It has been a while since I have written here, I must admit it was not an easy situation until I started to get used to it. The Covid-19 situation left a huge impact in all our lives one way or another! This is my first hand experience and thoughts about the stages I got through during the past few months, together with some shots from Valletta that marked a turning point for me during these hard times.

Getting the news

In mid January, while taking a coffee before going to work, I saw a post on Facebook about a new virus that was spreading in China. My first thoughts? This has happened before with H1N1, SARS, Ebola, Zika etc. and it never actually changed anything in our every day lives. Most probably this will be the same as the other viruses. I did not even click on the link to read the article or make any research about it.

It is spreading in other countries in Asia

I kept seeing more people sharing the news on Social Media and this virus was mentioned on the TV news. I am starting to think that I am quite unlucky! It has been a while since I travelled to Asia, and I had a trip to Japan in a couple of months coming up. However,  I did not even think for a second that I would have to change my plans. I am not the one who gets scared easily. There is still a lot of time and most probably all this situation will calm down. In the meantime, the first cases in Japan and South Korea are appearing in the news.

There is still time

The virus is no longer bound in Asia, it got to Europe. And where has it hit most? Italy! Our next door neighbour, the place where us Maltese travel most to! During the Carnival holidays here in Malta, a lot of people travelled to Italy and while they were there, there was the first huge outbreak. People returning from the affected areas had to quarantine themselves for 14 days. My thoughts? Woww this is getting close! It’s a real pity that I did not travel during the Carnival holidays, it would have been the last opportunity! The government is now advising people not to go abroad. My initial thoughts regarding the fact that this virus is not going to change our lives, are starting to change. It is close to us and people are dying in neighbouring countries! Malta, although a small island, is not special and we will get it too sooner or later. However I am still not worried about my trip to Japan, there are still 2 months to decide what is going to happen. In the meantime, I am starting to track the number of new cases in Japan everyday.

Change of plans

There are several travel restrictions around the world. Obligations of quarantine, cancellations of mass events, lockdowns, closing down of non-essential shops etc. Japan is enlisted as Level 2 (Practice Enhanced Precautions) by the CDC. I am starting to think about other options; postpone, change destination, cancel everything. This is a huge dilemma since the situation changes every day! I keep on following the daily new cases around the world. In Europe, especially in Italy the amount of new cases spiked up! A month before our departure the first case in Malta was announced. I am still thinking that there might be an option; maybe we can travel to a country where there are still no cases of virus?

Closing of borders

Ok now I am running out of options! I cannot travel in April as Malta is closing down the airport. We are just keeping our tickets on hold, until September (a year after the original purchase date) and we will decide then what to do. Now that I am writing this (two months later) the situation is still uncertain.

Adjusting to a new reality

My first thoughts about the virus were to follow all the advice I was given by the health directorate; stay indoors as much as possible order groceries online and minimise contact with other people as much as possible. So we stopped visiting family members (even though none of us are considered as vulnerable), myself and my husband started to work from home while trying to keep occupied my two-year old daughter. The only place where we could enjoy fresh air was our 24 sq-m. terrace. We were following news from Malta and all the world, especially Italy were the number of daily deaths was horrifying. All the days started to look the same; the only thing that made days different was garbage collection and I had nothing to look forward to.

I tried to keep myself occupied and do activities with my daughter; there was the cleaning stage, the cooking stage, the gardening stage, the crafts stage, the reorganising stage, etc. Mind you doing anything with a two year old is almost impossible, but I still tried my best.

Hitting the bottom

I think April was the worst month of my life; staying away from my family was the hardest part. I only talked with my parents and my sister online and once in a while I went with the car to say hello (and this actually made me feel worse). There were moments when I really felt that my life is useless and I had no objective in life. Those around me kept on reminding me that I have a young daughter to take care of, but I felt like the worst mother ever! I had no idea on how to fill the days with her; she is still too young and each time we try to do some craft found on Pinterest everything ends up in a disaster (I am sure parents can relate). At the same time me and my husband still have a job to do. I am a teacher and I have to wake up before everyone else does, to send lessons to my students, make corrections, preparations etc.  The housework to be done is more then ever, more cleaning, more cooking as we are staying at home all the time.

