73: Time Capsule

May 6, 2021

We’ve been doing this podcast for 8 years because of the amazing community. Today we hear from you, listeners, about what your year has been like. It’s honest and beautiful and I hope we look back in a few years and take a collective deep breath.


email: thisisjoyandclaire@gmail.com

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This is Joy & Claire Episode 73: Time Capsule 

Episode Date: May 6, 2021

Transcription Completed: May 16, 2021

Audio Length: 56:08 minutes 

Joy: Hey guys, this is a special episode of This is Joy & Claire. I have been spending the last couple of day stringing together your voice memos about your experience with COVID. Now, I know that you guys love to hear Claire and I talk, and we’ve been doing it for eight years. [laughing] So we really wanted to hear from our community about the experience you are having over the past year with COVID. Now, I know that some of you may be like, “Wow, we’ve been talking about COVID. I don’t want to listen to anything about COVID.” Hear me out. When I was listening to these voice memos, all I could think of was we have the most amazing community, and I was just so in awe of everybody’s resilience and everybody’s ability to just push through the struggles that they’re going through. Any time I have a doubt that people are supporting this community or supporting this show, I am just so inspired by your emails and your voice memos, and this was no exception. Listening to the voice memos as I was editing them together, I was just like, “Wow, this is really what our podcast has been about.” I felt less alone listening to your voices. I felt like I had a better feeling of what was going on across all corners of the world. And it just made me feel so much closer to this community. I know that we say that a lot, but it really is the essence of why we do this podcast. Because of you and because we’ve met such amazing people. So I hope you get something out of everybody’s story. It truly is something that I didn’t expect when I was listening to all the voice memos. Wow. You know what, we need to feel closer to people right now. We have so much division. There’s so many heated discussions and arguments and right or wrongs and wanting to just be angry to one another that rarely do we get the opportunity to just listen to people. And think that’s what this episode is, is just listening to other viewpoints and perspectives. I encourage you as you’re listening to this to keep an open mind and to not shut it off because it’s not Joy and Claire the entire time, is to just listen to other people and have compassion in your heart. That’s what I hope for for this episode. So without further ado, here’s you, the community.

Listener 1 [Pittsburgh, PA, USA]: Hey Joy and Claire. This is Joy from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The other Joy. Or the other, other Joy. I work as a psychologist for a health system out here in Pennsylvania called UPMC and am really lucky to be working with vaccine clinics for underserved communities. We’re seeing a decrease in people getting vaccinated each day, in part because of vaccine hesitancy. Just a note about what I’m seeing and also some things for us to think about who want to encourage loved ones to get vaccinated. It’s common for people to feel anxious about new treatments, and this is a really new treatment. And even though I think that the science is really good, not everyone has access to the same kinds of information. I think I’ve just been trying to sit with people, both in my work and in my personal life, to answer questions, tell them why I got vaccinated, and keep underscoring that it’s ultimately their choice, that no one is forcing this. I think for the most part for most of us in the United States, that is the truth. And I think that as we think about this and continue to support people, I think people in healthcare need to be more nimble and think about how we can meet different communities where they are in this journey so that we can ultimately get to heard immunity, which is so important for all of us, and I think especially important for Black and Brown communities, LGBTQ folks, and all of the other underserved communities that we are seeing being impacted at a heightened degree by COVID. So for all of us out there in healthcare, keep up the good fight. And for all of the rest of you out there, thanks for all of the ways you’ve supported us. Hopefully very soon we’ll be coming out on the other end of this. Bye y’all.

Listener 2 [China]: Hi Joy and Claire, my 2020 was insane. In Summer 2019, we moved to China with my infant daughter for my husband who’s studying at a Chinese university. In December 2019, we heard about some viral pneumonia spreading in Wuhan. Kept our eyes on the news as we left for a planned 18-day vacation to Southeast Asia in mid-January 2020. By the end of our trip, the COVID situation was worsening exponentially in mainland China. We found out we could not return to China and were evacuated to the US. Our planned trip turned into a 30-day, 3-country, multiple city trip as we planned our next steps. Seven months into evacuation, we found out we could not return and had to move elsewhere. We never returned home and it still feels so weird not getting the opportunity for closure since we were just leaving for a small trip with two carry-on bags. 

