Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

COVID diaries: found opportunities

Esmat Maghari | 31-08-2020

Yesterday, my mom and I went out to get some basics (bread, flour, meds, etc.) because we were caught off guard by the discovery of COVID-19 cases inside Gaza over the past couple of days. But lots of police were deployed to enforce the total lockdown declared, and they stopped us to very firmly instruct us to stay at home.

Gaza managed to evade the virus for six months, while it peaked around the world, but that came to an end almost a week ago, when the first four cases were diagnosed within the Strip. Now we are feeling the danger experienced by everyone else. Schools and offices are closed, the malls are empty, all events have been called off, and a complete curfew has been imposed for a period of at least 14 days. It’s like life as we know it has been suspended, and no one knows when it will come to an end. It might be weeks, a month or a year. But what we do know is that we are all in this together!

This morning, while i was staring at the sky from the window of my bedroom, sipping my morning tea and eating some freshly baked manakesh (bread baked with thyme and olive oil), I concluded that this quarantine imposed on us overnight, without warning, isn’t so bad after all. At least my family is safe inside our home. Meanwhile, while many people are afraid to be near each other—sometimes even to look at each other—doctors and nurses are taking temperatures and administering tests. Grocery store workers are stocking shelves and bagging food. And police officers are enforcing the curfew that will keep us safe. While it’s not easy being confined to home, those selfless workers are putting their lives on the line so we can stay at home, protected.

I suddenly stood up and started clapping. Yes, I clapped! That’s the least I could do to show appreciation for these honorable people.

Later that day, the news reported more coronavirus cases in Gaza. It is spreading rapidly and is getting worse every passing moment. I looked at my 19-year-old sister, who was acting annoyed, but I could sense the fear underneath. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her everything was going to be fine; all we have to do is to follow the Ministry of Health’s instructions and stay inside our house. She calmed down.

I am trying as hard as I can to not worry too much. I keep busy by learning new things I've always wanted to master. For example, a couple of days ago I started learning Spanish. When I was about 14, I accidentally heard a song I instantly loved—Bailamos (We Dance) by Enrique Iglesias. I didn’t recognize the language, so I asked my mom, What is this? She knew the song and that’s how I discovered Spanish. I fell in love with the language and its music. I began listening to more songs, then movies and TV shows. Now, why not the language itself?

I discovered that lockdown can be a gift in disguise, finally giving me the opportunitiy to do all of the things I love or need to do; in addition to learning Spanish, I am writing poems, trying new recipes for yummy desserts, redecorating my room.

Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow's troubles; it only takes away today's peace. We are not stuck at home. We are blessed to have a home!

Posted: August 31, 2020

Mentor: Pam Bailey

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