Lockdown Diary: Why I’m grateful for being on lockdown in Paris

“I’m grateful to be living in France, where there is universal healthcare and where the president has chosen to save human lives over the economy.”

Today, March 25, is the eighth full day of living in true confinement. As of Tuesday, March 17, at noon, the whole country of France has been on lockdown.

It was nearly two weeks ago that President Emmanuel Macron earnestly asked us to stay home, and the Prime Minister Édouard Philippe ordered all non-essential businesses to close at midnight. By March 15, there were whispers on the street that the government would be locking down, with the military and all, because the people here weren’t taking it seriously, and the infection and death rates were rising.

I’d been preparing for weeks.

Food Stored in Apt: Eileen Cho during Paris lockdown
The author’s stored food and books. 
Eileen W. Cho

Because most of my family is located in South Korea and Seattle, Washington, two places that were hit hard by the pandemic, and

being considered high-risk due to my lifelong asthma, I was quietly (or if you saw my stories on Instagram, not so quietly) preparing my food and necessities stockpile for weeks, just waiting for the other shoe to drop in France.

Not only that but I’ve also been trying my best to social distance ever since I read about “flattening the curve” by canceling dinner reservations and meetings and asking my French partner to work from home. I even rearranged the apartment to make it more comfortable and livable, pulling out books and magazines from our bookshelves, the ones I’ve been telling myself I would read for months.

On the evening of March 16, President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation and announced that we were at war.

Emmanuel Macron on French TV
Eileen W. Cho

We had until noon on March 17, to figure out where we wanted to hunker down for the next 15 days at least as the whole country enters a lockdown, the only way to win this war.

Under lockdown, we need an official attestation (a declaration, printed off from the government website or handwritten) to leave our homes for groceries, exercise, pharmacy, emergencies, or work (for those who cannot télétravail, “work from home”). The police and military are patrolling the streets, and those caught without an attestation are fined. This will take a few days for all of us, including law enforcement, to get used to.

I’m not worried: It feels like my government is taking control.

Eileen W. Cho: text sent in Paris amid coronavirus lockdown
The text message. 
Eileen W. Cho

Seeing pictures and videos of people out and about like business as usual before the lockdown, even with the official closures on March 15 (it’s important to note that it probably didn’t help that the country went forward with their municipal elections which required voting in person), was such a disappointment to me that Macron’s lockdown measure helped ease my anxiety.

It feels like I can now worry less about my adopted country because the government is taking control. Despite how horrible the situation around me is, I’m feeling grateful to be living in France, where there is universal healthcare and where the president has chosen to save human lives over the economy.

But with this, I’ve been cycling through a wide range of emotions.

Eileen W. Cho: Police on Horses patrolling Paris amid coronavirus lockdown
Police on horses patrolling. 
Eileen W. Cho

A lot has happened really fast these past few weeks, so I am weirdly relieved to have this time to slow down, reflect, and reset. As the world is going through uncharted waters with a new pandemic, I, too, am questioning everything, including my feelings. I’ve been cycling through sadness, gratitude, fear, guilt (from privilege), worry, and anxiety. These are all things I’ve felt before, but the difference now is that they are running wild all at once, making them difficult for me to deal with.

Moreover, being a freelancer, I’m accustomed to working from home and I’ve been dreaming of slowing down for years, but not having the freedom to go out is a bit unsettling. It feels like I’m living in a dystopian plot.

To fill my abundance of time in lockdown, I have started a “Self Isolation Diary” on Tumblr, a platform I haven’t touched since college. Here I’ll share my thoughts, ask questions (like what should a post-COVID society look like?), recipes, photos from confinement, and a daily “five good things on the Internet.” It’s like the newsletter I’ve always wanted to have — with a twist.

Some people are fleeing the city.

Eileen W. Cho: Food in Box for Paris coronavirus lockdown
The author’s food storage. 
Eileen W. Cho

My partner and I live on a tiny street in a busy neighborhood, lined with historic buildings that house commercial businesses and apartments. On Thursday, we saw our neighbors filling up their cars to escape Paris.

I can understand why people don’t want to be in Paris during a lockdown: Apartments in Paris are much smaller than they would be elsewhere, and although there are medium-sized grocery stores and convenience stores scattered all throughout the city, most of the giant ones with normal prices are outside the city. Not to mention the lack of pantry and refrigerator space, as many Parisians have small apartments with refrigerators that are just slightly bigger than the one I had in college. It’s eerie how quiet our street is now.