Listener 3 [Houston, TX, USA]: Hey Joy and Claire, it’s Jay here. I’m currently living and working in Houston at a non-profit that does disaster recovery construction. In September of 2020, part of my job was to go to southwest Louisiana and help people recover after Hurricane Laura and then eventually Hurricane Delta hit that area. This was still in the height of the pandemic, and my company was very mindful of the fact that our small team of eight would need safe housing and we would essentially be staying with each other and working with each other 24/7. For my team, we were really excited to get into the field and help people, however it was often scary at some points because we were the only people wearing masks in a lot of these small towns. Now, understandably most of these people had just lost their homes, had no water, had no power, so a pandemic was the least of their worries at this point. We, knowing this, did our best to socially distance and wearing our masks, keeping in mind that if one of our team members got COVID, we all would and there was no way to avoid that. So safety was at the forefront of our mind. For us, the most frustrating thing was that the church we were staying in had no mask mandates. Don’t get me wrong, we were grateful that they were letting us stay and that they had power and that they had water, but they were functioning at full capacity, potluck dinners every Wednesday and multiple services every Sunday. Maybe 10% of their 300+ congregation would wear masks. It was hard for us because we spent a lot of our very minimal free time at that church, and it was hard to come back from 10+ hour days of both physically and emotionally taxing of work to continue being worried about getting COVID-19 in the place that we were staying. All we could do was keep wearing our masks, and we would leave on Wednesdays to avoid the potluckers, but that’s all we could do. Anyway, looking forward to hearing what other people have to say.

Listener 4 [Ontario, Canada]: Hey Joy and Claire, I just thought I would send in a little voice note about what my experience has been like with COVID so far. I’m a bit of a gabber, so I’m going to try to keep this short. I live in Ontario, Canada in a small town. We are in our third lockdown, stay-at-home order here. Today is April 22nd or something, and this going to go until May 20, 2021. Yeah, we can’t really go anywhere. We’re not supposed to see anyone. Playgrounds are still open, which is awesome because I have two little kids and I am 33 weeks pregnant with my third, and getting through the day is just rough if I can’t get their energy out. So that’s been great. And because I’m from a small town, I know the little hidden parks where there’s hardly  any people if any people, so I feel pretty safe doing that. The rest of the province is just crazy. Our daily case load is over 4,000 cases a day. It’s mainly the main cities, the big cities around here. We’re about 1.5 -2 hours from Toronto, so that’s where a lot of those numbers come from. But yeah, the entire province is on lockdown. Our vaccine rollout is incredibly slow. So it’s just been tough. It’s been tough to see the rest of the world kind of open up, and we’re still here in a lockdown. We actually did get COVID back in December. We had very mild symptoms, which we were very lucky for. But then three months later, we developed a very bizarre thing where food now tastes absolutely horrid to us. So we have a long list of food from meat to anything with a trace of garlic, onions, tomatoes, eggs, random fruits and vegetables, most things cooked. It’s bizarre, it’s long, it’s making life very, very difficult. It’s a thing. It’s called parosmia. It was a thing before COVID, but we’ve kind of since researched and learned that a lot of people who had COVID, particularly if their scent was affected in any way, are developing this pretty horrible thing, and it just makes life really, really hard. To figure out what to eat with this horrible, horrible taste. We cannot eat the thing. Some people just power through it, and I don’t know how they do it because it’s like, we’re running to the bathroom to throw up. It’s just awful. So that was kind of weird and really, really awful. But other than that, we were fine. I would say the biggest challenge I’ve found with COVID, luckily, we were very blessed to be in a good position. My oldest is only three, so he’s not going to school for another two years. My husband is a feed truck delivery driver, so he had to keep working through the whole thing. He never lost his job. The hardest thing has been to navigate difference in opinions with our parents. So both of our parents live really close to us, and the kids would have seen them a lot. It’s just been hard to navigate the two extremes. His parents are on one end of the extreme where they just don’t seem to care at all. Everything is a conspiracy. They don’t want to get vaccinated just based off of conspiracy, so it’s not a well-educated thing. They’re just like, “Do you even know anyone who’s died?” So yeah, they see whoever they want and don’t really listen to the rules. Then, my mom is a bit more – she hasn’t left her house in a year. She does come see me and helps out with the kids, as long as we don’t see anyone. So back when things were kind of opened up, it was just hard to navigate that because we felt like doing some outdoor distanced hangouts with the kids was okay, and then they didn’t want to come help at all if we were doing that. So just hard to navigate that when I don’t have any child care really, and then I have tons of appointments with my pregnancy. Especially because we had COVID, they want to be extra careful. So just navigate if I need someone to watch my kids, we don’t want it to be my husband’s parents because we don’t want to get sick again, so we just need to be very tight for my family. Luckily, they’re okay now if I go out to a park as long as it’s not busy and they can be distanced. Which is totally fair, but it’s just been hard to balance those two sides because right now we do not see my husband’s family because of their views. I think for the most part they understand, but I do think they think we’re kind of being too strict. Which I don’t really care about because I don’t want to risk my baby’s health or our health again. But yeah, I would say that’s been a hard challenge, and it’s really made me think about – you kind of have to take a step back and think where people are coming from and why. I’m trying my best to urge them to educate themselves and not just listen to uneducated friends and videos that they come across and to really dig in and to see where those videos are coming from and to try to be a bit more – but they’ve just never been like that. They don’t really seek out information about things, which is hard for me to handle because I am the opposite. But yeah, and it’s also made me think about people within their family unit, like if their husband or their wife are in disagreement and how that would work. You just kind of think everyone is on the same page, and then the more I’ve realized through this talking with people is people are really, really not on the same page, and everyone thinks that their way is the best way, and everyone thinks that they’re totally valid in the way they’re thinking. It’s just hard. It’s a lot of conversations. It’s a lot of hard conversations. Yeah, that’s where I’m at. I’m hopeful that maybe we can get out of this lockdown soon, get some more people vaccinated. That would be great, but we’ll see. Thanks a lot. Sorry this was so long. Bye.

