A few short months after we returned from our Australian adventure, life as we knew it shifted dramatically. We celebrated Donnie’s birthday and even had a chance to visit our friends in Hungary a couple of times, and make a trip to our house in Montenegro before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our daily life.
In March, on my birthday, the WHO declared it a pandemic, and immediately schools were physically closed and moved into distance learning. We went to school the next day to have meetings and gather materials, but since then haven’t returned. It happened fast, even though we had been watching schools around the world take this action, we didn’t realize it would last this long or be so fundamentally different.
In Kosovo, the lockdown was swift and all encompassing. Borders were closed, cities were quarantined if the virus was known there, and all unessential travel was suspended. We were only allowed to go to the store, gas station or pharmacies. All other retail and services were closed.
In the first few weeks, we enjoyed the new freedom of sleeping in a little more, having more time together and we had some really nice weather for walks and runs in our neighborhood. We went the grocery store every few weeks, and really didn’t physically interact with anyone outside of us three. Teaching via distance is not easy, and I have found some days to be long and hard. Helping Paul with his lessons and work has been a struggle at times as well, but now we’re in the home stretch. We’re about to start our 12th week of distance learning, and our final one at that.
I think something that affected me a lot was that all our travel plans were cancelled. We couldn’t get to our house just across the border in Montenegro, which was our haven this past fall. All the upgrades we were planning on making to the home during spring break evaporated and it’s sat lonely without us to visit even as the weather has become more summer like. We’ve lost 3 months of work and family time there, and it feels a little like a dream that I might wake up from. We had a trip booked to London for May Day, and it was cancelled. We are hesitant even to make future plans for this year for fear of them being dashed.
As the restrictions here in Kosovo tightened, our time outside was limited to small windows at different times per day. We felt a little trapped in our house, so we started looking for a solution to perhaps the reality that we’d be spending our summer in Kosovo and not at our beach house. We found a new house in our neighborhood that is a little smaller, but has a pool and is its own house, not a duplex. It has cost us all the money we saved during this crisis, and so far the pool is still not operational. I am hoping we feel better about this move in the coming months, but so far it’s just been a little bit of a let down, even though the change of scenery has been nice.
So on a more positive note, we’ve had some good times in lockdown. My heel has healed and I can run again! I don’t have to go at ungodly hours in the morning, and it’s a great reset for me each day. Paul has joined me on walks on a few occasions. He got interested in Pokemon Go and we’ve been catching the neighborhood Pokemon together. I’ve also expanded my baking and cooking skills, as I think everyone has during this time. We didn’t order food at all, made everything here, and that was a great way to get creative with new cooking ideas. We have also eaten a lot of homemade tacos. 🙂 The time spent with friends and family in video chats has been so refreshing. We’ve found new ways to connect even though still far away. I certainly hope this part of my new normal remains constant. We’ve had many sunny, warm days that we’ve enjoyed outside, which would have normally not been possible due to us all being in our traditional work spaces.
In the past week or so, it feels like life is returning to ‘normal,’ and I’m thankful for that, but also apprehensive. To live so long locked at home for fear of getting sick, to shifting to the mindset of it’s ok now. I don’t think the worst has passed, and we’ll continue to deal with this crisis for the rest of the year. But I’m letting myself feel hope again. The borders will open this next week, and we’re planning our summer getaway to a house we now OWN (we paid it off this month). Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly.
I am thankful for the health and safety of my family during these times, my little one here, but also my friends and family in the US and abroad. It’s been hard to be across the world, with no idea when we’ll see anyone again, but at least we’ve all been safe and sound. It has been a roller coaster of emotions during lockdown, but at least it’s not included sickness.
I usually say that May is the longest month, but this year, time seems to have sped up and slowed down at the same time. Some days seem to be a blur, while others seem to be stuck in slow motion. As a teacher during this time, I’ve tried my very best to give my students the best learning experience I can while not with them physically. With that said, I still have a lot of growing to do and preparation for next school year should we have to do distance learning again.
Donnie has made some big moves to help our little school here while we’ve been at home. He’s been on local TV twice to promote our school, and he is overseeing our relocation to a new, bigger facility. It’s positive momentum even in this uncertain time, and I’m super proud of him. Lots of work ahead, but hopefully it all pays off!
So here’s to summer 2020, which will start in a a little more than a week for the Hales, and here’s hoping that everyone continues to stay well and that plans don’t get cancelled and that we all stay as connected as we have been these past few months!
Much love to all, j