Our #QuarantineChronicles series where we share the experiences of our Caribbean Millennial community living abroad during the COVID-19 Pandemic is back with a third installment!
Our Caribbean Millennial community is made up of travellers from around the diaspora sharing stories of their travels to inspire our peers to do the same. COVID-19 may have put a pause to our collective travel plans for 2020, but these reflections from our peers will shine some light on how to handle such an expected situation when living abroad.
Hi, I’m Shermaine Bolton. I’m currently a Marketing and Events Coordinator based in Richmond Hill, Canada.
Shermaine, originally from Portmore, Jamaica, moved to Canada and her experience abroad has led her to build the Just Landed platform to create a community where immigrants can share their stories or just tune in to stories of others who have walked similar paths as theirs.
What is the situation like where you are based?
The past two weeks feels like a movie as I’ve watched announcement after announcement from the different governing bodies here in Canada.
The Prime Minister and Federal Government speaking to Canada as a whole, The Premiere and Provincial Government speaking to Ontario, and the various mayors speaking to their individual cities. Thankfully their messages were not too far off from each other so it’s not as confusing as I feel it is over in the US.
Like many other countries, the irrational panic buying was crazy the week of March 9th when global headlines seemed fixated on tissue and hand sanitizers. The line up outside supermarkets was ridiculous and inside was even crazier. Of course, the news stations featured these long lines which only lead to longer lines and before you knew it supermarket shelves were empty and stores were struggling to restock.
I work for a food company so the pressure was on to ensure we were shipping out goods to these supermarkets to help get groceries into consumers’ hands but even as we did that our company president called a staff meeting on March 13th and told everyone whose jobs did not require them to physically be in the building to not return until further notice. More than 50% of our staff started working from home the following Monday, myself included.
As of today there are over 2700 cases in Canada and 27 deaths so far. The government of Canada Website tracks the cases so information is readily available. Added to that, there are 24-hour news stations that are updating (or rather repeating the same information over and over again) all day long.
To zone in closer to home, in Ontario Premiere Doug Ford, declared a state of emergency which mandated that all non essential businesses be closed as of midnight last night. His team released a list as a guideline for businesses that are allowed to remain open. My company is falls under the supply chain category so it has to remain open and I worry about my coworkers who still have to go in to work. I feel a little guilty that I’ve been home so long while they are out there. But I pray for their safety as I know the importance of what they do to ensure regular people can still get food when they go to supermarkets.
What was your life like just before COVID-19 hit vs. today?
Before Covid-19, I was going to my day job from 8:30 – 4:30pm and then doing my financial services business and working on Just Landed from 5pm-midnight. Then doing it all over again the next day. I had just started going back to the gym and trying to get back into shape.
On weekends, my husband and I would drive out to Hamilton to visit his God kids, or get together with friends depending on our schedules, and of course we’d find ourselves in church on a Sunday if I didn’t oversleep. Now we’re both working from home. The bedroom is his office and the living room is mine. This is week two of this new “normal” and I’m struggling to get into a rhythm.
Working from home is not as easy as I thought it would be and each day I have to try to find new ways to push through. I’m still doing financial services. No in person appointments for the foreseeable future so I’m learning to master Zoom.
How are you coping and using the time in quarantine?
I’m not officially in quarantine, although I’ve been home for almost two weeks. I have only gone out for essentials, a few grocery items when I ran out. And I’ve gone outside, on days that are warm enough, to get some fresh air.
To be completely honest though I’m taking this all day by day. I’ve had some really good days but I’ve also had a few days that were just completely unproductive and I had zero energy to do anything. I had gotten so accustomed to my routines and forming new routines and habits now has to go through the teething pains phase. I try to get myself moving for 15 mins to half hour while in the house and to take breaks from my work to watch a funny tv show or read a chapter of a book to allow my mind to relax. I’ve also limited the amount of time I spend watching “breaking news” as it was starting to make me very anxious.
What’s one thing you want your friends & family to know about how you’re doing right now?
I’ve been in touch with my family and my friends daily so they know how I am doing. To be honest I worry more about how they are doing than I worry about myself.
Back at home in Jamaica my sister still has to go to work and my nephew worries everyday that she will catch the virus. My mom does her best to reassure him that she will be alright. Meanwhile I’m looking at both my parent, in their 60s and praying that they stay safe.
My friend and her family moved to England last summer. They were worried as Boris took the herd immunity approach and the husband, a teacher, had to keep going to school daily while she stayed home with the baby. Thankfully, schools are now closed in England. Well mostly, as children whose parents work in essential services still need school so some teachers are still going in for a few days. My friend’s husband is rostered for 2 days every 2 weeks.
Another friend of mine is in New York, someone in the building she works in tested positive. She is in self isolation in her apartment. Thankfully, her company had allowed her to start working from home from early out but as you can imagine cabin fever is hard on her right now.
I have a friend in Jamaica who is an attorney and still has to go to work daily. She is worried about her mom than she is herself. Several of my other friends in Jamaica work in the event and entertainment industry (as did I before moving to Canada). They are essentially out of work indefinitely… This is heartbreaking. But overall, I’d tell my friends and family that they do not have to worry about me. My husband and I are taking every precaution we can, and we are staying home.
What’s the first thing you’ll do once everything goes back to normal?
I want to say the first thing I’ll do is book a trip home to Jamaica as we were supposed to be travelling in May and that is now off the table. But I don’t know. I may just do a road trip with the hubby to somewhere in Canada we’ve never been before.
What advice do you have for Caribbean Millennials who may be wary of moving abroad after this pandemic?
I don’t think this pandemic should deter you from moving abroad if you want to. If nothing else, this pandemic shows just how interconnected the world is and that even if you stay home things happening or started in other countries can still arrive at your doorstep. In the midst of the crisis I’ve seen how families, communities, companies and governments across the world are reacting, which ones are taking care of each other and which ones are focused on money and greed.
So for the Caribbean Millennial who may now be wary of moving abroad, I’d say do your research, look at how countries responded to this crisis and ask yourself would you want to be living in that same country should there be another crisis? I, for one, am glad to be in Canada at this time, even as I miss being in Jamaica and I worry for my friends and family there.