Listener 5 [Spain]: Hi Joy and Claire. I realized that I have been listening to you guys for like six years now. Basically since right after moving to Spain. I’m from California. I live in Barcelona. And the way that the pandemic was handled here was interesting. We were in a complete 100% lockdown for I think it ended up being six weeks starting in March of last year. We weren’t allowed to do any exercise outside. We weren’t allowed to leave our houses unless it was for grocery shopping basically and if you walk a dog, which unfortunately I did not have a dog to walk until after the lockdown. And so we spent quite a long time literally just in our houses. And then last summer, they started to kind of open things up. Southern European summer is very exciting. Everybody takes vacation at the same time. It’s this really big deal, and so they kind of opened things up and started to relax the restrictions, and that backfired. Numbers went way back up. We have been bouncing in and out of restrictions for now over a year, about 14 months we’ve been in and out of restrictions. Currently, we can’t leave our homes between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Right now in Barcelona, you can’t leave Barcelona city. They opened it back up, numbers went up. Closed it back down. It’s illegal to not wear a mask outside, although here people tend to smoke more than they do in the States and so you have people smoking and they have their mask off. And the typical problem of people not wearing their masks correctly. And I think currently we’re allowed to meet max of six in a group. So yeah, it’s been hard. It feels a little bit weird to go back to “normal” life. This is the new normal, right? This is just what we have. That’s what’s been going on in Spain.

Listener 6 [Belgium]: Hi Joy and Claire, this is Marliese from Belgium with COVID news from Belgium. So thinking about our government, I feel like they took it pretty seriously from the beginning. We had a very strict lockdown starting last year’s March. I think more strict than our neighboring countries. We had a curfew. We had everything non-essential closed. And then gradually near the summer, things started to open back up. A few times, the numbers got bad again, so things close again and could open back up. It went back and forth a few times. And then in end of October, things got so bad again. We were the worst in all of Europe, so we entered a second big lockdown. Again with a curfew, again with everything closing. So that’s where we still are right now. They’re now saying that maybe June we will be able to reopen restaurants and gyms again, but I don’t know. And end of April probably we’ll be able to have outdoor group classes again. I work in a gym, so that’s of course what I’m focusing on right now. But end of April, outdoor group classes. Fingers crossed, we’ll see. But what I actually wanted to talk about, that’s a thing that’s typical in Belgium is how we like to just be very specific in stupid little rules. For example, in the first lockdown, you were only allowed to go outside of the house for very necessary things. And also to work out, but workouts were specified, so you were only allowed to do walking, baking, or running. Those were the three opines. And if you were doing anything else, you could get fined. So for example, if you wanted to do some air squats, I don’t know, or shoot some balls through a hoop, also not allowed. You could get fined. Also as you know, running is hard. I’m a very tired person. And if you maybe wanted to take a break from running a rest on a bench, that was also not allowed because you are only allowed to be outside either working out or going to a very necessary thing. So you were not allowed to sit on a bench. And then one of the best rules I think was last Christmas. In the second lockdown, we were actually allowed to have one other person invited in the house. And then for Christmas, the government allowed us, for people who had a garden at least, to invite three people over into your garden. Because the joke was – well, it’s not a joke. It was an actual rule. That only the one contact that was allowed in your house, the cuddle contact as we say. We love good alliteration. So only that one contact, that one person was allowed to use the bathroom on Christmas. The other two, I guess, had to do it outside. It was an official rule. It was officially communicated from the government. Only in Belgium. Other side of the coin in Belgium is we had a very, very good system of temporary unemployment from the beginning. So even though I’ve barely worked this year, I got every month at least 70% of my normal wages. So that’s pretty nice. It was all very easy, very accessible. Yeah, can’t complain what they did there.

