Journal of the second month of lockdown

Here we are, May 4th is on the corner and so is our second month in lockdown. 60 days. Time for a little recap of what happened during this month. As you already know if you are a faithful reader of mine, this second month started on fire, literally. But nothing comes in vain and we learned to appreciate even more our boring daily routine during quarantine. 

Mornings are for homeschooling. I pay a fortune for a private school; they send me YouTube links from strangers and premade internet exercises, I have to provide material, work it off and teach my kid. Looks like I’m getting ripped off in this deal, but I guess everybody is taking hits these days. Some days, classes consist ONLY in YouTube video and cartoons. If this is considered as “teaching”, I’ve been proudly teaching my kids from 8 months old and haven’t been paid a dime, just saying. But don’t worry, school communication experts now say that’s even better for kids than going to school, that the bond between student and teacher is even stronger. Yeah, I wonder why we have started to go to school in the first place! Some people clearly have stepped up their drinking game (or worse). 

While Agnès is doing her homework, my 2,5 yo son touched an Ipad for the first time. At the end of the month, he’s now able to change Apps, rate Netflix movies and reply with emojis to his father’s texts (might be problematic for the job as his favorite one is “crap”, we’ll see). He comes and kisses me just to whisper in my ear “Ipad Pleaz”. Jack is looking to memorize the code; he already has 2 numbers of the 6. For an almost mute kid, he’s incredibly clever when he wants to. 

We celebrated Easter, not that we did lent… We never stopped eating sugar, but the traditional Easter package from my mother in law filled with chocolates and games came on point this year. At this occasion, we “went” camping for the weekend. We put tents in the living room, kids loved the AC and bathroom version of camping, glamping is definitely their thing. My husband finally found a utility for his projector and made a cinema. The things we do to amuse our kids… we even played board games for the first time in 10 years. We didn’t even fight! Must be a miracle. Anyway, for my resolution to stay away from the news and to reduce my screen time, all these activities helped a lot. 

I finally started sports. After weeks of watching friends working out, I got my butt on this treadmill and fast walked 5 km per day. It really helped ease my mind and also took me to my next activity: Donut binging. Despite any common sense, I realized that they can be delivered to my door, contactless, cashless, in 22 minutes, still slightly hot from the oven. I stopped baking tasteless cookies for everyone’s sake. This wasn’t me, I’m NO baker, I’m a cake eater, time to find myself again.

I also started this stupid Split challenge. 30 days of stretching to get to the split. The App says, “Stretching not stressing”. What a promise! Well, like everything in life “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t”. After 7 days, I pulled a muscle, so I stressed and I kind of stopped with stretching. I guess I won’t be that annoying housewife who says “I can do the split” while very drunk at a party and that’s maybe for the best. 

Talking about alcohol, let’s be real about it for a minute. Did you drink a lot during this lockdown? We joke about drunk moms every day, but the truth is I drank 2 glasses in 2 months. It’s not fun to drink alone. My husband is on a diet, he has stomach issues (I might get him a pill dispenser for our wedding anniversary this year) so he can’t drink with me. To me, it’s pretty sad to drink alone so I don’t do it. Looks like a lot of people might disagree with me because they authorized the home delivery of alcohol now, considered as essential, let me remind you that I live in a Muslim country… 

We went in the pool 4892 times. I know, we are super lucky to have a pool in our backyard, don’t say anything, jealous people already sent a memo. But hey, it’s getting hot out here, we are reaching 40 degrees and it won’t stop rising until October… We are bracing ourselves for the hardest period of the year. We take what we can while we can. My daughter turned into a mermaid. She now needs to be carried around the house. Lazy mythological creatures, those mermaids. Just good to have a flat stomach and perfect hair. She’s waiting for a prince to kiss and rescue. She asked how old exactly she needs to be in order to get married. We might stay locked in for a little longer than the rest of the world. 

Of course, we baked bread, it’s a must do during this period. You didn’t live the Covid-19 crisis fully if you did not make bread or, even better, sourdough bread. I’m wondering if bakers will still have a job after this. Just like those people giving “free-hugs”, they might be out of material and need to reallocate.

We tried the walkie-talkie with the neighbors, so kids can communicate pretty easily without having to use the iPad. Turns out we can get the compound security guards’ frequency. Too bad I don’t speak Urdu, I bet I would get the best gossips. 

It rained one day! So, we played “Belgium” with umbrellas. It’s a great experience to have; experiment rain in the desert. In my compound we all come from countries where it rains pretty often, but here, we are having only 3-5 rainy days (or hours) per year (the good ones). So, when rain starts falling, you can see everybody rushing outside to enjoy it! Also, because there is no sewer, this turns out quickly into a big mess really fancied by the kids. The smell of the rain on the hot ground, the noise of the drops in the pool, it’s amazing for our children who have forgotten about it. And for me, it reminds me of rain at the end of a hot summer day in Belgium, when you feel the heavy atmosphere, you worry for the thunder while enjoying the little breeze. This time, once again, everybody went outside, except we are all locked in, so I overheard our neighbours dancing and singing in the rain in their garden (yes, you Haidi) and it made me so happy. Covid-19, you kind of show me the importance of the little things, or at least, you give me time to appreciate them more. 

