Natalia, already back in Adelaide after her holiday in Sydney, tells us how she is handling quarantine and social distancing, along with the measures she is taking on a daily basis to protect herself and those closest to her.
Yes, I am in quarantine. Take it easy, I’m not sick, but to rule out any possibility of contagion, I have been in quarantine since Tuesday, March 24, the day I returned to Adelaide from Sydney, after a week of well-deserved holidays.
“But how do you go on holiday with all this Coronavirus?!?” Several exclaimed. And it is that the life of the student in Australia has so many good things, but that it is tiring… it is. I’m not complaining (how to complain under this world scenario), but between studies, work, doing well in everything, looking for opportunities, keeping in touch with the family with 13 hours of time difference, adding exams, making new friends, getting up very early to work and going to bed very late studying. You had to take a breath.
And so I went to Sydney knowing that things could get ugly, leaving a quiet Adelaide, not clear either about the consequences that the virus could have in Australia up to that moment, the same feeling I had when I arrived in Sydney. The well-known “just chill” vibe of this great island was difficult to interrupt. But apparently Australians, and all the foreigners who live here, are already more willing to change our normality in order to help those who contracted the virus and the population at risk.
While in Sydney, the news started to get worse. The confirmed cases increased and the government measures (still insufficient, let’s say it) began to be stricter. Closed borders, closed restaurants, closed retail, cases increasing daily and everyone talking about quarantine and self-isolation, meanwhile, I received the notification from the airline cancelling my flight with less than 24 hours notice. The measure, I understood at the airport, sought to make all of us who returned to South Australia do so after 4 pm on that Tuesday when the mandatory quarantine officially began to be demanded.
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Quarantine vs Isolation
Still on the plane, they made us fill out a form with all our personal data, also adding the address where we were going to spend the quarantine, committing ourselves to respect it and to assume the fines that not complying with the 14 days indoors could bring us. Signatures and stamps later, a person – possibly a health professional – asked about the reasons for the trip, if we had shown any symptoms to finally checked everyone’s temperature. ALL passengers on the plane. The entire process took over an hour, at which time I was able to realise the importance of the situation. Yes, I had already found out what is happening in Italy, Spain and the United States; Yes, I had already learned about lockdowns in almost all the world and the measures that each government decided to take, but another thing is when the situation is there, in front of your nose and there is no way to escape. We thought that the world is so big and nothing could affect us all until the COVID-19 came to show us otherwise.
All in all, I was already resigned to spending the next 14 days in quarantine. Or in isolation? Why do some fall into one category and not the other? What’s the difference? The answer, simpler than I thought: quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease, in this case the Coronavirus, to see if they get sick. Isolation, on the other hand, separates people already sick with a contagious disease from people who are not and can be carried out, depending on the patient’s condition, in a hospital setting or in their own home.
In other words, quarantine is less severe than isolation, being the first precautionary step in the current scenario. Which is why it is so important to respect it and take the necessary steps to stay indoors. The more aware the quarantine, the safer we will all be.
This video explains the differences and the steps to follow if you have symptoms.
Daily precautionary measures
Although I feel healthy and haven’t shown any symptoms in this first week of quarantine, the measures that I must take daily to keep the spaces clean and safe are several, also considering that I don’t live alone and the beautiful house in which I am here in Adelaide, it is shared with two other people.
Without going into any kind of panic, it is important to remember that if we are in quarantine it is because we possibly have the virus, so constant hand washing is a must, along with separating dishes, glasses and cutlery for my personal use, without mixing them with the ones my flatmates are using. Cleaning surfaces before and after cooking, opening doors and windows during the day to keep spaces with air flowing, being extra careful with bathroom hygiene and keeping the distance of 1.5 meters with my housemates, are the main measures I have taken daily during my quarantine.
Goodbye, for now, to cook together or to group movie nights, all to prevent the spread of the virus. And although physical closeness should be avoided, let’s not forget that technology is being our best ally right now so that we don’t feel so alone.
What to do during the Quarantine?
When I was informed at the airport that I had to be in quarantine for 14 days, my first reaction was to think what am I going to do locked up for two weeks?!? I’m not the kind of person you can keep indoors for too long easily, and for me, going to the beach every time I can is almost a ritual. Well, now I can’t. And I had to think, first, about ways to stay connected to my people, and then organise my time with different activities to keep myself physically and mentally healthy.
