Well, South Africa has been on a pretty severe lockdown since March 27th. The original lockdown was extended by two weeks, the government then announced the easing of restrictions and outlined what would be allowed under 5 stages. Stage 5 is the most stringent which is what we were under initially for 6 weeks. We were only allowed to leave our homes for 3 reasons: 1) buy groceries, 2) seek medical care, or 3) collect social grants. During this time no sales of cigarettes or alcohol were permitted. The military and police were deployed to enforce the rules. While these rules were frustratingly harsh, they kept people from getting sick, and ultimately that is what matters.
Lockdown Stage 4 which we have been under since May 1st permits some restaurants to offer delivery service and shops are allowed to sell winter clothes. We are required to wear a mask when out in public. We are now allowed to exercise (run, walk, cycle) within a 5K radius from our home between 0600 and 0900. The first day of the relaxed restrictions was a bit of a mess with people flooding the waterfront area and not wearing masks. So much so in fact that a government minister issued a statement essentially stating that it was really easy to go back to stage 5 if people couldn’t follow the rules. The following day there were additional police in the area to ensure compliance.
In addition to the restrictions the government has announced several initiatives aimed at helping individuals and small businesses survive this pandemic. While one could argue that it’s not enough it is certainly more than other nations are doing and more coordinated.
At some point, the government will declare we can now move to stage 3. This will allow for the sales of alcohol, tobacco, and other non-essential items. Stage 2 will allow for the resumption of domestic flights. The kicker is that the levels set at a national level. Provincial or even metro level may differ. Since Cape Town has seen a spike in cases recently, I expect we may be under stricter restrictions than less populated or rural areas. For more details on what is allowed at each level click here. At this point, we don’t know when international flights will resume. I’m not expecting anything until late 2020 or early 2021.
Ok, but how are you?
On a personal level we are doing fine. We are able to get groceries delivered and have been improving our culinary skills. We’ve been having video calls with friends and family both locally and abroad, so we have a sense of connection. We were on one such call with friends when someone sent me this article… Talk about a harsh reality check. So, after I checked my privilege, I can honestly say that we are pretty lucky.
Stay safe and stay healthy
The last few weeks have been a bit hectic and chaotic for us. We were initially leaning towards heading back to the states after several conversations with our families in the US and powers that be at P’s employer. The more we thought about it the more sense it made to stay in SA. By traveling we would be going through 3 airports, two airplanes, and need to drive through IL to northern WI. If we ended up needing to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, there was an additional risk of exposure. So, in the end, we decided to stay. Which was the right move because while we would have been able to fly out on March 28th, the President of SA announced a near-total shut down of the country beginning on the 27th. This ultimately meant no passenger flights would be leaving.
The lockdown means no restaurants, bars, or coffee shops are open. You are allowed to leave your home to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the doctor. You can’t go for a jog or walk your dog. All alcohol and cigarette sales have been suspended. Basically, the only things you can buy at the moment are food, medicine, and gasoline. The police and Army have been deployed to maintain checkpoints and patrol to ensure compliance. The SA government is taking this VERY seriously. Which given the amount of vulnerable people living in SA I think this is the correct response. I read a report last night that Khayelitsha became the first township to have a confirmed case. Sadly, some of the folks in the townships weren’t complying with the lockdown rules and now the entire township is at a major risk. This is heartbreaking because the lockdown order was meant to protect these very people.
As for our personal safety; we are a short drive to a smaller grocery store. When we need to venture out that is where we will likely go to restock. We also have the option of using grocery delivery services. We are trying one out that specializes in fresh meat. (I’m really craving a steak). Our main concern at this point is social unrest or rioting. I expect that any riots or protests that occur will start in the townships and work their way to the city center (or Central Business District) before they get to us. We are away from the city center and at the top of a very steep hill. That being said the US embassy is sending us twice daily emails on the status of evacuations and P’s employer is keeping an eye on the situation as well. If the situation turns, we have a couple of contingency plans in place to remain safe (I guess all that post-apocalyptic fiction I read a while ago has been useful).
Stay safe and healthy friends-
At this point, South Africa has less than 70 confirmed cases of Covid-19, so it’s a week or so behind the US, which is a week or so behind Europe. But the government has announced some pretty severe travel restrictions, so that should help slow the spread. There are still some things we are trying to get confirmation on (cancelation of visas, etc). On the bright side of things, South Africa seems to be always prepared for some sort of crisis. Most recently it’s been electricity shortages, water shortages, etc. South Africa has been able to somehow navigate those, so I’m hopeful the nation will be able to navigate Covid-19 as well.
