Editor’s note: Welcome to The Pandemic is Personal, a weekly series focusing on on how the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV‑2) is affecting the everyday lives of people throughout the Pacific Northwest. We hope to enlighten you and reflect on what you and others are addressing as this pandemic runs its course.
If you have a story to tell, please feel free to contact us.
This week, NPI Advisory Councilmember Rituja Indapure describes what her spring was like during the worst pandemic in modern times.
March 14th, 2020
It’s midnight, and I’m at the Mumbai International Airport.
The line at the luggage check-in counter is long.
No one is wearing masks. I have a couple in my backpack. My neighbor in Pune went to the market and brought me a couple of cloth masks before I left.
I plan to wear one inside the airplane, but don’t see the need to wear it in public. I’m hyper-vigilant of someone coughing or sneezing.
I have twenty-one hours of flight time until I reach home in Seattle!
With the luggage checked in, I head to the security checkpoint which is packed with people. There are separate lines for men and women.
I see women in shorts, in hijabs, in jeans, in sarees.
It seems like people from all over the world are represented in that line.
With infection and death rates skyrocketing in Italy and Spain, the United States has announced that it’s shutting down transatlantic flights.
American citizens who have been traveling abroad for work, tourism, education or to meet family are rushing back. In this line too, mask wearing is spotty, but the policee officer who inspects us does have a mask on.
On to the boarding area, and I find a spot away from crowds. I put on my cloth mask now as I sit alone contemplating my cleaning procedure once I sit in the airplane.
Eventually it’s 3:30 am, and we are boarding the flight.
It’s a packed flight. I’ve done research on window versus aisle seats. I have chosen the recommended window seat. None of the airline’s staff are wearing face masks or gloves. I’m scared for their health.
It’s just past 6 AM when we land at Dubai International Airport. It’s a long way to my next gate. So many people here. I start walking towards my gate, but the way is roped off. I can get in only through a checkpoint.
All passengers traveling to the United States are screened for temperature and other symptoms of a viral infection. I’m traveling alone, but feel really bad for parents traveling with young children. Long flights with young kids is hard!
My flight from Dubai to Seattle is fourteen hours long. I couldn’t secure a window seat, let alone a seat in a row just by myself. I’m worried, but put on my cloth mask and board the plane. I sit in my assigned aisle seat next to a gentleman who works as a truck driver and lives in Kent.
His family lives in Kenya, but work is in Seattle. He coughs.
He is not wearing a mask.
We are in the air and the seat-belt sign is off.
I ask the airline staff if there are any open seats. He says, “Why don’t you look around?” I walk around and am delighted when I see an empty row! It’s right next to the restroom, but who cares… I can sit alone!
From the aircraft, as we cross the Cascades, I can see it’s a gorgeous day.
We land in Seattle just after 1:30 PM local time.
Multiple international flights have arrived at Sea-Tac around the same time. There is a long line of people waiting to get through immigration.
No one is wearing masks, and we aren’t being asked to keep space between us, either. I download the Mobile Passport App, insert the needed information and jump ahead of the line. I wait for my luggage to arrive, pick it up and proceed to Customs. None of the custom officers are wearing a mask.
I clear U.S. Customs and hop onto Sound Transit’s Link light rail system. In less than five minutes, I’m out of the airport and on my way home!
April 14th, 2020
It’s been a month since we’ve all started working from home. We are taking it day by day. I’m used to seeing everyone in person each day, so I miss not seeing them. For each interaction, I now have to set up a meeting.
My calendar is getting full.
Slowly we’ve started setting up our office space at home.
For some, it’s meant buying a new office chair.
Many of us have taken our work monitors and keyboards home.
Until now, we were familiar only with Google Chat, but slowly we all are becoming experts at other applications for “live” meetings. Zoom, Teams, Webex…
Recently a teammate had a birthday, and we had a “virtual” surprise birthday party for him! We got hold of his wife, who snuck out and got a birthday cake.
I scheduled a “check-in” meeting with him and invited all the other team members. Once he logged in, we sang and his wife celebrated with the cake!
