Toto, I Have A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore
My cell phone buzzed. The GPS tracker in my quarantine app had noticed that the phone hadn’t been moved for a few hours. The monitors wanted to be sure I was still in the apartment and hadn’t left my phone alone while I escaped for some fresh air. If I was found to have broken the quarantine rules, I could be deported.
Life in quarantine has lots of rules. Our groceries arrive via deliveries; the delivery people are instructed to knock and then leave while we wait for thirty seconds before opening the door. All of our garbage stays with us in the apartment for two weeks. Bear in mind that all this comes after three negative COVID tests—one before we left home and two upon arrival.
It sounds onerous but I am surprised to find I am enjoying every day. There are new adventures in our apartment—how do we adjust the heat? How do we turn the stove on? What are those buttons on the rice cooker? What kind of kimchi is in the little container that was part of our dinner order?
Since our apartment has an entire wall of windows, we watch all the comings and goings outside and try to learn about
daily life. (My genius husband packed binoculars for just this purpose.) We can see a seafood restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a coffee shop, a bagel store (!) and, of course, Starbucks. We found a new K-drama on Netflix that we watch in the evenings. It’s called Start-Up and you should check it out.
I’m also spending lots of time planning my post-quarantine life. So far, I’ve found a multicultural running club, an expat-friendly yoga studio, a Korean language class, and a progressive Jewish group that is an alternative to Chabad.
The differences in the Korean vs. US approach to the pandemic are stark. Yesterday the Korean president said he would use the military to expedite vaccinations and might close roads to traffic if it slows down their delivery. Today, police raided a church that is the epicenter of an outbreak and brought its leaders in for questioning about their violation of COVID restrictions.
But it works really well. In this country of 52 million people, there were 344 positive COVID tests yesterday. In New Jersey—population 8.8 million-- there were 2,168. South Korea has had only 1,500 deaths since the pandemic started. The U. S. has had almost 500,000.
This means that when we walk out of this apartment, I won’t be fearful that the person standing next to me is infected. I won’t rush through grocery stores or step across the street when I see someone heading my way unmasked. I can linger in a café, go to a yoga class, and indulge in a much-needed pedicure. No wonder I’m happy.