Hand sanitizer bubbles

Joburg COVID-19 Lockdown Journal: Day -2

Read all my lockdown journal entries.

At midnight on Thursday, South Africa is going into a 21-day lockdown.

Lockdown photo -2: Hand sanitizer bubbles
Lockdown photo -2: Hand sanitizer bubbles.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown last night in a speech to the nation. Although the situation we’re in is horrifying beyond measure, I feel much safer after listening to the president’s speech than I felt before. I trust President Ramaphosa to lead the country as best he can, and I’m really grateful for that. Trust in leadership is a luxury many people around the world don’t have right now.

I’m proud to be an honorary South African.

Here’s a basic outline of what the lockdown will mean logistically, courtesy of the National Department of Health:

  1. South Africans will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or to collect a social grant.
  2. Those exempt from the national lockdown include: health workers (public and private sectors); emergency personnel; security services (police, traffic officers, military) medical personnel; soldiers; and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.
  3. In addition, those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products will be exempt.
  4. Temporary shelters meeting necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people. 
    Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
  5. All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services — including the JSE [Johannesburg Stock Exchange] — supermarkets, petrol stations, and health care providers.
  6. Companies essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods, and medical supplies will remain open.
  7. Provision will be made for essential transport services to continue, including transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere.

Everyone still has a lot of questions about exactly how all this will work. But the bottom line is virtually every South African will be at home for the next three weeks. Minimum.

Forty-eight hours from now, millions of South Africans are going to lose their livelihoods. Thousands of them already have. People are going to lose their homes and starve. People are going to get divorced, have mental breakdowns, relapse into addiction, and experience a whole host of other tragedies.

And although it hasn’t happened yet, at least as far as we know, many South Africans are going to die from this horrible fucking disease.

It’s unimaginable. It’s so painful I can barely stand it. I can barely type it. I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish writing this because I can’t stop sobbing.

Since I don’t know what else to do with myself, I’m going to publish one photo each day (see above) — with an accompanying journal entry — from now until the end of lockdown.

Also, many of you know I recently started a Patreon site to earn money for my #10SouthAfricanTowns campaign. Since #10SouthAfricanTowns is indefinitely on hold — but I still need money, like everyone else in the world right now — I’ve decided to create a special deal on Patreon: Contribute $1 per month and you’ll receive my monthly newsletter plus a special 2Summers voice note (about five minutes long) every Sunday. Visit patreon.com/2summers to listen to the voice note I published last week — people seem to like these.

Now on to journal entry number -2: Two days pre-lockdown.

Lockdown Journal

2:00 a.m.: Wake up in the middle of the night. Can’t fall back to sleep (like every night lately). Toss and turn, pick up my phone, read a few news articles about the dire situation in America. Text Mom and Susanna (sister), pat Trixie (cat), scroll mindlessly through Facebook and Instagram. After approximately one hour, fall back into fitful half-sleep.

6:00 a.m.: Wake from fitful half-sleep. Lie in bed for 30 minutes.

6:30 a.m.: Walk outside, stare mindlessly into space. Cry. Walk back inside. Make coffee.

7:00 a.m.: Meditate for 10 minutes using Headspace app. Wonder if meditation serves any useful purpose. While meditating, obsess about 1,317 different issues. Come up with idea for COVID-19 Lockdown Journal.

7:30 a.m.: Unroll yoga mat, stretch, do plank exercises. Consider other potential forms of home-based exercise, none of which are appealing. Make to-do list. Pay bills.

8:00 a.m.: Freak out while considering various unpleasant lockdown scenarios. If police stop me while I’m walking/driving to buy food, will they question me because I’m foreign? Will they arrest me? What about all the undocumented immigrants who may be arrested?! Oh dear oh dear.

9:00 a.m.: Eat something. Phone call with fellow American friend living in South Africa. Mutual freak-out.

10:00 a.m.: Walk to Melville 7th Street for shopping (only two more days of walking allowed). Buy cat food from Ziggy’s Pet Pamporium. Chat with Cobi. Mutual freak-out. Attempt to buy bread from Baker Brothers — asked to return in 40 minutes.

10:30 a.m.: Walk to Spar. Buy laundry detergent, tea bags, wine. Marvel that grocery store shelves are fully stocked, including toilet paper. Engage in conversation with car guard, who comments, “You are looking very nice today! Shap.” Laugh about men who flirt in the time of corona.