In the four weeks since we’ve started working from home, I’ve seen a few kids who want to “participate” in the meetings.
I understand their curiosity and the novelty of seeing their parents working from home, so I had a meeting with just the kids! It was fantastic — some sang poems, some just wanted to see who was on the other side of the screen!
I do worry about how kids will react once the parents start going back to work. Will they become too attached to their parents and not want to go back to school?
May 14th, 2020
The Sammamish Y Advisory Board continues to have its monthly meetings. They continue to provide babysitting and other services for essential workers, but are closed as a gym. COVID-19 has impacted this non-profit on multiple fronts.
However, even with the reduced staff, they continue to engage with the community by calling and checking in on seniors and providing meals.
I continue to be engaged in conversations about how to support the community in their mental well-being needs.
With the stay at home order in place as a result of COVID-19, the rate of domestic violence and sexual abuse is on the rise.
For young people who live in homes where they feel threatened, they are unable to report or talk to someone they can trust.
This really weighs on my mind. However, it was encouraging to hear at the KCSARC (King County Sexual Assault Resource Center) Honorary Board meeting that counseling sessions are taking place via HIPAA‑compliant video calls.
API Chaya, which provides culturally-relevant violence prevention efforts and multilingual survivor services, has its twenty-fifth anniversary coming up!
It’s a difficult time to do fundraising. The stock market is down, people are feeling frazzled. I hope to rally my friends and encourage them to do their best.
I filed to be a precinct committee officer in my state legislative district. Helping elect progressive candidates is something I want to continue to do.
Since I’m on the Eastside Democrats Fundraising Committee, we’ve been brainstorming ideas on whether to change the date of the fundraising dinner (we had a fabulous event at the Snoqualmie Casino last year), or move it to an online event.
For the third month in a row, the Sammamish Municipal Planning Commission meeting has been cancelled due to COVID-19.
(Almost!) June 14th, 2020
Early in the morning, I dropped off our son at work.
In late February, he started working at a local QFC store and since he is an “essential worker,” he has continued to work.
He has stayed healthy and it’s been interesting to see the progression of not being required to wear masks to now sporting a rainbow colored mask!
All his classes at Running Start at Bellevue College are online, but in talking to him and his peers, they really don’t like online classes.
He misses going to the gym, playing volleyball with his friends and hanging out with his jazz and band mates at school.
My daughter is finishing off her finals for her junior year of college!
She was looking forward to a study abroad program in Ghana this summer, and is disappointed that it got cancelled.
Online classes are not the same as in person, and labs are impossible online!
She is healthy and careful with socializing, but also joined in the marches supporting Black Lives Matter last week.
Over the weekend she’s attending a teach-in on how to create a more equitable society! I can’t wait to have her home in the summer!
Our dog now looks presentable.
She hasn’t been groomed since March, but she got a nice haircut last week.
My husband and I are still taking turns cooking.
Wednesdays are “fend for yourself” days. We get super-creative and create concoctions from whatever is available at home. Fridays and weekends, we order from our favorite local restaurants. We all now wear masks when we go out.
Mom and Dad in India are doing okay. It’s been hard on them with Dad’s diabetes and him not being able to exercise regularly.
At times, getting fresh fruits and vegetables was also a problem. Mom has learned to order online and is expecting her fresh fruit and vegetable basket on Sunday.
I can’t believe it’s been three months since we’ve all been working from home, staying home and not socializing.
International travel is not yet at full capacity.
Many flights are not available for non-essential travel. My work colleagues are getting into a rhythm of working from home.
Many appreciate not having to sit in traffic and drive long distances to work.
Some are getting lonely and would love a chance to be around people. We’ve put tremendous energy into our fundraising efforts, and people have been both compelled to support causes for a better community and generous as a result.
I’ve gained an appreciation for simple things like taking a walk in the neighborhood or writing a note. I’m grateful for heartfelt conversations with friends with whom I’ve not connected in years. I’m thankful for my friends who’ve shown resolve and conviction in standing up for what’s right and for their values.
I’m in gratitude for the community that uplifts me, holds me accountable and inspires me to be a better person every single day.