We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Lucy Nyoro, Kenya

Its 6:48pm and I’m in town. It’s the first week of curfew and it’s serious. I’m from checking up on a friend of mine who’s going through a hard time, and I’m thinking that should count as important. People are running around town trying to beat the time, the police sirens sound and it’s like an awakening even to those who seemed a little reluctant. I will beat the curfew, I’m sure of that, because I have walked this same distance for months now. But you don’t just walk when everyone is running, so I start pacing. A police officer is walking towards his car and as he opens the door, I am passing by and he asks if he can drop me home. Of course I say no, because mama said don’t talk to strangers and that is always the first instinct with strangers. He insists, but so do I, and that is where my running begins. I’m trying to keep calm and not panic with all the chaos, but it’s harder when there’s nothing normal about what’s going on. Moi Avenue is deserted; no cars, no people, all clubs and restaurants closed, and it’s eerily quiet, so I keep running. Haile Selassie Avenue is deserted too, but as a Mercedes Benz with a police officer, I assume, since its windows are rolled up, zooms past me into the distance with sirens on, I relax a bit. I take one stupid video, say a few things and think to myself, “If by any chance I die on the street, those who know me will know my voice.” Then I’m running home again. I get to my house on time, like I knew I would. I even have some minutes to spare with all the running. I’m not sure I make dinner that day, although I feel somewhat relaxed that my body wasn’t stuck in a room for a whole other day.

The effect isn’t long-lasting though. And soon enough I need to leave the house again. I’ve had a whole day indoors. I’m trying to keep myself distracted on social media. I can’t focus enough to watch a movie or read a book or cook. So I need something that doesn’t need all that much attention. I’m flipping through Facebook and twitter and instagram, sometimes Whatsapp. Soon enough its evening, and I’m worried that it’s going to be a long night. I’m not sure if I’m worried about something in particular or just everything. So I take a really long cold shower, dress and go for a walk. I take a route I’ve never taken before. I have two hours until curfew, but really, it’s not that important at the moment. I play some music and walk. Lower Hill, to Upper Hill, through some routes I’ve not taken before. I know I’m not very good with specific directions, so I’m relying with my instinct and general direction knowledge that I will be able to make it in time. Its calming, liberating and I just walk in the middle of the road and sing. Calm down, I’m not trying to get hit by a car; the road is literally deserted thanks to curfew and lockdown. Again, I’m home just a minute before curfew. Walking back home, I had so many people offering a ride. I cannot decide whether humanity is just stronger now, or maybe there was just someone who thought this would be the best opportunity to kidnap someone and lock them up in the basement of their house, so just like my mum taught me, I pass, with a full on smile. I love to smile.

Days have started fading into each other and I have to constantly check my phone to see what day it is. Last Sunday, I was talking to my mum while pacing up and down outside the hospital, and she told me how they had a service at home before going to work. That’s my mother. She’ll work even on days she should rest, she’ll work when everyone else is too tired to keep working. She’ll work on Sunday after church and say Jesus said not to leave a donkey in the pit simply because it’s Sabbath. As I start to write this article, its Monday night. I don’t actually write, I just turn on my laptop but the temptation to have a chat with my best friend even after we’ve spent the whole week and the one before that together is more enticing. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but then again, I love to chat too, so I leave my laptop on the floor in the living room and go to bed. I’ll get up early, I tell myself, or maybe, I won’t actually fall asleep and I’ll sip some soda, assume its wine and write with the illusion of a page-turning fantasy. Instead, my body betrays me and I end up deep asleep. I do wake up, sometime in the middle of the night and sometime just before morning light. In both times, I have no idea what woke me up, but I have a feeling I was not having a pleasant dream.

On one of the early days, just before the borders closed, my best friend and her mum were travelling back from India. I went to the airport to pick them up, together with her sister, dad and uncle. We drove home together, and the most disappointing bit was that the only way I could show them love was not to hug them, and I love hugs. I couldn’t even shake their hands, it was all Namaste as if we were preparing for a yoga workout session.

I spent days indoors, not leaving the house except to grab a few fresh vegetables for dinner. I was working then, so it was a little easier for me. There’s nothing quite like working in a sleeping gown. But I get tired of routine. To make matters worse, I was reading about the Spanish flu and somehow, I knew it would be a long time before I could see my family again. So, I talk to them every day. My mum has a routine of calling me every day, and even as everything changes, that has remained a constant. In more ways than she’ll ever know, she has gotten me through tough days just by hearing her voice on the other end of the line and knowing that even as everything changes, her love never did.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of quarantine with my best friend. On a normal day, we would be playing dress up, I’d be her make-up muse, we’d dance to random songs playing loudly in the speaker, making a new recipe and catching up on all we’ve missed in each other’s life. But this time has not been a normal day at all, and it’s not an easy time either. She jokes that she’s been in quarantine for six months, or maybe it’s not a joke. But then again, that’s her story. We’ve been in and out of hospital in this period, and I have come to hate neutral soothing colors: light blue, beige, light green…I’m sure I don’t want to see those colors in my house, ever. They’re not a bad choice, but every time I see them, I remember looking at a hospital wall, trying to detach myself from all the pain and suffering around me, because there is nothing I can do to ease it, and I don’t want to experience that. Being in a cancer center and watching the patients’ faces with little radiance, I try to imagine, how radiant they must have been once. I look at their family members and how tired their faces look, and suddenly I’m overwhelmed with the need to cheer everyone up. I want us to sing a song in the hallways of this hospital, I want us to shout and dance like this is the only moment that counts, because truly, it is the only moment we can be sure of. I want to hug everyone, and tell them everything will be okay, but I don’t know that and corona has said no hugs. So I stare at the wall; beige, light blue, light green…until it’s our turn to see the doctor, or time to leave again.

