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The Unorthodox Quarantine Diaries

Nicole Cooper Mar 23

What I did, how I coped, and some suggestions.

With the spread of the COVID-19, the word “quarantine” has been the buzz word for 2020 and the go-to solution for containing this virus. Some nations are on total lockdown while other places, people are out and about with more caution than usual.

For the month of February and some of March, I was in the United States for a much-needed visit home after being away in Taiwan for almost three years. Then, things were mostly calm during my stay, though I sensed a storm was on its way.

My flight out of the US was literally right before things started to rapidly escalate. Taiwan’s proactive approach towards containing the virus made me realize how unprepared the US and many other nations were despite having time to prepare. Fast forward today, my prediction was spot on.

The Return

When I left (March 8), the number of cases was relatively low. Maybe around a thousand confirmed. Because of this, the United States wasn’t on Taiwan’s radar as a high-risk nation, so I had zero problems entering the country.

I just filled out a form stating that I haven’t been in a heavily-infected area and that I’m currently not experiencing any coronavirus symptoms and then proceeded to customs.

Even with the extra checkpoints, I exited the plane, went through customs and got my luggage in world-recording timing. After arriving in Taichung, I had two full days to rest and recover before returning to work on Thursday.

Question Time

After working two days, I received many texts over the weekend from management. They were asking me which US states I visited and when I was there. At the time, New York, California, and Washington had significantly more cases than the rest of the country. I was in two of the three states.

The level of questioning and me backtracking my footsteps in America resulted in one last text telling me to stay home until I pass the 14-day mark. Before Taiwan officially closed its borders to non-citizens and residents, my school made a new rule stating all staff who’ve been abroad within the last 14 days need to quarantine.

Fair enough. The majority of the cases within the last few weeks were imported, but what makes this quarantine so seem unorthodox is that I worked for two days and now they’re telling me to stay home. We wear masks at school and wash our hands a lot, but I’m not walking around in a protective bubble. They’ve been exposed to my germs. “I hope I don’t end up being sick,” I thought. Otherwise, they would need to throw the whole school away. I didn’t bother bringing up that point, I just said “OK” and did what I was told. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Even though the quarantine didn’t make complete sense, I honestly wasn’t mad about it. Not because I hate my job, but because it’s an introvert’s paradise. Being the opportunist that I am, I began plotting on ways to capitalize on this sudden increase in free time.

When I told my parents what happened, their reactions were nothing short of predictable.

Mom: Do you have a thermometer? Make sure you track your temperature.

Dad: How will you eat?

Good point. I rarely keep food, because I buy a lot of perishable items. An oatmeal diet doesn’t sound ideal. A water or tea diet is worse. Ordering food it is.


The Quarantine Diaries

Throughout my quarantine, I wrote down everything I did each day. A good percentage of it was repetitive, so instead of boring you with my journal entries, I’ll highlight some things I did to keep myself busy.

Morning Routine

Aside from going outside, my morning routine didn’t change at all. I still woke up around the same time. Drank my cup of warm water and wrote down one thing I’m thankful for. When I remember, I usually make my bed too after getting up, but since I was stuck at home, I had no excuse.

Exercise

Being stuck at home means you’ll be more sedentary, so moving your body is key. The world is your gym, they say, but for now, your home can get the job done.

My home gym consists of resistance bands, ankle weights, a 6-liter water jug, a wall, chairs, and a foam roller. If you’re into lifting weights, get a bookbag and stuff it with books, bags of rice or other heavy items and voila you have an adjustable weighted vest. If you live in a home with more than one floor, the stairs are your new StairMaster. If you want to properly warm up your shoulders, you can use a broom or mop.

Choose a few exercises and make a circuit. The number of reps and rounds will be based on your fitness level. If you wanna do a more cardio-like workout add a timer and see how quickly you can do it (don’t forget to use proper form!). One of my go-to home workouts is what I call the “3–2–1 workout.”