My main concern at this point is all the folks living in the townships/informal settlements. They already have little to no sanitation, social distancing is not an option for them due to proximity, and access to healthcare is limited at best. In all likelihood, once the virus gets in there a lot of people will become sick and likely die.
P has been ordered to work from home for the next few weeks. We are stockpiling food so that we won’t have to go out when things get bad. But this does make me miss our American sized fridge and stocked pantry. We have made plans to combine resources and shelter in place with friends if it gets really bad. And in the event all-out anarchy happens, P’s employer will evacuate us. So, we are very much taking a plan for the worst, hope for the best approach to this. I guess reading “The Stand” and watching “The Walking Dead” did teach me a few things.
I’m more concerned for our friends and family in The States at this point. Thankfully most folks are taking this seriously and doing all they can to prepare. At this point none of my family and friends have been diagnosed with the virus that I know of, so that’s a relief.
Please check in on your loved ones to ensure they are ok.
We spent the majority of May in The States on a West coast to East coast tour. We started in California and ended in New Jersey 3 weeks later. Along the way we enjoyed time with friends and family and got to enjoy some of the food we had been craving. (Seriously Bo’Jangles open up a franchise in Cape Town). We ended up bringing back some pretty boring things we haven’t been able to find in South Africa. We also brought back a couple of bottles of Washington wines to share with some friends here. Not much to really report on other than it was great to see everyone.
There are some things I had forgotten about. The first one: The constant steam of advertisements for pharmaceuticals… Wow America get that crap off TV. Maybe if drug companies didn’t spend $$$$ on ads, the prices of drugs in the states could be lower. Just a thought.
I was was overjoyed at the volume of selection in Grocery stores. Look at this end cap of Tortillas. After dealing with the near total absence of tortillas in SA, this was an amazing site to behold.
It could have been the extreme Jet Lag combined with the oncoming cold, but I think I heard a chorus of Angels and the light of Heaven shone down upon the Tortillas. OK, so that *may* be a tad of an exaggeration… but I really missed the selection of food choices I used to take for granted.
Which Brings me to my next point, Once you spend a significant amount of time out of the country you call home you realize how great some things are, and how not-so-great other things are. I’m glad we had the opportunity to live outside of the states, but I’ll be happy when we return home.
When we were back in the states a few months ago we brought some small gifts for friends. One such gift was a bottle of Cape Fynbos Gin. Our friend is a master gardener in Madison, WI and we knew she’d be thrilled by the concept and the label art. Today she posted a blog post and we were happy to see that she has indeed been enjoying both. See her blog Post here. She provides an excellent break down of what fynbos is and what makes it special.
Living away from friends and family can make it harder to maintain connections. While Facebook and other forms of social media claim to help, they just give you the surface details. You have to be a little more vigilant about maintaining contact with some friends because no matter how hard you try you simply can’t see everyone when you are back in town for a week. There are quite a large number of friends and family I haven’t seen in well over a year. As much as I hate to admit it, there just isn’t enough available time or money to see everyone when I want to or for as long as we’d like.
For the more tech savvy of the bunch, I’ve been able to maintain contact via Whatsapp, Facebook, or Instagram. But there are others that I have only had minimal contact with. I recently found out one such friend had passed away in November. For some reason, his death has hit me a little harder than others even though we weren’t what I would call close friends. Maybe it’s the shock of finding out months later, maybe it’s that he was close to my age. Either way, it’s a good reminder for me to check in on people more than once every few months.
Celebrating the festive holidays in the Southern Hemisphere is really messing with my head. The weather is too “summery”, the sun is too bright, and rises too early. As much as I disliked the cold in Wisconsin, the snow and holiday lights peeking through always warmed my soul. Seeing fresh snow on a pine or cedar branch while sipping a warm beverage can’t be beaten.
Looking back on it, I was probably 100% ok with winter and the cold until the end of February, then it just felt like Ol’man winter was just being a houseguest that wouldn’t leave. I’m sure we all know what that’s like.
So now that Christmas is only 9 days away we are starting to make some strategic plans. Friends have invited us over for a braai ( BBQ, or Fry out for the fans from Sheboygan, WI). They are going to prepare a gammon (I’m not quite sure what it is). In proper “bring and braai”form they encouraged others to bring a dish to share. The green bean casserole from Thanksgiving is our entrance fee. We’re also going to try our hands at some other traditional favorites (My Great Aunt’s Pound cake, Pop-unders, etc).
While we won’t have snow, I know we will have a great time with good friends and that is something that can’t be beaten.