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Being emotionally honest about Covid-19
By Harry Hodge
Monday,  Mar 23, 2020,17:21 (GMT+7)

Being emotionally honest about Covid-19

By Harry Hodge

Foreign tourists in HCMC are given free face masks - PHOTO: THANH HOA

HCMC - This is the moment where I pull back the curtain. And admit: I don’t know what the future holds.

I’m a generally positive person. I have dealt with various obstacles, personally and professionally, for decades. I’m not easily beaten down.

But like the rest of you, I wake up, turn on my phone, and check the Covid-19 numbers. China. Italy. The U.S. My homeland, Canada.

After that, I go through Facebook feeds. Which buildings have been locked down? What are parents around the world doing to keep their children occupied? I have two little ones myself.

I check the account for my school. I check who has booked me to teach online.

I’ll be frank: I’ve never dealt with a situation like this before.

I’ve been in Vietnam since 2010, and I feel like I’m a fairly resourceful individual. I can make something out of nothing. I can make lemonade out of lemons. But in order to do these things, I need there to be some sort of activity, or commerce, or movement. I’ve never seen HCMC slow to the point that it has.

Not all is lost

And then, I reflect. I still hear motorbikes. I have friends still going in to work, or at least doing it from home. No one is unaware of what’s happening in the world at this point. Except, maybe, my kids. Today, they saw me running on the treadmill (lucky we have that!) and decided to throw me a surprise birthday party. Four months early!

For any of you self-quarantining, or in a government-sanctioned isolation unit, I feel for you. I have a wife and two kids with me 24/7. Before this outbreak, it would have been beyond my view of reality that we’d be together for this long, mostly uninterrupted, with no obvious end in sight. I know, for their well-being, I can’t get down. I need to be smart about it, of course. Do we leave the building to go for a bicycle ride? The streets have never been emptier. Where do we get food from? Do we cook every meal? Is it safe to get broken rice and pork chops up the street?

Foreigners under scrutiny

I’m going to be brutally honest here; it hasn’t been a good month for foreigners in Vietnam. When bars were closing, a party was held and someone who attended it has had a positive Covid-19 test. The ensuing search for people who went there has rippled through Saigon’s expat community, and a lot of negativity has come from it.

The fact that the official case count in Vietnam has been low before the last couple of weeks has prompted intensified scrutiny of cases and returnees from abroad, whether they’re locals or expats.

Now is not the time to crack under pressure. Pointing fingers and laying blame aren’t going to improve the state of things.

I’m not sentimental, or overemotional. I attack situations with a measured, practical line of thinking. This may surprise friends who read this, who may find my normally jovial nature out-of-sync with this statement. But I care for my family and friends, my homeland and my adopted country.

I rarely wear my heart on my sleeve. I have no idea how this will all pan out. I am a husband, and a father, and a son, and all of these roles impose different degrees of stress or pressure. I’m not alone in this scenario.

When I see someone hasn’t worked for two months, I feel for them. Or see their visa expires and they worry they are forced to leave, it saddens me. Or a bar owner has to shutter their windows. All of these things are moments in a historic time that will define what we do now and in the future.

I refuse to wallow in despair, or take what trolls post online at face value, or allow myself to give into anger or fear. Because my son Payton and my daughter Cherry and my wife My give me light and hope. Today I was given a surprise party for my birthday, four months early no less, because my children are so young that this whole situation has felt like an extended summer holiday. We’ve been through everything together for two months, and they may take a while to get going in the morning, but they paint and laugh and ride their bicycles. For them I have to maintain a brave face and prepare for every day like this whole thing will be over with.

I am unsure how many of you can draw something from this, whether you are self-isolating in your apartment or going about your daily business or in a government lockdown. Reach out to those who care about you, even if it can only be over the phone or the Internet for now. We’ll get through this thing, if we believe we can.

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