  • 300 abs
  • 200 squats
  • 100 pushups

*Of any variation, can be weighted or non-weighted. Feel free to change the number of reps and/or exercises.

If you have a lot of open space, another fun workout can be the “animal movement workout,” which consists of doing the following exercises from end to end:

  • crab walks
  • mermaid drags/seal walks
  • frog hops
  • bear crawls
  • inchworms
  • gorilla walks
  • duck walks

These are some of my favorites but there are many more animal-like exercises that you can try.

Phone Calls

Morning in Taiwan is evening in the West. (NOTE: when I say “the West” I’m talking about the Western Hemisphere not the popular, yet weird definition that makes no sense.) Much of my mornings were spent talking to people on the phone or having conversations through texts.

I talked to my mom on the phone almost every day. Since many people have a lot of free time on their hands, it’s the perfect time to make some phone calls and get your fix of social interaction.

One thing that my cousin and I did as a way to steer the conversation away from the latest Covid-19 news, we sent each other random articles and personality tests and then talked about it a couple of days later over the phone.

Reading

Before I returned to Taiwan, I ordered some books online. Each one covering some of my favorite topics: geography/geopolitics, folklore, culture, and gymnastics.

I imagine ordering anything online right will take forever and a day to reach you (plus it’s risky). If you haven’t had the chance to update your library and/or you’re being conscious of your spending and would rather not buy any ebooks, YouTube has quite a selection of audiobooks.

You could listen to them while doing chores or walking around your home. Also, Medium and similar platforms have a variety of things to read.

The Unorthodox Quarantine Diaries 1
Quarantine Reads: End of the Perfect 10, Prisoner of Geography, Jump Up, Carnival Of The Spirit, Jambalaya

Foreign Language Practice

This is the perfect time to do so some heavy-duty studying for the language you want to learn (or improve). Years ago, I found a free kindle book called The Four Seasons of Creative Writing, a book that consists of a thousand writing prompts. Not sure if it’s still free, but maybe you can find something similar on the Internet.

I scrolled through the book to find something to write about. After writing one essay, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make an attempt at translating my essays to Portuguese and Spanish and write new ones that I haven’t written in English yet.

Two years ago, I decided to post two of my Spanish essays on Medium after being inspired by Sam McKenzie Jr. who also did the same. Then, it was a short-lived, but after a good week of writing practice, I’ll probably post more of these essays in the future once I clean them up.

I also practiced some Chinese, mainly reading. Because I write Chinese characters like a preschooler at best, I typed notes on my phone using a language keyboard that changes the pinyin to a corresponding Chinese character.

Since I recently finished the Colombian Netflix series Siempre Bruja (Always A Witch), I decided to update my Spanish music library and download the show’s soundtrack. It’s a nice collection of new music.

If you want to study a language, there are many ways to go about it. Duolingo for the basics. HelloTalk for finding language exchange partners. Music, Netflix and YouTube channels for entertainment. Changing the language settings in your phone and/or laptop for passive learning.

I Made Some Extra Dollars

Four years ago, when I was studying for my teaching certification, I became a tutor on Cambly, a conversational platform for those who want to improve their English. After being inactive for so long, it became clear that the algorithms were clearly no longer in my favor.

I updated my profile, and luckily I was still able to get some people to request class with me, the majority of them being Brazilian, which was good for me because if they were having trouble explaining something to me in English, I could meet them halfway with Portuguese.

While we’re still on the topic of work, I also logged onto my LinkedIn account. I haven’t been on this thing in ages! After connecting with Richie Crowley on the platform and reading what he had to say about leveraging all social platforms, I put his advice in high consideration and began cleaning up my profile.

This current pandemic is causing the economy to tank, so I don’t think I have the best generic advice on how to pocket some extra cash in this current situation, especially for those who are out of work without a definite return date. The answer is definitely out there for sure. It’s times like these, someone is able to create something beneficial.

