Seventh Month Theme: Mishmash

Hey everyone, didn’t know how to title this theme even though I gave it a lot of thought. It’s really been a mishmash!

Health is A Factor:

A week after I got my COVID-19 shot, I had gum graft surgery. Fortunately, the pain was FAR less than it was the first time I got it and I recovered faster! I have been super happy with the healthcare I have received in Calgary so far, and this was no exception. At least during my recovery, I was able to let my immunity develop after getting the shot without having to worry about going outside.How do I feel now that I got my first shot? Weird. There is a certain mental block I have after getting it. When the pandemic started, I got the attitude, “I’m not f***ing around with that s**t!” and I would overthink following COVID protocols. Now, even though I do still follow them, I don’t worry if I make a mistake. Even the best of us screw up sometimes, but the shot gives me peace of mind that I didn’t have before when I screwed up. Also, I read this New York Times article about languishing. Wow! Nailed it! There are lots of things I want to do, but I guess I have been locked down too long. I’ll get past it though.It doesn’t help that cases have been exploding in Alberta. I was recovering from surgery when new restrictions came in. My reaction was, “Fine with me! I’m home anyway!” I’m glad that vaccine eligibility has been expanded. Still, if you need tips, feel free to read my post about getting my shot!

Travel Update:

Thank you to everyone who gave me some travel recommendations last month! Word is that the Calgary Stampede is going to happen. Considering the current COVID-19 situation, it’s like “Oh no!” The plan is to definitely get out of dodge. I know how international events can take over cities. I was in London when the 2012 Olympics happened and there wasn’t a pandemic on top of it. Plus, there might be trouble if there are restrictions on the event because of COVID-19, so I feel it’s best to step away this year.So far, I am in the planning stage of a trip, and I don’t think anything will be finalized for a while. Restrictions keep changing all the time. At least I will be able to travel a bit (safely, of course) and hopefully, be able to see my Dad! Hopefully, next year will mean better times, and I will be able to see what the fuss is about with the Stampede.

More On Cultural Adjustment:

Normally, after the honeymoon period, there is a phase where you don’t like your new home. I found out I was going through that this past month. It’s one of those things I haven’t mentioned before in the past for various reasons, but I am breaking this cycle. There are many misconceptions about this phase, so let me clear some things up.

  1. As a general rule, this phase is really nothing personal against a new country. On the other hand, after this phase, if you STILL don’t like your new home, there is something more going on than meets the eye.
  2. You can tell when you’re going through the phase if your feelings are going to be temporary or permanent.
  3. This phase is completely normal! A country can be absolutely perfect for you and it will still happen!
  4. When you are feeling bad about your new home, it’s not necessarily what people say or do, or things going on in the country. Anything can set this off. Of course, things like the pandemic don’t necessarily help.
  5. You can get it with reverse culture shock too.
  6. A certain amount of homesickness contributes to it.
Case in point

I know I am going to get past this, and once I do, I am going to love Canada more! I saw the movie, Brooklyn recently. It’s so real about moving to a new country! My Irish side was saying, “I’m not crying! You’re crying!”

Some Other Cool Cultural Things:

Note the featured photo on my post. I find it touching how people are still saying “Welcome to Canada!” to me even after several months. I have also learned more about foods in Canada after watching the Great Canadian Baking Show. Despite my current phase of cultural adjustment, I am still trying to find hidden cultural gems!Funny story, I was with my Mum in Uber once and the driver asked us, “So where are you ladies from?” I don’t know if I have said this before, but TCKs have a weird relationship with that question. We can tend to dread being asked that. The general advice is to have a short version answer, a medium version answer, and a long version answer. What I tend to do is start with my short answer and if I get a good response, expand on my medium or long answer. I vary it depending on how people respond to me.This time, I gave my long response. My long response includes that I moved to Canada because the situation was getting pretty desperate in the USA. The Uber driver was very direct with how he felt about the USA and I took it. I said I completely agreed, but also added, “Having lived in other countries, I do understand those sentiments, and it’s okay with me.” I can’t believe I had never said anything like that before, but then again in England, there was a lot about American culture I didn’t know because of growing up there. Although I had some variation on that phrase, it fell flat.I think now that I have actually seen how American culture is after being away for so long, I can imply that it’s okay to say how you feel about the USA to me. I can also implicitly slide in the warning, “Don’t treat all Americans this way!”

