If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

It’s Day 22 of lockdown. I decided to take a day off.

Rose in the garden
Lockdown photo Day 22: A rose with raindrops. I shot this a few days ago and have been holding it in reserve for a day like today, when I didn’t feel like taking any pictures.

Back in the olden days when I had a 9-5 job, we used to take “mental health days” — i.e. call in sick when we weren’t physically ill but just needed a day off. (Okay, I never personally did this because I was a goody-two-shoes. But others did.) Anyway, that’s kind of what I did today.

My iPhone use borders on addictive even during the best of times, and during lockdown it’s been out of control. I’ve been feeling like a slave to my electronic devices, and generally unsettled by the pressure to constantly post, read, listen, chat, respond, communicate. This feeling/behavior has been impacting my sanity. So I decided to take drastic action.

At 6:30 this morning (after switching out of airplane mode and checking quickly to make sure I had no emergency texts or emails from last night), I turned off my phone’s wifi and mobile data. I could still make and receive calls in case of emergency but otherwise I was offline. I didn’t check emails or social media, didn’t read or listen to any news, and didn’t read or respond to WhatsApp. I switched everything back on at 3:30 p.m., so I could catch up on things before sitting down to blog.

Nine hours offline may not sound like a lot. But it felt revolutionary for me. I don’t think I would have had the courage to try this pre-lockdown. But I guess that’s one of the good things about the pandemic: We’re all being driven, sometimes out of desperation, to try new things.

I needed those nine hours — especially on a weekday, when I felt like I was literally taking the time off — to reset my brain. I needed to feel that urge to pick up my phone, then deny myself that urge, then consciously let my mind wander.

I needed time accomplish basic tasks, like folding laundry and shopping and listening to music and reading (an actual book, not the internet), without thinking about COVID-19 at the same time. I needed time to generate my own thoughts, or not think at all for a bit, without feeling the need to respond to anyone/anything else.

My mental health day felt really good. I also discovered the joy of dancing — not just bopping my head or tapping my foot, but all-out dancing — alone in my lounge during lockdown. It felt nearly as good as tree-hugging.

Disclaimer: I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to randomly switch off. I’m very grateful that I do.

Reading and Listening Tips

I listened to a great podcast today called Over the Road. The podcast is hosted by Paul Marhoefer, a.k.a. Long Haul Paul, and tells stories about life as a long-haul trucker. Trucking stories feel especially poignant to me right now, maybe because trucking is such a uniquely solitary profession.

The most recent episode of Over the Road tells the moving story of a whole family of truckers from Montana. Paul is also a singer-songwriter, and the song he sings at the end of the episode is achingly beautiful.

I also enjoyed this article from the Guardian about how to politely inform friends when you don’t feel like video chatting. This challenge is real for me, and for many others I imagine. No offense to any of my video-chatting friends — I just think it’s a good reminder that sometimes we can say no without explaining ourselves.

Today’s Worthy Cause

As we all know, South Africa’s tourism industry has been hit painfully hard by the pandemic. My heart goes out to all of the small, community-based tourism projects around the country who may take months or years to recover, or not survive at all.

So when reader Kathy Sole sent me this fundraiser from Bird Life South Africa, appealing on behalf of South Africa’s community birding guides, I knew I wanted to share it.

David Letsoalo birding guide
David Letsoalo, one of South Africa’s top local birding guides. I wrote about him here.

Here’s how BirdLife SA describes this issue:

“BirdLife South Africa has trained upwards of 200 community bird guides. Those who are still actively guiding are currently being denied all guiding work by the national lockdown. Local and international tourism is expected to slump for several months, even after the lockdown is lifted. This is a devastating blow to our community bird guides who rely on local and international ecotourism in order to support themselves.

“BirdLife South Africa is raising relief funding for guides who need to sustain themselves and their families through this challenging period. We are appealing to all our supporters, especially those who have experienced the wonderful skills of our guides, to contribute to the pooled funds. All funds received will go directly to the guides.

“BirdLife South Africa is contributing R20,000 in seed funding to this initiative in solidarity with our community bird guides. If you would like to reach out to a specific guide you are welcome to do so privately.

“Donations to the Community Bird Guide Relief Fund can be made via EFT to the general BirdLife South Africa bank account using the reference format “BG_initials_surname”.”

BirdLife South Africa
Bank: First National Bank, Randburg
Branch Code:  254005
Account Number:  62067506281
SWIFT:  FIRNZAJJ

There’s also a SnapScan code so let me know if you’d like me to forward that. Also, there is an application form for birding guides who want to apply to the relief fund.

See you tomorrow!

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