Solo pandemic

His debut album is playing on my portable Bluetooth speaker. I am an avid fan. He comes off calm and soulful. The song is ‘Get Lifted‘ is for sure not an inspirational song, at all unless we are talking matters bedroom. I have followed his music since his first album. I even sent the first verse of the song ‘Good Morning‘ to confess my undying love to a man. Clearly he is not a morning person. I blame his inauspicious taste in music. John Legend has that mellow soul sound that calms me down. I ignore the sexual innuendo betrayed by his voice and the notes he insists on delivering in a lazy lag exposing his range. Like his music, old school movies never let us see or hear naked people on screen. They let the sunset, the boat rock back and forth, lights turn off and we zoomed out of the window. We all knew what was happening. The details left to those who chose to entangle between the sheets.

I had different plans for the semester. Everything was going better than expected. I was reading the bible, eating better, making my credit card payments, dealing with trauma’s exit wounds, I was doing the work. There was a plan.

A pandemic hits and all the plans go out the window.

I am in Colorado when the announcement comes through twitter. Mike DeWine announces a ban on large crowds gatherings. An email follows, Spring Breaks is extended by a week. Great, I needed a break and this is only a precautionary measure. Things will soon go back to normal.

Define normal again.

I am filming a family piece as a tribute for a friend. The plan is to wrap up and proceed to school to wrap up the weekend. We soon learn that there is no re-opening of school. Next plan is to get to back to the school county before they lock down the airports. Denver airport is full and TSA queues ridiculously long. We walk to the other end of the airport to find a checkpoint to see that we board in the next 40minutes or this will be a long day.

We are lucky.

One of the two plane trains is broken and we all have to cram into the other one because we have half an hour  to make our flight. This is where my scrambling for Umoinners skills are applied. My friend is behind me and we are now breaking all kinds of personal space codes. I request a gentleman minding his own business to scoot over. Again this is an Umo thing. Songea na hapo. Fungua dirisha. 

We make it for the flight. Wipe down everything, sanitize hands and under no circumstances do you touch your face. The goal right is to score some food supplies and toiletries. I take the time to journal about the last two weeks that allowed me to visit one of the world’s wonders, The Grand Canyon. There are no words to describe the sight. It must be where the devil was tossed after he was ejected from heaven. Rocks from 2 billion years ago and baby rocks from 500million years ago create a piece of art that only God could create. The light changes constantly and the wind threatens to carry selfie-takers.

The invisible captain breaks my train of thought by thanking us for our service. Can he tell this might be one of the last rides for a long time to come?

The luggage is late and we stare at each other in despair. Nothing to do with the baggage claim inefficiencies but uncertainty. We are all afraid of the thoughts and we present poker faces to mask any anxiety. Our eyes betray us as they always do.

‘Mommy our bag!’

A 6-year-old in a pink tunic squeals as she grabs a suitcase too heavy for her frame. Unfazed,  the mother grabs it from her and the child proceeds to pick the next one. The mother follows and grabs a skiing bag that is twenty times the weight of the child on her hip. We all stand puzzled by the real-life meaning of the strength of a woman. Our bags come out and my camera tripod survived.

We check Google and all the stores are closed. Even our biggest supercenter is closed with limited hours for shopping. I peak through the glassdoors that would ordinarily slide open but today they are stuck. Tired of all the panic shopping that has overworked it. The shelves are empty. I see parsley and a few tomatoes. If nothing else we could make tomato soup.

The next day we go through three stores to get enough groceries to last a fortnight. We are now officially in quarantine mode and only essential movement is allowed. It’s going to be okay. Right? I hope.

The first case of coronavirus is confirmed in Nigeria. South Africa. Egypt. Algeria. Kenya. Uganda. It is official. Pandemic has met poverty according to International headlines. The news cycle is like the reincarnation of TV show Scandal only now the directors are ludicrous politicians.

Friends check in every day. Family is constantly calling with assurance. Initially, I am relieved at the thought of less human interaction. Isolation is how I get my energy back. Two days in a week are all I need. This is not two days. It begins as two weeks with the potential of 30 days. Mixed messaging by the government is not helping the uncertainty. Markets are plunging. People are dying. Xenophobia is on the rise. India is on a lockdown leaving its daily wage workers in utter desperation. Kenya imposes a curfew and a boy is caught by a stray bullet. Italy is losing lives fast. NewYork needs 30,000 ventilators.

Is this a movie where the director is taking a long shot?

Quarantining alone in a foreign country is eerily still. The air is quiet save for a few dog walkers desperate for the sun. Cabin fever leads to my neighbor playing the guitar on his porch. He is trying to get back into the rhythm of things but the guitar will not comply.

Three days in, I talk a walk on the bike path. The sun is out and the skies are a saturated blue. Two days ago there was a flood. The mud refuses to surrender to the sun. My feet get wet as the rays of the sun bless my skin. Being tropical, I feel my senses begin to spring up. I give in and lay on the bench until the sun packs for the day.

The next day the cruel stillness is back. Even the weather is not sure what to make of the pandemic. One day we are in Spring and the puppies come out to play. The next it is raining and tomorrow will be a windstorm.

It finally sinks in that this will be one long ride. Economists define it as the worst time in humanity. Every generation has a historical crisis. Millennials and GenZ are getting served the pundits say. It will take 2 years to even fathom any semblance of our pre-pandemic life

School graduations have been postponed indefinitely. Weddings now an intimate affair. The economy is in a whirlwind. International students are not sure what this means. The advisory is against going back home because your entry back into the country is not guaranteed. This is the real definition of a limbo. Summer opportunities are up in the air. Potential income opportunities that lighten the financial burden of an international student now hang in the balance on Covid-19.

My family back home going through the shift alone. I am thinking of my amazing mother right now. She is the strongest woman I know but having me there would make the burden easier. I break into crying sessions involuntary. Part of it is worry over my family. The other guilt that I have the luxury of staying home and keep attending online school. My mother, on the other hand, has to go to work because she is in the essential industries, like most Kenyans who depend on daily business for their livelihood.

I check in everyday to make sure that she is wearing gloves. Using hand sanitizer. Taking care of herself. There is a little fear in her eyes that her authoritarian voice tries but fails to mask. If I allow my mind to worry, I will be paralyzed. I pray for her and my cousins every day. One of them is due to join university and the other is a due for a national examination in six months. Does this even matter anymore?

BUT…

Children are born. Birds sing and the sun rises unperturbed by the world’s chaos. The earth reinventing herself in spite of our turbulence.

Our lives will not go back to normal. There is no life to go back to, only reinvention to be embraced. We will rethink jobs, education, healthcare, families, marriages and any every relationship in our lives. We will for sure never look at toilet paper the same. We will know the true meaning of the have and the have nots.

BUT…

Children are born. Birds sing and the sun rises unperturbed by the world’s chaos. The earth reinventing herself in spite of our turbulence.

That gives me hope. There is a beginning that comes after we get through this storm. Another attempt at rebuilding. I remain in a foreign land that I am training my mind to call home albeit temporarily. And so I sit in the stillness that is the promised cure of human life even as it threatens our souls that are fed by interaction. Anything to bend the curve.

The album ends with a definitive silence. I cannot say the same for the stillness that haunts me.What is the cure of a soul bent by quarantining in isolation?


  1. Exciting to read! Thanks for writing, Med!

    • Medrine

      12 June

      Thank you Doc. I appreciate you.

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