4th night - Friday: Plenty of time to contemplate the question of quarantine, detention, compulsory restraint or imprisonment here in this hotel room.
Yes, everyone has stayed in a hotel room, and maybe felt a bit stir crazy at times – in the middle of the night maybe, or when the weather is bad. It can even happen at home, especially if you’re in an apartment without a balcony and don’t have a back yard.
But the only really comparable compulsory restraint is being in gaol, which must be of a completely different dimension. Of course that would be so, so, so much worse. It’s normally for much longer than 2 weeks … stretching to years, and in rare cases close to a lifetime.
My brief quarantine experience does, though, engender a sympathy for those who are imprisoned, committed for a crime carried out either by accident or intent. And especially for those people who might have been jailed after conviction on drug charges, especially for a drug that might soon be legalised in some parts of Australia.
On arrival at this hotel the other day, the policeman who brought me up to my room in the lift gave me a bit of advice.
‘Maybe it’s not a good idea to tick off each day from the start. It might seem a lot longer that way. Try to relax into it, not keep counting down the days,’ he said.
Not a bad idea, I thought. I’d consider the amount of time I had to relax … But no sooner did I set myself up, than I launched into a daily blog … counting the days. Duh!
Anyway, it’s been a successful way to receive a great deal of goodwill, from friends and strangers alike, which I’ve found has been keeping me buoyant emotionally.
And I bear in mind the individuals and families who are also self-isolating, not through forced locking up, but through sheer self-discipline and a sense of solidarity to maintain a practice which will help to keep the coronavirus from spreading out of control. From a sense of community well-being. They’re admirable!
Most days I don’t see too many people. Now there’s an understatement … Today was different. I had a couple of workers visit to adjust my window. One cleaned my aircon and also ran a vacuum cleaner over my carpet. They were very solicitous, apologising for interrupting me, concerned that I was holed up for a fortnight. I was touched.
‘No problem. Take as long as you like,’ I told them. ‘I’m in no hurry to go anywhere or do anything.’
I also met Joan in the corridor and we had a chat that lasted about 20 seconds. I peered at her from my doorway, the door opened only for me to pick up my meal. I hadn’t noticed her earlier, I guess that’s because every time I poked my head out to pick up my meal, packaged in a brown paper bag, she must have been down the other end of the corridor. Joan is one of the security staff posted on every floor that holds the hotel’s quarantined inmates. How many floors that is, I don’t know. I found out she works the 7 am – 7.30 pm shift. Long hours! And what does she do in the job? She walks back and forth along that corridor, back and forth, back and forth; it doesn’t do to walk too fast; it’s pretty tough on the feet. This quarantine is a lot harder for Joan than for me, I decided. I have a TV screen, a mobile phone screen and even, since this morning, a laptop screen (we’re each allowed to receive one parcel a day). Plus books to read. Who could be bored with that plethora of media access? So Joan has a harder task than me – except that she’s here voluntarily, she’s being paid, and she gets the privilege of being truly out in the world every morning and night, out in reality rather than in my enforced cocoon of virtual reality.
Those brown paper bags are building up. Seems such a waste to throw them out – good paper. I’ve begun an artwork, for contemplation on the good fortune that I am being housed, ministered to, plied with food. It’s not what I’d call high art – I haven't reached the creative stage yet - haha - just another form of ticking off the days to be spent in quarantine, I guess. I wonder how the bags can be re-used, since who knows whether they might carry droplets of coronavirus? I’m suspicious of every type of material these days, trying to memorise how long droplets stay on whichever material is presented to me. I learned to take note in Peru, to slow down enough to consider whether to touch something or not, to get more control over my hands.
I’m still receiving epistles from Peruvian culture. Yesterday the President stated [as translated], ‘Our first priority will always be to protect the life and health of the people. Economy comes after. … We are ready to support economic reactivation boldly as soon as the virus is contained.’
As there was a ‘light’ earthquake in Peru yesterday, he proposed that people at home ‘review their emergency backpacks and earthquake protocols’. Can you imagine the staunch bravery of the Peruvian people facing the possibility of an earthquake as well as the pandemic? I have great respect for them, thinking back to just last week when I was in Lima. Every night residents would stand on their balconies or at their front doors at 8 pm to join in clapping, in appreciation for their doctors, nurses, and all ancillary, including cleaning, staff. As the evening sky darkened, moving towards winter …
All over the world now, people of different cultures are honouring their medical staff, including volunteers, and even their teachers and childcarers, their cleaners, their garbage collectors - those people who have been at the bottom of the social rung, people we now realise we are all dependent on. Not before time! So many of us here, ‘doing time’ in this hotel, must think about how lucky we’ve been to travel the globe and return safe and sound. So far so good, in that no coronavirus symptoms have been detected in anyone in the hotel up until this point.
Sorry this update is being sent out so late today … but my internet connection has been laughably poor last night and this morning. But thanks to the calm persistent efforts of Brad at Superloop, I’m back online and in grateful mode.
On that note, I’ve decided to take a break from the diary blog tomorrow – Sunday, a day of rest, of recovery, of kindness and care.
Sent from my mobile phone ... my connection to a humdrum world we all used to share but didn’t appreciate. One wayward traveller’s opportunity to emote via her daily diary ... Copyright Christine Williams.