Not everyone can stay confined to protect themselves and others.

Eileen W. Cho's Janitor outside amid Paris coronavirus lockdown
The author’s janitor. 
Eileen W. Cho

I saw our building concierge (janitor) come in a face mask to scrub the stairs, floors, and trash bins. Seeing him work made me feel powerless. I wish everyone had the security to stay safe at home.

I had two online food order deliveries made, and seeing the delivery men park their vans to wheel boxes of food to me made me realize my privilege. I tipped them the cash I had and thanked them for working tirelessly now. It’s amazing what happens when we act more human, and I’m sad it had to take a pandemic for me to be more kind and gentle with others.

I started a food diary to bide time.

Eileen W. Cho: Food Diary amid coronavirus lockdown in Paris
Part of the author’s food diary. 
Eileen W. Cho

Because I work mostly in food, eating and cooking are huge parts of my life. I started a visual food diary for my Tumblr and I realized I would get tired really fast of the elaborate meals I was trying to prepare for every meal.

A lot of people have started recipe tutorials, including Chef Massimo Bottura, and it made me feel bad when the videos used ingredients I didn’t have. I decided I would try simpler meals to make my life just a bit less stressful, and go full out when I really needed it. So, at lunch, I settled for spaghetti bolognese with pasta from a box and sauce from a jar. Sometimes it’s the simple and easy meals that feel, and taste, best.

Others are still working outside to keep Paris functioning.

Garbage Collectors working in Paris amid the coronavirus lockdown
Garbage collectors working. 
Eileen W. Cho

Curious, I asked on Instagram and Facebook how grocery stores were looking around Paris, and was happy to hear that most of them were being well stocked. Everyone out there working outside right now, from the delivery men to garbage collectors to cashiers to hospital staff, are truly the ones keeping life going.

My partner is working from home, and our awareness is increasing.

Eileen W. Cho's partner working from home amid Paris coronavirus lockdown
The author’s partner working from home. 
Eileen W. Cho

I’ve noticed I’m trying to communicate better with my partner to avoid any pointless arguments, to use my resources wisely, and to show gratitude for even the smallest things.

I pulled out all my LeParfait jars from the cupboards to store food, making sure they last longer as I don’t want to be running to the store, even if it is located only 50 meters away. I looked up how to properly store canned vegetables (in a sealed container, placed at the back of the fridge) and herbs, things I should probably have known. I even found myself staring at a jar of oats, amazed at how versatile and nutritious it is.

We kept the windows open all day because we wanted to hear the birds singing and around meal times; it was comforting to hear the sound of neighbors going through their cutlery. It’s only the beginning of lockdown, but I feel more aware, and I hope this new sense of awareness stays with me forever.

And we’re trying to stay active.

Eileen W. Cho's partner doing HIIT amid Paris coronavirus lockdown
The author’s partner doing sprints. 
Eileen W. Cho

Feeling stiff from sitting all day, I attempted to do a work out using my trainer Anatole’s lockdown exercise video. My partner went out to do some high intensity sprints on our street; according to his iPhone, he moved a total of 2.6 kilometers (1.61 miles). I’ve only moved 0.29 kilometers (0.18 miles): I’ll try to do better tomorrow. If I’m going to survive this, I’ll need a routine.

At 8 p.m. last Thursday, I faintly heard people clapping and cheering. It’s the French people’s way of thanking everyone in hospitals who are working around the clock.

Sadly, I still saw dozens of videos and photos of Parisians enjoying the warm weather outdoors today, from teens playing basketball to families near the parks, as the death count reached 460 last Friday. I hope solidarity is better in the future.

In the words of Macron: “Save lives, stay home.”

Life Through Window, by Eileen W. Cho, in Paris amid coronavirus lockdown
A view out the author’s window. 
Eileen W. Cho

Italy has been trying to warn the rest of Europe for weeks about what was to come if we didn’t take the pandemic seriously. Now we’re looking at the United States from France, just hoping they step up to act. We’ll only get through this if we all take this seriously.

I’ll be playing my part from my tiny Parisian apartment, sharing my thoughts on my Tumblr and appreciating life from my window.

Source: Lockdown Diary: Why I’m grateful for being on lockdown in Paris – Business Insider


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