Listener 7 [Singapore]: Hi Joy and Claire, this is Maddy, and I’m calling from Singapore. My husband and I moved to Singapore from Philadelphia in April 2019. It’s super hard to compare Singapore and how they’ve handled the pandemic to the US because Singapore is so different. Singapore’s a really small city-state. It’s only about the quarter size of Rhode Island. And it’s on the equator in Southeast Asia. The city is known for being really technological and also very safe and very heavy in fining people for various offenses. But the country itself is just so different. So today and throughout most of the pandemic, I’ve felt really safe, which is weird to say. As early as February of last year, we saw contract tracing apps mandated everywhere, where you have to check in and out and then they use the app for contact tracing, and also temperature screenings. Masks became required by law in mid-March, and all of that is still in place today. In April and May of last year, we had a really strict lockdown, which they called a circuit breaker. Which is great branding, I must say. And during circuit breaker, you couldn’t visit anyone outside of your household. Not outside, not in your own house, not at all. All businesses were also mandated to close during this time. So it was really strange, but after that in June, schools were able to open and then businesses and shops and attractions. So basically since June life has been pretty normal here. Today, I sometimes feel that I’m living within castle walls. So life in Singapore feels pretty normal and safe, but internationally travel is highly restricted, which has been a key point in Singapore being able to control COVID. So it’s been a bonkers year, really, living a world away from family through this. But really hopeful that things will get better soon .They’re starting to vaccinate in Singapore as well. Hopeful that news is good in the next coming days and months. Thanks.

Listener 8 [New Hampshire, USA]: Hey Joy and Claire, this is Jackie. I am currently living on the New Hampshire sea coast, but I sadly moved here from Denver, which I miss dearly, back in October of 2020. And I’ve actually had the amazing opportunity to house sit and dog sit here and have been able to save money while continuing to remote remotely for the University of Colorado. But pretty soon, I’m going to be looking for a new job, and I’m hoping to do something remote. I’m a new project manager. I have my PMP certification. I just finished your latest episode. I know you said we could reach out if we are looking for a job, so I just wanted to throw that out there and mention more about my COVID experience I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity to house and dog sit for this long in a beautiful area. I’m right on the beach. I mean, it’s freezing cold, but it’s beautiful. And I take my dog that’s staying with me as well on daily beach walks. It’s amazing. But it’s been tough moving from Colorado. It’s been sad. I mean, my family’s all out here, which is why I took this opportunity. But it’s kind of crazy how much the pandemic has changed our lives and how I would have never had this opportunity, though it’s a little bit bitter sweet. Anyway, thanks for all you guys do. I’ve listened for years, and you guys are the best.

Listener 9 [Nova Scotia, Canada]: Hi Joy and Claire, my name’s Marcelle. I’m from Nova Scotia in good old Canada. I want to tell you about my COVID experience. We shut down mid-March like the rest of the world. No seeing anyone outside of your household. In May they said you could have one bubble family, so another household that you could hang out with. In June I think it was, they said we could gather up to ten people without maintaining social distancing. And restaurants and gyms opened back up in July I think. We had a pretty decently normal summer. While our province still remains to this date a state of emergency, in the summer time we had what we called the Atlantic Bubble – so the four Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. You could travel freely within those without having to isolate. Now the bubble is closed due to increased cases in two of the provinces. Over the summer time, we had zero cases. It’s easy because our province is less than a million people, so it’s much easier to control. Yeah, it was tough, and we still have measures in place. Social distancing, mask wearing. Masks became mandatory I think in July. It’s been a ride. We are very fortunate, I am very fortunate as an extrovert who lives alone who cannot work from home, so I was still able to go into work and socialize and see people. But it was tough to spend two months without physical touch. We all know how important that is. Anyway, hope you have a great day. Oh, also, one last thing. The New York Times wrote an article about how Nova Scotia, how it was the safest place COVID-wise. So you could check that out. It’s by a man named Paul, don’t remember his last name. Bye.

Listener 10 [Chicago, IL, USA]: Hey Joy and Claire, this is Alyssa. First time caller, long-time listener. And I was just calling in to talk about what COVID was like in the greater Chicago area. I live in a suburb of Chicago that is predominantly Hispanic, but my business – I run a therapy practice – is in a high-income town just north of us that is predominantly white. So it’s been very interesting to see the dramatic difference among people, businesses, cultures in response to COVID-19. The town we live in has been very cautious and conservative but very open because people need to work, people need to go to their jobs, people need to pay their bills. The place where my business is located just three miles north of us is completely shut down. Everyone has pivoted, everyone is working from home. But pushing really hard for schools to be open because they need their children to continue to get that education. I completely respect both sides, but it’s interesting to see how culture, class, color of our skin is really making a huge impact and a huge difference in the way COVID is treated and the luxury of socioeconomic status in relation to this. My town had one of the highest rates of COVID transmission, whereas the town where I work had less than a hundred cases on any given day. So I hope that provides some interesting perspective. Love you guys. Hope to meet you sometime when I’m in Colorado, hopefully next summer.

