Being An Expat During Covid-19 Pandemic

It was our dream to live abroad. We wanted to get out of our comfort zones and see what we are capable of. We thought we were aware of the cons and pros of being expat, but we weren't expecting to encounter a pandemic. I just want to share my thoughts and feelings regarding Covid-19 as an expat.

Since 17 December 2019, we are living in Qatar with my husband. When we moved here, life was normal - if I compare it with today's world. I remember that I had terrible flu with fever and coughing spells when we came. Then, it wasn't a big deal, but right now - forget about flying to another country - I can't even enter a shopping mall like that ( and also there is no shopping mall to go right now ).

As far as I know, Covid-19 started December 31 last year in Wuhan, China. However, when we moved, there was no global level risk. Qatar took all the precautions to prevent it but unfortunately, they announced the first case on February 29. The first cases didn't cause a panic, because they were Qatari people who were evacuated from Iran. They have been under full quarantine ever since their arrival so we were still living our daily life.

Then suddenly it started to increase among expats, and I think that was the moment when we all start panicking and doing all the crazy things like stocking up food and water. We didn't buy toilet papers like the rest of the world ( I'm looking at you America!) , but we bought canned and frozen food, dry food like rice and flour, some multivitamins and water. Experts say that panic-buying is kind of a physiologic result of this crisis. Because people feel like they are losing control and things are starting to get out of hand, psychologically we want to do more shopping and stock more items. Obviously it makes us feel like we bring things under control.

On 11 March, they announced 238 cases and after that, I cried all night long. I was feeling frightened and desperate. I lost all my motivation to wake up and go to work the next day. Life was still somehow going on and we were waking up to a new announcement every single morning. First, they closed the schools including nurseries and universities. Then they suspend public transportation for the weekend and a week later they shut it down completely until further notice. Cinemas, theatres, gyms and children's play areas followed closures.

Every single day the number of cars and people I see on the streets decreased. I used to play with my phone in the car, now all I'm doing is looking out of the window. We are spending our days either at home or at work, so I feel like those trips from home to work and from work to home are like an opportunity to feel like normal again.

We have to follow many rules and don't get me wrong I'm very happy about it! To be frank, it makes me feel safe. We are following a new work schedule for weeks to decrease the number of people sharing the same office, transportation, and staff cafeteria. One day we are working from home and the next day from the office. On the bus ( our company provides it's not public transportation ) we have to wear a mask and everyone should be sitting alone. For Uber and other taxis, the government banned more than 3 people ( including the driver). Every company has to check employees' fever twice a day. We cannot sit as a group in the cafeteria. Also, any kind of social gathering is strictly banned as well.

Despite all the rules and regulations, the total number of positive cases today is 30972. At the very beginning, we're planning to go back to Turkey to be with our families during these hard times but then we thought that would be very dangerous. We might get it at the airport or on the plane. For our own and our families' safety, we decided to stay. Some days it's very hard. I don't know, are we going to be able to hug our families again or what if one of us gets the virus. Sometimes I'm exerting myself to look at the bright side. Thank God we have our jobs and have each other. We have food and shelter. We are healthy and capable. On the other hand, my brain non-stop creates disaster scenarios.I'm silently scared and weeping inwardly.

One very good and unforgettable life lesson I learned from this crisis is NEVER TAKING NOTHING GRANTED IN LIFE.

Stay safe friends. If it's possible please stay at home. If you have to work like us please take all the preventive actions. Wash your hands. Don't touch your face. Be careful. Cry if you need. If you are at home, feel alone or in need of someone to talk please drop me a message from Instagram or send me an email.

We are all in this together.

Pelin & Berk Akpak

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