The first morning that I woke up in Trenton, it took me a minute to remind myself that I was truly home. It wasn’t all a dream. I went outside of our hotel for the first time later that day. Standing in the parking lot surrounded by the snow banks, I took in a deep breath through my mask. As I exhaled, it felt like I was letting go of the chaos and stress of the last few days.
I can’t believe I’ve been in quarantine for almost a week now. I’ve almost adjusted to the 13-hour time difference and even though I’m here on my own, and I can’t really leave the hotel premises, the time is flying by.
Quarantine feels almost like a vacation—with a few rules. Anytime I leave my room, I have to wear a mask. When I go outside in the front of our hotel, I have to stay within the bright-orange fenced boundaries, and if I talk to people, we have to keep a two-metre distance.
I get a health check twice a day, usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The medical professionals come to my room wearing blue sterilized gowns and gloves: they ask how I’m feeling; check if I’m showing any symptoms; and take my temperature with a forehead thermometer. It’s all done in less than five minutes.
My room is also sanitized every day by people in full hazmat suits. I have to leave the room while it’s being cleaned, so I’m not sure how exactly they do it. But when I return, I can tell that all the surfaces have all been wiped down, especially the bathroom.
The rest of the time is my own. All of our meals are brought directly to our door, and though I don’t get to choose in advance what I’d like to have, the food has been close to what I would normally make for myself. I’ve had subs and wraps for a few lunches, hot meals of meat, rice and vegetables, and the other day, we got a really good breakfast of pancakes, potatoes, beans and sausage. (Though, if I could order in something from outside, I would get a Tim Hortons double double and a honey cruller, because I haven’t had that in more than five months.)
I don’t really have a routine here, I just go with how I’m feeling each day. I’m used to staying indoors because of the lockdown in Wuhan, so I’m good at keeping busy. I’ve been watching movies on TV, like one of my childhood favourites Akeelah and the Bee, and the news, which feels surreal to watch since a lot of the updates are about us here in Trenton.
Finding the motivation to do my school work has been a bit more challenging. I’ve been keeping in touch with my thesis supervisor in Wuhan, and trying to do get some work done while I’m here. I’m studying tourism management at Central China Normal University and I was initially planning to do my thesis on gastronomic tourism, but during a recent interview, a journalist suggested that I look into how outbreaks like coronavirus impact the tourism industry. I really liked that idea and have been talking with my supervisor about it—so in a way, this entire experience could now be part of my research.
I’ve been talking to my friends in Wuhan using WeChat and they seem to be doing fine. Even though being on lockdown in Wuhan prepared me for quarantine, it’s different being in Canada. I don’t feel locked in here. I don’t have to be afraid of contracting the virus if I talk to someone, and I can go outside whenever I want.
I try and spend 15 to 20 minutes outside every day. Since we got here, small snowmen started appearing on the snow banks. One had two branches for arms and an empty water bottle stuck in its mouth. Another was one single snow ball with cute ears.
Going outside is my favourite part of the day. In Wuhan, I only went outside if I had to, not because I wanted to. But staying inside four walls, even with distractions like movies and schoolwork, can make you feel like you’re going insane. Maybe that’s why feeling the sun on my skin and breathing in the fresh air, even for a little bit each day, feels extra special these days.
—As told to Ishani Nath