Canadian Country Music In Time for Summer:

I stumbled on the following song and had to look it up!

How perfect that summer is coming and found the song. Killed the replay button! I’m starting to learn more about Canadian country music (hey, I’m in Calgary)! Is it different from American country music? That’s a big yes! I am listening to Dean Brody as I write this post. I like his song Canadian Girls as well. One of my biggest hopes is that I will see Dean Brody perform (hopefully at the Calgary Stampede)!

Spring!!

I can’t get enough green things now!! I have waited 7 months for blossoms to appear! Lately, I have gone crazy with the camera photographing flowers, baby bunnies, goslings, and other signs of spring!

I saw a bobcat!

I want to take the black bunny home!

Right now, Victoria Day weekend is about to happen, and the weather has turned. It’s now what I call snailing: a mixture of snow, rain, and hail. Only hardcore campers go camping this weekend. This is apparently the last gasp of winter and then June 1st is a whole different story!To my fellow Canadians, have a nice Victoria Day weekend!

COVID-19 Shot #1: All Pfizer-ed Up!

I got the COVID-19 shot! Get my pun about being all Pfizer-ed (fired) up? I thought of it while I was waiting in line. And yes, I got Pfizer.

I am writing this because I believe my experience is applicable regardless of the country you live in. Disclaimer: I know vaccination is a sensitive topic, but please keep comments respectful. Please see my page My Site is A Safe Space for more information.

Pre-shot Information:

I initially thought I would be one of the last people to get the shot. Then, as things started to progress with the vaccine rollout in Alberta, things changed.

I knew some people who got the shot early on for various reasons. I know it’s normal to have vaccine hesitancy with this COVID-19 shot because it was developed so fast. However, I do appreciate there has been a lot of information out there to dissipate people’s fears.

Then the Rollout Changes Happened:

On March 30, Alberta started Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout. It includes anyone between ages 16 and 64 with eligible health conditions. I disregarded it. I want to mention by then, I knew that systems about being contacted for when it’s your turn to be vaccinated were useless!

My Mum was eligible for Phase 2D, which include people between 55 and 64. We initially thought she would get her shot in May and I would get mine in June. Then, the AstraZeneca shot came on the scene. They started booking by birth year in late February, so I was on standby for news for them booking my Mum’s birth year. I read COVID-19 updates for Alberta every morning. One day in early March, I saw on the news that people of my Mum’s birth year could book the AstraZeneca shot! So, my Mum had a choice of AstraZeneca immediately or Pfizer/Moderna in May. She chose AstraZeneca immediately. And no, she didn’t get blood clots. Do you know what the sad thing is? My Mum never got an email notification saying she could book a shot. I only knew about it because I saw the news update.

Meanwhile, I understand that the US was in a similar situation. My Dad had signed up for vaccine alerts, but they never happened. It got to the point that friends my age were getting vaccinated there and he wasn’t. We had to tell him to keep calling about a vaccine appointment. My Dad got the Johnson and Johnson shot at the end of March. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t told him to be proactive about it.

Then, I had An Idea:

I was concerned about getting gum graft surgery without getting the shot. My Mum and I started talking about upping our game with hygiene protocols during my recovery period. I decided on a whim to email my periodontist’s receptionist to ask if it was possible for me to get the shot before my surgery. 

As a bit of a backstory, my Mum always told me to get to know receptionists and show them appreciation. Receptionists carry around SO much information and they can pull strings for you! I have worked as an office assistant during my university career, and I can verify that if you’re nice to people who have a lot of information at their fingertips, they help you. If you aren’t nice to them, well, let’s just say revenge is a dish best served cold.

