Dubai: Who would have thought that one day to some people a weekly trip to the grocery shop would feel like a “great way to get out of the house” or that we would no longer be hugging our friends anymore?
Before we knew it, many of us have (reluctantly) let go of our old normal and now settling into what seems to be a brave new world.
Since the pandemic really started changing our lives, our vocabulary has increased significantly as well. These days we are saying things like “new normal”, “quarantine”, “face masks”, “social distancing”, “flattening the curve”. And the worst one of them all - “unprecedented times”.
One of the good things about Gulf News is that you get a variety of different people and personalities working in the newsroom, so when we write our opinions, you get a range of different thoughts. So you will have those who never leave their house and those who are living almost exactly as they were before the pandemic, with the addition of a face mask.
Here’s what they had to say:
Not going to lie, my life is practically “old-normal”
Yousra Zaki, Assistant Features Editor
It’s always a little scary for me putting my real opinions out there and revealing just how casual I am about my day to day life. But for the sake of this piece, I am going to be completely honest. People might read this and judge me for just being myself, but as I just turned 30, and knowing that my last year in my 20s was spent inside my home, I make no apologies for how physically outgoing I have become.
Pre-pandemic Yousra never sat still. I always felt the social pressure to be out. Dinners, gatherings, pool days, trips with my friends. This is, after all, part of how I enjoy life. Sure, the pandemic gave me a nice break. I didn’t mind being home, especially since I knew I wasn’t missing out on anything, since all my other friends were home too. And honestly, lucky for me I don’t have a husband or kids, so my time at home was spent in peace doing yoga and enjoying long skincare routines before bed.
Now I live as the old me did. I have plans almost on a daily basis day. It’s funny, nowadays, if I stay home for too long, I get a little stir-crazy and I get flashbacks from our homebound days.
I made up my mind when I turned 30, two weeks ago, that I would live life to the fullest. Since then, whether it’s dinners with my friends, biking around my neighbourhood, going to the cinema or working out at my gym, I make sure I do something every day. The only two things that changed for me, is that I wear a mask and I don’t hug or touch people. All in all, I do not feel uncomfortable or scared when I am out in Dubai. And if you ask me how much per-cent my life has gone back to normal. I’d say about 95.
The fight for a semblance of normality in daily life
Omar Shariff, International Editor
Every weekend, come rain or shine, we set out for remote locations. When COVID-19 took over the world early this year, we found ourselves quickly adjusting to the weird new realities: Wearing masks and gloves, rubbing elbows instead of shaking hands, working from home. It introduced new phrases to our lexicon, like ‘social distancing’. The insidious virus bogged us down and forced us to forget life as we knew it.
But slowly, within the confines of safety measures and best practices, many of us have fought back, as we try to retrieve as much of our old lives as we can.
Unlike (seemingly) most people, I do not like working from home (WFH). So I try to go to the office as often as I safely can. In the early months, something that was most hard to deal with was staying indoors during the weekends. But slowly, as the deserts, beaches, restaurants, picnic areas and malls reopened, I have tried to make the most of it - while exercising safety measures like wearing masks and gloves and maintaining physical distance from other people.
I am not a mall person at all; it is the outdoors that does it for me (and yes, restaurants). Every weekend, come rain or shine, we set out for remote locations, where the next human being is often a kilometre away (how’s that for social distancing?)
Last week, it was the off-road trail from Wadi Aasimah to the little village of Al Ghail in Ras Al Khaimah - a magnificent, desolate place where there’s you, your 4WD, the mountains, and the sky.
The week before it was dune bashing until we reached the foot of Fossil Rock, in the middle of the desert. Followed by a BBQ. Yes, there were other 4x4 enthusiasts nearby, but given the vast emptiness of the desert, it was easy to keep miles between us and them.
Our other favourite spot is Jebel Jais, up in the RAK mountains. Granted, there are more people here, enjoying their BBQ in the cool mountain breeze. But even there, it is pretty easy to keep at least 10 to 15 metres between you and the next family.
