Gap Year

Aaaaaand… we’re in quarantine.

Good morning, dear reader, where ever you are!

I’ve spent the past two weeks or so building the foundation of Little Darlings Academy.

I am currently writing to you from the top bunk of a one of two bunk beds in a 100 ft2 glorified tent called a Visible Good. Why, you might be asking, are you in your bunk bed writing out your feelings when at 7AM you should be at Little Darlings Academy mixing concrete?

Great question.

This past week, one of the volunteers was running a slight fever that was chalked up to a cold or flu. However, on Sunday, they started developing another COVID-19 symptom: lost of taste and smell. On Monday morning, as my bubblemates and I were working on building a new bench for our shade structure, we were called for an urgent emergency meeting. We were then told that we were being placed under an indefinite quarantine within about a 250 m2 area, encompassing our five Visible Good sleeping pods, an outdoor central area, and a section in front with a newly built shade structure.

An aerial view of our home.

Me being me, I immediately bolted for the kitchen and grabbed by box of food in the pantry and my other box of food in the fridge. And then, not even half an hour later, our quarantine started.

Day One

I think that during the first few hours the reality of our situation didn’t really hit me. A beautiful black dog snuck into our base, and Izzy (pictured below) named him Pieces.

Izzy made a friend.

I spent most of my first day calling friends and catching them up on what I’d been up to the past few weeks. We had been working for two weeks straight on Little Darlings Academy. I shoveled rocks around, mixed and poured concrete, and learned how to use a compactor to fill the large limestone sinkholes we found in the rock.

Concrete mixing with All Hands! Photo by Chris Council.
Me and the compactor! Photo by Chris Council.

Day Two

I spent most of Day Two in my Visible Good.

This is home.

The weather was decent, so I decided to do laundry. We have to hand-wash our clothing, using two five-gallon buckets, some powdered detergent, and a very slow moving water spout. Of course, as soon as I had finished washing my clothing, it started to rain.

Day Two wasn’t all bad, though. One highlight was leading a late-afternoon yoga class. I’ve never tried leading a yoga session before, but it didn’t go too terribly!

Leading a yoga session!

Another highlight: we had burritos for dinner, and one of the staff members in our bubble had hot sauce they were willing to share with us.

Yum!

The evening made up for the day: we hung up some fairy lights on our shade structure and played a few rounds of Code Names.

Day Three

I honestly have no idea what happened on Day Three, except for the face that it was Xander’s birthday. We had a dance off with his bubble, which is quarantining right next door.

I think I spent a long time (again) hanging out in my bunk.

Day Four

On Day Four, I shared the story of my Bachan and her survival of the Hiroshima atomic bomb with the cohort here in the Bahamas. It was a heavy way to start the day, but I truly appreciated the opportunity to share her story and speak a little about the part of history I find so important with the people here. Ben and Mom from home also dropped in to listen—a perk of our new online lives!

I think we also did a mini-fundraiser today called “Donuts for Dollars.” Chris got some photos of me pondering a donut. (I ended up eating three. Don’t tell anyone.)

Later in the afternoon, right before dinner, a beautiful rainbow graced the skies above our little camp.

My first time seeing a full rainbow!

As a person who doesn’t actively seek out tropical areas, this was my first time seeing a full rainbow. I’m starting to understand why people enjoy the tropics so much now.

Socially distanced, yet still jumping for joy!

Day Five

On Day Five, a few things happened. Firstly, I finally got sick of the lack of variety in the Bahamian lunches served to us. One can only enjoy rice, beans, vegetables, and chicken noodle soup for so long. Foregoing what probably would have been my 10th lunch of rice and beans since arriving here, I dipped into my precious snacks from home, enjoying a few Japanese crackers, a Twizzler or two, and another matcha tea.

I had a few moments of quiet and enjoyed a conversation with Lynn about the basics of solo traveling out of a backpack. (I’m thinking about going to Taiwan this summer and doing just that.)

Chris, the volunteer-turned-base photographer held a mini crash-course session on phone photography.

My image of the other bubble and their picnic table.

The day ended with watching the first half of Rogue One with Seana.

As I’m in the middle of living through it, it’s difficult to draw big conclusions or lessons from my life here at the moment. The hours are long, yet days are short. When I dream at night, or watch Youtube videos in 480p (our Wifi is really slow here), I remember that there is a life outside of this 250 square meters, this small island of Abaco, this island country of the Bahamas. I remember that I will be going back to my comfortable home soon, and then (hopefully) going abroad again, if not to travel this summer, then definitely to university in the fall. I remind myself that this is all temporary: the discomfort, the strict rules that prevent me from getting closer than 6 feet to some of the friends I’ve made in the next bubble over, the awful breakouts I’ve had from always wearing a face mask, the lack of hot water to shower in, the semi-outdoor living, the never-ending rocks underfoot, and being constantly surrounded by the noise and mess created by 50-something volunteers.

