Wednesday, June 24, 2020

How’s the COVID going, eh?

I am going to look back on this blog in ten years and wonder, “Why wasn’t I writing more about COVID and what it was like? It was quite a big deal.” I often look back at old blogs, thinking I’ll find my viewpoint or commentary on something important that happened in the past, but usually I don’t find anything. So this is a note directed to Future Kris. I don’t usually worry too much about Future Kris, in fact I can be downright mean to him sometimes. Like when there’s something important I need to do, but it doesn’t have to be done for several months, I will say, “Stuff that. I really don’t feel like doing it now – Future Kris will take care of it.” And he does. And hardly complains. But he can’t really, can he? Because Future Kris always turns into Present Kris, and then Present Kris wonders what the hell Past Kris was thinking when he procrastinated for so long. So Past Kris takes the blame, but Present Kris always has to clean up the shit, unless he manages to sluff it off to Future Kris again. It’s a vicious, but rather predictable cycle.

My last day of work in the office was March 16 which was over three months ago. Since then our world has completely changed – far more than during any of the previous Black Swans, such as the 911 attacks or the Great Recession. I have been working from home every day since then, as has Ana, and the kids have been learning remotely. We only go into shops when absolutely necessary and always wear masks. We don't have friends over. We haven't been able to hug our nieces or Ana's folks. When we watch tv, it seems unnatural seeing scenes with big crowds, or people at dinner parties, or bunches of kids hanging out together. We haven't been into a bar or restaurant. And we've explored every inch of ground for miles around during our lunchtime and evening walks. Nearly all of our time is spent at home.

And yet, we adjusted quickly and I must say that we have done well as a family and quite enjoyed the time together, minus the odd battle over personal space, computer access, cooking duties and that sort of thing. Stella has been laser-focused on her school work and has probably put in twice as much effort as she would have normally, to the point of it actually becoming a problem at times. But we are very proud of her dedication and unstoppable work ethic. Magnus has done the amount of school work required to get the grades he wants, and has devoted the rest of his time to developing new hobbies, in particular wood-working and knife-making. We have been so impressed with what he has done, and if it weren’t for the pandemic, he never would have developed these skills.

What are the long term consequences of this pandemic? I don’t know. I’d like to hope that we have a new appreciation for the simple things, and don’t feel the need to be constantly on the go, or out buying stuff, or otherwise racking up unnecessary miles. I hope we have rediscovered what it is like to live in a free country like Canada, where we can go where we want, see who we want, and do whatever we want at all times, because we’ve lived without these luxuries for the past three months. Set against the backdrop of COVID has been the Black Lives Matter movement and the worldwide protests against the systemic racism which exists everywhere, which has made us more aware of this serious issue and compelled us to analyze our own behaviors. Seeing how the pandemic has unfairly brought the majority of the damage to non-white, economically disadvantaged people, but also how most governments have stepped in to financially support their citizens has certainly brought some lessons too. Lastly, the environment. We’ve given the Earth a little break. Not much, but a little. I hope that people took notice of what it is like to live with less air pollution, less planes overhead, less traffic, and have reconnected with nature through the long walks that nearly everybody I know has been taking.

To me, this time has been a gift, and one that we may never see again in our lifetimes. Or maybe we will experience it regularly, nobody knows. But I for one am hoping that things never go back to “normal”, because this pandemic has shown us there are better ways to do things and that societies can change quickly and efficiently when it becomes necessary. And change is necessary. I hope we remember that as we begin the slow process of re-opening society.

Stella came up with this strange game the other day as we were all out for hike on one of the nature trails near home. She said, “I’ll name an animal and you guys have to say what it represents in the world.” She named off a few animals and we answered – the cardinal represented freedom, the bee represented how we’re doing things that would have seemed impossible before, and so on. Then she mentioned chipmunks. This year there have been chipmunks everywhere – dozens of them running around everywhere you look. Ana’s research told us it was because of the mild winters and the resulting abundance of acorns that chipmunks thrive on. So Stella says, “What do chipmunks represent?”

Magnus says, “Abandoned plans.”

He was spot on. Our own family’s abandoned plans include a four week trip to Malaysia, Borneo, and Bali which we have been planning for over a year. And because of the popularity of Borneo and Bali at this time of year, we were forced to book nearly all of our hotels and flights in advance, something we never do on these trips as we prefer spontaneity and to book as we go. So Ana’s been battling with the airlines and hotels to get refunds and the battle continues, but if anybody can do it, she can.

We weren’t going to let our four weeks of vacation go to waste, so we decided to instead put the sailboat in the water this year and do a trip up to Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron. We’ve spend the past few weekends working on the boat, getting it all ready for the trip, and Magnus and I just put her in the water today. This will be the longest sailing trip we’ve ever done so we are both giddy with anticipation but also a little apprehensive over the required long sailing days and nights we will need to do. I’ve recruited my brother Marty and cousin-in-law Adam to help me sail her from Port Dover to Sarnia as the first leg of the journey, then the family and I will leave the following weekend for the full trip. Our favourite traveling companions, the Henriques, will be meeting up with us along the way, and we are looking forward to many exciting days on the water. If you are not a boater you probably don’t know that the word “exciting” is actually a code word for “boat disaster”, because you know one or both boats are going to break down, but you just don’t know what the exact breakdown will be, how much the repairs will cost, or how badly it will screw up the trip. That’s the exciting part!

This trip will give us a chance to forget about Covid-19 for a little while, ignore the media-revved stupidity and chaos coming from our neighbours from the south, take a break from work, and spend some quality time together as a family. HA! As if we haven’t been doing enough of that lately, but now we’re going to jam all that family love into 150 square feet of claustrophobic boat space with kids who are physically twice the size as they were the last time we did this. We are always up for a challenge.