“There’s a disease going round. But you’ll be fine. Just wear your masks, wash your hands and be careful.”
We all turned to look at one another. It was just a flu, right? It couldn’t be that bad. None of us gave it a second thought.
“Don’t forget to come for class tomorrow”.
I groaned inwardly. School was good…but sometimes I really wish I could meet the person who started the whole school idea. I had a few questions to ask him.
As I walked back home, I took in the lovely weather. It had been raining all week and the sunshine was a nice change. Time really flew over here especially because things had become routine for me. Wake up, pray, brush my teeth, exercise, bath, look for the next three shirts I could wear so the weather won’t make me numb by the time I reached class, sit through class, wait for the break, check what’s happening on social media, back to class, study, come back home, eat, sleep…..that was basically the story of my life.
At least I got to see other people…I got to give some of the friends I had made an occasional hug, could at least go and sit at the park nearby and take a few photos. I could even hold the shopping basket without being conscious of any pathogens.
Little did I know all that was going to change…
“Did you hear? The number of infected people has increased.”
I tried to remain calm. I mean, God wouldn’t safely bring me to another country only to have me killed by a virus, right? At least classes were going on as usual. But now whenever someone coughed or sneezed, they were sure to get a questioning glance. Hand sanitizers had become more common. Table surfaces were thoroughly cleaned before we put our books, bags, laptops or phones on them. People were even leaving sitting spaces between them as a precautionary measure. But life was still going on.
I closed the news page. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The number of cases was rather increasing and most of the headlines were pretty discouraging. “Maybe I should stop reading the news”. I contemplated, but how do I balance avoiding negative news with not being ignorant? It was alright anyway; even if I didn’t read the news, people’s WhatsApp statuses kept me updated.
I was thinking about my loved ones back home, but they were even more worried about me.
Before long, the question “Hope you’re keeping safe?” became a daily anthem. It warmed my heart though, that people far away were still thinking of me. Aside washing my hands, observing good hygiene and praying, there was nothing else I could really do.
“When are we going to stop class?” the conversation grew louder. Other schools were beginning to close down. No school? That could actually be fun I thought. Imagine waking up, going to class online in the comfort of your bed with some good Wi-Fi. That was the dream, right?
Before long, we were asked to stop coming to class. For the first few days it was every student’s dream (unless you’re a serious student like me…. not!) but with time it got boring. I then realized how important it was to be able to say hi to a classmate, to be able to share our weekend experiences, to be able to pass the attendance sheet to someone and smile, to be able to pass through the city centre and look at the things on sale. To be able to open the door without calculating how to do so without using my fingers. All that, gone!
I cast my mind back to the last outing I had with my friends. If I had known that was going to be the last time for a long while, I’d have savoured every moment….
“Breaking news…. a national lockdown has been declared to help curb the spread of the virus.”
I had to stock up. I wasn’t sure how long this was going to last…but if I at least had my faithful gari, some rice and maybe pasta, I should be okay at least for the next few weeks. I hit the grocery store, forgetting that everyone else was thinking like me. Water…I got that. Fruits, check. I headed casually to the pasta section and couldn’t believe my eyes…it was empty!
“What?” I exclaimed in confusion.
Pasta? Okay, what about rice? Gone! Beside myself with surprise, I started to laugh, shaking my head. I had underestimated the whole situation.
“We need to get some t-roll”, I heard someone say as she passed by with her family.
“T-roll”, I wondered. That could come in handy…it never hurt to stock up anyway.
I confidently headed to the t-roll section…. that too was empty! T-roll? (I’m still trying to figure out what the reason was…so please let me know if you have any ideas.) It had been limited to two packs per person but someway somehow, the shelves had still been cleared.
Bagging the things I had managed to buy, I headed home…. this was going to be a long lockdown!
#stayhome #staysafe #lockdown
Before long these had become popular hashtags, and very necessary ones too. Gathering some confidence, I decided to go out and see if I could get a few more essentials. The street was dead silent, not a single person in sight. It felt quite odd…the buzzing city had become a ghost town.
For a second, I thought I was doing something wrong and quickly glanced around to see if any officer was coming to query me for coming outside. I just needed some fresh air, plus a few more groceries won’t hurt.
“Just 15 minutes”, I reasoned with myself and headed towards the grocery store. Boy was I wrong! Immediately I saw the queue outside the shop in the name of social distancing, I knew it was going to be a long day. As I moved from shop to shop, I realized just how much I had taken the little things for granted. I missed the days I could grab anything I wanted and go to the checkout in a matter of minutes. This time around, shopping had become a treasure hunt with a very low chance of finding what I needed. I entered another shop.
“Excuse me, do you have rice?”
“Oh yes we do!”
“Finally,” I heaved a sigh of relief as I walked towards the aisle they had shown me. I got there and looked up and down the aisle…. nothing.
Confused, I walked back to the attendant. “Excuse me, where did you say the rice was?”
“Right there, love” the attendant said matter-of-factly and went back to his job. Not wanting to be a nuisance, I tried to follow the direction he had pointed out, hopeful that I’ll be successful this time. I got there and I saw rice alright! It was a small plastic pack of cooked rice.
“Ah!” It took all my willpower not to exclaim.
Cooked plain rice? My proud Ghanaian self was not looking for cooked plain rice. I was looking for rice I could keep and do with it anything I wanted, whether jollof, ‘dada-ba’ waakye, curry rice, fried rice, even omotuo (rice balls). Not cooked plain rice! Trying not to make my irritation obvious, I walked out of the shop.
Dear rice, come to me….
(to be continued 😉)