with them, but our group leader helped to explain the switch, and he didn’t mind.

Now we are four cozy ladies in a “soft sleeper” compartment on the way to Yangshuo (I looked it up). There is a western toilet at one end of the carriage, and the carriage next to us is the dining car. I might go look at the dining car, but I brought a stash of McDonalds and some other snacks that should suffice. We are on the train for 15 hours: 1pm Sunday to 6am Monday. I don’t mind a sleepover train, once the rush to attain and then organize compartments is complete. The rocking and swaying is soothing. And I remember sleeping well on those I rode in Vietnam (as well as might be expected when having to get off at 5 or 6 in the morning).

Backtrack to earlier today

Our cruise along the Yangzi River ended this morning at Yichang. From there we got on a bust that took us to the Three Gorges Dam security centre, and then on to take a look at the Three Gorges Dam. It’s very big and they have sightseeing platforms set up to take photos, but not a very comprehensive lesson in dam construction or operation, which is good because I’m not interested in that. We watched a documentary the other day on the cruise that touched on the million or so people who were displaced when the dam opened and created a reservoir that submerged whole communities upstream. These people were relocated to “immigrant towns” above the new water line, some of which I saw during the cruise. That’s interesting.

(Brief pause in writing to let phone charge, do some colouring, and have a snooze)

Backtrack to Yesterday, November 2

Yesterday we took an excursion from the cruise ship to visit the Lesser Three Gorges and then the Mini Three Gorges. These are all separate and distinct from the Three Gorges, although I could have listened better to the excursion guide to determine how and why. I’m sure it’s easily Google-able. The trip consisted of getting on to a tour boat full of Chinese tourists and travelling along the Lesser Three gorges. Everyone spent the way up the gorges in a big crowd at the front of the boat, taking photos. I chose to stay seated in the vast seating area because the crowd seemed daunting and pushy, and there were only cliffs and trees to see at about the same distance I’d been looking at the scenery from the cruise ship. (And actually, we’d had the chance to observe the first of the Three Gorges that morning from the front deck of the cruise ship, with narration by our cruise director – and it looked a lot the same.)

At about the half-way point of the Lesser Gorges tour, we got on a smaller boat to explore the Mini Gorges. This was much fewer people and closer to the water and scenery, as it was a much smaller gorge (a mini gorge is you will). I liked this part of the tour because it could see the trees and nature in more detail. Also, there were some women singing folk songs in another boat along the way, as well as a couple doing a fishing demonstration. Monkeys were briefly seen on the shore as well.

We then turned around and met up with the bigger boat again, where a fee of us tried to sit and nap while a lady yelled over a loud speaker in Chinese. Probably details about our surroundings on the tour but I didn’t find out. I managed to nap but I have a special skill.

After that, and having arrived back on the cruise ship, the tour director gave us another narration as we sailed through the Second Gorge. There are many significant peaks she told us about, and as she progressed it got dark out and the moon was there and it was nice.

Dinner was served late, at seven, so I got a bit whiney about that. It was the captain’s farewell dinner, and the vice-captain came and clinked glasses with everyone. Dinner was followed by the Crew Talent Show. I wasn’t going to to but I’m glad I did since it was mostly demonstrations of local ethnic dancing.

Flash Forward to Present.

Everyone in my compartment has settled into quiet time: journal writing, reading, games on phones, naps. I have a good compartment. It’s warm in here but there is air conditioning coming in from the ceiling trying to cool us down. I used my cashmere scarf as a blankie while I napped and was a bit too warm, but very cozy.

Edit: 6 hours into 15 hour train ride.

I have spent many hours sitting up on my bunk colouring and chatting and occasionally snacking. At one point I taught one of my tour mates some ballet and flamenco out in the very narrow corridor.

Fun fact: we’re only allowed to drink beer in our compartments as the tables in the dining car are for people eating meals. I think some of my compartment-roomies are off doing that in another compartment.

October 30 – Free Day at Emei Shan

Our free day started at the guesthouse about 1/2 hour bus ride up the mountain. It was cold and wet. There was some mildew up in corners of our room and so my nose was running the whole time we were there. It was only an overnight stay from late afternoon yesterday until early this morning, so I didn’t suffer too much.

We were all up early because some of the group wanted to attempt the summit again. I wasn’t one of these, and joined the group going for a shortish walk near the guesthouse to look at scenery.