Listener 11 [California, USA]: Hi, this is Cheryl. I am calling from California. I wanted to give my thoughts about my COVID experience and how my life has changed in this past year. On May 12th of last year, I stopped going into the office and started working from home. It was a big relief to me, and I don’t mean to sound disrespectful to people’s experience in the pandemic, but I was really, really burnt out on my commute going into the office. Every day was the same during the week, and not having any time to myself. On that note, I’ve really needed to stay home. I live in Silicon Valley. Traffic is awful here. Early on when we went into a shutdown here in my area, there was no traffic. I was really refreshing. Traffic was back. I am still working from home. Early on in the pandemic I remember having a huge fear of going out into public. And I don’t mean walking in my neighborhood. I mean going into the stores and wiping down my stuff, and then I’ve touched my credit card and then I put it back in my wallet, do I need to wipe it down. My mom bringing over all these bleach supplies. It was just crazy. I recently got my vaccine. I got the Johnson & Johnson one shot vaccine, and I felt a huge amount of relief. I went out to my car, and I started crying. Just the stress of the past year. I remember – go for walks daily, and coming around a corner and there was an old woman, and there was bushes on both side of me and I couldn’t get out of my way. She literally went into the bush to not be near me, and it was really just strange to have that kind of reaction to just passing someone by on the sidewalk. You know, one blessing of the shutdown to me has been, I attend 12-step meetings. I have been clean for almost 29 years. I really struggle to go to meetings, and I know that meetings are really super important to my recovery. Meeting makers make it, they say it all the time. I have been able to go to at least 1-2 meetings a day daily for months. Anyways, it’s still going on here. People are getting vaccinated, things are opening up. I’m really happy that there’s more jobs and people are able to go to work. There’s been a lot of businesses that have shut down in my community, and just to see the business that are still left doing better. I do find that I stay in my house too much. I went looking for my purse yesterday. It’s like, “Where is my purse?” Things are still strange. I’m looking forward to things opening up. A lot of the companies in the Valley have been reevaluating their, you know everyone has to come into the office every day and work, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to stay home part of the week and work from home. So that is my experience with COVID. I love you guys. I love your intelligent conversations about important topics. And I love all the fun stuff. I did come to the Colorado trip and met you guys. I was the one who was peeing while I was trying to learn to do the double unders. Joy, if you remember. And look forward to possibly going on this trip that you spoke of that you are planning. Anyway, have a great day. Thanks. Bye.

