It was a regular Thursday evening when we received the extraordinary announcement that the apartment block we called home, would go into an immediate lockdown.
As often, my husband was downstairs picking up an evening meal that had been delivered to the lobby. At that exact moment of exchange, the strange process of a building lockdown began. My husband (and the delivery guy) were equally shocked to bear witness to all of the building’s doors being sealed shut by the now solemn-looking guards. We were being hermetically sealed off from the outside world.
On that evening a strange separation occurred that distanced us from everything that we believed we relied upon for our survival. Actually, we were not the first building to be placed under lockdown and had heard about others in the days preceding our own. This was little comfort on the first night when suddenly we were isolated, alienated and disconnected. For those who have not experienced a quarantine, this is how it transpires here in Vietnam when someone get positive to Covid 19. All the building is placed in quarantine. Without warning, previously laid-back security guards moved with an absolute air of importance and urgency, all the while murmuring into walkies talkies. The sound of metal gates and doors slamming shut was the soundtrack playing as visitors and delivery drivers, in the lobby and the public areas, was ushered out. There was a palpable nervousness as the residents become increasingly aware that suddenly their home was no longer a regular residential-complex. Now, somehow we were seen as different, and we felt different, as we were living in a no-go zone. As word spreads among tenants like wildfire and the hum of rapid-fire communication was heard from every room within earshot, emails, messages and calls were exchanged. It was the highly anticipated email from the Board of Management however that we were waiting for. In that moment all of our needs were unified. The email arrived and it explained how all the residents would be placed in lock down, effective immediately. A quarantine period of 14 days was declared as a confirmed case of COVID19 was announced. The patient, in our building, lived on the 26th floor, we lived on the 28th. This felt all too close for comfort…
My husband and I adapted to the situation quite quickly since we heard the news of other buildings hit with quarantine. We remained calm and I could not hold back my tears. There was no time for tears or fears! Our first strategic thoughts were fixed on food. Thankfully there are numerous grocery delivery-services in Ho Chi Minh City. They were all incredibly helpful and reliable. A trusted co-worker who was happy to be at our beck and call made sure to deliver such necessities as alcohol. Our physical health became a real priority and we were determined to find some type of exercise routine. We were effectively prisoners and had to improvise on ways to keep our bodies healthy. I have lived as a thick woman my entire life, however, I was not prepared to take on another 5 lbs in 14 days without a fight! Being inside an apartment is challenging and requires a lot of lateral thinking. What I decided on was to walk the emergency staircase every day, twice a day. All 35 flights of them.
As expected, on the first day my body collapsed on the floor like a corpse. Day two and three saw a slight improvement. Each day thereafter saw a noticeable improvement. Today I am stuck walking this much or more, even after our release, as I have truly learned the value of my health and my mobility. I never encountered anybody else exercising on the fire-escape stairs. Towards the end of lock down, when our nostrils and oral cavities were again checked for signs of COVID I could safely say that the guy on the 26th floor had not infected us, or anyone else in the building.
When the lockdown did end, I was tempted to kiss the ground just like Columbus did in San Salvadore!
Our quarantine only lasted for 11 days, three days shy of the expected 14 days, but it felt like weeks! On our first night of freedom, my husband and I toasted our resilience with way too much wine and a late-night walk in the fresh, cool, night air. That night, I was tempted to kiss the ground just like Columbus did in San Salvadore, but I refrained in case I caught some kind of virus!