11:00 a.m.: Visit Tilt Coffee for carrot and ginger juice. Chat with Lia. Freak out. (Lia perfectly calm as usual.)

Juice from Tilt Coffee
Juice from Tilt Coffee. I maintained social distance while ordering and drinking this.

11:30 a.m.: Return to Baker Brothers. Buy bread and cheesy sticks. Chat with the Baker Brothers — who look exactly alike but aren’t sure if they’re identical — and my friend Andrea (also buying bread). Group freak-out.

The Baker Brothers
The Baker Brothers, who are clearly identical. I personally think their business should remain open during lockdown — it’s a walk-in bakery, selling only bread, and I’d rather buy bread from them than the grocery store. But they expect they’ll have to close.

12:00 p.m. Walk home. Wash hands 100 times. Attempt to write article about fine-dining restaurants in Joburg (my last paid job). Give up. Stare at laptop screen. Eat something. Pet cats. Cry. Chat to friends on whatsapp. Multiple group freak-outs.

1:00 p.m.: Back up photos from old hard drive. Post photo of Mountain Sanctuary Park, shot in 2011, on Instagram. Feel nostalgic for the good old pre-pandemic days (when I was also much younger and thinner).

Mountain Sanctuary PArk
Mountain Sanctuary Park, April 2011.

3:00 p.m.: Change a lightbulb. Feel grateful hardware store is still open.

3:30 p.m.: #10SouthAfricanTowns trip to Bathurst, scheduled for 20 April, is officially canceled/postponed. Indulge in self-pity.

4:00 p.m.: Begin writing this post. Cry. Freak out.

5:51 p.m. (now): Is it too early for wine?

6:12 p.m. (now): No it isn’t.

8:17 p.m. (now): Was distracted by Zoom call with women writer friends around the world. Will publish blog momentarily.

This Lockdown Journal is pretty boring. I’ll try to make tomorrow more interesting.

Good night.

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29 Comments

  • Reply jeaniehhi March 24, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    I can’t say that I’m happy about the reason for your new blog post but I’ll be very happy to follow your Lockdown Journal from my almost lockdown in South Carolina. Of course, our less than trustworthy president will have it all fixed shortly so you’ll have one less thing to freak out over….your elderly mother!

    • Reply 2summers March 24, 2020 at 8:50 pm

      Hahahhaa. I’ll be glad to check that worry off my list.

  • Reply Jan LaBonte March 24, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    I share something with your mother – concerns for a daughter in South Africa. My American daughter has lived in SA 24 years, is married to a South African and has our only two granddaughters there. She plays horn in the Johannesburg Philharmonic that you wrote about a short time ago. I will be reading your post daily as I am sure I will learn much more from you about what is going on than from her, as she will want to keep me from worrying too much. What can one say but “stay safe and stay well!”
    With prayers from Ohio!

    • Reply 2summers March 24, 2020 at 9:24 pm

      Thank you Jan! Your daughter must know my friend Penny, who plays the bassoon in the orchestra here. Try not to worry about us too much – I think we’re in good hands here. Stay safe 🙂

      • Reply Jan LaBonte March 24, 2020 at 9:46 pm

        She certainly does know Penny! She has performed with her for a number of years now. My son-in-law who is the assistant director of the South African Air Force band is also a bassoonist and has known Penny for a long time. Their names are Shannon and Lorin Armer.
        Shannon is also relieved that the current president is taking things firmly in hand, Up until a couple of days ago she had been quite concerned that people were definitely not taking this seriously.

      • Reply Jeanie Freeman March 24, 2020 at 10:46 pm

        Hi Jan,
        Yes, we do have something in common with our kids in SA. I’m glad you can get information from Heather’s blog. Good luck to you.
        Jeanie

  • Reply Alexey Rodokanakis March 24, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    I have to agree that I too got a strange sense of reassurance from the presidents message last night. I can’t imagine what might have transpired had our illustrious former leader been at the helm. I’d rather not think about it. I find it strange how something that seemed so distant and foreign, only a few weeks ago, has got us to the point where many of us may now find ourselves experiencing loss in all its nefarious guises. As a newly graduated architect I had anticipated 2020 to be a year of beginnings, fresh approaches and opportunities but it seems that life has different plans for us all.