Listener 12 [California, USA]: Hi Joy and Claire, it’s Ally from California. I’ve sent you guys voice memos in the past, and I just loved that you had a call for voice memos on your latest episode. Because I feel like I’m that meme where it’s like, nobody asked but then you give your opinion anyway. But I wanted to give you a little insight into my experience with the pandemic, and also I really appreciated your conversation about the vaccine. So I guess I feel like saying I’m from California gives people maybe a stereotypical view of what the pandemic was like because as the media has shown, we’ve had really, really strict regulations and lockdown and all of that kind of things for going on a year. Just this week, our county moved into the orange tier which is where things can start opening up in doors a little bit more and things like that. So it’s been really interesting. But I live in a very conservative town in the Central Valley, which is much different than the rest of California or the majority of California I should say. It’s very conservative, and as soon as Governor Newsom came out with the second round of lockdown. So at the beginning, I think like everyone else was, we were all sort of on board playing our part. And then after, what was it – October, November, December-ish, when kind of that second wave hit and we went into that second lockdown, our local sheriff basically came out and said he would not be enforcing any of the governor’s regulations. So that kind of left it up to individual businesses and individual organizations as to whether or not they wanted to open or not. It was really interesting in our town because you could kind of see either where people’s political boundaries were, as far as businesses and stuff, or even some of them weren’t even political, but they were like, if we don’t open our business is going to fail. And so it was really interesting when the rest of the state was locked down and the rest of the country was locked down, you could go out to eat in a restaurant indoors in full capacity without a mask here. And you still kind of had to wear a mask to get in the door, and they had signs posted and everything. But once you were in the door it was kind of business as usual, which was really interesting. Not everywhere. There were a lot of businesses that were still closed. There were a lot of businesses that did outdoor only or whatever. But it was really interesting to see that dynamic. I’m sort of in a weird spot because I’m a democrat. I’m pretty liberal on the spectrum, but this whole COVID thing has thrown me for a loop because I haven’t always been as extreme as some others on the left with the lockdown. I feel like I’ve been in a unique situation to be on both sides. I’m definitely more liberal and more on the side of we should be wearing masks and taking things seriously than a lot of people in my town, but I’m also not as far – I went to school, and I went to college in New England, and so all of my friends still live in the Boston, New York City area. And they were like very, very, very extreme. So I was sort of in the middle, and it made it really interesting. My sister is an ICU nurse here in town. We got hit pretty hard with the second wave. It was pretty scary for her. I think emotionally it was hard on her, but she wasn’t necessarily afraid of getting the virus. And this was before the vaccine, obviously. So she was continuing to work. I am a teacher, so I was continuing to work virtually online, but I would also go into my classroom. There was nobody there, but I have a two-year-old at home, so being able to work out of the house was really helpful. Our mom was both of our baby sitters. And we sort of had the discussion with her of like, you know, my sister’s going to be at risk of getting the virus and/or submitting it to other people. How comfortable are you? My mom is very, very conservative, so she was sort, didn’t even believe coronavirus was real. So she’s like, “No, I’m going to babysit for you. This virus will go away,” whatever. As much as my sister and I were worried about her, she wasn’t worried about herself, and we were like we can’t force her to abide by anything. She’s not going to allow us to not let her see her grandsons. We continued using her as a babysitter. We continued seeing each other as a family. We weren’t seeing many other people outside of our family, but we were seeing each other regularly. My sister was going into work. So it was really interesting because our lives sort of continued on. My husband and I, our work lives were very different, but the rest of our family were sort of continuing on. Long story longer, we all ended up getting COVID in January. We assume it came from my sister. She was the only one having contact with people on the outside that was high risk. So we all got it. All of us. Our kids. Every single one of us tested positive. And luckily it wasn’t that bad. My mom got pretty sick for about a week. None of the rest of us got very sick at all or really had any other symptoms. Then we recovered and went back to what we had been doing originally. Then the vaccine came around, and this became kind of a weird – like Claire was saying, and I really appreciate her talking about it. It’s like weirdly controversial. I would never say that I am an anti-vaxer by any means. My kid is pretty much fully vaccinated. However, I am a very big proponent on informed consent, and I spent a lot of time researching the childhood vaccines, and we opted out of some of them and we delayed some of them. But things like that, I am a big proponent of informed consent. So when the COVID vaccine came along, my immediate reaction was I wouldn’t get it because we’ve already had it. We’ve had antibody tests that we’ve tested positive for. So kind of our whole family was like there’s no need for us to get it. But having that standpoint with my liberal friends has been very controversial. Like, I have been made to feel like I am responsible for the death of millions of people because I’m choosing not to get the vaccine, at least not now. And I’ve said I’m not going to put up a fight about it. If it becomes a thing for my employment or whatever, I will get it. Basically I would like to wait and see. I’m not anti-vax. I believe in science, and I think it’s really important. But I also feel like it’s my body. And the fact that we’ve already had it, I feel like I’m not going out and spreading it to people. I’m also not seeing people who aren’t vaccinated or who haven’t already had it. It’s just been a very, very weird and contentious year with how people approach COVID in general, especially in my town, especially with my political leanings or whatever. I feel very torn and divided and very unsure. As much as I wanted to take COVID seriously and have taken it seriously – I followed all the rules and everything – I also feel really strongly about the negative impact. I feel like there could have been more of a middle gourd. And I don’ know what that is, and I don’t think there’s any country that has successfully done that well. I don’t know. I felt very, very torn this entire year. And I appreciate you guys. I know how you guys feel about COVID and taking it seriously. I know how you guys have talked about vaccines in the past. But I appreciate you opening up this conversation because I do feel like. I feel like I don’t identify with either side. And it’s still weird to me that there are sides in any of this. But I appreciate you acknowledging that everybody has different opinions, and you’re not necessarily – you know, I don’t think that the vaccine is laced with 5G internet or whatever. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think the government’s out to get us. But at the same time, I think that the fear mongering, the unknown of all of it has really played in to heightening the political tensions in all of this. This is a really long voice memo. By no means do you need to include any of this in your podcast, but again, I just wanted to share my opinion. Like that meme where nobody asked, and I wanted to tell you anyway. Thank you for doing what you guys do. I love listening. See you next Thursday.

