Monday December 28. The beach, St. Mary, Jamaica. Ahhhhh. I’m off work, I have the 3 kids with me, H unfortunately had to go in to office. We’re the only ones on this tiny, secluded beach and we’re simply exhaling and enjoying some sun after a (glorious!) quiet Christmas weekend. It was a good weekend. We had some good (keto of course!) eatings including dessert with only my sister-in-law as a guest at our table. We watched tons of movies as a family, chatted and laughed. It was really lovely. Our first Pandemic Christmas. I thought I’d catch up with the kids to find out what they were thinking at this stage of the Pandemic. I first shared how they were processing things in this post in May and I got an update a few weeks later and shared it here. What follows is a snapshot of their own thoughts, 9 months into the pandemic, here in Jamaica.
Jamaica and COVID-19 At the Start of 2021
Our first positive case was reported back in March 2020. We went through lock-downs, quarantines, curfews, work-from-home and online school. In June our borders re-opened to allow Jamaican nationals to come to the country of their birth, and in an attempt to re-build our tourism sector, hard hit by the threat of the virus. As expected, cases surged, deaths attributed to the virus increased. Many of us returned to office, some pressed on with a hybrid type arrangement, 99% of schools remained in online mode. As at January 2, 2021 here are the official stats from the Ministry of Health and Wellness:
Not stated in the graphic, is that Jamaica has reported 4 cases of the new more infectious strain of the virus first identified in the UK in December 2020. Not good news at all. There have been reports of parties uptown, downtown and on the high seas in contravention of laws passed by the government aimed at curtailing crowding and movement. Numerous think pieces as to the fairness of consequences meted out abound. I think we all expect to see a surge in positive cases reported over the next few weeks based on how our citizens and visitors have chosen to conduct themselves over the festive season.
So far, Jamaica has managed not to overwhelm the public health system, and we were hoping to resume face to face school in this January term. We’ll see how things unfold in the coming weeks…
Nicholas, 17, 9 months into the Pandemic
Nicholas’ main concern last we spoke were his CSEC exams. There was much uncertainty around the timing and format of these exams. Well he sat them in July. Based on the final format of the exams, he told me he had to change his study approach. He logged the hours, worked with study groups on line, continued to attend review sessions with his teachers online and really did his best to adapt. There was one day on his exam timetable where he had to sit all of 3 different exams! He prepared, we prayed and on each exam day, he turned up at the examination center, mask on, and did his best. Imagine our collective joy when results came out early September showing that he received 8 Grade ones!!! Onward to 6th form! He has not had a single face to face class yet, but life goes on.
Nicholas told me as we sat on the beach earlier this week, that he thought we’d be back to “normal” by now. He thinks that the development and roll-out of the vaccine is a good thing, and that the vaccine will help us get back to “normal” but over time. He fervently hopes that somethings like the hand sanitizing and emphasis on hygiene remain long after the corona virus is stopped in its tracks. I laughed when he said that blowing out candles on birthday cakes will never happen again! I hadn’t even thought of that, but when he said it, I instantly agreed. NO BLOWING OUT OF CANDLES PLEASE! UGH! He was very clear, however, that we need to get back to the more social aspects of living, that living with restrictions on how we socialize can never be sustainable. It’s not how we’re made. Nicholas continues to enjoy the additional time on his hands that has come with the elimination of his typically long commute to and from school. He has done a couple free online courses in programming, he built a computer, his exercise habit has grown (and it shows!). He missed hanging out in person with his friends, and finds that he has to be deliberate about managing the distractions to school work here at home. He loves the fact that if he missed something in online class, he can revisit the recording and get caught up.
We’ve lost some things with online school, but we’ve also gained some things.”Nicholas, 17
And as for 2021?
“It’ll be very similar to 2020, especially the first 3 months”. Nicholas described his feelings re: 2021 as “optimistic”. He doesn’t think that social distancing will be “sustainable in all circumstances, especially schools in Jamaica.” He also observed that the discretion exercised by the authorities enforcing laws to do with curtailing the spread of the virus appears misplaced. “Why should inner city folk who live in cramped uncomfortable circumstances by penalized when outside while the more affluent who can comfortably “tan ah yaad” be merely warned? “
He’s looking forward to a “gradual normalization“, including the Olympic games later this year. Interestingly, he doesn’t think that local sporting events like our national athletic championships will be staged. Says that global resources and efforts will ensure that something like the Olympics will be held though. His word for 2021? “Recovery”.
Mikey says he remembers enjoying the unexpected vacation from school in the early days of COVID-19 in Jamaica. He says he loved online school because he could “dress the way he liked” and he found his classes “fun and enjoyable”. But he really missed his friends. He and his friends quickly formed Whatsapps groups to compensate for their physical separation. School resumed in September with a hybrid arrangement, some days face to face classes, some days online at home. He likes this plan and has enjoyed hanging out once again with his friends.
Michael reports that he discovered a liking for video editing! He has been working on developing his skill in this regard. Check out some of his work right here.