Group Classes

A member of my capoeira group is from Italy. Since his country is on lockdown as well my fellow capoeiristas in China, he decided to host weekly capoeira classes via Zoom.

It was a class full of people living in different European and Asian countries training an art that we deeply love. The capoeira group I trained with when I was in the US also took their classes virtual. Many capoeiristas in the same boat are making it clear that isolation is not going to stop the axé!

Being on lockdown has proven that a lot of things can be done at home: work, school, religious sermons. Why not hobbies? If you have a hobby and/or are yearning for group interaction, organize a group class or meeting on a platform like Zoom or Skype.

The Unorthodox Quarantine Diaries 2
One class, many countries.

Online Classes

E-learning has been booming with the last decade. It opens the doors to people who interested in learning something but aren’t necessarily interested in getting a certification or paying a ton. Some of the popular learning platforms are EdX, Udemy, and Coursera.

Brain Breaks & Entertainment

I’d be lying like Pinocchio if I said my time in quarantine solely about productivity. It was filled with many brain breaks. Mostly Netflix, comical videos on YouTube, solo dance parties, moments of doing absolutely nothing and letting my mind wander into an alternate universe.

Like mentioned before I finished the most recent season of Siempre Bruja on Netflix. I also began watching Season 5 of Las Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls) and I started Genetified and I caught up with all the recent episodes of the YouTube series All Around and watched replays of sporting events. I also caught up on some of the podcasts I follow that are less about doom and gloom or personal development.

Games

If you’re quarantined at home with other people, it’s a good time to dust cobwebs off your deck of cards and board games. It’s a nice social activity to do with your family, roommates, etc. You could even bring back some of your favorite childhood games like hide and seek, four corners, scavenger hunts, making an obstacle course with whatever you have at home. Embrace the inner child that has been silenced.

If you’re solo like me, my favorite computer game website is MiniClip. Chess, checkers, sudoku, and various card games can be played online too. I saw a friend post this on Facebook.

Low Information Diet

One thing I did not during this time: spend an excessive amount of time on social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter (I was on Medium and YouTube), or consume a lot of news articles related to the coronavirus. Part of it is a combination of my phone lacking storage and me simply not wanting to go on it.

This current pandemic has definitely brought out the extremely negative side of social media since millions of people are now home with nothing to do. Timelines are now full of people being the moral police, people showing off their Google and Woke University PhDs, people making irrelevant political points, and news articles with carefully curated headlines designed to spark instant emotions. I probably missed out on some hilarious memes and insightful comments, but that’s okay. The last thing one needs while home alone is to consume binge on negative energy. That’s not good for your health. If you’re scared of contracting the virus, panicking to death isn’t the best thing to do. I’m not saying everything on social media and mainstream news platforms should be classified as fake news (though I bet some of it is), but I think people would be less anxious without the constant alerts.

How I received information:

I did check the CDC website and Corona.help a few times within the last 2 weeks. I carefully read the updates and examined the statistics. Outside of that, my work updated me with the latest Taiwan news, and my family kept me updated with major changes in the US, mainly the Greater Philadelphia and New York City areas. When things like the cancellations of the NBA and NCAA seasons were announced, someone texted me before I saw it on Facebook and Twitter and that was before I started limiting my social media use. I got the updates without the side of emotion and negative energy. If any major change happens, someone will most likely tell you. It’s not that I don’t care about what’s happening elsewhere, I’m just putting more focus on what I can control because that’s all you can really do.


I understand everyone won’t enjoy isolation as much as I did, but staying productive and focusing on what you can control will make this difficult and inconvenient time suck a little less. The excess free time gives you more time to contact your family and friends and practice healthy habits which put your body in a better position to combat illness.

This virus makes us value our health. It delivers us to our homes and gives us free time. Let’s become the healthiest we’ve ever been.

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WRITTEN BY

Nicole Cooper

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