My Experience of 14 Days in Quarantine
I was sent to a quarantine facility in Hanoi Vietnam. Day 3 at this stage and 11 still to achieve. I recalled the Desiderata. I had discovered this inspirational poem when very young and reflected upon its words.
It was a long 35-hour journey back to Hanoi where my husband and I live. I had intended to be overseas for some time with family. I thought carefully whether I should return earlier to Hanoi before developments of a lockdown should occur either in Vietnam or my homeland. I decided to travel March 20, having being told by the Embassy I would need to self- isolate in Hanoi for 14 days.
On arrival, myself and another westerner were singled out of the immigration line to have our passports checked. We both had relevant visas and were told immediately we were to be quarantined and given orders to collect bags and board a bus along with other passengers. We were then taken to an old student quarter which had been converted to a quarantine centre. It was situated on the outskirts of Hanoi. Our passports were taken and kept by authorities
It was evening when I was taken to the dormitory. There were bunks and a small figure in one of the beds. It was dim and I could feel tears streaming down my face. It was difficult to unpack in the dark but I had a small torch (flashlight) and that was handy. It was then I discovered there was no mattress on the bunk bed or pillows, sheets or blankets, towels, soap or toilet paper. Nor was there a fridge, TV, air-con, washing facilities or WiFi in the building. The 2 washbasins didn't have a pipe below the basins so the basin water ran over the tiles until it found the drain. Although mould covered the walls, the shower in the toilet room had very hot water. As I was settling for a cold night 3 other quarantine's arrived.
The wait was a long time outside quarantine barracks before being taken to our room. The men and women were separated into lines. Couples and families were kept together. I quickly asked my western traveller to please call my husband and let him know what had happened and to top up my Vietnam sim card so I could have phone contact. This was done and my husband and I were in contact later that night. The following day a large box was delivered to me by the guards. It was from my husband and contained many of the basic things I needed especially blankets and a pillow.
On the second day, I had face time contact with my husband. My 4 student roommates spoke English and helped hook up WiFi for via hotspot on my phone. I did not know this could happen so it was marvellous and suddenly I could watch Net Flix, write letters to my friends and check up on news.
I started a daily ritual of cleaning the floor and sorting things and taking showers when possible. I did some daily stretch classes from internet programs. I made a yoga mat from the delivery boxes. Afternoons were for Netflix and new reads. My roommates napped a lot and I face- timed family and text friends.
We all had the virus swab test ... throat and nose. We also had two body temperature checks throughout the day and we would line up and the beam would aim at our foreheads and then 'thumbs up' At this stage my husband was on his own in our apt in Hanoi and our two adult children were in lockdown or self-isolation, both in different overseas countries
I wondered if Daniel Craig (James bond) might be planning a rescue but this was just in my dreams.
Day 5 in quarantine and no real conversation from my roommates unless I asked about something but the quietness suited and there is never a complaint. I am grateful for that. I don't really know what they felt as their faces never showed their thoughts. But in saying that, there were a few giggles between them and they filled their days with mobile chatter, viewing laptops and napping.
Three meals arrived daily and it was often a repeated menu. Our collection of meals was left on a table outside each room. There was a very loud bang on the door when delivery occurred. It almost scared me. Meals were prepared by Air Catering and tasted like budget airline food but, much to my delight, came with little sachets of butter, something I love. The standard tray had a small salad, a container of white rice, a veggie (bok choy) and some sort of protein. It was not desirable so I'd leave it for the seemingly hollow legged young student boy across the hallway. We were confined to the room and the door opened only on a few occasions throughout the day. There was a small balcony off the room which was wonderful to have. We hung washing there and we could look out at the distant world
The only other time the 'knock' occurred was for a personal delivery parcel from family. Just one box was allowed per delivery containing only safe packaged food. For example, no cooked food or rice cookers for people to make meals in the room as there was concern that food poisoning may occur. Also, a restriction of one box per delivery per person because, at the beginning of the quarantine days, families were sending in massive boxes of items, in which one actually included a fridge.
I received another parcel from my husband. I had asked for cheese, among other foods, that I could keep without a fridge. He sent me a baguette, cheese, tomato and cucumber so I could enjoy it for a day or so. The baguette was already drying by the time it reached me. Feeling a little disappointed I realized that 'necessity is the mother of invention' and to improve the problem I successfully made cheese and tomato toasties using ... wait for it ... my hair-straightening iron. Genius eh?!?. Did a superb job and reached 220 deg. It made perfect toast too. I cut the baguette into rounds and voila ... I had toast slathered with the butter I had saved from the tray along with the marmalade my husband sent.
Day 11 ... and another day begins early. A couple of loud bangs on the door and I know that breakfast has arrived and placed in the corridor for collection. Sometimes a bread roll with something in it - still I left meals for the hollowed legged guy across the hallway. My stash of muesli was holding out along with long-life milk, crackers, cheese and some butter. Additionally, I had jam and peanut butter some apples and oranges and one can of baked beans, which I was saving for when there seemed little else.
March 30 was my birthday. Apart from lovely messages from friends and family, I had a marvellous 3-hour Zoom video call with my husband and children. We laughed a lot and had stories to tell and it was a fun reunion.
A wee bit more conversation had occurred with roommates but I still didn't know their names. So weird, as we had already roomed together for 11 days. They remained mostly to themselves and I remained lucky to have such a bunch. They had lovely smiles which they gave without a word. I had two visitors. Lucky me! First, a cockroach in my suitcase, then another that visited me in the bathroom. Both have now passed. Most likely due to a mouse seen scurrying away onto the balcony
I watched so much Netflix that It has become my best friend. I became engrossed in seasoning episodes and managed 60 episodes of one series. One thing that struck me about being in quarantine was that there was no interaction or notification from authorities during my entire time there. I found that to be a bit strange.
The 14th day arrived, the wait had been long. We were told on that day we could leave quarantine and for the first time, there was animation in the room, even a hug. We packed bags and got as far as the lift, but then told to go back to the room. A mistake had been made and our second viral tests results were not back.
We slept in our clothes that night and waited for another 24 hours. Day 15 was full of anticipation and finally, around 5 pm we were free. Our passports were given back to us and we were each given a health clearance letter. Buses awaited, as taxis and Grab were not allowed as lockdown in Vietnam had just started. It was another 3 hours before we left in the bus, and with little traffic on the road, it was a speedy one hour drive to our apartment.
My new lifestyle in lockdown is now a strange reality. Most likely, the occurrence of this virus will have devastating consequences for many in business. Vietnam has had one of the lowest spread of the Coronavirus due to early border closes, self-isolation and quarantine for those entering the country
May we all be well and in every aspect of our lives. The world is changing, and no one is immune.
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