As I was moving from my accommodation into my new garden apartment which is stunningly full of birdlife and situated in the leafy area of Oatlands, the only thought on my mind was to make myself a large bowl of fufu (powdered plantain-based meal) and beef light soup which had been off my menu for two weeks.
My desire for this meal was not only because I had starved myself of this favourite food of mine for some time, but also because I wanted to make my “kra” (soul) happy. After many days of hearing about COVID-19 infection tallies, deaths and lately, a nationwide lockdown, I had been in a state of uncertainty and disquiet. “How will I survive this away from my beloved family?” my mind would repeatedly wonder. But anytime I thought about this, that silent small voice makes a loud whisper: “There sure is a testimony in the midst of this storm”.
It has, indeed, been days of uncertainty about whether my coming here at this moment in time was a good decision I made. I have had a cause to tell myself maybe I should have postponed my travel. But I am also convinced that there is a reason for being here at this moment in time. I miss my family, especially, my children. At a time of global crisis like this one, the only thought on my mind is my family. My family also misses me and is concerned about my wellbeing. Technology has never been a great blessing to me than this time.
During video call moments with them, I can visibly see how much they miss me in their eyes. My children keep calling out my name even when they have nothing to say to me. They ask many questions: “Mummy, what are you doing?” “Mummy, are you going out?” “Mummy, what is that?” (When I am in town and I have a face mask on) ‘Mummy, have you eaten?”.
I have been mentally stressed. But this is the time that, as my pastor says, I need faith like that of a towing van. Besides adhering to protocols including practising good respiratory and hand hygiene, like washing hands with soap under running water for 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and observing social (physical) distancing, I need “towing-van-faith”.
It is a good time for us to build our faith in God. Ordinarily, we take many things for granted since, somehow, things straighten out with time. But when we are faced with a life and death situation, with a lot of uncertainties and an end eluding us, we don’t have a choice but to discover and build our faith and hold on firmly to it.
Amid media reportage of unsavoury news, it is also important to be selective about what you pay attention to as you practice your faith. A lot of exposure to negative content could potentially disrupt your faith. I realised, at some point, that too much exposure to news about this plague made me emotionally and physically sick.
Until I started paying attention to more positive content, in a bid to staying positive and building my faith, I was always feeling dejected, experiencing “artificial” headaches, dizziness and nausea. It is imperative to hold on to your faith in God, avoid pessimism and stay positive in these awful times, otherwise, you will fall apart.
Irrefutably, as a communication and media researcher, I began to appreciate the essence of media effects theories like the Cultivation Theory. Too much exposure to negativity makes one rather negative and this is factual. It could result from the quest to stay informed about what is happening around the world. Being a novel virus, there is minimal knowledge about COVID-19, making us engage in information-seeking. As it were, we turn our attention to any channel or medium that could serve that purpose, including succumbing to fake news content.
This leads to information overload and ultimately makes one exaggerate any slightest look-alike symptom of the disease experience, based on the content that has been consumed. Mind you, the effect is not only on the cognition, attitude and behaviour but on how a person feels inwardly and eventually one’s physical wellbeing.
This crisis has made me value relationships the more, especially those that have a positive influence on my life. In this period of total lockdown where one’s movement is restricted, only kind words can keep my head steady. I don’t need people telling me I shouldn’t have made the journey. What I need is words of encouragement. After all, whoever knew what lay ahead of me? I came here for a good cause and that must be accomplished…and gosh! It will be accomplished, I believe. Keeping my head high is the way to go and I need people who will reassure me and not suggest to me reasons I should regret my decision.
Over here, my mentor is one such person who has held my chin up. This professor and her husband have been amazing. They have been very supportive, knowing that I have a family back home who are concerned about me and I am concerned about. As the world wages war against this epidemic, almost every sector of every economy is affected. Research entities like where I find myself are bearing the brunt of the pandemic and are faced with many unknowns. But amidst all the uncertainties, my mentor, the project lead, has kept me confident that there is a way out of it all.
Let me tell you a remarkable incident I later considered rather laughable. It will possibly not only make you laugh but also make you appreciate the many things we have taken for granted all our lives – human contact. I contacted a property agent and at the door, there was a notice to the effect that for the safety of both clients and employees, clients were to be attended to at the door. Clients were not allowed inside, they had to ring a bell and a staff member comes and stands a metre away from the door and attend to them. They had a thick plastic sheet covering the metal door. I could see a little hole cut through it, which in my estimation was meant to be the hole through which clients spoke. Interestingly, this hole was below my waist and not the standard eye level. Obviously, as situations stand it was not a surprise. With almost everything turned upside down, things cannot be normal anymore. How the world can change in a twinkle of an eye!
As a client, I felt like an outcast, but it was no fault of theirs, so I understood them. What broke my heart the most was when I was told I couldn’t sit in the company car when going to view the property I was interested in, in compliance with the one-meter physical distancing. I could only go and view that property with them, if I hired a cab. I began to think about how not too long ago, I would be welcomed into an office with wide smiles, handshake and be offered a seat and sometimes, coffee, tea or water. I could only look back into time and hope that all of this will be history soon. These days one must even smile with caution, let alone laugh…How sad! And tell you what, when my cab came, it was past the appointment time and so we could not go.
I miss the physical and social interactions we shared as family and friends. I now value them more than ever. How invaluable the relationships and bond we share(d) as family! The hugs, the high fives, the kisses we sometimes run away from…Eii! When all of this is over, I will claim all arears (hahaha!) and miss no chance at giving or receiving one. Hmmm…you have no idea how I wish I were sharing this moment with family. But I believe sooner than later, we will turn the tide and life will come back to normal. And when all is said and done, hopefully, we will care better than we used to; love like there is not tomorrow and cherish every chance we have at life.
I conclude with a quote from Dr Tumi, the South African medical doctor and gospel artiste which goes: “When we win this fight against COVID-19, we will gather again and sing our new song of victory. Life will go back to what it was. But everyone must do their part.”
Until next time, let’s keep taking personal responsibility for our health by adhering to all protocols and, of course, holding on to the faith you have in God.