When it comes to eating out, I pick restaurants that really enforce the 30 per cent occupancy rule. And ideally, I try to pick restaurants that have open-air dining areas. So I guess you could say, I am making the most of it
The new normal, but far from normal
By Alex Abraham, Senior Associate Editor
When I think of normal I remember running out of the house for an errand without a mask, going to the mall with the family over the weekend, or going to church on Fridays, without fearing a virus.
None of this happens today.
After more than six months of working from home, stepping out and telling myself that all is well is not easy. On a visit to the mall last week I was uncomfortable. People were maintaining physical distancing and everyone was wearing masks, but the fear of the lurking coronavirus played on my mind. At the clothes stores, I asked myself, “Should I try on these trousers? Is it safe?”
There is a new study being released every day by scientists across the world that makes matters worse for me. One says that the virus can stay on currency notes for three weeks, another states that they are found on clothes after nearly four weeks. What if this is true? Am I at risk when I step out of the house?
Pre-pandemic, most of our Fridays would be spent in church. After worship, there would be plenty of time for fellowship, a leisurely lunch with friends and a visit to the home of a loved one or someone who was ill. All this has stopped. Thanks to the Zoom app, worship services are continuing. In fact, we have the joy of listening to speakers from around the world now, from the comfort of our home. But gone are the lunches and house visits, the time spent listening and empathising with someone in need. In its place is a quick phone call or a note on WhatsApp.
Is life back to normal? The roads are busy, the offices are filling up and the malls are bustling.
Yes, this is the new normal, but life is far from normal.
I have COVID-19 fatigue (Not that body aches that you might be thinking)
Sara Al Shurafa, Assistant Online Editor
It’s October, and things are not getting better out there, and it seems this is the new norm and I don’t think I can be isolated anymore. I have the COVID-19 mental fatigue and psychologically, I just can’t stay in my home anymore. I can’t handle it. So from last week I decided to try to go back to some normalcy, but with a mask and social distancing. So I went out there into the world. I took my kids to a small water park on the weekend. Yes, I took them at 9am and left at 11.30am as people started to come in, but I did it and the sun was really beneficial for all of us.
I am now more open to the idea of going to the office, went for a couple of hours, the mask is still pretty irritating but it made a big difference for me. The COVID-19 fatigue was also affecting my work momentum, seeing colleagues and talking face to face was a game-changer rather than the isolation of starring to a screen all alone at home.
Yesterday I found myself out in the mall shopping, followed by a dinner with some friends, I was edgy but also I realised that many people are living their lives out there. Restaurants are full and they are very well managed in maintaining everyone’s safety.
Apart from travelling, I am going to face the new world with a mask and some logic and live it day by day.
My ‘almost-back-to’ normal life
Tabitha Barda, Parenting Editor
If you’d asked me last week how far my family and I have gone back to normal, I would have said we were getting there. Albeit the 2020 version of normal - swathed in a facemask and doused in sanitiser – but my two school-age children had at last gone back to in-person education, we’d resumed a limited number of socially distanced playdates outside, and we were even venturing out to the odd restaurant for family breakfasts. My sons’ deeply missed extracurricular football and rugby activities had finally started once more – all at a distance of 2 metres apart, with only skill-building activities allowed rather than games – but it was something. The children were finally interacting with other children, and being allowed to run around, play and get the rosiness back into their cheeks.
This week has been a little different. Due to a positive case in one of my son’s classes, he was shifted onto distance learning as a precaution, and coincidentally my husband happened to come down with a fever at the same time. So we’re in-home quarantine, and I’ve been back to juggling full-time work with home-learning supervision, refereeing sibling squabbles while attending to a sick husband who is self-isolating in my usual home office. It’s been a blast back into the lockdown past and a timely reminder that, as normal as things may seem on the surface, we cannot afford to drop any of the precautions.