COVID19 adventures in wonderland

Pandemic lockdown when not at home.

This is the weirdest situation I have been in, ever, and I have been in some weird situations before. Originally, I came to the UK for a conference and a short 10 day visit to Ireland. That was the 8th March. Its now the 28th April and I am still in the UK. The plan was to return to Malaysia where I was going to take up a posting as a Senior Lecturer in the Medical Faculty of a University. So that is on hold for now as I couldn’t get into Malaysia before they closed borders, so here we are. 

Originally, I relocated from Dublin to Belfast to stay with a friend of a friend. My partner was able to get to Thailand and is still there taking care of my dogs. Another layer of complexity to the situation that many people are facing with partners being stuck in another country or location.

Being unemployed now and unable to access any financial assistance other than the financial grant through La Trobe, I am rapidly running out of money. So couch surfing the new norm. But I couldn’t stay there anymore and after 6 weeks I chose to relocate to London to stay with someone I know a little more and who wanted to help. So here I am, now in London waiting to be able to go home to Malaysia.

Belfast was fun for a while. Farmland… cows and horses to chat to, a sheep with a bucket on its head (my friend got upset when I didn’t help it… I’m a city kid… I’m not going near a sheep with a bucket stuck on its head). And George the Beagle who was very helpful. When the cows (Gertrude, Udder Madness, rumproast, sirloin, and bacon) and the horses(just called big horse and little horse) started to run away when I approached, I figured I was really losing my mind and needed to get out. I think they had had enough of my constantchatter to them. I have now decided the proper rural countryside is not conducive to my mental health.

Flying to London was extreme and surreal. I haven’t found words to adequately describe that experience yet. But on arrival to my new home I quickly became aware how much I missed sounds. The sound of a child creaming, people talking in their yards, cars going by. Being with someone I know more is amazing, like actually have a hug, despite how weird that feels right now… I’ve made friends with Alex, a guy who sits at his apartment window. I am in a courtyard kind of thing one house over, but it’s cool. We just talk loudly.

My routine has changed beyond imagination. The writing I am focusing on has also changed dramatically. I have been working on COVID related papers, a mental health survival guide for Malaysian front line and other staff and individuals, as well as the lit review and methods chapters for my research and a bunch of other things. Operating across 4 time zones have proven challenging and sleep is erratic, but I need to stay connected to people so am doing things at weird times. 

It is difficult being so far from everyone I know. I am connecting online with everyone and every platform I can find. Creating zoom meetings to help me and others, attending as many Uni team sessions as I can with the huge time difference, providing some free online counselling for people across the world, and attending Zoom dance parties with my friends from Thailand. So, all in all, despite the significant hurdles and few battles with staying sane, I am doing well. I am happy for anyone to reach out if you need a chat or anything.

Published by sandijames

Graduate researcher at La Trobe Uni Australia, ethnography, traditional alcohol, Kadazandusun Sabah Malaysia,, alcohol policy, public health and medical anthropology. We also have established a Mindfulness Based Circus Arts pilot program in a rural school in Sabah. I also run ultramarathons in my spare time. My other research interests include injecting drug use, the war on drugs that is killing PWUD, and the decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs that are currently classed as illicit. I like to keep active and busy..

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