After we got all the photos we needed, we walked to the bis station to return to our monastery at the bottom of the mountain. (It’s Our Monastery now since we have stayed here twice.)

The rest of the day was, in this order: nap, lunch, shopping, massage, hot shower, writing this. Next up is dinner.

Also, this morning’s bacon and eggs breakfast at the guesthouse included fried bread. So good! And also a big bowl of noodles and broth from which we could help ourselves. I described it as “mild” which everyone decided was just a nice way of saying “tasteless” bit I don’t want too much flavour in the morning anyway. I’m liking the asian-style breakfasts I’ve been able to try so far. I still haven’t attempted the rice porridge, though. Maybe soon.

October 28 – Monastery at Emei Shan, China

I’m at a monestary right now where there aren’t any western toilets and we can only take a hot shower between 5:30 and 9:30 PM. But there is the music of a Buddist prayer surrounding our dorms right now, and we are away from city noises and bustle.

Also the hot shower was really hot and everyone feels better for taking one in a place with no heating.

Also, very good wi-fi.

Today on the way here we visited the Giant Buddha at Leshan. It was another scary trip down and then up steep stairs to get a view of the whole Buddha. A beautiful sunny day, and not too crowded, relatively speaking.

Tonight we exit the monastery for an evening walk around Emei Shan town and to get some dinner. It’s cool at night and I have four layers of clothing so far. I didn’t bring a big jacket, but I have bought a fine cashmere scarf so this should help. We’ll go higher up the mountain tomorrow so I hope this is enough, though the daytime looks to be warm.

October 26 – Train from Xi’an to Chengdu and reflections on yesterday’s Terra Cotta Warriors experience.

The train isn’t too long today, just 4 hours to go to Chengdu. The train ride the other day was 5.5 hours, so a bit of a haul. There’s an overnight train coming up later in the trip, for which we get beds.

I’m snacking on crab-flavoured peas as I write, and am quite enjoying them. I thought is was a curious flavour combo when I saw them on the shelf in the store, but I like both peas and crab so nothing can go wrong. Also, the words “peas,” “crab,” and “flavor” are all in English so that is helpful.

The terra cotta warriors were amazing. There are several levels of history, with the original creation on behalf of the first emperor of China 2000 years ago, their subsequent destruction by an invading army not long after, and then the discovery of the remains in the 70’s. The recreation continues to the present day. It’s all presented in a huge and crowded museum complex with massive structures built up around the open archeological pits. Our tour concluded with a meal prepared by local farmers.

This afternoon is a walking tour of Chengdu. Tomorrow is pandas.

Right now I’m going to listen to a day-old CBC News at 6 I’ve downloaded. So excited.

**Side note: Xi’an – pronounced “shi-an” and the “n” at the end it so soft you don’t even close your mouth to pronounce it.

October 21- Jet Lag

I’ve arrived safely in Beijing.

My forever-hour plane ride wasn’t as painful as I expected. I just one short layover in Vancouver. Enough time for an egg salad Subway, a quick change into my airplane-ride lounge wear (aka pyjamas. It wasn’t an overnight flight but, well, f it) and then to realize they had started boarding ten minutes early and I still hadn’t done my 5-6 last minute emergency pees. Everything went fine anyway. I was texting with Mum this whole time too, in leiu of a calm phone call from the gate. I ofter have a three or four hour layover and this one was about 1.5 hours so there was no resting. One the bright side, there was also no excessive waiting around either.

When I got to my hotel last night it was about 7:30 and it was definitely time for bed for me. I had an admittedly half- hearted plan to go exploring and find some food and water and such but I was too tired. Also, it was pretty dark. Also, I was (and still am) still on BC time so I was falling asleep. One thing: the beds are really hard here. I slept anyway.

Now it’s 4:06 am and I’m awake and ready to go. I slept pretty good from 9pm to 2:30. I tried going back to sleep, but couldn’t stop wondering if maybe I should organize my suitcase a little better? So I’ve organized I that into a more bearable state. Now all i want to do it sleep a little more.

Images of China so far: big busy highways! I didn’t study the lane changing and merging ettiequte to close because it was stressing me out, but I’ll be happy not to drive here. I had a car and driver team waiting for me a the airport so I didn’t have to stress about anything. They kept good care of me in the transition between airport and hotel and even spelled my name right on the sign they held up at arrivals. So extra points.