Less than a year ago I was sitting at my desk in Wellington, eating yet another homemade lunch as I pocketed every last penny for my adventure to come. Since then I’ve visited 24 different countries, creating many memories I will treasure forever. Some of those memories are less than savoury: including encountering serious political unrest in two different countries, and since March 11, 2020, a global pandemic.
It is scary being in a foreign country when stuff goes wrong. Unlike our experiences in Chile and Bolivia, at least Canada’s primary language is English. Canada’s initial response to the virus seemed decent. It differed from New Zealand’s: there were no lockdown ‘levels’ announced and less blanket rules. But I was working from home over a week before friends and family were, and was anxiously hoping for New Zealanders to soon be doing the same. It wasn’t long before New Zealand caught up and overtook the measures Canada had in place – I was proud of the action New Zealand was taking and of course, our Prime Minister.
The Government’s advisory that New Zealanders temporarily living overseas should come home rattled us a bit. Finally we were feeling settled, it would be a shame to throw that away. But on the flipside, our families and most of our friends are at home, we are entitled to little (or no) government support here and there was the seemingly unavoidable situation that if we didn’t leave now, we might be stuck here for the unforeseeable future. We chose to stay. We don’t know yet if it will be the right decision, but at least here we have jobs. We have had a number of friends make the difficult decision to head home, something we are yet to properly feel the impact of, because at the moment we can’t really see them anyway.
My boyfriend, Andy, and I are living in the West End, one of Vancouver’s most densely populated residential areas. The streets surrounding our apartment building are busier now than ever before, with copious amounts of people stretching their legs and walking their dogs. I had not realised this would be the case, but it’s certainly something I’ve come to live with. Fortunately, the nearby trails of Stanley Park tend to be mostly deserted, I just have to weave my way through the throngs of people on the outskirts first. New rules and regulations are constantly trickling through to enable social distancing; no bikes on the Sea Wall and no cars in Stanley Park are two of my personal faves. While the sheer number of people remains a continual source of anxiety, everyday I’m appreciative of the fact that we must be living in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods, in one of the most beautiful cities, in the entire world.
These times are unprecedented and with that comes some crazy changes as society adapts to what is probably the new ‘normal’. In Canada the price of fuel is now under $1/litre, sports seasons have been postponed indefinitely, the Olympics have been postponed for the first time since World War II, and the main thing society can do to help is stay at home. It’s ironic, because if the situation wasn’t underpinned by a whole lot of uncertainty, staying at home would be much easier to get on board with. Like, enjoyable even.
There is no denying that I have enjoyed some extra time around the house. Like many, I’ve been baking up a storm, practising my yoga (with Adriene of course), indulging in some meditation and spending a fair amount of time on Zoom calls. I’ve even started running again. On Friday nights our living area transforms into the Barclay Street Bistro, candles and all, and on Sunday mornings Andy is the brunching mastermind behind the Barclay Street Cafe. Dancing is commonplace, as we each have one daily power to play a song at any time and we both have to boogie. Our evenings are marked by a 7pm celebration for health professionals and other front line workers. I’ve also been powering through books and podcasts. Taking pleasure from the little things has emphasised what’s important to me, something I intend to make a long lasting effect of the pandemic.
Some of the other major changes in the world that I never want to forget include the socially distanced queues at the supermarket and the unwarranted toilet paper ‘shortage’; the disastrous state of the tourism and hospitality industries; Zoom and/or Houseparty now basically being essential despite barely anyone having heard of them two months ago; major companies such as Air New Zealand relying on the Government for their survival; a daily press conference from New Zealand’s Prime Minister which most of the country tunes in for; the apparent reversal of climate change; and the world’s stock market experiencing its biggest drop ever.
The scary thing: when does it end? British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry has warned us that we need to readjust our expectation of what we consider normal. Social distancing is here to stay, and at the very least it’s going to see us through 2020. But what about music festivals, sports games? I’m still not sure what I even picture when I try and imagine them going ahead. I can’t. Summer is rapidly approaching. When we first arrived in Vancouver, everyone reassured me that Vancouver’s summers make the wet winter worth it. I think summer’s effectively been cancelled. For now though, I will continue to focus on appreciating the little things. That’s all I can do really.
Check out the following video, made by a North Vancouver film student capturing the daily tribute made by the city to healthcare workers.