Listener 13 [China]: Hi Joy and Claire, this is Moni and I am an American International teacher, and I am calling to talk about my experience with the pandemic in China and East Asia last year. I know for a lot of Americans this really didn’t start until March of last year. But for those of us in Asia, especially in China, this started in about December 2019 but really blew up in January 2020. So we’ve been dealing with this for a little bit longer than the rest of the world. And basically what happened was during Lunar New Year, which is the biggest migration of humans every single year, we had heard that this started to flare up. Most of us were on holiday or visiting family in China. And so my husband and I flew back to China, which is where we were living at the time. Didn’t know what we were going to experience. And once we got there, we noticed all of the shops were closed down. It was really hard to buy masks. We didn’t feel comfortable, so we booked a flight after returning like two days later. Basically as we were in the airport trying to leave China, we saw the flight board. And it was literally like a movie. Everything before us read cancelled, cancelled, cancelled. And there were really very few flights within China, but much less outside of the country internationally. Fortunately we made our flight and we stayed with some friends in Taiwan who were also international teachers abroad as well. We spent a couple months there, kind of waiting things out. Taiwan handled it beautifully. It doesn’t actually get a lot of coverage because of the Chinese claim over Taiwan’s sovereignty basically. They actually handled it really well. They tracked us. Their CDC made sure that we were wearing masks and following protocols and not having symptoms. They basically had little to no breakouts since this all began. Anyways, we did decide to return home, and we did that right as Taiwan’s borders shut down completely. We arrived back in Hangzhou, China where we lived. Basically the day before, the borders completely shut down. Even if you had a visa, you would not be allowed back into the country. And once we arrived in China, we actually had to do a home quarantine. Which it’s not like people have been referring to the last year. We had our door sealed. We could not leave outside. The government was actually keeping tabs on us and making sure that we weren’t leaving, just because China had already gone through their wave and everyone had already been locked inside for about three weeks, four weeks. So this was actually just to make sure that everyone was safe and that we weren’t infectious and that we weren’t going to infect and bring COVID to the rest of the population that was pretty much safe. So during this time, it was actually really amazing. They had – they call them “community helpers,” and they’re part of the Communist Party, and they, in addition to a doctor, keeping tabs on us and monitoring our symptoms twice a day. It was actually very effective. We felt very safe. And we even had some COVID symptoms. We reported it, and the doctors were really helpful. Nothing was alarmist. We weren’t taken out of our homes and put in a hospital or anything. And then actually at the end of what was supposed to be our 14-day quarantine, they changed the rules last minute and said that everyone needed a PCR and antigen test. So the day we were supposed to be released and have our final medical check, we had to do an extra day and a half longer of our quarantine because they hadn’t had the system set up yet. But we had a full antibody test and COVID test. Everything came back negative. Basically after that, we went back to 100% normal life in China pretty much. So yeah, that’s actually how China worked out. We’ve moved during that time actually after that. Now in Kirgizstan where there’s basically no controls whatsoever. Anyway, love you guys.

Listener 14 [Japan]: Hi Joy and Claire, this is Mira recording from Japan, and I thought I would share my experience during the pandemic here. I had actually been reading headlines over Christmas about some virus in China. It happened in Wuhan where I had actually visited a long time ago, so I had some connection there, and I was reading how it was affecting a lot of people and killing doctors and nurses. But things didn’t really get real for me until about January when it was Lunar New Year. It’s not celebrated here in Japan, but I have a friend living in Hong Kong. It’s a two-week holiday, and after that her school closed. They just did not go back to school. And at the same time, I was reading that they had closed the border to China. That meant that a lot of people who had left China – so a lot of teachers, international school teachers like myself – they were stranded outside of the country. I actually met somebody who was stuck here. My friend had another friend who was living and working in China who was staying with them for at least two weeks because she couldn’t get back into China. And come February we were told that if we were planning to travel that we should reconsider because of how things were looking for this virus. And it wasn’t even a question of would you be allowed to leave, but would you be allowed to come back. And at the end of February finally, what ended up happening was that the Prime Minister ordered all schools to close. And some people say that that was a political move because of the pressure he was getting. It really did look that way because there absolutely was no plan. That decision was made on a Thursday night to be put into effect the following Monday. So we at our school had a day to prepare our students and send them home with whatever we thought that they might need for an indefinite amount of time, ended up being all the way up until the end of the school year in June. And it was a bit strange because not even a week earlier the head of school had us all make sure that if we were to go online that we would be prepared at a moment’s notice. And there was our moment’s notice. But looking back, it doesn’t seem strange because he was probably following what was going on in China and Hong Kong. The Prime Minister also gave each prefecture the right to declare a state of emergency. So we were under a state of emergency for a while. There were restrictions like restaurants could only serve take out and karaoke bars had to close. But I found out later that those were only strong suggestions. Whereas in the States and Europe where there were complete lockdowns, for us it was please try and stay home instead. It was a bit frustrating because it felt like we, the foreigners, were treating the situation very seriously. We were trying to stay home as much as possible, stay away from people, including each other. But meanwhile here it felt like the Japanese public were out living their best lives. This could be for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons could be where they got their news from. Mostly from Japanese outlets, and they’re probably downplaying the seriousness of the situation because Japan wanted to host the Olympics and an outbreak could really jeopardize that. So that effects the accuracy of the numbers of cases and the deaths that were reported. I had also been told that there’s actually a sense of cultural superiority around here when Japanese people compare themselves to other Asian nations. Some people have even told me that they don’t even count themselves as Asia, just Japan. So since other countries had had epidemics and Japan hasn’t until this pandemic, maybe they had a sense of immunity. And also meanwhile since other countries like Korea and Taiwan had the experience, they knew what to do to limit the spread, and they wasted no time. But it felt like here was a completely different story. And it was a bit frustrating because in the media, people would be like, “Asia is doing so well,” and me and my colleagues would always try to point out to people that we knew, “Yes, but not Japan.” It was a different story here. They really did not have the infrastructure to deal with the pandemic. So schools were closed, but that was just a few weeks before their school holidays anyway because their school holiday goes from April to the following March. And so after the break, they just went back to school because they didn’t have the infrastructure to keep everything online, and it was the same for offices. So there was no working from home really at all because offices don’t have the infrastructure to support their employees at home. So everyone pretty much went back to work after a few weeks after the state of emergency was declared. But a positive thing was that there already is a culture of wearing masks here. Unlike in the States, there was no push back to asking everyone to wear a mask to control the spread of the virus. We did however have a shortage of masks and hand sanitizer and hand soap and even toilet paper. That happened here too. Luckily, I had just been to Costco before everyone panic-bought stuff, so I was all set. But of course, the worst part has not been able to travel internationally to see my friends and family. And also while I’m very happy for everybody who’s getting their vaccinations in the States and all the older friends I have and my parents who are getting vaccinated, the rollout here has been virtually nonexistent and it’s not anticipated until October that vaccinations will be available to the general public. So that really bothers me because it’s yet another thing that you look at Japan and you’d say, “Yeah, they’re dealing with it well.” But if we’re not getting vaccinated at the same rate, then that’s something. One thing I’ll always wonder is if things would have been taken more seriously if the Olympics were not supposed to take place in this country. Like, what would this whole experience have looked like if Japan were not interested in saving face to the international community? And would there be a difference in the way things were handled? What would be different if there weren’t so much on the line? Anyway. Thanks for listening. I love you guys, bye.

