“The corona virus is here to stay,” said the Professor Ooi Eng Eong in the recent zoom webinar on “Covid-19 Vaccinations and Coping with Anxiety” organized by the Singapore Global Network. This was an expected but unwelcomed statement, a reality that most of us find it hard to swallow.
In any case, life since the COVID 19 pandemic has not been totally bad. We, as humans, have learned to cope, one way or another. Some good things have also come out of this pandemic.
I, for one, found out more about my neighborhood in Nonthaburi, a place that I have lived in for over 15 years but never had the chance to explore due to work and social commitments in Bangkok area. When the Thai government imposed a lockdown in April 2020, my husband and I started taking morning walks in our housing estate for exercise. At first, I would take a stick to ward off unfriendly dogs but we eventually figured out which sois to avoid. The anxiety of catching the virus made me lose some weight initially, to my great glee, but a few months later, my craving for good food surmounted to my desire to be thin. But not matter, I got into the groove of exercising and was in better health as a consequence.
For American-born Rose Marie Wanchupela, the proprietor of Rose Marie Academy who has made Thailand her home for the past 50 years, being stuck at home enabled her to relax and enjoy the ambiance of her cozy home and bountiful garden.
“After the initial lockdown ended and schools reopened and then closed down again, I was anxious about how our students would be affected,” said the former Peace Corps Volunteer who has been running the school for over 25 years. “Fortunately, they adjusted very well to online learning under the guidance of their teachers who all rose to the occasion. I am now confident that our students will succeed in learning regardless of circumstances such as what we we have just passed through.”
“Finally, I would say that it has been a struggle to fathom the millions of deaths and the destruction this pandemic has wrought upon us,” concluded Rose Marie. “To be empathetic and to carry on a normal life at the same time is a dilemma and a real challenge I face. Knowing we are all in this together is fortifying and reassuring.”
For Chinese-American Michele Chan Grover who lived in Thailand before moving to Canada, she and her Canadian husband, Paul, stayed home for most of the part since Covid-19 restrictions were stricter in Canada than Thailand.
Nonetheless, exercise was something they never neglected. Bike riding, walks and runs continued to be part of their daily lives in the summer and fall. And when winter came, skiing and walks were their regular routine.
When gatherings with family and friends came to a halt, they started Zoom calls with family and friends instead of having people come over for dinner. Zoom calls were something they had not done before, but this activity quickly caught on and became a superb and crucial technique to keep in touch to family and friends.
“When indoor gatherings were not allowed, we had outdoor dinners on our porch (just among the family) and we still kept 6 ft apart from each other,”said Michele. “We also had friends, just one couple at a time and sat in the garden, often around the fire pit, in the evenings in the summer.”
House cleaning and getting rid of unused stuff also become another routine activity.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we went through our storage area and got rid of a lot of things — old textbooks, notes and photos,” expounded Michele. “We also did a bunch of home maintenance stuff, painting, chopping wood, going through old books, uncluttering.”
Husband Paul also found the time and inclination to learn to play the guitar which opened up a whole new world for him.
“It was something he had always been interested but never made the time,” said Michele. “He found a great website which is free and learned from a young instructor who is so good at his job that now Paul is always serenading me.”
“I myself started a drawing programme through a book which I have had for 30 years, but like Paul’s guitar, never finding the time…”
“Paul and I realized quite early on how lucky we were in spite of the pandemic,” added Michele. “We don’t have young kids and have to worry about their schooling,” Michele concluded. “We don’t have to worry about losing a job. We have a nice place to live, friends and family to zoom, have the ability to go out and exercise and be outdoors to socialize, and enough resources to keep us from getting depressed. We have learned to be super grateful.”
Danai Chandrangam, General Manager of GT Auto Co., Ltd., had this to say about his Covid experience.
“The pandemic taught me to be happy with what we have,” said the Netherland-born Thai-Dutch who made Thailand his permanent home when he moved here to work after he graduated from university. “I have come to appreciate the thoughtfulness and support I received from my loved ones during these stressful times. Life would have been a lot more difficult without their understanding and encouragement.”
