Saffers in the UK, US take on lockdown away from home

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Saffers in the UK, US take on lockdown away from home

This is what isolation is like for South Africans living abroad

Journalist
Cycling to get takeout sushi: takeouts allowed but no seated dining under the 'stay-at-home' order in Washington State, in the US.
HOME & TAKEAWAY Cycling to get takeout sushi: takeouts allowed but no seated dining under the 'stay-at-home' order in Washington State, in the US.
Image: Rob McKay

Two SA families who moved to the UK and the US in 2018 and 2019 respectively tell Times Select how they are coping with their lockdowns, which started four days earlier than SA on March 23.

From Leicester, England: ‘Safe at home’

Dr Nceku Nyathi, a university lecturer, and his wife, a key primary healthcare worker in the National Health Service, have two boys in primary and high school, one in Year 4 (Grade 4) and another in Year 9.

“The switch to online and working from home, alongside homeschooling, has created a frenzy of chaotic arrangements,” Nyathi reports.

“The schools have been sending work to be done at home. Learning will continue via tablets and laptops, and through Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The boys could continue their music lessons.

“My university switched courses to online, and there was no time to say goodbye to my final-year or postgrad students.

“It has been strange that the house could get so quiet with everyone on a screen and isolated, then we all congregate at the kitchen for snacks and then back into our worlds.

“However, it is not always so orderly, as sometimes one is on a laptop, the other playing saxophone, another on the phone while the other is writing a report. There’s been understanding, care and accommodation of each other.

Under lockdown, the boys and their father sprint for fun and exercise, and he still wins.
PLAYTIME Under lockdown, the boys and their father sprint for fun and exercise, and he still wins.
Image: Nceku Nyathi

“We are lucky to be allowed outside for exercise. We have a back garden and our street is a cul-de-sac which has quite a large mini park. Residents take it in turns to use it for exercise, and it’s been good fun exercising with the boys.

“We watch with horror the increasing numbers of infections and deaths alongside the government challenges of providing personal protective equipment to all the key workers, and testing everyone. Should we be wearing masks when we are outside or not?

“Please be safe, and remember you are not under lockdown but safe at home.”

From Olympia in US: under ‘stay-at-home’ order

Maths and science teacher Rob McKay, whose family lives in Washington state, says “only designated essential workers” may go to their jobs under the stay-at-home order.

“Healthcare workers are on the list, but so are liquor distributors and cannabis sellers,” reports McKay, who is at home with his 14-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.

“The construction industry is asking to be classified as an essential business. Most flats and houses are built with wood, which means if construction starts up again the logging and mills can operate again, which means more woodchips and sawdust to make ... toilet paper!”

On schooling, he said their local school district had started to ramp up its online schooling offering as the stay-at-home order has been extended until May 4 – and schools may only go back later in the year.

McKay said he set up his own Google classroom to collate material from the internet.

“There are loads of quality lessons from Ted Ed, Kahn Academy, Scholastic etc. We spend the morning on courses.

“[Their youngest son] is watching an episode of Marvel Hero Project each day, an inspiring programme about young people making a difference.

“Fortunately we can still go for walks. Exercise and outdoor activity are encouraged as long as social distancing is practised.”

Group exercises, like his Saturday running group, have been suspended.

Physiotherapist Claire Horn, McKay’s wife, said it was isolating and hard for the three children who were creating a community after their move, and learning to ski, to be confined at home full time.

Their oldest son of 19, who was about to start college, is having online tuition.

McKay’s cooking is improving – to his children’s surprise – because BBC Food has wonderful recipes.

Horn, who is working full time doing online patient care, said her days – which start with early morning exercises – are quite hectic.

“We can’t do hands-on work, but we can do a lot of other work including doing assessments, taking a history, observation and rehabilitation prescription,” she said. “I am grateful that I am still employed full time.” 

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