I was talking on the phone with a friend this morning. I can’t remember her exact words, but she said something to the effect of, “I thought things would feel better once we moved to Level 3. But instead they feel worse.”

Yes. Exactly.

Two-and-a-half months ago, on 24 March, I decided to start this Lockdown Journal. My idea was that each day I would write about whatever was on my mind related to the COVID-19 lockdown, for as long as the lockdown lasted.

Today, for the first time since I started, I’m hesitant to share how I really feel because I’m just so despondent and I don’t want to freak all of you out or bring you down with me.

Food from Sweet Tea and Chickadee
On a positive note: Sweet Tea & Chickadee is open for business. Thank you for the delicious lunch, Mandy.

At the beginning of lockdown, we all cheerfully ended conversations with sentences like: “See you when this whole thing is over,” or “Looking forward to meeting for coffee as soon as lockdown ends,” or “Can’t wait until we can have a drink together again!” These sentences became the new COVID-19-era pleasantries.

Nearly 70 days later I’m still exchanging these pleasantries, but with a lot less breeziness and enthusiasm. Because: 1) Except for visiting each other at home (which logically seems okay but is technically not allowed) or sitting/standing awkwardly in outdoor spaces, there’s still no telling when we’ll be able to socialize again; and 2) The longer this limbo state continues, the less I actually want to socialize anyway.

Every country in the world has its own coronavirus quarantine quirks. But the thing that makes South Africa’s situation the weirdest, in my opinion, is that our lockdown started before the pandemic “took off” in this country. And while our COVID-19 cases and deaths are still steadily rising 70 days later, we haven’t yet experienced the crippling health emergency everyone expected. This should be a good thing, right? Right?

South Africa’s lockdown regulations are gradually loosening as the COVID-19 cases are gradually increasing, creating a strange sense of dissonance and dread.

Should I hope more people start to get sick, so we’ll reach our peak sooner and then we can go back to “normal”? This is a totally absurd thought but I find myself thinking it, even though I certainly don’t want to get sick, don’t want anyone I know to get sick, and am pretty certain there is no “normal” to go back to anyway.

Soooooo…what next?

In other news:

  1. I can’t even begin to express/address the sadness, anger, fear, and agony I feel over the current situation in the United States. It’s utterly horrifying on every level.
  2. In Joburg, the avalanche of restaurant closings has begun. People are jobless and suffering. Crime seems to be ticking up.
  3. My own paid work has more or less come to a standstill. While I am wildly fortunate to have savings, it won’t last forever. I know I need to move my career in a drastically new direction, and I have some ideas about how I might do that. But right now my motivation to move forward is completely stalled by crushing fear of failure and the unknown.

I’ve got some other personal problems I’d love to share. But really, who needs to hear any more moaning from someone like me? I’m one of the lucky ones.

What next?

Bread from Chris Green
On another positive note: My neighbor Chris Green has started a bread-baking business during lockdown, and he brought me this loaf of potato sourdough just now. It’s so freaking good. I’m going to do a full blog post on it sometime in the near future. In the meantime if you’d like to order, contact Chris at 082-491-9370 or chriscashan@gmail.com.

Today’s Featured Photographer

I might have skipped blogging altogether today if not for my excitement to share the work of one of my favorite Joburg photographers: Andile Bhala.

Andile Bhala
Andile showing me around Orlando West, Soweto, in March 2017.

I met Andile in 2016 (I think) on an Instawalk in downtown Joburg. I’ve been watching his photography evolve over the years — he’s always been a great photographer, but over the past year or two Andile has gone next-level. He captures the spirit of Soweto, where he was born and raised, in such a beautiful, powerful way. Also Andile is an all-around good guy.

 
 
 
 
 
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Think back about who had your back, while on their back and still covered your back. : Mosie Mamaregane

A post shared by The Man With The Red Bag (@andilebhala) on

Andile has a website featuring his work documenting Soweto. Please follow him in Instagram at @andilebhala.

I’m in a much less hopeless mood than when I started this post. See you tomorrow.

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