From "summer of freedom" to "quarantine lockdown"
For as long as we were planning our move to Singapore, we had known that moving in the middle of a pandemic to Asia, would mean that there would be a quarantine prior to freely moving about the country. At this time, the US was slowly removing a lot of the restrictions of the winter and early spring. We were all promised that this would be “hot girl summer”, full of BBQs, beach days, parties, travel and lots of socializing.
Alas, hot girl summer wasn’t in the cards, but it was still starting to feel a bit less restrictive in the U.S. Our hope was that this feeling of newfound freedom would translate to our experience abroad, but as we got closer and closer to our moving day, it became quite clear that was not to be the case.
Ok, now I was scared. If I thought lockdown with my husband and kids was difficult in NY, where the kids had a yard to play in and room for each of us to go off and have our own space, how in the world were we all going to fair in a hotel room for 2 weeks? I was dreading the experience. There was nothing about it that sounded even a little bit appealing. It was something we just would have to go through to get to a life in Asia. Although lots of things are not as bad as you fear, this experience surpassed my expectations and not in a good way.
Once we got to Singapore around 5 AM Singapore time, we had to undergo COVID testing which was completed at the airport. It felt a bit sci-fi since the people administering the tests were in full head-to-toe moon suit PPE and we were then whisked off in special quarantine vans to the quarantine hotel to reduce the possibility of foreigners bringing in the virus with them (as if we were in the middle of the the movie Contagion) . I completely understood the governments stance, but that didn’t make it any easier to experience this with our 2 young children. (“This is all part of the experience” I repeated over and over to myself)
There were a few minutes from the airport to the quarantine sanctioned hotel in which we could see the skyline, look around at the new city we were about to live in with all the awe and wonder that comes with going somewhere new. I would hang onto that moment for quite awhile in quarantine.
After we checked in to the hotel, we were escorted up to our room. Then the men in hazmat suits told us that once they closed the door, we were not to come out and if we leave the room for any reason, not only will our 2-week quarantine start over but there are severe financial and legal implications to doing so. So….don’t leave!
By this time, we are all so exhausted from the trip it doesn’t take long for us to completely crash. Luckily we were given a suite, so the kids had a bedroom to share, we had a kitchenette/living area and a separate bedroom. With 3 distinct rooms, this will feel spacious, right? Right?? Keep hoping! (This is when my forever optimism comes in handy, even when I know better)
Of course, the first 3 days were pretty tortuous, but mostly due to the jet lag. The kids were getting up at all hours of the night, wanting to have cereal at 2AM, falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon and fighting us to go to bed. The first thing I learned as a mother was that I can handle almost anything but sleep deprivation. Mama was falling apart and definitely NOT happy, but the collective “we” had to push through to help the kiddos.
By day 4 our sleep patterns were starting to level out, which I could tell from the whining that kicked in. You know what I’m talking about. “I’m bored! I want to go outside! When are we leaving here? He’s bothering me! She’s annoying! I want to go home!!” (And those were just my complaints)
Well, there was no going back now. We had to make the most of it or suffer from buyers remorse.
How do we keep from going crazy?
Once we started to settle a bit the most pressing question every 4 hours was what will we eat? We had chosen to go with Western cuisine at first and then switched to Chinese cuisine. The hotel dropped off tightly wrapped plastic bags of food, with a sizeable dish , fruit, juice box and coffee packets for every meal. We were not going to starve and actually started asking them to send less as we couldn’t finish all of the food they sent. With limited movement, we were hardly burning any calories, between our long commutes from bed to couch to dining table.
Plus after a while you didn’t want to eat whatever was sent over, even if it tasted good. The power of choosing what you eat is more important than you might think. Especially when your other choices are being restricted too. That’s when we started ordering meals so that we could at least have some control over what we ate.
As for the activities on hand, we had definitely under-packed. We should have brought twice the amount of activities. Thankfully, we were sent a huge pile of games, art supplies and activities from my husband’s boss’s wife to help us endure the confinement. It quite literally felt like Christmas had arrived early. And so began the cycle of art projects, board games, fighting, online workout sessions, then Netflix, Disney Plus and more Netflix.
Each day the kids had virtual school with other classmates around the world that were also in quarantine, followed by had school work to follow up the class and then the rest of the day I needed to fill with activities, TV and requests to leave this hotel room. Meanwhile my husband tried to drown out the noise and work throughout the day in whatever room that was child-free.
Although this was a short time, in the span of our lives, those 15 days felt like forever. The experience was punctuated with special take out meals, many covid tests, many cleaning attempts with limited supplies, a slew of arguments, and lots of prayers for a quicker release.
On the afternoon of Day 15, we were finally approved to leave the room. Those words were met with such excitement and relief. All I wanted was to feel the fresh air on my skin, sun on my face and to see anything but that same hotel view.
In every challenge, I believe there is an opportunity to learn.
Lessons from our quarantine life:
We are extroverts with a capital E in this family and all seem to have lost our excitement for life when we couldn’t socialize. Know your energy source and find creative alternatives when those aren’t options
We are also very goal oriented, even our smallest member could get refocused to continue the quarantine knowing that the end of this quarantine would end with FUN
The little things (like a cup of coffee or cupcake treat) could lift our spirits. Don’t underestimate the power of a treat
Even though you can’t leave the room, doesn’t mean that bugs can’t stop by (a clean kitchen became our hourly obsession)
Challenges show both adults and kids how resilient they are and it’s not a bad idea to step out of your comfort zone.
We got through the first challenge as a family, even when things looked messy. The first of many hurdles along our journey.