8th May 2021
Facing My Worst Fear — Quarantine Experience
In the past year since Covid-19 came into being, one of my biggest fears was to be sent to a quarantine camp. In addition to being a germaphobe, I wasn’t sure how I would cope with the isolation and the facilities, not to mention the embarrassment. Due to a work meeting, I had come into contact with someone who later tested to be Covid-19 positive. At no point was I worried that I would be infected. We had strict health protocols at our school. The person had already shown us a negative Covid-19 test within 3 days before she was allowed to enter our school. While she was here, we were fully masked and properly distanced. At no time was she in contact with any students or teachers. As part of our school’s routine Covid-19 testing, I had already tested negative 5 days after meeting this person. I was really shocked when I got a call from the CHP telling me I had to be sent to a quarantine camp that very day. I was picked up within 4 hours of the first call from the CHP. My worst fear had been realized. I had originally started to write this as part of my own journal, but thought if I could help others by demystifying the quarantine experience, it might be worth sharing with others.
Penny’s Bay quarantine camp was built within the last 12 months, so it is very new. The various blocks are painted in cheerful colours and the rooms are new and in good condition. The interior is in better condition than some campsites or university dorms I’ve visited in Hong Kong and overseas. All rooms are equipped with individual air-conditioning, bottled water, a hot water kettle, a closet with hangers, and even a hair dryer. Any queries or concerns can be expressed through a telephone hotline or whatsapp number. Three daily meals, a serving of fresh fruit, and other essentials like bottled water, a rubbish bag are delivered daily outside our windows. One can ask for instant noodles, crackers, additional toiletries, even wifi eggs with limited data to be delivered to your room. As for the daily meals, you are given 4 different choices.
Now that I’ve been made to face my worst fear, I have come to realize that the actual experience is not as bad as I had imagined. I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts in the hope that it can help allay any of the fears you may have, be it quarantine camps, getting Covid-19, or anything else that threatens your peace of mind.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best
I would have truly panicked had I not already had a half-packed bag full of items needed for a quarantine camp, much like an expectant mother ready for the hospital at a moment’s notice. As this was indeed one of my greatest fears this past year, I thought it would be better to be prepared in the off-chance that I would need it than to let this anxiety dominate my life.
Make a conscious decision to think positive thoughts:
Choose to see the funny side of things. Choose to see the “opportunities” presented in this. Perhaps this could be used as a “me-time” for introspection and detoxification (admittedly, the food is nothing to write home about). It’s all in the mindset. As soon as our thoughts turn negative, make a conscious effort to replace the emerging thought with something positive. Instead of thinking I’m being shipped to a prison, I told myself I’m being taken to summer camp. Instead of thinking how bad the food is, I thought ‘I can now treat myself to a cup of instant noodles without feeling guilty’. Ultimately, how we decide to look at any experience is a matter of personal choice. This can help give one an additional sense of control over our circumstances. A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi came to my mind often during the time I was at the camp.;
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Draw upon past experiences of having overcome adverse conditions:
I consciously tried to remember what other tough situations I had been in. I told myself that if I had done it before, I can do it now. Way back when, I had volunteered at a Vietnamese Refugee Camp. During that time, I had to stay overnight once a week to organize activities at night. The conditions at Penny’s Bay are so much better. At least, I have a private en-suite bathroom. I had also taken my son to service trips in Cambodia and Mongolia. In Mongolia, we had to trudge across a field at night to access an outhouse toilet facility.
I personally think exposing our children to activities such as camping or volunteering are great ways to let our children know that they can have fun even without all the modern comforts. This will also give them greater confidence in facing adverse circumstances.
Count our every blessing:
I actively counted my blessings. The list is endless but here are a few:
- So thankful that when the CHP sent someone decked in full PPE gear to pick me up from my apartment, I did not run into any of my neighbours.
- I did not feel alone, as three of my colleagues were there, and we kept each other in good spirits.
- Thank God it was only for 5 short days.
- I had come across this Bible verse only a few days before I was told about my quarantine order. Had I seen this verse much earlier, I might have forgotten it already. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you where you go.” Joshua 1:9
Indeed, keeping an attitude of gratitude has been proven to have a host of mental health benefits. This is something that our school is very conscious about in teaching our students.
Having faced my worst fear, I feel I have now conquered this fear. Indeed, facing one’s fear head-on is often a good antidote for overcoming it. This is a valuable experience that I’ve added to the fabric of my life. I have found strength that I did not know I had. If I have helped even just one person to feel less anxious about quarantine camps, or the unknown, then it’s worth it for me to have shared these personal thoughts with you.
Warmest regards to you all,
Ms. Tina Chan