By Heather Marie Lee
By the end of this, I’d have spent almost 27 days in isolation by myself. I’d have my concepts of home confused and convoluted, my heart broken, my sense of day and time warped.
I am writing this in the middle of my 14-day quarantine at the five-star Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort in Singapore, which, as far as government-mandated quarantines go, is as good as you can get. This was exactly the sort of preparedness and protection Singapore is capable of offering that compelled my friends and family to urge me to return home as the situation worsened in the UK, not understanding that London is, at the moment, home for me.
I call this the two-home predicament: the difficulty of straddling lives in two separate spheres that do not overlap, that are each so far apart and yet individually mean so much to you. I vacillated between going back to Singapore and not, until the decision was taken out of my hands because the government urged us to.
I could not deal with the ethical dilemma that in choosing to go back to Singapore, for the reason that it was where I would be better taken care of, I was essentially leaving friends behind in the UK to what was believed to be a worse fate.
In trying to talk about this with a guy I was seeing, he said I was “too much” and that he couldn’t see me any longer.
In trying to explain to friends and family that I’m a young and healthy person who would take all possible precautions in minimising the risk to myself and others in London, I was accused of not understanding the full severity of the situation, and not grasping why I was better off in the country I grew up in. I was told that I would be treated like a “second-class citizen” in a place I have come to know as home.
Eventually I understood that unlike my friends in London, going home for me was not simply a matter of a train ride or a car journey. I was at the mercy of travel restrictions and flight cancellations, and so I went.
My days in the hotel have been one big blur. For the 14 days of our mandatory quarantine, we are confined to our rooms, with three meals delivered daily and laundry done for us twice a week. I am still working according to London hours, which leaves me sleeping and waking without any consistency. But in the flux and chaos of our current world this is a small matter.
I am grateful for the hotel room balcony, which overlooks the Singapore Strait, where all day and night there are container ships dotting the ocean like lily pads. At night their lights twinkle and everything is beautiful and bright. I think of the lives on those ships, and the lives in the places those ships travel to.
Next to the hotel is a beach and occasionally you can hear the exuberant screams and laughter of children. I can see the other quarantined inhabitants of the hotel on the balconies, but I cannot see their faces. Every night a middle-aged man comes out to the balcony to play the Chinese flute for us, and we clap for him. There is also a violinist who occasionally plays, and on one night, the both of them performed a duet.
I am wondering when this will end, and I am wondering when I’ll be home (where?).
I feel, in a hotel room, as transitory as always, neither here nor there.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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