    I have loved your writing for some time now and will continue to do so. Thank you for your insight and your honesty they remain a refreshing respite from the days din of news (fake and otherwise), particularly in these times.

    • Reply 2summers March 24, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks so much Alexey. Good luck 🙂

  • Reply Catrina March 24, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    Your lockdown journal is and will definitely not be boring. We left Johannesburg yesterday on the last Air France flight. Had it not been for my parents, I would have been happy to stay.
    Please keep the updates coming. My wildly irrational gut feeling tells me that the South African people have got this. Take heart, you’ll see.

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2020 at 1:43 am

      I (mostly) have the same irrational feeling. Good luck at home 🙂

  • Reply Albert March 24, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    Haha. The lockdown journal is very entertaining. (And it is never too early for wine.) Thankfully we have gardens, I can’t imagine how stifling it must be to be trapped in a highrise apartment. This 21 day lockdown is the Earth set on pause. What a wonderful once in a lifetime opportunity for headspace and to exorcize all the inner demons. To dream and to plot future goals. I relish this 21day date with myself.

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2020 at 1:44 am

      That’s a very good attitude!

  • Reply idog4927 March 24, 2020 at 11:47 pm

    Consider how nice it must feel to be reassured when you president speaks to the nation about crises. Haven’t felt that in much too long…

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2020 at 1:45 am

      I hear what you’re saying 😔

  • Reply catji March 25, 2020 at 12:01 am

    Good point there by Alexey. I hadn’t even thought of that.

    I do often think how I like comrade president Cyril Ramaphosa. He has served all his life, pretty much.
    …Congenial. Humble. Not a problem for any ordinary person to talk with him, without any sense of awe or feeling intimidated by talking to the president. Same with most of the seniors, the old school.

  • Reply catji March 25, 2020 at 12:20 am

    <>

    > If we cannot laugh we are doomed. 🙂 >>

    When I was waiting outside Checkers this afternoon…
    Two guys coming out made some joke comment and carried on walking when the security guard moved towards them with the sanitizer spray, she ran after them and sprayed their backs instead. 😀

  • Reply Peggy Laws March 25, 2020 at 5:38 am

    I will look forward to your daily blogs Heather. A really difficult few weeks ahead but “onwards and upwards”. I was also impressed with our President’s address. Good luck. I am feeling thankful I have a good sized garden so won’t get “cabin fever”. Stay cool!

  • Reply Laura Dall March 25, 2020 at 11:21 am

    I can identify with so many of the listed activities in your lockdown journal! Truly concerned I may come out of this with a damaged liver from my newly formed wine addiction. Oh dear… *reaches for the much-depleted box of tissues*

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2020 at 11:34 am

      Hahahaha. Yeah, this sucks 😂

  • Reply Margaret Urban March 25, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for your journal entry Heather; journaling can help us stay sane.
    Also, now that your Patreon sub has gone down I can afford to join 🙂

    Like you I am more worried about my family in the USA, scattered up and down the east coast and used to flyng to and fro to visit each other …

    I live in a flat/apartment but am fortunate to have a good size patio; about 10 days ago I stocked up on seedlings and seeds – mostly salad greens and herbs – so that if I get to only having rice and beans and lentils in my cupboard I can at least add some healthy greens…

    Virtual hug

    P S just heard on the radio that bakeries that sell bread will be allowed to stay open

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2020 at 2:07 pm

      Oh that’s wonderful news about the bakeries 😍 Thanks so much Margaret and enjoy your patio garden 🙂

  • Reply thirdeyemom March 25, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Heather: Thanks so much for the update! I wish our country would do a lockdown! It is so infuriating how we are doing things state by state. The inequities of this situation on every level, city by city, state by state and country by country are insane. I feel so blessed to live in Minnesota with incredible healthcare and health companies. Medtronic is pumping out venilators, 3M masks and more. It is such a scary time but the community I’ve seen grow from this has been incredible. We will get through it. It sucks but we will. Hang in there. Keep writing, reading and I’ve been listening to silly books on tape that have really worked to distract me as I’m already a worrywart. Keep writing.

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks Nicole! I know, the situation in America just sounds horrendous and sooooo frustrating. Glad to hear Minnesota is a good place to be. Enjoy the isolation 🙂

  • Reply AutumnAshbough March 25, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Had to laugh over all the mutual freak outs and all the men still flirting. Humanity is still ridiculous.

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