A Delayed Return: The Mental Drain of Covid

Happy Summer Holidays International Teachers! I have finished teaching in Taiwan and I have landed safely in the UK.

I’ve decided to write, as, for me, this is the best way to process my thoughts. This is quite a personal blog!

Amazingly, the transition through Heathrow Airport was smooth, although there were huge queues, we were ushered through as a family, still to queue but in a smaller one. I remember feeling slightly nervous in this queue, one of the only wearing a mask as we were herded together.  

Thankfully, all of our luggage arrived safely. After some confusion about where our hotel was (within the terminal, but not ours sadly), we arrived at our hotel after a pretty long walk.

My mind immediately began with comparisons to arriving at a branded, five-star hotel in Asia. In the UK we had to move all our luggage ourselves, were told impatiently to wait as I questioned about luggage storage, and although an item requested was available, it wasn’t brought to the room. The expectation was for the guests to go collect. A very different experience from the service offered in Taiwan.

In terms of customer service, a general disinterest prevailed in Heathrow. We also realised we had overpaid for our SIMs, more than a third more in the airport. The sales assistant had explained that the costs ‘go down’ after the first month, of course not highlighting they are just at the actual price. Dragging our bags to the post office for shipping, we saw it was closed, but no staff we asked seemed to know this or know why.

Yet, things shaped up after a good night’s sleep. Wandering around in the airport maskless was an incredible feeling. Tasting the first craved food…a crumpet…an absolute delight.

Leaving Heathrow and connecting with family was brilliant. I felt I could finally relax.

After a couple of days, we headed up North to our next reunion, stopping in Yorkshire en route. Forever the planner, I thought it wise to book up a cottage for a few nights. As our next destination was to stay with my mother, of compromised status, I wanted to ensure none of us had caught covid in transit.

Arriving at the cottage was like a dream, the surroundings of the Yorkshire dales were something that had so faded from my memory. Pointing out tractors and livestock to my daughter, who has few memories of England, made me appreciate the landscape all the more.

However, going to bed that night, 3.5 days after arrival, I shivered and shook. My nose was blocked. I had such disruptive sleep my husband slept on the couch downstairs. Waking in the morning I realised that this wasn’t just a cold.

I took the test. There was a faint covid line. My husband didn’t want to believe it. For the next three days, except for going out for a walk, I stayed in.

I’m now in my second rental, with a third booked. I’m officially on day 5 (the first covid test being day 1). I start feeling well then I wake up and I’m sick again.

My daughter and husband are staying with my mum. I could just see her at a distance and walk away. She wanted me to stay in the house but there is no way I could risk that.

Day 3 away from all my family, desperate to reconnect with what I’ve missed for so long. Two meetups with friends cancelled (who will not be available later).

This is a sad reality of Covid. It’s not having the sickness, it’s being isolated to keep others safe. I’ve moved from feeling sad to angry.

I now feel as an international teacher in my situation it is a necessity to have a property in the UK. This situation could happen again and again. I will begin my search!

This situation has led me to reflect on just how important connections are. I had twelve weeks on/off online learning and packing up around my family. I thought it would be a dream to have some quiet time. Yet when this is enforced, it feels more like a prison sentence.

All I can think about now is being reunited and giving everyone a big hug.

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