Day Six

I ate oats for breakfast. I eat oats almost every day for breakfast. I think I won’t be able to eat oatmeal for a few months after finishing this program.

On Saturday mornings, All Hands has us do a “power hour” where we deep clean high-touch areas and surfaces in our base.

We also had a mini Olympics on Day Six, including a relay race mixed in with charades, a cookie challenge (using only facial muscles to get a cookie from forehead into your mouth) and water pong. The competition was held between the three bubbles, and our program director, Rosie, was spectacularly committed to the cookie challenge in particular.

Our fearless leader.

The day ended with a socially-distanced chat with my friends in the next bubble over.

“Banana boat” ft. the Three Musketeers of Dundas Town

Day Seven

Super uneventful. I think I watched Coco, which I had downloaded on Disney Plus. (As you know now, our wifi is too slow to stream anything.)

Highlight of my day was when Lynn made me 蒸鸡蛋. Tasted like home. Miss you, Mom!

Steamed egg by virtue of Lynn. Soy sauce gifted by Mason.

Day Eight

Nothing much of note happened on Day Eight. There was a nice sunset.

Chris taught us to always put a subject into your photos. Seana helped me out with this one.

It was amazing to think that I’d spent eight days in almost the same exact way, with little distinction between each day, and still enjoyed it to a certain extent. I think the fact that I was quarantining with 13 other individuals, who, for the most part, I all got along with, helped make this imprisonment an enjoyable one.

Day Nine: Last day!

The last day of our quarantine finally arrived! The morning started with some wonderful breakfast. Next to couches, the thing that I’ve missed the most about home is hot breakfast.

Mike made us some wonderful pancakes! I ate mine with strawberry jam, a banana, and a date.

I cleaned out my suitcase, washed my laundry, and chatted about Chinese perceptions of India with Lynn.

One of the volunteers from another bubble is an Assistant Company Manager for Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway. She gave a small Q&A on her work. I’m still quite baffled by the enormous range of experiences and expertise that have been brought together on this small gravel lot on Abaco island.

The flies have gotten more and more populous the longer we live in this small confined space. If only it was possible to be reasonably hygienic without water. If only we were able to eat all edible things that were brought to us… alas, the banana peels and leftover scraps and dirty laundry water has created the most wonderful breeding ground for all sorts of horrible flying things. I was dive-bombed by an enormous moth, and as I’m writing this a day after I still don’t think I’ve fully emotionally recovered.

Day Ten: Just kidding.

We were supposed to be on the worksite again today. And yet, here I am, still sitting in my bunk. According to Bahamian policy, a nurse was supposed to come in on our last day of quarantine and officiate us to move out of quarantine and into a state of “heightened awareness.” I guess I should have expected that the nurse’s visit would be delayed, but I was really ready to go back on site and get some good work done.

We’re operating under a different set of rules regarding punctuality here. I forgot about island time.

So here I am, another day in my tiny Visible Good.

Hopefully, this is the last day, and I’ll be ending my quarantine by doing the post quintessential quarantine-crazed activity: dying my hair purple.

It is for a good cause—it’s helping us win points towards a pizza party!

The rest of my day might include a few card games, finishing a fascinating book I borrowed from Kieran (Fully Automated Luxury Communism), eating through the comfort food snacks I brought from home, and maybe some Bahamian curry for dinner.

I was esxpecting this quarantine to bring me lots of wonderful moments of peace and quiet and reflection. I should have known better. Being surrounded by so many individuals all the time means that there’s always something going on from 6 AM to 9 PM. It means that I have to face discomfort 24/10 (or more, if that nurse doesn’t come) with literally no physical escape. I am proud of myself for getting through it without losing my shit. (Again, for now. If that nurse doesn’t show up for a few more days, I’ll get back to you on that.)

Oh man. Discomfort is where growth starts.

Hope all is well wherever you are.

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Comments

  1. From what I know of hair dyeing, ummm.. Asians, bleach it for hours first, then apply the color you want, then question yourself why..

  2. I so love finding what you’re up to down there! You are dealing with 2 things I really dislike: flying insects and heat/humidity! I saw one of your brothers walking your dog today. The weather is inching towards spring here, and Robert and I have gotten our second vaccinations. We have been celebrating with our family in the garage, including Christmas and Isabellas 8th birthday! Necessity is the mother of invention! Best wishes as you complete your service on behalf of the children in the Bahamas! See you soon and take care!

  3. I like your summary “Discomfort is where growth starts.” You always can find a good side on whatever things happening. Really admire what you’ve been through. And, man, it’s wonderful to observe different dimensions of life with you. Can’t wait for you to come back!

  4. Hi Mei, it’s been a long time great to see you’re doing well! Best of luck with everything you’re doing 🙂

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