Deconfinement - or déconfinement in the French-speaking world - is the word of the day. For days on end. Here in Tunis where I live, the process was gradual - from relaxing the curfew during the holy month of Ramadan to the full reopening of borders on 27 June. Across the world, governments are relaxing CoVid-19 measures. And people are, well, people. With very mixed reactions and attitudes.
Masks are all the rage. From the single-use surgical masks to the silk-ones that make you sweat and gasp for air in places that are warmer than the North Pole to the fashionable, colour-assorted ones that match clothing or shoes and handbag. My facebook timeline regularly has sponsored posts about locally produced masks by designers of all sorts. The photos of my friends however do not really sport masks too much. Not fashionable?
Social distancing has never been big in Tunisia. Physical closeness seems to be a must - no matter how many empty seats there are you can count on people taking the one next to you. No judgement, just an observation. At the small bus stop I pass by in the morning, unmasked people are standing shoulder-to-shoulder... discussing loudly, gesticulating. But my personal need for personal space makes me often aware what I am: a white European ... I lost the habit (if I ever had it) to shake hands but never replaced it with hugging or kissing. A nod and a "Hi!" is the best you'll get from me. Deal with it.
Impatience begins to set in however - impatience with other countries to reopen their borders and airports. Impatience with clients and business partners on how slow they seem to adapt to that horrible expression, the "new normal". To be honest - I am an impatient person. Even when still cooped up in my house, I was impatient. Because my livelihood depends on work. So does my mental sanity. How many pictures can you take of the cute baby cat taking its first steps?
As I said in a post on my social media, "Staying indoors stops the virus but also ends my livelihood" - with the appeal to consultancy firms, donors and others to hire me. As I am writing this post, my reserves have dwindled and the end of the month is neigh! The two never make for a good combo!
reserves have dwindled and the end of the month is neigh
Speaking of combo, I must admit , without shame, that the first take-out I went to pick up after the relaxation of confinement was a bucket of fried chicken. Mmmm ... al hail to the Colonel! I haven't been back because CoVid-19 Lockdown meant also time to cook and to eat. In abundance. Never at risk of being called 'skinny' I am sure that 'chubby' if not 'fat' are somewhat accurate. Even the Keto-diet ads on social media seem to know it. I am now watching what I eat - carbs are out, so are soda's. Sparkling water, Zucchinis and fish are all the rage these days. They always were, but now the rice, potatoes and fries have gone in lockdown!
But on the impatience and impending impoverishment, I am also worried for the effect of not being able to go out to the field. Not only for myself, but also for my field researchers. They are the key to our work as a research organisation. I have a hard time repeating that 'CoVid-19 has stopped all operations' to inquiries from people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali ... and all the other places. They are the beating heart - and have the same need and desire to work. For the money they earn, for their self-esteem, for their communities.
I am sure that soon I will be buzzing around the world again. Until that time, I am staying put. Reading, readying myself. I stopped reading the CoVid-19 daily updates a while ago. The figures keep on climbing; the so-called cures that are hailed are repealed and the desire for a speedy recovery result in faulty studies and hastily conclusions.
Social media, WhatsApp and Signal are a bit of a window on the world - and a means of staying in touch with friends around the globe. That's good for mental sanity - if only to bitch about CoVid-19 and the fall-out.
Hope springs eternal - or so they say.I hope that the new normal will soon be replaced with the old normal - at least as far as work, mobility, social interaction is concerned. Reopening the world is inevitable. And new habits - including masked passengers on planes (who would have imagined?) and frequently reaching for the bottle of alcohol (to scrub your hands) - will be part of that reopening. But I miss the freedom to roam this planet. To discover and learn. To be close to others - even when we are not rubbing shoulders.