My periodontist’s receptionist had helped me a lot with all this crap of getting my dental records from the US. So, I gave her some macarons from my favourite patisserie to say “Thank you!” I love talking to her when I am waiting for my appointments at the office as well. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask her if I could possibly get the shot before my surgery.

Surprise, Surprise:

She told me I was eligible under Phase 2B. I don’t have a full-blown condition, like the ones listed. But I do have a problem that is a precursor to one of the conditions though. I never thought having precursors to eligible conditions that you have to medically manage qualified. This is why you ask the receptionist!

One tip my periodontist’s receptionist gave me was to try going to a pharmacy after about 8 pm. She said that pharmacies may have spare shots at the end of the day. Vaccine vials come in packs of 10 and they have a finite time on them once the pack is opened and kept at refrigerator temperature. So, some pharmacies have some spare vials at the end of the day if people don’t show up for their appointments.

I tried going to my local Shopper’s Drug Mart and they said they don’t have spare shots at the end of the day. It was fairly recently when pharmacies started booking appointments for shots. Now, they are so swamped that they don’t even create waitlists. I tried to get onto the waitlist for my local Shopper’s Drug Mart, but I couldn’t. My periodontist’s receptionist encouraged me to keep trying to go to the pharmacy after 8 pm. I guess the strategy is to wear them down. In the end, I decided to book the appointment through Alberta Health Services.

Ethics:

I can’t write a post like this without saying something about vaccine rollout ethics. I noticed that there were articles and social media posts questioning whether people were just jumping the line to get the shot. Vaccine shaming was becoming more of a thing, and in the US there were vaccine shortages. One important thing to remember is that the majority of disabilities are invisible, and it’s important not to judge people for that. Actually, what I said about my eligibility before applies in this situation. I don’t look like I have a precursor to an eligible condition because I am managing it medically and it works beautifully.

Additionally, you can find from a Google Search how there have been distribution issues. The trouble is so many shots go to waste when there are problems with distribution. You know the thing I mentioned about going to a pharmacy after 8 pm to see if they have spare shots? Well, that’s how Millenials and Gen Z over 18 have been getting shots, even if they aren’t eligible yet. Deena Henshaw, the doctor for the government of Alberta has said people shouldn’t do this. Um, if you have a distribution issue that is causing vaccines to go to waste, sort that out first! You can find a lot of news articles about how medical professionals realized vaccines would go to waste if they didn’t use them up so they found a way to do so. I say good for them! Healthcare workers have seen the havoc this pandemic has wreaked.

So, I Booked My Shot:

I do want to say when I booked my shot, I did worry about whether I was jumping the line. My Mum assured me that my periodontist’s receptionist thought I was well within my rights to get the shot, or she wouldn’t have told me the information I needed to get it. I made sure to have paperwork on me about my eligibility, just in case. Early in April, the TELUS Convention Centre opened a clinic in its building for mass vaccination. At first, not a lot of people showed up there. I booked my shot at that location, and when I double-checked my booking, I was able to bring the appointment forward by 3 days. Pfizer was the only shot available for my age group, which I was happy about.

The Day of My Shot:

I was more worried about having my paperwork in order than I was about the shot. I got to the TELUS Convention Centre right before my appointment time. There was a long line outside, which I was happy to see. I realized I had underdressed for the weather because it snowed a bit when I was standing in line. I felt so Canadian!

Then, I got inside and I realized there was another big part of the line. We had to zigzag between two or three large rooms and then go upstairs. The stairs were for people who could manage them and the escalator was for people with mobility issues. I don’t know if there is an elevator for people in wheelchairs though. Once we got to the second floor, we had to cross the pedestrian footbridge, zigzag again and finally, we could get into the final zigzag line!

One of the people doing crowd control said it takes less time to get through this line than to wait at Disneyland. Never been to Disneyland, but sounds very helpful. Conversations in the line were cool. In the final zigzag line, we sanitized our hands, changed our masks, and sanitized our hands again. 

