Despite all of the health concerns and unpredictability, my family did not postpone or cancel our vacation plans on March 13. We were blessed to rent a small isolated house with its own pool in Florida, putting down a deposit a year ago for my older sister, her husband and their son to accompany my parents and me. My family is close-knit, and we relish the time we get to spend together, especially after my siblings started having children of their own. When the week of spring break approached and school was transitioned to remote learning, my family was forced to make a decision on what spring break looked like for our family. We figured we could hole ourselves up in a quarantine of sorts while in Florida, and figured we could easily avoid public beaches and restaurants while there.
The airport was empty, save the few other travelers, and dispersed about were small sanitizing stations that made my anxiety about the traveling ordeal slightly more restrained. We were all scattered around attempting to implement “social distancing” as much as possible, but clinging onto hope, perhaps ignorant hope, that all of the uncertainties were going to resolve themselves over the next week of break. The clerks at the airport poked their heads outside of their shops looking for business, but travelers were few and far between and none seemed too eager to shop at the time.
The vacation with my family was a blessing. I recognize that I was privileged to be able to vacation, though it was difficult to pardon myself for traveling in the midst of everything going on around me. I battled with myself about what the experts were advising the public to do and how me even traveling put others, specifically the older population and immunocompromised people, at risk of illness, especially since many people who have tested positive have been asymptomatic. I was slightly appalled by the number of students our age on the beaches in Florida, ignoring every piece of information that was given and then returning home, possibly spreading the virus to others. After I arrived home and poured myself back into my studies as many of you did, I am grateful to not have felt ill nor had any symptoms in the past weeks. I have since resolved that cancelling our vacation would have been the most responsible path, but since we were blessed to rent an isolated property, we were able to sufficiently limit our interaction with others and thus not be near potentially those who had been in contact with the virus.
I wish I could offer some solace in this time of uncertainty and provide words that have not already been spoken, but all I can offer are ways to be there and be intentional throughout all of this. I can give are a few of my strewn thoughts, some opinions and observations gathered throughout my experiences thus far:
I think it is of profound importance to check in on people you know during this time. First, be mindful of exchange students who you know who cannot go back to their homes and be with their families, and the students who are with their families during the shelter-in-place orders but have complex, abusive or toxic relationships from which being away at school was an escape from those connections. Check in on those students. Check in on people who might be struggling mentally while isolated or facing challenges taking online classes. We are not aware of what a stay-at-home and remote education looks like for everyone, and there are a lot of people who might be struggling throughout the quarantine, so take time for others by intentionally meeting people where they are at and navigate this course together by advocating, encouraging and empowering each other because it has far-reaching significance.
I think it is also significant to utilize accurate terminology during this time. When referring to the virus, addressing it as the “Chinese virus” has extremely negative connotations that have led to increased racism and xenophobia against Asian and Asian American people during this pandemic. I really appreciated an NPR podcast recently that reflected on this issue. It is by Code Switch, a podcast that has deliberate discussions regarding race and the larger impact those conversations have on society. This brief episode titled, “When Xenophobia Spreads Like a Virus” addresses first-hand accounts of racism against Asian people regardless of age, ethnicity, or location. I want to share some of these experiences that people have endured, as I believe that similar encounters are occurring often and with similar contexts. Asian people have documented their experiences of being called “corona,” being described as having “corona-riddled” bodies, and being referred to with racial slurs along with demands that they “go back to China.” In fact, an Asian woman from Brooklyn was visiting D.C and encountered a man threatening to shoot her if she refused to return to China. There have been many encounters where Asian people were physically attacked, too. A nineteen-year-old boy went so far as to stab a family (including a two-year-old and a six-year-old) at Sam’s Club in Midland, Texas because he “thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus.” Their injuries were posted to Twitter and swirled around online. As an Asian American woman, I read these experiences that people are facing and I have been feeling anger and frustration accumulating in my chest as these situations perpetuate against Asian people. My only advice (other than to not be a racist) is to stand up for each other. If you see someone acting in a racist or discriminatory way toward an Asian person (or anyone else), find the courage to say something. Anxiety and fear are running rampant during these uncertain times, but read me clearly when I write that it does not and will never excuse anyone for being racist. Period. Chances are if you do say something, they will shut their mouths and return to being a dark and angry cloud of racist hate by themselves.
Moving on, remember moderation is key. There are many people and limited supplies and awareness of this is crucial for everyone to stay as healthy as possible. Take what you need and be aware of the shelves’ notices for regulating supplies per consumer. Everyone benefits if you act in moderation.
Finally, the last piece of advice I can offer is to remember to take care of yourself, too. Take time for mindfulness and finding ways to stay both physically and mentally healthy. Find ways to arrange consistency and discover ways to keep motivated. Give yourself space to find your groove and avoid rushing the process. All things will fall into place. Finally, be ever so kind to yourself and remember to absorb these transitions and changes at your own speed. Encounter each day at its own pace. We will get through this together. Between the uncertainties of the present, find hope and find faith in what lies ahead.
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