Life During Corona: Catching ‘Rona, Travelling and Changing Life Plans
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
By now, many will know someone or of someone who’s gotten the infamous COVID 19. I can now count myself amongst the statistic of people who has had it, as can my parents and my sister. But Corona hasn't just had an effect on me physically...
At the beginning of March I travelled to Switzerland to see my family. A 10-day trip ended up being extended to 52 as Denmark (the country I had travelled from) and Switzerland respectively went into lockdown. Any unnecessary travel was (and for the most part still is) forewarned against and borders locked down. The usual flights that zipped between Copenhagen and Zurich on the daily, dwindled to nil. Every route went through Frankfurt airport and the ticket price skyrocketed.
In Copenhagen I live alone and not exactly near any greenery. I decided it was better to stick out the early days of uncertainty in Switzerland with my nearest family, surrounded by mountains and lakes. At least in Switzerland you could go hiking and enjoy nature.
At the beginning of April, both my mum and I woke up feeling really groggy. I felt faint with a slight pain in my throat. The flat walks we do to respect my French bulldogs, Bubbles’, stiff legs and chronic bout of laziness, suddenly became too strenuous. In fact, I had to ask my mum and sister if we could turn around half way due to feeling pathetically weak.
My dad had been ill a week or so before my mum and I started feeling ill. Back in November 2019, he was bitten by a tick which unleashed a severe reaction. Apparently, of those who contract lymes disease, he was amongst the 1% who have such a critical reaction. Nerves in his brain became infected, which paralysed half of his face for a couple of months. It was by pure chance that the doctors found out he had suffered a tick bite when they resorted to do a spinal tap to further investigate what he was suffering from. Upon lifting his shirt, they saw the red tell-tale sign of a tick bite. Because my father had reacted so badly, our household was pretty cautious of the measurements the government provided. My sister and I did the food shopping, we didn’t see people and we excessively washed our hands. Ironically, it was my dad who shlepped home COVID. My father has a small office, but despite the measures in there, someone had managed to contract it. This resulted in all four of us getting COVID, yet he was the one who was sick the shortest. Mum and I were sick for twelve days and my sister, who caught it a week or so after us, was sick for about three weeks.
Aside from grogginess, I also lost my sense of taste and smell. My sister went into an apple-cake baking frenzy during lockdown and while my parents ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the warm scent of cinnamon and apple , I couldn’t register it. A cake was even held right up to my nostrils - nothing. Food didn’t taste of anything and I found myself praying to the COVID gods not to take my sense of smell and taste away permanently. Thankfully, they didn't.
At the start of the pandemic, Switzerland was one of the countries that consistently ranked in the top 10 when it came to COVID cases, especially in the regions close to Austria. So it didn’t surprise me that we caught it. Like many other countries, doctors refused to test you unless you were showing serious symptoms. During the 12 days mum and I were sick, it was pure theory that we had COVID. By the time I flew back to Copenhagen, restrictions were easing in Switzerland and my parents and sister went and had a blood test taken to test for antibodies. Unsurprisingly they all tested positive. At the beginning of August, I swung by a pharmacy in Copenhagen to take an antibody test. Unlike Switzerland they didn’t take a vile of blood. The pharmacist had to prick my finger three times before she could get a suitable blood drop to flow into a toy-like device. She told me to take a 10-minute walk and come back for my results: Negative, “you haven’t had it” she informed me. “Bullshit” I thought. So when I flew back to Switzerland at the beginning of September, I went to my doctor and let them suck a vile of blood out of me. The results: Positive for antibodies. I’ve definitely had it.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know the reason I flew to Switzerland in September was to drive with my mum to Italy to go to a detox resort. On my way to Switzerland I caught the common cold. I always do when the weather changes and the aircon in the flight blasted onto my chest and I stupidly ignored it because I was in a writing trance. Of course I was paranoid about it being COVID again, but rationally I knew it wasn’t. So, despite the runny nose and sore throat, I went to Italy.
Before starting our therapies a nurse comes to your room and extracts a vile of blood, whereafter you're contacted after 40 minutes with your results. They had seemingly switched procedure from when my father had been there in July, where they did a finger prick to test for antibodies and administered the COVID test. When they saw my mother’s and I’s igm numbers (my doctor back in Switzerland would later describe this as what indicates your antibody count) they, politely put it, freaked the fuck out. We were told to stay in our rooms until they had gotten hold of someone at the hospital who could come by and test my mum and I for COVID. Of course there was a conference going on at the hospital that day, so no one was answering the phone. They informed us that if someone managed to come by and test us that day, we’d have to quarantine in our rooms the next day as well. If they were first able to come by the following day, we’d be in quarantine for the day after that as well. Considering we were booked in for six days, my mum and I agreed that if they couldn’t come the same day, we’d go back home. At 2pm, while my mum was in the midst of teaching me yoga stretches, the doctor called and said someone was able to come by and test us. Hooray. Then two hours later he called in a near meltdown saying if any of us tested positive, we’d have to quarantine at an ex-military base for two weeks. And if we were adamant about going home we weren’t allowed to drive our car; we’d have to take an ambulance and pay for it ourselves.