The nurse did check my eligibility, but I didn’t have to prove it. It took longer to do my paperwork because I’m not on Alberta Healthcare yet. The nurse who checked me in said that they don’t refuse people shots at the TELUS Convention Centre after they have waited in line for an hour. I didn’t even feel the needle when the nurse injected me. That was a first! So, after waiting 15 minutes, I left. I grabbed two bottles of complimentary hand sanitizer on my way out! All Pfizer-ed up and ready to go!

Technology Stories While Waiting In Line and Some Other Things:

There are some tech things I should note about getting my shot at the TELUS Convention Centre. There was a playlist you could download to listen to while you wait. I didn’t take advantage of it, but I kind of wish I had. 

Inside the building, I saw these posters on the wall with these factoids about the world. I have to say, I do admire how TELUS is creative. For my non-Canadian readers, TELUS is a cell phone provider in Canada. TELUS has a building in Calgary that has a light show every night. It’s amazing to see what they come up with for the light shows. Now, I can remember my shot with facts about the world’s shortest novel and also that turkeys blush.

Another thing they did tech-wise was when you were waiting, they had you scan a QR Code to do your pre-shot questionnaire. So I am glad I didn’t forget my cell phone!

I noticed the majority of people there were probably between 18 and 50. Right before my appointment, Alberta lowered the eligibility for AstraZeneca to age 40 and now bookings are going like hotcakes. I don’t know how much that had to do with it though because I had to wait 2 weeks for my appointment. The day I was there, 5,000 people had been vaccinated. Word in the line was, they don’t check your eligibility. Not entirely true, but okay. As I said, I am among those who have invisible eligibility in Phase 2B. If other Millennials and Gen Z are jumping the line, so what? There’s a mass vaccination site now. I could tell the nurses there were just happy to get shots in arms.

How I Felt Afterwards:

I had a sore arm for about 36 hours. I made a point of resting for a couple of days and kept drinking water. One thing I regret doing is making a shopping trip to Safeway the day after my shot. It wiped me out. On my second day, I took a long nap. How much of the fatigue was emotional though? I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I posted on IG that I got my shot and have been encouraging people I know in Calgary to go to the TELUS Convention Centre for their shots. 

Oh, and you know how Brazil’s President Bolsonaro said people turn into crocodiles with the Pfizer vaccine? Well, it happened. This used to be me, and now I’m a crocodile. At least I’m friendly.

How do you like my trolling?

In Summary, My Personal Tips For Getting A Shot Are:

  1. If you’re having trouble getting a shot, ask a receptionist you have a good rapport with.
  2. Even if you have a precursor to an eligible condition, you’re still eligible.
  3. See if you can get a spare shot leftover at the pharmacy.
  4. If the pharmacy doesn’t work, go to a mass vaccination site.
  5. Don’t do anything unethical to get your shot.
  6. Drink lots of water for the next two days.
  7. I forgot to mention this in my post, but if you’re a person who has periods, try not to get your shot the week of your period. It can make your symptoms worse, but the research is inconclusive on that. I have mainly heard about this from other friends of mine.
  8. Be proactive about getting your shot. Don’t rely on email alerts or pharmacies.
  9. Troll President Bolsonaro with a photo of you turned into a crocodile.
  10. Take care of yourself after your shot physically and emotionally.

Have you got your shot yet? How did it go?

Sixth Month Theme: Slow Spring and Time for Health. Plus, asking for Travel Recommendations

After I published my last post, I found out my stay in Canada got extended! Here was the surprising thing: I didn’t even need to apply to extend it. Apparently, because of COVID-19, the IRCC has been automatically granting extensions. At least they have my updated information though. Feel free to congratulate me on being in Canada for six months! My Mum and I are going to get some nice food to celebrate!

My next step is to get the entrepreneur’s visa. They aren’t being issued right now, but I am staying on top of updates.

Spring has Sprung!

Okay, it hasn’t been that fast. It’s quite pleasant to see spring creeping up on you. My Mum and I call it a slow spring. In California, it’s hot by mid-March. There’s a part of me that says, “Okay, too fast!” when that happens.