I cried and cried and yelled at my two-year old daughter several times and felt horrible about it. I have hit the bottom and I don’t know when or whether this is going to be over. I was on the very verge of collapsing. If this continues for a long period of time I will end up badly I started telling myself. There were even moments when I started to fear my own actions. I am not sure how to ‘diagnose’ this state, all I know was that I felt awful and these were the darkest of my days.

Doing something about it

I am usually a very positive person. I am known (with those who know me well) for my courage, my sense of adventure and trying to make the most out of every moment in life. At this point, I was very distant from the person I used to be. I thought, I am being forbidden to do all the things that I am! At the same time I see footage on webcams of empty squares in Europe and my thought is … I really wish to be there right now to capture that moment. I have never seen an empty Piazza Duomo in Milan or Fontana di Trevi without anyone tossing coins.

Wait …. Malta is also in the same situation and I have never seen an empty Valletta either! I started to think, I really wish to go and capture the feeling. Should I stay or should I go? I kept on lingering about it, as I was afraid of going out and contracting the virus in some mysterious way (the scaremongering campaign managed to brainwash my mind yes!). I was also afraid of people taking photos of me and shaming me on social media (as I had already seen it)! But I focused, going out without making any contact with anything or anyone couldn’t be that dangerous! I plucked up the courage one Saturday afternoon, and decided to go!

This was my turning point.

The photos you are seeing with this post gave me a new objective once again. Walking alone in the streets of Valletta made me feel like I was discovering a new place, even though I had been there countless times. I had never experienced a Valletta like this! Ok, so there is something that can give me a new purpose in life! Go out and see a different Malta!

I started going out frequently, shooting sunsets and sunrises and venture to places I haven’t visited for some time. I love going in nature and these are the places that make me feel good. I have no issue with social distancing, and the less people there are, the more I like it (it has always been like that). Luckily people are still staying indoors and the outdoors are still all ours.

In the meantime on social media there is a campaign against people who go out and are advocating a full lock-down, because otherwise we won’t get rid of the virus they are saying. I may sound egoistic, I tried to stay indoors for weeks and it ended up quite badly. It felt like I was wasting my life. We have a saying in Maltese ‘min jitwieled tond ma jmutx kwadru’ – something like people do not change. Not even a life-threatening virus can alter our inner spirit. Besides, deep down I always felt that going out with my household members and not meeting with other people was not wrong. But once again, the media and health authorities kept insisting that we needed to stay indoors. The brainwashing campaign was (and still is) altering the minds of several people.

Making the most of it

One of my life mottos is trying to make the best out of every moment. Although I miss travelling and I wish for our borders to reopen as soon as possible, I must admit that there are positive aspects of this situation. It took a while to understand this but I believe that every experience is a learning opportunity. Here are the lessons I learnt through COVID-19:

  • Filtering all the unnecessary information and negativism. Fake news and rumours are the rule of the day during these times; unless it is a reliable source I keep scrolling.
  • Only I know what is best for myself. I am sorry but I will take decisions for myself. People should be free to decide what is best for themselves!
  • We cannot beat the virus; we have to learn how to live with it. I was hoping that we could get to zero cases and be free again. Keeping on believing this, is just an illusion.
  • Being scared of the virus is the worse thing you can do and beating that fear is even harder. We cannot live in a bubble and this means not living at all. You have to keep a balance between risks and living your life and that balance is different for everyone.
  • Before judging, people should try to empathise. It’s easy to say shops, restaurants, travel and everything should remain closed, but I guess most people who say this have nothing to lose themselves. How many of your friends or relatives have been affected by this? In my case a lot! I have family members working in restaurants, airlines, hotels, travel agencies, beauty, etc. and they are not in good shape right now! Some people speak about the economy as if it were of businessmen and the rich; but have no idea that for example the provision of free healthcare (in Malta) in fact depends on the economy! I was among the first to think that the health of people should always come first and still think so. However we need to keep in mind, that to pay for healthcare and for the vulnerable to receive their pensions, there must be a strong workforce who pays tax contributions and not relying on government aid.

