Life in lockdown

Danyal Salmon, equipped with his mask, took a drive to get out of the house.

Everyone took their own unique approach to fending off boredom and loneliness during the national lockdown from trying new things to reconnecting with family

From make-shift home offices and new hobbies to trying to exercise in a tiny apartment, the nationwide lockdown has resulted in great changes for South Africans.

There were suddenly no more visits to friends or family, no more movie dates at the mall or team sports to stay fit. Instead, everyone rushed to keep safe and stay indoors.

If nothing else, this was an opportunity for many to learn more about themselves, reconnect with loved ones and get creative in an attempt to stay sane while staying home for more than two months.

At home

For most, lockdown meant staying home as much as possible. Ricardo Lodewyk only left his home to seek medical assistance. “I developed a pressure sore just before the lockdown, so I only left my home to go to the clinic for my dressing,” he says.

Similarly, Nokulunga Mdingi left home three times – once to renew a prescription. Danyal Salmon left his house once to drive around.

For many, it was easy to stay home with friends or family to assist with shopping. Nosipho Ngcobo, for example, had aunts and uncles to assist: “If we happened to need other things my uncle or aunt would go buy the items as they had the correct permits.”

Others, like Mohammed Khan, had to leave the house more often to buy the essentials: “Honestly, I leave my home at least every second day just to buy the basics like bread and milk.”

Lockdown challenges

The national lockdown was not without its challenges. For everyone this meant something else whether it was battling loneliness or getting around with limited transport options. Lodewyk struggled with the isolation.

Ricardo Mateus shoots some hoops during lockdown.

“I’m part of an exercise group for people with disabilities that comes together weekly and a support group. It was kind of lonely not being part of something and just staying home,” he says. He also lost a friend during this time and was unable to attend the funeral.

While many agreed that is was difficult to be separated from friends and family, Rashied Abrahams also pointed to the challenge of not being able to work. Elda Radebe missed not being able to attend classes.

The early days of the lockdown also meant giving up some non-essentially luxury items. For Khan, the cigarette ban was difficult. “I would say the cigarette ban was the most challenging – even though it came as a blessing in disguise!”

For Jemina Maotoe, using public transport was a big obstacle, while Ngcobo struggled with the waiting times as some retailers only allowed a limited number of customers into stores. With so many job losses, pay cuts and businesses closing, many had very little or no income during the lockdown.

For Nokuzola Rantso, lockdown meant making do with little. Maotoe is in a similar position: “I have to stretch limited resources to accommodate extra expenses such as buying more sanitiser and a mask.”

Staying entertained

Ricardo Mateus spent some of his time in lockdown studying.

Undoubtedly, a big challenge for everyone was staying entertained. For some, this time presented an opportunity to reconnect or try new things. Mdingi says: “I played games on my phone, which I’m not used to, and engage mor e with my caregiver.” Radebe spent more time with her son and Ricardo Mateus played basketball with his nephew and sister or cards with his family.

Most turned to traditional forms of entertainment like watching TV. Others were more creative. Salmon listened to audiobooks and music, read and even joined a birthday celebration over Zoom – a virtual meeting tool. Ngcobo tried new recipes while Rantso kept her mind active with puzzles, games and riddles.

Lodewyk highlights how quickly it became important to maintain some sort of routine. “I did spend a lot of time in bed at first, but that got boring real fast. You can’t just eat ’til you’re tired, then go to sleep ’til you’re hungry,” he says. “I have cleaned and repaired my wheelchair, spent some time on social media and WhatsApp groups, and worked with my design software as this was an ideal time to learn a new skill and do tutorials.”

Elda Radebe could enjoy even more time with her son.

Lodewyk wasn’t alone in his planning and daily routine. Khan shares: “I had a lot of free time, but I still had to plan my days accordingly. Studying and planning how to achieve my goals took up most of my time. This lockdown came at a good time to get some much needed mental and physical relaxation.”

For parents, the lockdown also meant suddenly being a teacher. Maotoe, for example, assisted her children with basic schooling. She also wrote and shared her life stories with her children.

Keeping up new habits

A few months in lockdown definitely led to some new habits, whether it is quitting alcohol, exercising at home or simply checking in with friends and family more often.

Lodewyk’s new habit to keep up after lockdown is drinking more water. “I hated drinking water,” he explains. “I also realised that smoking is not a must and, without it, you actually have a lot more money.” He can also now brew his own beer.

Many, like Nokulunga Mdingi, enjoyed watching movies.

For Mdingi, the lockdown meant spending less time on her phone and rather connecting more with others. Mateus will keep playing with his nephew and make time to exercise. Ngcobo too will keep exercising: “I got into exercises to keep fit. I will keep up with the gym as I found it very interesting.”

Maotoe plans to focus on her body and mind: “Hygiene will be the first habit I plan to keep up along with physically and mental exercises to stay healthy. Definitely eating healthy too.”

For others, the global regulations for preventing COVID-19 will remain essential. Khan says: “Social distancing is definitely a new habit. I think of it as a good thing, but, in some ways, it can be bad too. Our immune systems are so fragile that it can contract the smallest of viruses from anybody or anything. Yet, we enjoy being around others. This makes things difficult going forward.”

All things work

For a fortunate few, lockdown included working from home, which didn’t come without its challenges. Lodewyk, for example, admittedly struggled to stay motivated. He shares: “I did work from home for a while. I did not like it very much as I’m a people’s person. I need to be among people. That’s where I’m most helpful.”

Rashied Abrahams had to celebrate his birthday in lockdown. Fortunately, he had a lot of time to upgrade his music systems complete with speakers and amplifiers.

For Mdingi, productivity was also a challenge: “I did work from home, but I was not as productive as in the office.”

Some enjoyed the challenges that came with working from home. Salmon, for example, enjoyed all the new virtual meeting software. “I was able to work during lockdown with Microsoft Teams and Zoom for product presentations and video conference meetings. I enjoyed using the new technology,” he says.

Lockdown also meant getting creative with work. “I definitely found a new way of sourcing clients,” Khan says. “I usually go to different companies and malls to source new clients. However, that had to change due to the lockdown. Now I spend my time searching various different sites online to look for suitable clients.”

Lessons learned

As the lockdown seemingly comes to an end, some have high hopes for what people will take away from it. Businesses might see the value in remote work and encourage employees to work from home while others might see the value in social distancing to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

Lodewyk hopes people will value family more: “I really hope that the world has learned the importance of family. It was a time that families could eat together and play games at home to pass the time.” He adds that the lockdown illustrated that, with the right technology, people with disabilities can work from home just as well as anyone else.

Salmon hopes the pandemic will bring everyone together. He points out: “I hope that people will realise that we, as a human race, are all affected by such a virus regardless of our race, gender or creed. I hope that it leads to us being a bit more compassionate to one another.”

For Abrahams, the lesson lies in the value of practicing good hygiene. “People should always clean their hands so that they don’t infect their peer s and other people that are using the same things, such as door handles or lift buttons,” he says.

Radebe hopes that people will abide by the rules, while Ngcobo, more philosophically, hopes that people will value their time more and use it wisely.

For Maotoe, the lockdown reiterated how quickly life can change. “People have learned that life plans can change quickly, in a blink of an eye, without any notice. I hope that people learn to appreciate, care and tolerate one another,” she says. Maotoe adds that she has learned the importance of saving up for a rainy day.

At least some good came from the lockdown. Hopefully, South Africa will emerge on the other side stronger with her people a little more enriched.

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