Last month, I saw these traces of grass. Now there is more grass! This past week, I saw a hyacinth outside my window! The deciduous trees are still bare, but I see buds there and on the bushes.

Another thing I did lately: I went outside with spring clothes and only a sweater as backup! I could tell by the fact I got two compliments on my shirt in one day that other people are happy the weather is warmer. Okay, we still get some snow and/or rainstorms, but it’s not too bad and they clear up fast enough.

A couple days ago, I sat in the warm sun at a war memorial behind a library

Now, I’m actually writing this when we’re getting a snowfall. That’s April Showers for you! Although, it is good that it’s the only one to happen so far.

I have been incredibly surprised and impressed about how sunny Calgary is! Yes, you get storms, but it’s amazing how fast the weather clears and stays that way for a while. When I moved back to the US, one update from the UK I could absolutely rely on was when it was sunny. I’m serious. ALL my friends in the UK posted on social media about sunny days! I was surprised, “It’s sunny in the UK!” wasn’t a trending topic on Facebook. Okay, I have posted about it being sunny in London too. Guilty as charged. Just goes to show how unusual sunny days are there.

Health is Wealth:

One reason why I haven’t posted as often is I am focusing on my health right now. I am getting gum graft surgery at the end of April. Plus, my Mum and I are doing our own personal lockdown (again)!

Eventually, you get to the point where you start to realize whether certain restrictions are enough. Restrictions tightened in Alberta over a week ago but it’s definitely not enough. I have been warning everyone I know about the B117 variant because I also know about how it affected the UK. The good thing is I think the new restrictions have been a wake-up call. Shops were busy when the restrictions were announced, but now it’s quieter. I live near a main road and the traffic is a lot less lately.

I was talking to my periodontist’s receptionist lately about the restrictions. She talked about how if she had her way, it would be a six-week lockdown. Plus, I told her how I learned to be extremely careful in COVID-19 prevention after living in the US.

Asking for Travel Recommendations:

Let me explain. There is word on the grapevine that our world-famous Calgary Stampede is going to be happening in July. If it does, it sounds like the city will have a major superspreader event. Alberta is planning to have every adult vaccinated by June 30. How realistic is that? I don’t know. Under normal circumstances, I would love to see the Stampede. It tickles a TCK nerve for me. However, I don’t want to sacrifice my health. So, we invited my Dad to visit and go on a road trip together.

I wonder how many Calgarians will have the same idea as me?

What I am Looking for in Travel Recommendations:

  • Either within Alberta or some interprovincial travel, as long as the regulations for that work in our favour.
    • Note: We already have Yellowknife in mind. Going north is definitely on the table.
  • A mix of touristy and non-touristy places. I figure if the Stampede happens, the tourist places might be busy. Jasper, Banff and Edmonton sound nice, but I wonder if people will bring COVID-19 there around Stampede time.
  • We don’t want to go to Ontario or Quebec at this time, for obvious reasons. That means we can’t go to the Atlantic provinces either.Β 

Looking forward to hearing your recommendations!

 

 

Fifth Month Theme: Spring? What? Confusion All Around!

This is my weirdest month so far! Plus, I had some culture shock going on. Read on to find out more!

What is Spring Like?

How do I answer this? People ask me about spring, but I can’t give direct answers. The best I can do is send photos. The river started melting and I got snaps of its progress. I’ve included ones from last month to show the progress. I feel like sometimes I’m snapping the receding ice shelf in Greenland.

February 15:

February 28:

March 10, 13:

There was a big melt and we decided to call it the Canadian Slush Fund. Then it froze when the temperature dropped. At least the city cleaned it up so it wasn’t so slippery.Β 

After the big melt, grass shoots started growing! We were stroking them lovingly. I didn’t realize how much I was craving the sight of green, living things. Although, my favourite shirt to wear at the moment is green with flowers and paisley. Plus, when I went to get some clothes for warmer weather, I gravitated to ones with flowers on them. Now I know to get house plants next winter. Evergreen doesn’t satisfy my needs for seeing green, living things because let’s face it, sometimes it doesn’t look green.