Lastly the most important lesson; I learned to appreciate the time I have with my family. My daughter learned so much during the past two months; from words she started to form phrases and I enjoy being her ‘life teacher’. We have been always together 24/7 for the past 2 months. However indoors are just not for us! We went out for treks, looked out for wildlife, explored beaches, played with sand and pebbles, did picnics and we loved it.  I am thankful for this situation that allowed me to spend more quality time with my family.

Dedicated to all those of you who are struggling to cope right now!

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Theresa Naudi says:

    Well done . I can relate to your feelings although being a great grandmother I am MUCH older than you , the mother of a two year old. You expressed your thoughts and feelings well and I’m sure many of us share them to a greater or lesser extent. In the end it is up to each one to find what is best for them. It can be hard and for some it is harder. We can empathise, never judge but encourage one another as I am sure this article has done.

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      Thanks Theresa for understanding my point of view 🙂 I hope I can give courage to anyone passing through a rough patch as you said 🙂

  • Anna Farrugia says:

    Such a brilliant article, it is exactly how I have been feeling these past months. I totally agree with you that we have to make our own judgement calls and decisions, it is not right to put everyone in the same basket and decide that one size fits all. We all need to move and express our feelings or else what is the point??? Thank you 🙏

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      Thanks for your positive feedback 🙂 I am glad that a lot of other people can relate to my experience. At least I am not alone 🙂 You are so right about the fact that we cannot put everyone in the same baskets. We just need to be aware of the risks and judge for ourselves. Thanks again

  • Marie Roberts says:

    You are definitely not alone Lenise. We are the victims of lockdown because of our age and it has and is very difficult. My husband and I have had very little or no communication with the outside world and we feel forgotten. We are grateful to all our local shops delivery our shopping because without them life would have become unbearable. We have taken to nocturnal walks as there are less people about but it is not th same as during the day. Yesterday was my worst day but it has made me stronger. Thanks for sharing your experience. It proves we are not alone.

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      Thanks for your support Marie 🙂 Locking down people is definitely not a solution to this problem as it causes other mental issues. I am really sorry for you and you too should not feel alone. I am sure you can go out during the day avoiding people as well. Just take the necessary precautions and go to less populated beaches early in the morning for example (if you like swimming). Going out and avoiding people shouldn’t be as harmful as some are portraying it. The virus is not airborne! Take care of yourself and as you said this will only make us stronger! We just need to be courageous to find our balance.

  • Roy Davidson says:

    Roy Davidson… describes almost exactly what I went through except I am 66 and resented the thought that I had been told I had to stay inside, in the winter I like to walk Gozo’s country lanes where you rarely see people, until ” lockdown” I had been going to the gym 2/3 times a week. I have been diving for 46 years and still do regularly. Suddenly I was supposed to be “elderly” an vulnerable, a very depressing and damaging thought. I wrote an angry message to Chris Fearne, who very kindly took the time to reply and say of course I could still go for my walks as long as I respected social distancing, the instructions were given to a general population, and not all were in good health. So I continued my walks with my wife, and we arranged “date nights” when we both shared cooking a three course meal, put on nice clothes and pretended life was ok for a night. These things preserved my sanity, and my health. Now I can go diving again and stop for a coffee, on the way home, so life is ok. My wife misses being able to go and see her family and we both miss our kids and Grandkids in the UK. I also have many friends who’s income depends on tourist based industries and are worried about their future, they are ordinary people (not the greedy rich some think of) from diving instructors (who earn a meagre €35-40 for a 10 hour day) people in the restaurant trade and dive centre owners some of whose income is now on a knife edge. I despair of the extreme fear motivated people who seem to think it is possible to bolt your front door and bury your head in a pillow until the virus goes away, where does their income come from, do they think the government can subsidiee us forever. We import a lot and export less the money cannot last forever.

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      I cannot agree more with every point you have mentioned! At least the minister replied with an answer that made sense. However his message could have been explained to everyone instead of just ‘obliging’ everyone to lock himself up at home. Thanks for understanding my point of view, taking your time to read and comment 🙂

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