May 22, 2020
Each week, one of our readers tells us about life in Saigon under Covid-19.
March 14th, 2020 was a day that I will never forget. It was the day that I had lost one of my business ventures. Feeling despondent, I had decided to meet up with some friends at the now-infamous “Buddha Bar”, Thao Dien. THAT infamous night was intended to be just another yearly, community celebration for St Patricks Day. Which is exactly what it wasn’t to be.
Anyone living in Saigon, knows that those who attended the Buddha-Bar on that fateful Saturday evening became for a time, public enemy number one. As Saigon was straddling COVID restrictions and a total lockdown, patrons still partied in honour of St Patricks. Unbeknownst to anyone at that point, one of the revellers was a carrier of COVID. This, of course, meant that any of the over 200 guests that night could also have been infected with the virus. Of all the people who were at the Buddha Bar that night, eighteen tested positive for Covid-19. Although I was one of the fortunate ones who tested negative, I was placed in a quarantine facility in Can Gio, Saigon, for fourteen days.
I have always tried to make the best out of any situation, so although it sucked to be away from my bed, I was with people! It helped of course that I was fortunate enough to bunk down with five friends. As most people have reported, the staff at our facility were helpful and always tried to accommodate us the best that they could. They made for a more pleasant stay.
To get through enforced quarantine, my friends and I decided to pretend that we were holed up at a hostel, catching up on some much needed R&R. As I had been working eighteen-hour days (as is common for anyone with their own business) this felt like a good plan to me. Personally, this time in isolation forced me to take stock of myself and to re-energise. As a group, we kept ourselves busy with quiz nights and fun apps, such as Jackbox Games and Psych!
Strangely enough, the real test for me was not government quarantine but being released from the facility. You see, my release coincided with the announcement of the total city-wide lockdown. Now I had to remain in my apartment for another week before I had my third and final Corona test. Again, I adapted. I created a schedule that included digital social activities, exercise, zoom, podcasts, talk shows, cooking and self-care. For example, every morning I would start with a work out using free fitness apps. Leap Fitness app was my go-to because it was so easy to use, had various levels and it synced up with Google Fit. Would recommend.
During this time I found it was extremely important to stay connected. Human beings are social beings and being isolated can be extremely difficult for anyone. Zoom parties became a thing. Reconnecting on Zoom with old friends who have moved away, was also special. My Gaelic football team, the Saigon Gael’s, had also been a source of support and entertainment and we zoomed in for Kahoot, Peardeck, scavenger hunts and GooseChase. Zoom chats brightened my days and zoom simply became my sanity.
I’ve have always found cooking to be therapeutic, so no surprise that I cooked up a storm. I explored new recipes online and, with tweaks, made them my own. I had recently purchased an air fryer which made cooking even faster and healthier. I also used this time in home isolation to re-create some of my mom’s incredible recipes such as her Sweet & Sour Pork.
Throughout, I endeavoured to stay in touch with what was happening- and I still do! As in the world at large, many late-night hosts moved their shows from studios to home filming. The key to staying sane was to both stay in touch with the reality of the situation and to laugh. While watching Trevor Noah – The Daily Show, John Oliver – Last Week Tonight, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, I maintained my healthy sense of humour throughout this time. For the record, I uncovered some terrific podcasts too, such as The Daily, BBC News, Frontburner by CBC News, Today in Focus by The Guardian.
Netflix and I progressed our relationship along quite significantly. Here are a few of my binge-worthy shows Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Modern Family, Westworld, Altered Carbon, Riverdale, The Night Manager, Treadstone, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Outlander, Downton Abbey. Netflix and I are practically in engaged now.
Being human, we share many experiences. This experience has been one of the more monumental ones. What is significant is that so many of us, all over the world, have shared this one simultaneously. I think that we deal with such situations by coming together and by enjoying things that we may have let slide, such as cooking and exercise.
If you fancy a digital meet up with me, you’re very welcome to join the WreckHead chat on Monday nights. Check us out on Facebook for all details. You’ll also find me through FEXPATS. Failing that, I’ll be found in my kitchen improving upon my mum’s sweet and sour pork!