Lina and piou-piou, our bird friends, are getting fat. Kids understood they like cookies too. They lost their 3 babies, crashed dead on the floor. The heat, a fail attempt to fly or some cats I don’t really know what killed them, but I had to lie to the kids. We saw Piou-piou make the nest, we saw eggs and then heard little birdy noises, I couldn’t break the news to my kids. According to me, they have flown away to somewhere else in Abu Dhabi, with a mask, yes, don’t worry Agnès.

My gardener is blocked in Kerala (India), couldn’t come back to the UAE after the closing of the borders (like 29 000 UAE resident stuck abroad apparently). After texting me some nice pictures of his house and himself (why???), he appointed another guy to do my garden. He’s super nice but doesn’t understand nor speak one work of English, and, once again, I can’t speak Urdu or the language he’s speaking. Maybe I should start this next month…

This month, I was also supposed to take my second MOMcation ever. God knows any mom would need a vacation from kids and husband right now, but the Corona virus changed these plans too. Thanks to my friend, we kept on planning a trip, for whenever it will be possible. We dreamt about Paris’ little cafés and shops. We chose the hotel and the shooting spots. I’m fantasizing on pork charcuterie and floating island (my favorite dessert). We are ready whenever you are Paris. This made me dream a little and that’s a nice feeling I almost had forgotten. It’s hard to project yourself in the future when you have no idea what the future holds. But wait a minute, we NEVER have any idea of what the future holds, so why stop dreaming?

Finally, first month I took care of everybody, I called, I texted, I was always the one initiating the conversation. This month, I waited to see who would come to me first. I had surprises (both ways). This month, I learned a great deal. Who to value more and who not to. That’s not always easy. But it’s a weird period where everybody is a bit depressed and literally locked in their own world. If you don’t pay attention to it, social distancing could become not only physically but mentally too. We realize the difference in attitude toward a crisis like this and we judge. That’s all we have to do of our time anyway! All our friends and neighbors don’t have the same opinion about the situation and the things to do (or not to do) during this period. Here, some online form allows you to report anonymously people not following the rules of lockdown. Dubai even decided to post pictures and names of people not following the quarantine in the newspaper. Are we really like this? Do we want to teach that to our kids? Will we report our friends, our neighbors for biking 15 minutes outside with their kids although it’s forbidden? Apparently yes, some people are, because Police came to our compound for round checks. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m 100% following the rules of the country I’m in, even if they are very hard and drastically different from my birth country. I came here, I use their facilities, I can comply. BUT I don’t think I could report anyone, it’s just not me. It is hard to explain to the kids that yes, some other kids are outside, but it’s still forbidden, but they might as well realize now that everyone makes their own choices in life and have to live with the consequences, problem is in this case also others might bear the consequences… anyway, throwing eggs at people outside during curfew is SO much better than calling the police, no?

All this took me to my breaking point. I had a major down this month, I’m not going to lie. Not a down like you have every 5 minutes, a proper 2-3 days of darkness. I didn’t cry, but I was deeply depressed. Having NO perspective on when this lockdown will soften was very hard. Here you couldn’t go outside for a walk during the lockdown and so “until further notice”, horrible expression btw. And for the first time since arriving in Abu Dhabi, I started to be scared of the difference of governance here. It’s no secret that UAE is not a western democracy (with elections and balance of powers and all that) and from time to time they produce laws like kids produce wishes; often and pretty directly. Most of the time they have very good intentions and they are advised by the best consultants Petrol money can buy so they achieve good new laws. But you can still be afraid of that judicial power (even with diplomatic immunity if you ask, by international law we still must obey the local laws and we  do so. Not that every diplomat reacts like this, but that’s something else). Overnight, they decided to impose masks inside the car for everybody, even if you are alone in your car. People got fined 250$ the day after without even knowing it! Today they announced that wearing a mask in the car when you are alone is not necessary anymore (You’ve got to give them that, in case of wrongful law, it’s usually corrected within the month). The UAE probably is one of the only countries in the world who can afford to have the economy down for MONTHS and so can lock us in for months too. They don’t have a lot of Covid-19 cases; they have a huge healthcare system capacity and the population above 65 yo is only 2,5% of the total population. It’s the country who realized the most testing per inhabitant in the world by far. So why won’t they talk about what’s next? The exit strategy. Why did they decide to close school for the rest of the year already in March? All this was running in my head and installed a climate of fear. 

Then, like in an oriental fairy tale, the day before Ramadan starts came the news that they are consulting on progressive reopening. I felt a huge relief, that was all I wanted to know, even if it’s for later, at least it was in their mind too. Problem is, they rushed a bit in the Emirate of Dubai and reopened everything already which caused some pretty indecent lines in front of bars on the first day of Ramadan and the inevitable fear of a second wave, higher than the first one. 

So, what’s next? What do we do now? When they will reopen everything, do we rush outside, or will we keep some fear? Do we stay put and waist this opportunity to go out although people will go outside and might risk dragging us through a second lockdown period?  Me, myself and I haven’t agreed yet on what to do. One minute I want to see my friends, the other minute I’m still afraid, and seems like my husband has always the opposite feelings so we are not ready to start life as usual again. It’s probably for best because I think we are on for months of surprises and unknown territory… 

Stay safe friends!

Much love,

Cécile

See what he is about to do?
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