It was mid-February when the first case of COVID-19 tested positive in London. I guess the first few cases didn’t really mean much to me. But as I look back and reflect, I realize that I should’ve taken it a lot more seriously— the entire world should’ve been taking it more seriously.
As a college student whose family lives in Hong Kong, I heard about the pandemic— which at the time was only known as a novel coronavirus— before most of my peers. I was worried for my parents and my brother, but at the same time, I really believed that this virus would blow over and that everyone was overreacting. I can tell you now that I was definitely wrong.
Around mid-March, things started getting really serious and I knew that I needed to get back to Hong Kong. It was just my luck that the Hong Kong government announced their compulsory 14-day quarantine system before I could book tickets. As the tally of cases transmitted on airplanes inbound to Hong Kong started rising, my parents and I decided that it would be safer for me to remain in London for the time being.
Since my university shut down, I spent the next two months living at my friend’s house, talking to my parents over the phone everyday to discuss the best time for me to head home. The remainder of the semester was dumbed down to online classes and hours spent inside doing nothing, except the occasional game of solitaire.
As I looked in the mirror everyday, I could see the color fading from my face— I looked impish and malnourished. Much less, I was incredibly sleep-deprived and a self-proclaimed hardcore insomniac. It felt like I could sit at the bay window on the north-facing side of the house and just stare at nothing for hours, looking for signs of life in the barren, socially-distanced suburbs.
When May finally came around, my parents had reached the breaking point and finally decided to buy me a one-way ticket back to Hong Kong. It wasn’t a good time to be traveling, but we figured that the situation could only get worse. Boarding the airplane meant that all of my senses seemed to be ultra-aware of my surroundings. Every armrest, TV monitor, blanket, pillow, you name it, seemed to be a threat to my health.
Landing in Hong Kong meant that my two week quarantine had officially begun. I spent the duration of it at a hotel, frantically checking the news each morning to make sure that nobody on my flight had tested positive. I was lucky that my notifications remained silent.
I consider myself to be very fortunate for the situation I’m in. Compared to other separated families around the world, I’m lucky that I was able to make the journey home.
Written by: Alina Fowler