It is no surprise to any international student that technology is on our side when we want to keep in touch with our loved ones anywhere in the world. WhatsApp, Facetime, Google Hangouts, among others, are part of my daily life, approaching my family and friends during my stay in Australia. And now more than ever, if I add my new friends in Adelaide with whom I also cannot have direct contact during quarantine, like my fellow students or my former coworkers, who although we are no longer sharing the same space physically -I start online classes this week and I no longer have a stable job due to the closure of restaurants throughout Australia- we continue to communicate regularly.
One of the most used applications in this new normality, and that I particularly did not know, is Zoom. Everyone is talking about it and many are using it for different purposes. One of the biggest advantages of this application is that it allows you to make group video calls of up to 100 participants -in its free version- and up to 500 participants if you decide to pay for the application.
Before the global health alert began, Zoom was used mostly in work settings, but now we can see how schools and social groups around the world also use it to communicate, as well as families and friends who seek to interact, stay informed and entertain yourself too, celebrating birthdays, watching movies, and sharing parties online.
Zoom has become so popular because of the ease of entry and the speed of organising meetings. Plus, you don’t even need to register to enter a previously created meeting. I tried it a couple of days ago and it didn’t ask me to register at any time, I just agreed and voila, the connection made!
In the same line, we can find the app Houseparty and although particularly I have not used it yet, I’ve seen that several of my contacts promote it on social networks. It’s just as simple as Zoom, but you can only gather up to eight people in the same group, and unlike Zoom, you can add games to video calls, which makes it even more interactive.
Do you have doubts regarding the best way to keep in touch with your loved ones in Chile, Argentina, Brazil or anywhere in the world? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you.
We already have the online connection to the outside world ready, now we need to organise the time at home, in quarantine, without being able to go out except for the urgent. The first thing I appreciate is having a patio! The days get much more bearable when I can do yoga under the midday sun or write this article enjoying the trees moving with the wind (so hippie, I know, that’s how I am quarantined).
If you don’t know how to use quarantined time, here is my list of activities you can do if, like me, you are taking care of yourself and your environment:
I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed cooking so much. But let me tell you, I don’t like to cook and I never “have time” to do it, so eating out or cooking very quickly were my best allies. Now I don’t have that option, and I like not having it, so I have no excuse. I have time available, I am not going to ask for delivery because “hello” I don’t have a job and I am not going to make that unnecessary expense, I like to eat healthy, I have fruits and vegetables in the fridge… what better than cooking myself!
There are millions of recipes on the internet if you want to search for your inner MasterChef and, if not, mix everything you have available than if you do it with love, something delicious will surely come out.
Ideally one of those books from before, with sheets and hardcover, to get a bit out of the virtual dynamic. I had many books pending and among friends, we are making a loan round. My book delivery is personalised and I can not interact with the friend who leaves it at the door, although later we send kisses on WhatsApp 😘
I leave you the list of The Guardian with the best titles of 2019 if you want to read in English or, if you prefer, here you can find a list of the newspaper El País to read in Spanish. In this link, you can also find books with free download for you to read in quarantine if you do not have paper books at hand.
One of my passions in life is yoga, and its sister, meditation. The benefits of these disciplines are many, and at the moment we are living, it is necessary to reconnect with you, with your body and with your mind, to be happier with ourselves and with others. Yoga invites us to feel the physical body, to know it, to do incredible things with it, creating health and well-being. Meditation does the same but with your mind, giving you the opportunity to observe your thoughts and from there, act according to our deepest essence. Sounds cool, uh?
I could continue writing on and on, but I better leave you some teachers to take into account if you want to start or continue your practice at home, always remembering to take it easy, listening to your body and without rushing to reach the most difficult postures. Remember that yoga is much more than asana (physical posture), it is an ancient discipline that teaches us to live better.
If you are a beginner, I recommend the Yoga with Adriene channel with simple and easy sequences to perform at home. Daniel Rama and Meghan Currie are geniuses of asanas and very good teachers. If you want to delve a little into the world of meditation, I recommend the App Insight Timer, a free application with millions of meditations, music and talks available. Ram Dass and Krishnamurti are my favourite teachers when it comes to going deep into the world of yoga from a more spiritual perspective.
Practice some exercise
As with yoga practice, quarantining is no excuse for not exercising. It is true, it’s not the same as going to the gym where we have all the necessary equipment, but you have to adapt to the times and at least if exercising at home we don’t share the shower. I am also sure that the instructors that I’m going to recommend will leave you exhausted and happy!
