Gustavo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In Brazil, restrictions to business and commuting have been in place for almost a month now. Access to many public places (beaches, squares) has been restricted or prohibited since the end of March, as well as the operation of non-essential physical stores. Bars and restaurants are only allowed to deliver items at home. Public events won’t be performed, at least, until the end of the month. The bus fleet, one of the most important means of transportation around the city, has also been significantly reduced. Chances are this decree will be renewed at the end of April until May 15. From 23 April, all citizens must wear masks here in Rio. People who don’t wear masks will be fined and maybe even arrested.
Basically, our day-to-day lives have changed because traveling has become much more difficult as public transportation has been considerably reduced. I was planning to spend a month in my summer house 100km away from Rio before the pandemic broke out in Brazil, but now that will have to wait. Who knows till when? As a translator, I work 100 percent from home and, fortunately, my business hasn’t been much affected. Some hygienic measures I’m taking at home include taking off our shoes before coming into the apartment, washing our hands right after changing our clothes, just to mention some.
It’s challenging when I see some friends, relatives, and acquaintances scared because they might lose their jobs as non-essential stores are taking financial losses owing to the pandemic. The way I see it, that’s the worst scenario for us right now. I’m continuing to stay at home and follow best practices when it comes to personal care and product and food hygiene. These best practices are paramount now, especially since local public hospitals won’t be able to handle new cases for long, according to the authorities.
Brazilians have optimism in their DNA. I still see people doing their best to move on with their lives, going or coming from work, carrying on with their lives. This is essential and shouldn’t be ignored. We can use this as an opportunity to brush up our skills and focus on learning new things. The pandemic will pass. We’ll overcome it if we take the right measures and, most important, have the inner strength to weather this storm.
When this is over, I’ll definitely pack my stuff and travel – not just to my summer house. I wish to breathe new atmospheres, hit the road, see people come and go, watch the scenery pass by the window – and I’ve got to admit I’m a pretty home-based fellow.
Valery, Minsk, Belarus
Belarus is one of the very few countries where there are no official restrictions. Still, most big public events have been cancelled or rescheduled. However, the soccer championship is still on – the only one in Europe.
I have been working from my home office for the past 15 years so no problem with that. My wife now also conducts her university classes from home through Zoom. The spring vocations at school were prolonged for two weeks but this Monday my two girls were supposed to return to school. Most parents decided to keep their kids at home instead, and so did we. Official information says about 30 percent of kids resumed study. In our case (my daughters’ classes), it is closer to 15 percent. They do their homework online and there is a fight over our three computers now and then.
My son works for a big company that lends hi-fi equipment for different events, from weddings to concerts of various stars in stadiums. They are all on an unpaid holiday as there are no events now.
The biggest challenge for me it is the necessity to keep away from my mother who is 77 years old and in a high-risk group.
In Belarus, we differ from the rest of our neighbours as we have no quarantine and our lives have not changed as much as in other countries. Still, many people fear the worst is still ahead and the pandemic is still to launch a major blow later on.
When this is over, I’m looking forward to going to my mother’s flat and hugging her, taking my family to the sea as we planned before all the borders were closed and sending my kids back to school and my wife back to work so that I can better concentrate on my projects!
Indra, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
Although Greater Bandung, especially Bandung Municipality, has not officially imposed Large Scale Social Restrictions (PSBB), most people here have been trying to do so by keeping the six-foot distance from one another. The West Java Province Administration will officially begin enforcing the PSBB for Greater Bandung, consisting of Bandung and Cimahi cities, as well as Bandung, West Bandung and Sumedang regencies, starting on April 22 and it will last for 14 days after having received permission from the relevant ministry, in this case, the Ministry of Health.
For me, it has not changed my daily life much because I have been working from home as a translator. The changes that really affect me are the translation projects I usually take on have been reduced and put on hold in the last two months. Since the pandemic has been spreading, my wife, as a kindergarten teacher, has to do her work online. Both my children, who have dyslexia, are still in elementary school, have to do the same. They study online and my wife and I have to help them more in order for them to understand what their teachers teach.
The most challenging thing in the current situation here in Indonesia is how to restrain ourselves, including me, from what is not allowed to do amidst the COVID-19 crisis, such as restriction of activities in public space and facilities, especially the restriction of religious activities. The Guidelines to Propose Large-Scale Restrictions amid the COVID-19 Pandemic signed by Health Minister state that “Restriction in religious activities means to worship and other activities will be conducted at home, attended by a limited number of family members, taking into account physical distancing. In addition, religious activities will be carried out based on laws and regulations, and fatwa (an Islamic religious decree issued by the ulema – a body of Muslim scholars with specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology) and rulings issued by religious councils acknowledged by the Government”.
Despite this, there are still some members of society who do not obey such regulation by saying that life, sickness or death is determined by God. I think that is the most challenging, in other words, we need to explain to those people how important it is to obey such restrictions for not only their own sake but for the sake of others.
Fortunately in Indonesia, we have the gotong royong (mutual cooperation) spirit, as our founding father cited, whereby most Indonesian people usually work ourselves to the bone together, perspire together and struggle together and that is our greatest strength as Indonesians to get through such an uncertain situation.
When the pandemic is over, the thing I am looking forward to doing the most is bringing my family to visit my parents and relatives who live in South Kalimantan because it has been four years that my parents have not seen their grandchildren.
Mona, Nanjin, Jiangsu Province, China
Face masks are required in confined spaces such as the metro and metro station, on buses and in some office buildings. Contact with people from high risks areas or with a history of travelling to those places, including all foreign countries and some cities in China, should be reported. Parents are asked to report their children’s health condition and whereabouts to the school on a daily basis. These measures have been in place for around three months. If you want to travel between provinces, you need to have proof of a ‘clear history’ with COVID-19, usually, a digital pass issued after you submit your information and in some rare cases a negative NAT result from medical institutions.
Masks, hand sanitiser and disposable gloves are becoming my day-to-day necessities. Social distancing has become a shared awareness among people, which is not as easy in a country with such a dense population. Communication online is more often used for both personal and business purposes. I now prefer to do things online as long as it’s possible, such as grocery shopping and seasonal outfit shopping.
Our biggest challenge will be restoring the economy. Due to the restrictions in previous months, many small businesses are facing great challenges and are on the edge of going out of business. The mobility of people is still not as before the pandemic, so is the mobility of funds. People are reluctant to spend money as they are going out less and most peoples’ incomes are negatively affected.
I think our greatest strength is the rapid reaction and strong implementation of necessary methods from Central to local government level due to the unique government mechanism. China was one of the first countries struck by COVID-19. At that time, there was no experience or proven methods for this virus available. It was a tough call to shut down a metropolis like Wuhan and later nearly all cities in Hunan Province. Strict temporary restrictions have been implemented throughout the country since late January and the whole state was at a halt for over one month.
Now as more countries are suffering from this virus, we can see that China’s methods are efficient and effective in restraining the impact of the virus, and have controlled the situation within the shortest time compared with other countries.
When the pandemic is over, I’m most looking forward to travelling, especially to other countries.
LEXIGO thanks our dedicated translators for sharing their experiences. We hope it will inspire reflection and solidarity in our global community.
Written by Sophia Dickinson, LEXIGO: Sophia is a writer and communications consultant with 10 years’ experience in the public service and not-for-profit sectors. She has also taught English in France and spent a year working at a local NGO in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She is passionate about writing, intercultural communication and languages (she speaks French, Indonesian and is learning Spanish). Read more about her experiences here.