What can I say about the temperature? It gets erratic. The hottest it’s got is just between 10 and 20 degrees C, which is typical for cold weather in California. Then all of a sudden, it’s subzero again. At no other time has the phrase, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 20 minutes.” been more applicable.

It makes me laugh how there’s “spring” here just like there’s “winter” in California. One minute, I am walking in the sun, getting warm weather clothes, seeing grass shoots and nesting birds. The next minute, it’s plunged into snow!Β 

How do I Feel About Snow Now?

This video sums it up. I’m going to watch comedy until spring comes back!

My feet are a mess after shoving them into boots for five months. I am glad I used to be a ballet dancer though because I know how to take care of my feet. However, I have had to change up how I take care of my feet and I am still learning. Does anyone have any tips for that? I am so glad I got a footbath for my birthday! Right now, I feel like I need a major pedicure. Recently, I saw a comedy skit that talked about winter foot. Okay, too much!

I have been making a point of staying warm during these erratic temperatures so that I don’t weaken my immune system. I will be getting the COVID-19 shot in either May or June. Yes, I have pandemic fatigue, but I keep telling myself I need to hold on just a bit longer.Β 

A few days ago, I woke up, saw it had snowed and said, “I knew it!” I said it while laughing but felt annoyed too. Sometimes, I am quoting the above video so I end up saying, “Oh F**K!!” I took a photo of the snow, sent it to my friends with the following caption:

I did not photoshop this!

And Now:

I am writing this when there are warnings for both high wind and a snow squall for the next 24 hours. I hope this is just March going out like a lion. One thing has made my month. I found Cadbury Creme Eggs! They made my Easter back in England and it’s been 8 years since I have had them! Sugar binge!

It helps to laugh at this situation though. I have heard this season being described as “After Winter” or “False Hope”. I have created responses to the question “Is it spring?” according to how certain politicians would spin it. It’s all in good fun. When you get a situation where you don’t know how to answer, it’s funny to remember people actually make this their existence. I heard this is the warmest year on record, so sometimes I wonder if I am in for a shock next year?

Some Things to Look Forward To:

Once my feet recover a bit and the warm weather stabilizes, I am going to get out more and enjoy nature. The other day, I was in NW Calgary near the Bow River. I don’t see as much of the Bow River as I would like. I frequent the Elbow River more. Anyway, I saw what I think was a hawk there! It was hard to see or get a good photo of it. Plus, I heard a lot of geese and ducks calling. The Bow looked really beautiful at this time when the ice was melting.

I want to explore more of the Bow River. Plus, I hear that bald eagles are starting to next at certain points of the Bow. Additionally, golden eagles will be migrating back to Alberta soon, and I want to see them too. Watch this space!

Immigration Was Weird Too:

I applied to extend my stay here this month. This is the first time I have had to deal with immigration paperwork completely online. When I applied for UK citizenship, I did it on paper. It was only a couple of years after the first iPhone came out. Life was just starting to go digital, but the Home Office hadn’t caught on yet. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer pen and paper.

Since my Mum and I were applying together, we had a joint online application. We had to apply to extend our stay 30 days before our status expired. It was over a month ago when we started preparing our documents. Then, all of a sudden, the system wouldn’t let me upload my application form. I tried different solutions to figure out what was wrong. I must have refilled my application several times and checked it over several times a day. Anyone who knows me knows nothing gets me testier and worked up like immigration paperwork. Every day, I reached an impasse. We tried to find out how to do a paper application, but the IRCC website was super cryptic. Plus, the IRCC has to grant you permission to do a paper application. It didn’t help to email them or call them either.Β 

I didn’t think to Google the answer. I assumed because it was a secure system that tips for applying online weren’t allowed to get posted on the internet. Then, the last day to apply came around and we were just about to give up the online application and send a paper application by courier. Out of desperation, I Googled it and realized I had ticked the wrong box on my form! The relief!