Claire: So thank you so much to everyone who took the time to make a voice memo. We really tried to put as many voice memos in this episode as we could, with a variety of different viewpoints and different experiences. We are always so grateful to you guys for giving us your input, telling us your experiences, and just being there for one another in our community. And of course, for listening to us for the last 14 months as we have all navigated this. I know I’ve talked a lot about my experiences throughout the past year, but I think the biggest moment for me that I will always remember is probably right around this time last year or maybe in April of last year when the PPE shortage was really bad in Brandon’s hospital and he was going to work in like a paint respirator. We really didn’t know when the supplies were going to get better. We really didn’t know when there was going to be a light at the end of the tunnel to have enough supplies that he could really be safe at work. I kind of had this feeling like every day he went to work, was he going to ever come home again. We had signed him up for this thing online that was basically a mask exchange, like an N95 exchange, where you would sign up and say, I’m a nurse and I live at this address. If anyone out there has an N95 collecting dust in your garage, please send it to me. And one day a couple weeks later – I signed him up for that, didn’t really think anything of it. And we thought we’d just get something in the mail, if anything. A couple of weeks later, somebody pulled up in front of our house, and it was pouring, pouring, pouring rain. And they ran out of their car and dropped this huge trash bag full of N95s on our doorstep and ran back out to their car. They had a mask on and a hat, and I never saw their face. They just waved and kind of acknowledged me as I opened the door. By the time I opened the door, they were already back in their car practically. I mean, I just welled up with tears. This was just so amazing to feel like people out there cared about the situation. That was a time when it felt like – I think for me, this past year the biggest thing that I had to come to terms with was this feeling that – before COVID, I sort of imagined that – and sorry if you guys can hear Evie screaming in the background. Brandon’s trying to get her to shush, but it’s just not really working. I kind of had this feeling that if something goes wrong, it’s somebody’s job in this country or in this world, like somebody has the job of figuring out how to handle it. That illusion was really shattered last year when it was like, how do we not even know where the masks are? How do we not even know which hospitals have them and which don’t? That really has been the biggest thing for me in the past year is realizing no one else – there isn’t some grand committee that has this figured out. And in some countries, obviously they do have that more so than the US did. They were more prepared to have that central logistics. But I had really always assumed that that was just a given and came to find out that it really wasn’t. So I remember when that happened when someone was dropping off a big bag of N95s at our house and Brandon was able to take that to work with him, it just felt like, okay, there might not be some room full of people who are going to be able to make this happen. We can’t rely on the government or other organizations, but we can really rely on one another. And that to me, I’ll always remember that moment forever. So again, we really, really are grateful for you guys weighing in and calling in and sending Gus your voice memos. Yeah, we hope you guys have an awesome week. We will be back next week. We have a few more guests lined up throughout May/June and the rest of the summer. Please remember to find us on Instagram @joyandclaire_. You can email us thisisjoyandclaire@gmail.com. You can always stream our episodes at joyandclaire.com. I know last week Spotify and Apple both had updates on their apps, and of course it happened on Thursday it seemed. So just as a reminder, if for whatever reason Thursday morning rolls around and it’s 4:30 in the morning and you’re getting ready to drive to the gym and your new Joy and Claire episode isn’t there, you can always go to joyandclaire.com and just stream the episode. Joy edits these normally on Monday/Tuesday and preloads them. So they publish at, more or less, at midnight mountain time very single week right on Thursday. So if you can’t ever find our episode for any reason, always go to joyandclaire.com and it will be there. We hope you have a wonderful week, and we will hear from you and talk to you next week. Bye. 

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