Words and photographs by Amanda Diaz
Day one: I wake up to the sound of wind beating against the windows of our 38th floor apartment. By 10am, I’ve received three emergency alerts on my phone about preparing for typhoon-strength gales. It’s a sign of how weird life has become that it’s a refreshing change to be receiving alerts about something other than the coronavirus.
South Korea was a bit ahead of most of the world when it came to being affected by the covid-19 outbreak, so this is our fourth week of social distancing. This morning, the air pollution is so bad that I can’t see anything outside our window (on a good day, we have a view of the river), so staying inside is an easy choice for this lifelong asthmatic.
My partner’s work has only just started implementing working from home arrangements and it’s his first morning trying it out. As a freelance writer, I love my weekday solitude and I’ve been anxious we’ll tread on each other’s toes, but he sets up in the spare bedroom and it’s totally fine.
He leaves to attend a few meetings at the office before lunch, and by the early afternoon those strong winds have blown away the smog. The sky is a beautiful blue. I take a walk – wearing a mask of course, nobody leaves their home without one. The wind is strong, but not unbearable. I get a load of pollen up my nose from the trees that are starting to blossom. It’s strange but comforting to see Spring unfurling when everything else is so uncertain.
Day two: The anxiety I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks has manifested in my sleeping patterns. I’m wide awake and scrolling through the news from 4 - 6am. Then I doze off until my partner’s alarm goes off at 7.
A high school friend I haven’t seen in years messages me to ask how I’m going. It’s good to catch up. Although South Korea has thousands of more cases, new diagnoses have dropped significantly in the last week. As an Australian expat, I’ve been more worried about the situation at home recently. The way people have been panic buying and stockpiling has made me worry for my own family – especially my grandparents – and feel ashamed of my fellow citizens for their inconsiderateness. It’s turned into another stunning blue sky day, so I do my usual walk along the Han river in a mask. Normally, it’s just me and a few old men (ajeossis) treading this path, but more people are out today enjoying the weather with their dogs and kids. There are three tiny kids out with their dad who are so excited that they’re shrieking with glee at the smallest things (including a gust of wind).
I have a long phone call with my sister. She mailed me a package five days ago and it still hasn’t left Sydney. Probably because airlines have cancelled most of the flights going between Sydney and Seoul.
Day three: North Korea fires projectiles into the sea for the third time this month. It seems like a cry for attention when the rest of the world is so wrapped up in the coronavirus pandemic. I never thought living so close to such a volatile place would feel normal, but it’s amazing what you can get used to.
My partner and I venture to one of our favourite cafes for breakfast, driving instead of taking the train the way we normally would. There are other people there too, but it’s quieter than it normally would be on a Saturday morning. The owner looks worried. She expanded her business into this bigger venue just before Christmas, and no doubt the drop in customers is hitting her hard.
Later, my partner joins me on my usual walk by the river. Only this time, it’s absolutely bustling with people. Winter seems to be officially behind us, and it’s only natural to want to spend time outside. Everyone is masked and keeping away from each other, but it still feels jarring. In the light of all the social distancing, I’d forgotten just how many people live in Seoul.
Almost as soon as we return to our apartment, we receive emergency alerts advising that the Prime Minister has instigated a two week ‘pause’ on going anywhere but work and the supermarket. It’s more of a pointed suggestion than a declaration, but the message is clear. Winter might be over, but life isn’t back to normal yet.
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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