And Another Thing About Immigration:

I know six-month cut-offs for certain visas are a common theme around the world. Here’s why I hate it. It’s like governments know that around the six-month point, you’re likely reaching a low point with adjusting to a culture. Therefore, they require you to apply to extend your stay when you’re already under a lot of pressure. I knew in February that I was going to hit that low soon. It hit me when we were struggling to apply to extend our stay. Fortunately, it’s not the first time I have been through this, and my Mum was supportive. She let me vent, cry and have some time to chill. Then, the next morning, she asked me, “What happened?” That question was a great way to unpack everything. I’ll be doing the same for her someday.

Right now, I’m not ready to say exactly what happened, but I will do a post on how to survive that culture shock dip. In the meantime, I’m going to eat some Cadbury Creme Eggs and watch Canadian comedy while waiting for the weather to pass.

COVID-19: One Year On. What’s My Story?

One year ago, it was my last normal week before going on lockdown in California. What happened to me? Read on.

Before The Last Week Hit:

There were signs that the pandemic was on the way. At the time, I was still in my last semester at university. I had BAD senioritis! Plus, I was trying to deal with the rest of my required classes, and having as much fun with my friends as possible. I had done my senior thesis the previous semester. The topic was the opioid epidemic, and after all my research, that was the only epidemic that was on my mind.

I had my plans for after university. I was in the process of looking for a job. My parents were going to move to Calgary. I decided to stay in the US but move out of California because it was too expensive. After all these international moves I had done and living in countries where I didn’t fit in, I didn’t want to go through that process again only to have it not work out. Anyone who knows me knows my favourite dog ever is the black labrador. I vowed to get one after I graduated and I was excited at the prospect!

Then it all went to hell, and I don’t want to talk about what I wanted before anymore.

Whispers of A Nameless Fear:

I had heard of COVID-19 in almost a mythical sense. I think there was a certain amount of cognitive dissonance for a while. My professors said faculty had to be prepared to change their lesson structure in case classes went online. I didn’t want to believe it at first. As a student, my main transport method was BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit. Not Bart Simpson. Yes, I get that joke a lot!). During February, there was a steady trickle of people wearing masks on BART trains.

I heard people talking about COVID-19 on campus. It was almost laughable when we got a notice about how cleaning procedures had changed because of COVID-19. People were thinking, “Really? You’re taking cleaning seriously?” My campus was rather small and isolated, so the mindset was more of, the virus is “out there”. Although, when people went off-campus, they started taking more precautions. News travels fast on a small campus, so when I heard that someone who was sick sat at a certain place in the cafeteria, I was like, “I hope it’s not what I think it is!” I had been keeping up with news on COVID-19, but it just sounded like something that was heard on the news. The craziest news story for me was all the passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship getting infected with COVID-19.

Monday, March 9, 2020:

By now, the WHO had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. I woke up to the news that the Diamond Princess cruise ship with all the infected passengers had docked in the Port of Oakland. That was not too far from my school! I felt panic on campus that day. Suddenly, the likelihood of getting COVID-19 had become real. It was like in the Two Towers when Faramir takes Frodo and Sam to Gondor. The Nazgul arrive and Frodo says, “They’re here.” Even though there were cases of COVID-19 in California already, the Diamond Princess cruise ship was our symbolic Patient Zero. The question on everyone’s minds now was, “what’s going to happen?”

I overheard someone say this about the person who decided to dock the ship in the Port of Oakland. “Why don’t they just admit they’re racist?” I have to agree with that statement. I saw a video from a dockworker who said that the cruise ship workers tried to evade hygiene protocols and I wasn’t surprised by that. Was there any other port they could have chosen that was not in a predominately POC area? I wish I knew that off the top of my head.