Rolling our eyes, my mum and I packed and left. So much for the detox.
Once back in Switzerland we went to our doctor and got tested for COVID. On that same day, my antibody test results arrived, which indicated I was positive for antibodies. Two days later our results came back for COVID and we were both negative…so it really was just the common cold.
My common cold, which usually lasts a week, took a full month to get rid of. It was the same for my mother who caught it from me. After having COVID my mum and I also had several months where we’d get out of breath and dizzy from climbing the stairs - not a usual occurrence. I theorise that my common cold took as long to beat as it did due to having had COVID. It’s just a theory though.
My first flight when the pandemic happened was to Switzerland and had been booked long before COVID even crept into Europe. At this point the lockdowns were just starting to go into full gear, so I made it to Switzerland in the nick of time. My flight managed to be cancelled and rescheduled the day before flying as restrictions started to set in.
When I decided to finally leave Switzerland and go back to Denmark, the only route to Copenhagen was through Frankfurt. Zurich airport was a ghost town; I’ve never experienced anything like it. Duty Free was closed down, restaurants and kiosks closed. When I took my seat at the gate I could look down the long hallway for all the other gates and it was just dark. When I landed in Copenhagen, it was the same. So quiet and abandoned. When we got to baggage claim, personel made sure everyone stood on the stickers marking how far apart to stand and that we kept our masks on. Police was also on hand to make sure everything remained in order.
On the flight to Frankfurt one was not required to wear a face mask, but as soon as you made it to Frankfurt you had to wear one. As many will know, masks are now standard practice in just about every airport.
Admittedly I’ve flown quite a bit during these times. I managed to go through Zurich and Copenhagen airport a few more times and witness various small shops and restaurants open before duty free, as well as the other shops, finally opened. The only plus about duty free being closed for so long was that when Copenhagen finally opened up again, the Lindt chocolate bunnies were on sale. Usually costing DKK 80, they’d been slashed down to DKK 20…I bought three and ate one on the plane. Pure bliss.
I’m open and honest about my travelling. I don’t see many people (that’s because I never have, it’s not part of COVID lifestyle) and they’re all aware of my movement and make the decision whether they want to see me or not. I respect anyone’s choice to remain vigilant and remarkably reduce the amount of people they see. Especially if they are in the risk category.
What’s been interesting about travelling has also been experiencing the varying degree to which governments have responded. For the most part it’s all the same. In Switzerland the rules vary from canton to canton. For example, in Zurich you have to wear a face mask when entering shops, while that's being introduced to Zug now, it wasn't the case while I was there. In Copenhagen you now have to wear a face mask when entering a café/restaurant/bar and can only take it off once you’re sat. You don’t have to do this in Switzerland. I had the pleasure of going to Sweden last weekend. It’s as if COVID hasn’t happened. The overkill of disinfectant that many of us have become accustomed to, isn’t there. I was in several shops and most of them didn’t have any disinfectant as you entered. Facemasks on public transport isn’t required either. I sorely regretted inhaling my sandwich while my train was still in Copenhagen as I didn’t know that once we were over the border, we could remove our masks. Don’t worry, on both train rides I had the whole row to myself.
COVID’s personal effect
It’s not so much the illness itself that has caused a change within, rather it’s the measures governments take. The continuously changing guidelines, lockdowns and countries being added and eliminated from quarantine lists makes having my closest family abroad tricky. I’m lucky that Switzerland is easy to get to, but my brother in Toronto…not so much. While I was home during the worst part of lockdown, I realised how important it was for me to be close to them and to my four-legged fur baby (Bubbles). How much I actually miss life in Switzerland and that if the world decides to close it’s borders, I want to be where my immediate family is.
It also forced me to reflect on the past 10 years. I’ve bounced around since I was 18. My storage locker at my apartment in Copenhagen is miserably empty, while everyone else’s is chock full. To me, it resembles my non-committal mind when it comes to relocating. I never trust I’ll be there for long so I don’t collect, I don’t ever really settle at the place I stay. For someone who loves structure, that’s quite an unsettling feeling. This year, my music career has started to take off. I’m not in a state of mind where I want to settle in a house, or with someone, but I do want a permanent home base to return to after traveling. And that place for me is Switzerland.
So I’ve terminated my lease here in Copenhagen and I’ll be moving back to Switzerland at the end of November.
Life is uncertain, but I think the best thing one can do is to adapt to the ebb and flow of the changing government rules (to "change" in general really). Don’t waste your energy harping on about how things once were; we are no longer there. Even when my mum and I had to drive back to Switzerland after less than 24 hours in Italy, there was no sour mood. We understood that such is life right now and instead focused on the beautiful scenery we got to drive through. So
breathe and try to enjoy the ride.