2021 according to Michael
Mikey thinks that 2021 will be better than 2020, especially because of the vaccine although he did state that he worries sometimes if the vaccine will really be effective, and he expressed concern at some of the reports of allergic reactions (he lives with several allergies, so this is not surprising to me). He thinks we’ll continue to wear masks, even though “I really do not like masks” he firmly stated. He thinks we’ll go back to hugging.
Mikey says that he thought by now things would have been well on the way to being normal, but all things considered, his word for 2021 is “better”.
Rachael, 24 (almost 25!)
Ever the realist (pessimist :)?) my daughter was not part of the crew who thought that things would have been over by now. But she admits that even she didn’t foresee just how badly off we would have been in terms of deaths and positive cases reported, especially in the USA. She has found it difficult to keep her students engaged in online classes, and has been challenged with every single class to step right outside her comfort zone and to try different ways of driving engagement that don’t come naturally to her introverted self. She considers herself a new teacher, and having to develop her skills in this regard with the implications of the Pandemic layered on top has tested her in more than one way. Rachael describes the last 9 months as being “hard.” She reports being gratified by personal messages of thanks and appreciation from various students, and still wonders how she pulled it off. (I don’t. And yes, I’m biased. But Rachael is an amazing teacher. I recognized her gift when she was 14, and was helping me when I was a volunteer teacher at our church’s learning center. And she truly puts effort into her lesson plans preparation for classes.)
An attitude of Gratitude as a Coping Mechanism & Looking forward
One of the things that has kept her going through this challenging time is choosing to be grateful, Rachael reports. She is grateful that she has been able to continue earning. She is grateful for the positive feedback from her students. She also intentionally manages her mental health by imposing news black-out periods for herself, and temporary social media breaks.
Rachael would not be surprised if things get worse before they get better. she remains mystified and dismayed by people’s refusal to simply follow the rules in order to contain. While she poo-poos the policy curfews, opining that they have no real impact on the spread of the virus, Rachael things that masking, sanitizing, social distancing and now the vaccine are critical to getting back to “normal”. She also thinks that masking will discarded as soon as possible, and that social distancing will also disappear. Trends like delivery and pick-up will remain. She says that the Jamaican economy has been poor, and sees specific industries continuing to suffer.
One good thing to come out of the Pandemic for her is that she now has specific, clearer thoughts about her own professional future. She shared some of her thoughts with me, but I am not sharing them in this blog post. That will be part of her own story to do and tell as time marches on. Let me just say this: I was impressed with her line of reasoning, her thoughts and I am excited to see how she decided and acts going forward.
Interestingly, all three children have reported at different times that being forced to disrupt their daily routines, and the enforced slow-down have created the space for them to think and explore other interests. THIS is a very good thing in my opinion. They’ll be better off for it. Slow down, reflect, plan and do: a gift from COVID-19.
Rachael’s word for 2021 is “recovery”.
H and His own Thoughts as to Where We Are Now
I caught up with H 2 days after chatting with the kids. He says so many experts have been wrong with their projections and here we are. Says he’s not surprised at the global position now with respect to the pandemic. Yes, he is weary, he says. He hates the mask. He says it interferes with his ability to communicate effectively. Says he can’t admire good looking women any more. LOL! But fun and joke aside, he wears it out of respect for others. He reports missing live music events. He dreams about the day when he’ll be able to attend a live music jam session again. He says if he never has to sit through another Zoom session, be it work or entertainment, it can’t come too soon!
“I am grateful though, for my support structures: my family, my home” he insists.
H says he achieved his personal targets for 2020 with great difficulty and expense, but he did it, day be day, step by step.
With great difficulty and adjustment, life continues.H, December 2020
His word for 2021? “HOPE”. H says that up until now he looked at the concept of hope as a sign of weakness. Hope? NO! DO! But now, he sees Hope as a virtue. He says that he has seen Jamaican resilience in action during this pandemic. He’s seen taxi men turn to selling produce from the back of their taxis. He says the hustle and bustle on the roads and in supermarkets this past Christmas indicate to him that we haven’t quite given up yet. “This will NOT be the end of us Jamaicans” he insists.
My Own Thoughts at this Juncture…
2020 has NOT been the worst year of my life. LOL! Not by a stretch. I was caught up in trying to ensure that my children were coping, dealing with a new job and coaching clients who were trying to lose weight and improve their overall health.
I have never been comfortable with uncertainty and in 2020 we literally didn’t have a clue as to what the next day would bring. I therefore stopped planning and dealt with each day as it came.
I see this continuing into 2021. Only a fraction of our population will be vaccinated by year end according to official projections. So I’ve set some personal goals for 2021 supported by plans with timelines. Let’s see how that works.
I think the status quo will persist into 2022, so it makes sense to plan accordingly but prepare to pivot should the need arise. “Plan but be Flexible” is my own outlook for 2021. I’m not scared of the virus. I am in reasonably good health and I take the recommended precautions. But I remain very concerned about children unable to to learn due to no devices, or lack of internet services. I remain exceedingly concerned about the contraction of the economy. I enjoy being an employee, but we are all at risk as the economy contracts.
So I start 2021 with faith and with a plan and yes, with hope. Hope has always kept ME going. I have to hope.