My favourites are headed by two women: Shona Vertue and Katie Crewe. Shona is an Australian physical trainer, who combines sport and mindfulness. Most of her workouts are available online and during these crown times, Shona is doing YouTube and Instagram lives regularly. Katie is a Canadian Health Coach who advocates demystifying stereotypes in the fitness world, putting mental health ahead of physical appearance. They are both great coaches and they both have a great sense of humour (important to me because I don’t have such a good time doing sit-ups).
Now if HIIT is your thing, I recently discovered the App 7 Minutes Workout. If you do not want to spend a lot of your time in quarantine on fitness, this application offers you a sports routine of, as its name implies, 7 minutes long. The operation of the app consists of timing 12 exercises of 30 seconds, plus warm-up and cool-down. Every time I decide to go for a session I end up exhausted but with a feeling of satisfaction and joy that only endorphins know how to give you.
What are your favourite online coaches? Do you think we could lengthen the list? Leave us a comment with your suggestions!
Learn a new skill
Quarantine is being established as the ideal time to give yourself a new skill, the one that you wanted to explore long ago but due to lack of time, we could not put into action. I’m not saying that the mood is the best at the moment, but if we don’t take advantage now … when?
For example, I personally love languages. One of my goals for 2020 was to learn a new language, and of course, I was already putting it aside because … time. I don’t have time, I have to dedicate time to studies and then work and then go back to study and so my goal was starting to disappear. Now, every day I am spending an hour on Duolingo, my favourite app for learning languages. If you add any of the tutorials on YouTube of ALL the languages you can imagine, the goal does not seem so impossible. Vorwärts! Allez! Dai!
Another option is to take advantage of the free memberships that are given online, for a limited time, sites like Skillshare, where you can find creative courses in photography, graphic design, illustration and writing, among many others. Give yourself an opportunity to explore your creative side, write or draw again, because life is what we create every day.
And why not go back to work with your hands? Crafts are activities that most of us leave behind with adulthood but, it has been shown, have many benefits: it improves psychomotricity and mental agility, increases concentration and self-esteem. Studies have also shown that performing crafts activates multiple areas of the brain, in a more complex and much more effective way than prescription antidepressants, helping to combat depression.
Knitting, embroidery, painting, gardening, or doing recycling projects are just a few ideas to start experimenting with. In the picture below, another example: a dear friend – who also lost his job due to the hospitality lockdown – began to create geometric mandalas as a game, to kill free time and now, after a couple of weeks, he does this:
Take some rest
Sleep eight hours, what a treat! With the fast-paced life we all lead, I have too many fingers left if I count people I know who sleep eight hours every night, essential to recover energy and stay healthy. Myself, if I got to sleep six hours in total I felt so privileged (?) And again, in most cases, it only takes a little organisation and discipline to get to bed at a decent time with no mobile phone in hand! And get ready for that deserved rest.
In this category, we can also add classic Netflix and chill. I love watching movies and, like sleeping, I couldn’t do it a long time ago. Netflix has tons of cool movie and documentary options to keep us informed and cultivate our heads. But it doesn’t seem too bad for me to sit and watch a romantic comedy or my always favourite Stand Up Comedians. Don’t look at entertainment in any bad way, laughing and being distracted also have health benefits. Everything in balance does well.
Yes, exactly, nothing. This is also a time to remember that we are not our activities or our work, we don’t need to validate ourselves beyond the fact of just existing in this world. For this reason alone, because we are here, in the struggle, we are worthy of our existence. We are infinite beings connected by energy that goes beyond all logic. And today more than ever we can feel that connection.
So if you don’t want to follow any of my suggestions, and your plan is to stay at home watching the birds flying around while waiting for all this to pass, go for it! But please, do it consciously and always be grateful for what we do have, beyond what we lack. For everyone this is a complicated, unexpected time, full of uncertainty; however, we will only succeed in contracting other diseases, and not COVID-19, if we go crazy thinking about what may or may not happen in the future.
Of course, let’s act accordingly to the situation happening in the whole world, and if this is the time to stop a little, rethink your options and change some plans momentarily, do it from a place of honesty, gratitude and service, because the earth it’s asking us to wake up, connect and create a better world, together.
See you on the other side! 🙂