After months of heightened tension surrounding the global spread of COVID-19, one exhausting evacuation from Morocco and a 14-day period of quarantine following my return home, I have had some time to finally gather my thoughts and readjust to life post-Peace Corps.
Until the middle of March, daily life continued as usual in my small Moroccan town but it did not take long before it all came to a sudden stop. Flights in and out of the country were halted, businesses moved online and non-essential workplaces shut down.
In the 18 months I served as a Peace Corps volunteer, things were not always predictable but I formed a routine, and along with over 100 other volunteers, we surpassed language barriers and obstacles together to develop cultural competency.
The evacuation felt like sleepwalking through an action dream as I recall memories of hurried goodbyes and quickly packed suitcases, but being home has allowed me time to slow down and process everything.
Whenever we felt overwhelmed in Morocco, we would jokingly say ‘shwiya b shwiya’ which means ‘little by little’ in Moroccan Arabic.
I find myself repeating these words in my head every once in a while as a reminder to take one day at a time and remember that this is uncharted territory for everyone.
My time back in Pratt has already shown me the ways people are choosing to connect and help each other out during this period of uncertainty even if they cannot be there for each other in person.
Though I finished my 14-day quarantine this week, I am thankful for the time it gave me to reevaluate my priorities, be present with my family, and do the things I have been putting off due to a ‘lack of time.’
As someone used to busy schedules and to-do lists, quarantining was the opposite of what I wanted to do, so creating checklists in order to stay busy helped me find fulfillment in my days and maintain productivity in ways I had not planned.
In order to retain the Arabic language skills I spent so long developing while in Morocco, I enrolled in an online Arabic course, and I also downloaded the free Duolingo app, which has over 30 languages to choose from, so I could continue to learn new words and phrases.
I maintain relationships by keeping in touch with my Moroccan students and community members through WhatsApp video calls, and I reassure them that I will be back to see them as soon as possible, though no one knows when that will be yet.
Through conversations with friends and community members, it seems that people have been keeping busy with a variety of activities including home exercises, binge-watching whole seasons of Netflix, baking, reading new books, brainstorming ways to bring the community together while staying apart, and creating art in its many forms.
I, myself, have enjoyed learning new skills through Khan Academy’s free online videos, YouTube tutorials, and recording my daily ideas and goals in a note on my phone. Even in moments when I feel unproductive and restless staying in the house all day, I remind myself how lucky I am to have a house to self-quarantine in while so many do not.
With the new stay-at-home order in Kansas, I know I am not alone in wondering how much longer this situation is going to last but as long as people stay home and social distance responsibly, we will get through this pandemic ‘shwiya b shwiya.’