I have learnt to appreciate technology lately. I’m not exactly a fan, so you won’t find me with the latest model of everything in my house, but I have learnt to appreciate the little things that are no longer so little or irrelevant. At least once every week, I see some of my friends I haven’t seen in a while. Seeing them all together is different in a way from seeing one at a time. And so, thanks to zoom, I can do that. It’s a safe space. We talk, we plan, we share we play games and we laugh. For two hours or so, we experience the feeling that we’re all together and nothing much has changed.

When you’re stuck in a place with no hope of leaving soon, you need something to look forward to, something that gives you reason to wake up, but then, I guess that’s every day of life. So, I found something to do that did not entail me cooking food for myself. Before lockdown, I was working on, together with other committee members, bringing Amazing Minds Africa to UON. With corona, other than studies coming to a standstill, and everyone finding a way to cope, other projects came to a standstill too. We agreed as a team to find a way around corona, because now more than ever, our mental health was at stake. That’s how we started virtual buddy groups on zoom. And in more ways than one, this move has been life-changing.

Quarantine and lockdown is not exactly a good thing. It is tough, it makes you feel desperate, but it’s also made me appreciate the little things. I have learnt to appreciate moments. And celebrate small victories, like finishing work on time, going for a walk or a drive, sitting outside in the sun, watching the stars and most importantly good health. I have learnt to be thankful that I can hold my breath and smell roses, that I can taste wine and that I can enjoy a good song without pain in my lungs or stomach. And more than anything, I have learnt that we need each other, appreciate each other and be thankful for little things.

We’re excited to host young guest bloggers on the Young People Today site for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for their stories!

Written by Kariuki Mbuthia NAKURU, KENYA

Life has taken rather an unusual turn by the expectations of most people world over since the invasion of this formidable enemy that has rubbished most of the security global security measures. An enemy that is no respecter of national boundaries, international waters nor airspaces.It has ravaged through the globe and gluttonously claimed life indiscriminately and now normal is what we are craving for. But we can say that this has not completely taken us by surprise especially for the lovers of fiction movies like myself. I have watched quite a number of movies with apocalyptic themes. Top on my list is The last ship – a series that almost  depicts our current situation ,where the world ills from a pandemic that kills more than half the world’s population and the remnant remain in conflict between those who survived the disease due to natural immunity and those that never contracted the disease for they never got exposed. This clearly shows film makers had seen such a thing coming. It has also been said that the only revolution that was yet to happen was a biological revolution and here we are.

Talking of craving for the normal may seem like an understatement actually considering what it means. We all agree that we want to go back to our lives, to our routine. Having a well laid out plan for the whole day, whole week and consequently the whole year. The uncertainty that has befallen humanity is just too much a change. Ghost towns is the new normal that we have refused to come to terms with. The villages are no better!

In most African countries the villages are home to the elderly who can’t stomach the hustle and bustle of the urban settings and Kenya is no different. Just like many other students around the world I can’t be at school due to the obvious reasons –physical distancing which so far remains among the few weapons in our arsenal that are working against COVID-19. Furthermore schools must be available for the makeshift hospitals in case the worst comes to the worst and hospitals are overrun. Now I am in the village. In the first few days all I did all day long was following up the news in both local and international media .It was doing more harm than good! Within the first week of staying at home I had done some panic shopping because it seemed like lockdown was imminent  ironically it’s been more than a month now, all I had bought is spent and yet we haven’t gotten to that point. You see, that is what over consuming news can do! Making rush decisions and adding to the mental torture that most of us are already going through. Myself I have resulted to watching the prime time news only and keeping myself busy throughout the day. The onset of the long rains comes with a whole bee hive of activities in my place for it means the planting season. The past two weeks have been extremely busy for my mother, brother and I. We now have to do all the work by ourselves because farm hands are not very available. Most of them are not willing to move around working for the fear of contracting this virus.

It goes without saying that mistrust is all over especially in the villages where the old folk dwell. It is in the public domain that the virus is harsh to the elderly and they have all the reasons to be afraid considering what is happening in Europe with the aging population. To me this a blessing in disguise for it would be extremely difficult to deny my neighbours work and it would be even more difficult to exercise social distancing with workers around. With all this work I can now put my mind to rest and my muscles to work.

Yeah that is how it works here, with manual work the brain does so little! I don’t realize the passing of time either and without realizing it evening comes I eat, feed my dogs, watch some news that I seldom follow to the end before drifting off to slumber.

I never thought I would be able to appreciate this kind of life but you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have, furthermore every cloud has a silver lining and it is not very wise to punish myself over things I have no control over. I have always wanted to plant trees in the farm and around the compound I realized this might just be the right time. With the rains here with us in plenty and lots of time to myself .I have just finished planting over a hundred trees .A hundred and five to be exact and another lot of a hundred and ten are waiting for more land to be prepared.

I have also had something for apiculture (Bee farming) for quite some time but I have been preoccupied and distracted by lots of other activities. I now have a single bee hive .I guess this project among other activities around here will keep me sane until the end of this pandemic. It is import for all the young people around the globe to use this time to execute those ideas they have been shelfing each other time for lack of time and avoid too much news. We should just do as we are instructed and all will be well. For some it might feel like house arrest but for others they see it as ample time to release pressure. Let us try be the latter. It is also very important to note that our mental health will be put to test during this trying time and if we do not be careful enough we might breakdown. “We might be apart but not alone” I know it’s almost a cliché now but doesn’t make it any less true. I believe this is the time to fortify oneself with tones of positive vibes. We have social media, let’s use it to remain connected share our greatest worries and hopes and we shall surely sail through and tell the story together post CORONA.