I should also mention that I had been trying for a long time to schedule wisdom tooth surgery. My insurance finally approved it and I was good to go for surgery in two days. Additionally, my parents convinced me to get the surgery ASAP because we didn’t know if I would get another chance. I spent the rest of the day getting ready for my impending surgery.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020:

I didn’t know this at the time, but this was the last day I saw my closest friends. Plus, it was my last full day on that campus before I graduated. I had lunch with three of my friends that day. Coronavirus was not far from our minds. We talked about our concerns if classes didn’t go online. The administration was certainly dragging its feet. Other local universities had already gone online. While we were eating lunch, we got an email from the administration. They weren’t going to move all the classes online. Only classes with 30 people or more would move online. We were appalled at the administration’s response! Their solution wasn’t going to do anything to stop the spread of the virus! The vast majority of my university classes were less than 30 people!

It was awkward thinking of how to say goodbye to my friends. I said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t know if I will be coming back after my surgery, but take care!” Then, I hugged them for the last time. I went home that night because I had to be in surgery early the next morning. I took Lyft home because I was scared of possibly contracting COVID-19 on BART. My university wasn’t distributing masks, so I could only get a mask at home. Luckily, we already had a stash of KN95s. We had them for whenever a wildfire hit. It was a happy accident we had them for the pandemic too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020:

My parents and I travelled to UCSF early in the morning for my surgery. We were on BART and there were a lot more people wearing masks. It was the first day my parents and I started wearing masks. While I was waiting for surgery, I got an email from my fellow students petitioning the administration to move classes online. I signed it while fuming because I couldn’t believe it had come to this.

My surgery went pretty smoothly, even though I didn’t have sedation. I was only getting my upper wisdom teeth out, so it didn’t take very long. The surgeon had to really dig to get my right tooth out. I felt like my head was going to split open afterwards.

We took Lyft home and I was cradling my head the whole way. We passed by the Port of Oakland and this silence fell over the car when we saw the Diamond Princess cruise ship. I managed to take a couple of photos of the ship so that I can honestly say that I was in California at the start of the pandemic when the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked. My Dad made a cross with his fingers at the ship. If I hadn’t been in pain, I would have said, “Dad. That only works in movies.”

We watched movies that night so I could distract myself from my head throbbing. I was living on painkillers at this point.

Thursday, March 12, 2020:

I rested all day thanks to my head still feeling like it was going to split open. I got an email from my uni administration saying that classes were going online. Apparently, there was going to be a shelter-in-place announcement for the state of California. I know putting classes online was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t stop crying.

The week before, I had ordered my hood and stole for Commencement. I received them now and I couldn’t look at them. My last year was cruelly snatched away and I had no idea if Commencement would take place. That moment when you’re in physical pain and then you get emotional pain from bad news on top of that is the worst!

I continued to have moments where I mourned this loss of my school experience. I savoured every moment at that beautiful campus and made some wonderful friends. Later on, we found out Commencement wouldn’t happen. I still don’t know if it will happen. The alums sent my class messages of encouragement and that was another waterworks moment.

Friday, March 13, 2020:

Friday the 13th. What else is new?

Did you know you can get a black eye from upper wisdom tooth removal? Yes, I got one. No surprises there! My head was still throbbing from the surgeon digging deeply around my right tooth. You should see the other guy!

I began to feel better about my classes going online. I got some nice messages from my professors. Classes were resuming on Tuesday. Monday was the day the faculty had to test run the tech they needed for their classes. Glad I got an extra day to recover! One of my professors sent a friendly class invite that said, “Join us for puppets and fun!”

California went on lockdown. We got a phone call outlining details of the shelter-in-place order. I can’t even begin to describe how eerie it felt. You think of shelter-in-place for times like WWII in London during the Blitz or for global thermonuclear war.

The Next Three Days:

My recovery went well. I didn’t get a follow-up appointment because UCSF locked down. At least I didn’t have any complications.

My parents and I began to prepare for the shelter-in-place order. And no, we didn’t buy out all the toilet paper in the store. This was our new life now. I was scared, but now I think that fear has been helpful. Neither I nor my parents have got COVID-19. It doesn’t hurt that my parents have science backgrounds and I studied Data Science. So here’s what I think when I hear about reopening too early.

Well, that’s the story of my last week before lockdown a year ago. What’s yours?