Surviving a Pandemic

**Drabble I wrote for a penalty graduate class in anthropology last year. I haven’t posted here in a very long time, maybe I’ll write about it, maybe I won’t. But life changes.

How do we survive a pandemic? I do not really have an answer for that, I only have a story of my own experience and my observations of things around me. The pandemic caught me and my family at an awkward time. My partner and I were in a transition in terms of family life and career. At the time, neither of us was permanently employed but things were looking up with new prospects. But then the lockdown arrived and our family was in a state of precarity. It turned out alright, but for a while the fear of surviving was palpable. 

We all heard the news of the sickness in China, of course, then the panic-buying that was sweeping the western world. I wanted to be prepared, just in case, so we began stocking up on groceries even if the funds were a little tight. We were lucky to have credit, at least. As the news of an impending lockdown circulated, the feeling of mild panic became more palpable. My child was not yet 2 at the time, she drinks milk, uses diapers, and eats mostly fruits and vegetables. Even if we stock up on canned goods, she will not want to eat them. The fear was building up as the world gets more unstable by the day. 

Our response was quintessentially middle class. I ordered bulk groceries in Lazmart, which was still delivering efficiently before the news of an official lockdown. I ordered boxes of diapers that would last for about 2 months. Lazada and Shoppee became a go-to app, ordering what was used in the household, for at least was 2 months. I ordered boxes of UHT milk from various suppliers as deliveries slowed down, trying to ensure that the child would always have her milk. I desperately wanted to find a fruit and vegetable delivery service, which I did, with an incredible markup from the market price. Everything was more expensive this way, but we were living with extended family members in a nice village but we have no personal vehicle. The extended family did not feel any fear of the virus or of the impending lockdown and they did not understand our fears. They just thought the grocery lines were too long, but they didn’t mind going, regardless. Precarity and access to resources played a significant role in the emotions and actions at the time. 

When the lockdown came, we had what we needed, but the anxiety was still there. Our child goes to playschool and was raised to take daily walks and exercise around the village every day. The sudden need to stay at home, at all times, with no school, teacher, classmates, playmates, and time outdoors was a difficult transition. Luckily, the house has a large enough backyard, and we mimicked the playground that was found in school, with the absence of slides and the like. We set up water play, homemade outdoor play equipment, and busy boxes that the child can explore. They say children are resilient and can cope, and they are right. Eventually, she adapted and accepted the explanation that we cannot go out because there is a virus and a lot of people are sick. She still repeats this and as a mother, I can only wonder how this will affect her in the future. 

I have said that I was quintessentially middle class in my responses. Aside from making sure that the child would have what she needed, I turned to gardening and baking. I planted the seeds and things from the vegetables that we eat. I ordered flour, sugar, butter, yeast, and all the other ingredients to bake bread. I baked before but not in the way that I did during the lockdown. I learned the traditional way of baking bread using yeast. I even imagined selling bread and cakes as the job prospects looked dim. 

But we were lucky. Eventually, the job situation improved. There were “rakets” that brought in the money to survive the lockdowns. The credit card got overused, but the suspension of payment helped. We chipped away at our unpaid bills until things stabilized again. I see this more as luck than anything else. I was skilled, of course, but the privilege I had to begin with, as well as the luck of the draw, helped us survive. 

Now, it is a cycle of things. I teach online; I edit and write on commission when possible. I do administrative work. I balance this with homeschooling my child, in combination with her online playschool. The rigidity of the traditional schooling approach is not helpful, especially as I have a job that I need to survive. Our schooling is attuned to unschooling, focusing on the child’s interests rather than a fixed curriculum. This seems to work as she meets all the target knowledge and skills for her age group. We still order our groceries online, using Waltermart. We still order our fresh produce weekly from Session Groceries. Everything else, as needed, is from Lazada and Shoppee. I think as part of my pandemic trauma, I still keep food and supplies that would last 2-3 months, in case there is another lockdown. I never truly want that to happen, but here we are on our 3rd one. 

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