Jesler in Freiburg
When my aunt traveled to Singapore a bit less than three weeks ago, she was met with raised eyebrows from her colleagues. “Is it really wise what you are doing?”, they asked her condescendingly. “Do you really want to go to Asia?" By that point, there weren't any COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands yet, and everyone seemed determined to keep it that way. The day that my aunt left, the first case popped up.
A jump in space though not in time brings us to me: I was in Munich, the place in Germany with the first Corona cases. Not that I was confronted with that in any way during my stay. I enjoyed the impressively performed musical “Sweeney Todd” at the Deutsche Theater in a room with dozens if not more, ate cake in big cafés and walked through Munich's crowded inner-city past the one or other right-wing demonstration and Scientology-recruitment campaign. When I left for the Netherlands a day later to visit my grandparents, I didn't think much of it. Could I really be a threat to them? A dangerous granddaughter due to my heavy travel history?
I hugged my grandparents instead of giving them a kiss - as far as Corona measures were concerned, I thought this was sufficient. Then, I supported them in buying enough disinfectant to spray anyone who comes too close and enough rice to live a whole month off rice-pudding. Knowing my grandparents were ‘prepared’, I packed my suitcase to leave for Singapore.
On the day of my flight, it was on the news: Singapore will not grant entry to anyone who was been to Germany over the last two weeks or has had a layover there. My heart dropped. This measure will come into effect starting Monday. A quick look at the calendar: Saturday. I was still on time. Within a matter of hours, the flight information jumped from the plane being nearly empty to being almost overbooked as if everyone realized that they still had two days to escape to Singapore - one of the three countries that had been defined as having acted efficiently and correctly from the start to counter the Coronavirus.
Throughout the flight, one thought couldn't escape my mind: what if, due to a rising number of 'imported cases' (Corona-infected people that got infected elsewhere and then travelled to Singapore) Singapore’s guidelines were made even stricter and I have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival? Or, even worse, turn around and take the next plane back? Walking through the airport, I couldn't stop staring at the temperature cameras that were pointed at me every ten meters, turning my legs into spaghetti.
I made it out of the airport without being stopped and asked to leave. Though every trip to a food court is stressful because of the temperature cameras that seem to follow me, one thing is for sure: I’m home. I have my family here. I know my family back in the Netherlands has everything under control. I feel safe.
Just one thing: even though I feel safe, others don't seem to agree. While my aunt was met with suspicion when she returned from Singapore, now the tables have turned. I realize that I have turned into a dangerous daughter due to my heavy travel history. And that people are showing concern.
Jesler van Houdt
UCM-student Jesler van Houdt (half Dutch, half German, calls Singapore home) is on exchange in Freiburg this semester and keeps a blog for Observant. For the next coming weeks she will write about how Covid-19 influences her normally so international lifestyle.