“On a general scale, it was wonderful to see that the Thai people abided by the Covid-19 prevention rules enforced by the Thai government strictly and without resentment,” commented Danai. “Whether they agreed with it or not, people cooperated for the benefit of everyone around them.”
For someone who led a socially active life, Covid 19 caused a marked change in Danai’s lifestyle.
“My wife and I started staying home more. We cooked and ate at home and found that I actually enjoyed staying home and felt more relaxed. After the rules were eased, we had small gatherings with friends and family members and we came realize how important the time spent with these people are to us and we came to cherish these times more than before.”
“I became more health conscious to minimize the possibility of getting the virus infection and as a result, became heathier and did not get sick at all during the past 12 months,” added Danai.
“Workwise, it was tough,” Danai acknowledged. “I had to make many unpleasant decisions. Thankfully, most of our staff were supportive. It was a great team effort where many executives rose to the occasion and worked tirelessly to achieve their targets.”
“Another blessing in disguise was the Bangkok traffic,” said Danai with a big smile. “With people staying home more, the traffic got lighter, to the delight of many of us.”
“One regret that I have though is that my parents who live in Holland could not visit us last year.”
Danai’s Thai father and Dutch mother usually visit Thailand once or twice a year, spending a few months in the country during each visit.
“It is sad that we were also not able to fly over to see them. Of course, we stay in touch with WhatsApp and so on, but nothing beats face-to-face contact. I hope this issue will be solved by the end of this year.”
“All in all, people are more resilient that we give them credit for. Many found creative ways to make a living. They don’t give up but move on with enthusiasm, courage and hope.”
Similar to Danai, New York-born Dar Lim Chakrabandhu who has lived in Thailand for more than 30 years, said that not being able to travel overseas during that pandemic was one thing she really missed.
“But I’m basically a home body so it’s been fine for me,” said the owner of The Vintage Shop and Very Vintage Jewelry. “I have started reading daily which I used to do but didn’t have the time. I have also tried out new recipes and some gardening techniques that would not have gotten my attention before the pandemic.”
“I think it has brought me closer to friends and relatives living far away. Previously, I did not correspond with as often as I should have,” Dar Lim added. “Covid 19 sure has made me value my relationships so much more,”
“I also got around my local neighborhood and discovered some nice little gems I may not have checked out before,” said Dar Lim, who spends most of her time in Chiang Rai where her family’s Katiliya Mountain Resort and Spa is located. “We found some new businesses and cafes and restaurants that are now regular stops for us.”
As far as advice for young people regarding jobs, Dar Lim recommends that now is the time for soul searching, especially for those who are out of a job.
“One needs to decide what work would bring you joy through all of the madness going on around us. It may be necessary to learn something new or return to university for further studies.”
“During tough times there are always new opportunities if you keep your eyes and ears open,” she continued. “Right now, anything having to do with the medical field, pharmaceuticals or research offers endless possibilities. As well as work in the field of energy and products and services that have climate change in mind. Many new businesses started during this pandemic will be around for years to come.”
“No matter what the circumstances are around us, life goes on,” Dar Lim added practically. “Some couples may choose not to have children given the state of the world and that’s OK. For those who want to start a family, now may not be the time if you are having financial stress. Or if you are affected by the news each day, that would only add undue worry while pregnant. If you are anxious to start a family and are financially secure and in good health, then go for it. But remain vigilant avoiding any risks while Covid-19 is still with us.”
“I think that Covid-19 will not end but be with us forever like the flu. But we will be able to manage it through vaccines and revised inoculations as time goes on. It will be a few more years before we start to really understand this disease and have enough research to truly be confident about making predictions.”
Covid-19 has taught us to stop, step back, and look deeply into our own lives to figure out where we go from here. It also taught us to appreciate the simple things in life, be it a pleasant cool breeze that brushed our faces during our early morning walk or a nice hot cup of coffee that tasted so good because we did not rush to finish it to beat the traffic to get to work. And stay optimistic and be confident that the answers to our dilemmas will come to we when we calmly think things through.
About the author.
Netra Ruthaiyanont is currently the Marketing Director of GT Auto Co., Ltd., authorized Volvo Car Retailer. The former member of the print media enjoys writing stories about travel, education and the challenging lives of women.