Read all my lockdown journal entries.

Today is the day: South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown begins at midnight. From this point forward I won’t be leaving my house except to buy food or medicine. It’s just me, the Melville Cat, and Trixie.

I bought a mask to celebrate.

Heather wearing a COVID-19 mask
Lockdown photo 0: Is it weird that I really like the way I look in this?

Today’s lockdown thoughts:

  1. As of today there are 927 documented COVID-19 cases in South Africa. There are still no documented deaths, which is remarkable compared with the virus’ trajectories in other countries. What might this mean? I hope it’s a sign South Africans are even stronger and more badass than we previously realized.
  2. The South African government has released a 16-page document outlining lockdown rules and regulations. It’s not exactly light reading, but I’ve now reviewed it twice and can’t find any instruction on the rules for when people leave their houses to buy basic essentials. How will the police and military monitor our movements? What do we need to carry with us when we go out? Where are we allowed to go, how often, and when? If anyone has answers on any of this, please comment.
  3. South Africans will not be allowed to buy alcohol or cigarettes during the lockdown. I can understand the no alcohol rule, but the cigarette thing really upsets me. I don’t smoke myself but this rule will cause major suffering among smokers — especially recovering alcohol and drug addicts, many of whom rely on cigarettes to help them stay sober. Now is not the time to force the country to quit smoking and I really hope the government reconsiders this point.
  4. I hate wasting food with white-hot passion. Last night I opened a container of halloumi cheese. Rather than being firm, like fresh halloumi should be, it was soft and watery. I put the cheese into a hot pan, and rather than browning it melted into a useless, liquidy mush. I howled with rage as I dumped the pan into the trash. Twenty-four hours later I am still infuriated.
  5. Today, I am very tired. The three days since the president announced this impending lockdown feel like the longest 72 hours of my life. I’ve spent the majority of those hours thinking through hundreds of different scenarios and possible tragedies, while also running around madly trying to exercise, be with other people, virtually check in with friends, enjoy the outdoors, buy things I need, and help others. Now I’m just quietly waiting for this metaphorical steel door to slam down and seal me off from the rest of the world. It’s scary and surreal but also kind of a relief.

I imagine many other South Africans, and people all over the world, are thinking these thoughts and feeling these feelings. Please know you’re not alone.

Lockdown Journal

Here’s how my day went:

6:00 a.m.: Wake up. Read news on phone. Panic after reading an article saying we will only be allowed to visit the grocery store closet to our home. (Sorry Melville Spar: You know I love you but your produce is inedible.) Panic again when reading Facebook post by expat acquaintance who fled South Africa last night with his family because “this country has a history of violence” and “things are going to get interesting very soon”. I could have done without that. This is why I should stop reading Facebook. (Also don’t worry Mom — we’re fine here.)

7:00 a.m.: Get up and write detailed to-do list, organized by time slot. Meditate, do stretches.

8:00 a.m.: My last neighborhood run. Cruise through Melville, Westcliff, up the Westcliff stairs and back. Rock out to Kesha. Greet people. Feel much better.

9:00 a.m.: Take bath, wash hair for my last day out in the world.

10:00 a.m.: Fill up at petrol station. Chat with petrol attendants, all of whom are frightened. They’ll be working while the rest of us are locked down. One guy says he’d rather go without pay and stay home with his family in Soweto. “I don’t want to die,” he says. Chat with Andrew, my mechanic. His shop is closing during the lockdown.

10:30 a.m.: Drive to Woolworths. Just in case I can only go to Spar for the next 21 days, better stock up on decent produce. Woolworths busy but not ridiculous. Sanitize hands excessively. Snag the last box of cherry tomatoes, along with R1000 ($60 at today’s crazy exchange rate) in other groceries. Oops.

11:30 a.m.: Drive to Sweet Tea and Chickadee for my last lunch on the outside. Commiserate with Chef Natasha. Stuff my face with delicious biscuit sandwich and order a dozen biscuits — plus two lemon bars — to take home. (Too much? I think not.) Invite Michelle and Julie to join me — we’re the only ones in the restaurant and it feels way safer than Woolworths. Linger, say goodbye, drive home.

1:30 p.m.: Walk to Love Books in search of my friend Ruth’s new book, which has just been published in time for a national lockdown. The book hasn’t arrived yet. Sigh.

2:00 p.m.: Walk to Melville 7th Street. Purchase Afro-chic face mask from Nkosibo Drycleaners. I think I got one of the last masks.

2:30 p.m.: Walk home. Wash hands vigorously. Spray mask with disinfectant and let it dry in the sun. Sit outside. Pet cats. Try on mask.

Heather in mask
Guys I love this mask.
Heather in mask
I think I’ll get really good at shooting selfies over the next three weeks.

3:00 p.m.: Tired. Take nap.

5:00 p.m.: Walk outside in hopes of hearing the country collectively sing Nkosi Sekelel’ iAfrika, South Africa’s national anthem. We’re supposed to sing it together, from wherever we are, at 5:00 p.m. Can’t hear anything from my garden and not confident enough in my indigenous South African languages to sing it myself.

5:15 p.m.: Begin to write this post.

7:45 p.m. (now): Finishing…and now waiting.

Speak to you tomorrow.

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