03 Lis Delphine’s 1st blog: Traveling in covid times – Let’s stay negative!
My name is Delphine, and I am volunteering at ICM Slany. I am here for 3 months, from September to December 2020.
This post is dedicated to my arrival in Czech Republic and specifically the covid process I have been through.
When I applied for this project, in the summer, the pandemic seemed to be under control. Spoiler: it wasn’t. To limit the rise that would necessarily occur in September, the Czech testing protocol was clear: first, we have to take one test when entering the country. Before we get the result, it’s forbidden to go outside, except for shopping, and wearing a facemask is mandatory. If the result of this test is negative, we can go outside, and to work, yay! 15 days later, we have to take a second test. If this one is negative, it means freedom: we can go to every public places (bars, restaurants…) of course following the restrictions such as wearing a face mask etc… Simple, isn’t it ?
So I landed in Czech Republic on the September 18th, 17:45 Prague’s time. Julie, my colleague from ICM, had previously taken an appointment for my first test, in Kladno, a city near Slany, the town where I live. The airport also offers to take some test, but going to Kladno seemed a good idea: we could take an appointment so that I wouldn’t have to take the queue, and I would surely be in contact with less people. When we arrived at the testing center, the day after my arrival, first surprise: there was a huge queue, but we managed to skip it (I think it was because of the appointment, but there was Czech language involved in the process, I didn’t understand everything :/). We waited 10 min in the cold (“we” is me and Julie, who was with me during the whole process, putting her life in danger in the middle of potentially covid-infected people), and the test went quite quickly. After that, back home and quarantine waiting for the results, they should arrive in 48h. Two days later, no news. Julie started harassing the laboratory; calling them and sending e-mails, but we got the results only one week after my arrival :’( Apparently, there has been some kind of administrative mistake, someone changed my name Piguet into Pignet :/ Staying home was a bit boring, but it gave me time to adapt to my new home and to visit the surroundings (staying outside and keeping my distances of course).
The queue at Kladno testing centre
Two weeks after I arrived, my co-volunteer and flatmate César arrived from Spain (this crazy man travelled by car from somewhere in La Rioja to Slany, you can find the story of his trip here: http://www.icmslany.cz/eds/cesars-1st-blog-road-and-blanket-a-long-trip/). What better activity to do with a new friend than getting stabbed in the nose together ? Nothing, you’ll tell me and you’ll be perfectly right. So the day after César’s arrival, direction Prague’s airport. Indeed, we were a bit discouraged to go to Kladno because of my previous experience. And in fact, going to the airport was a wayyy better idea: there was nobody in the queue, the registration was faster, everyone could speak English, the whole process took us 20 minutes, including finding the test place in the airport.
We even got the results in less than 24h so César was able to come to work immediately !
The queue at the airport
So what does it mean, to volunteer in corona times, apart from the testing process? Well, I think the main word to describe it is uncertainty. Just like everyone else, we never know how the pandemic is going to evolve, and what decisions will be taken to stop it. I thought it was a good move to pick Czech Republic, which has not been too affected during the first wave but it happened that it wasn’t: we are now at the beginning of the second wave and it is the country that has the highest number of infection per millions of inhabitants. Logically enough, the first measure was to close schools and activities that gather people, such as our language clubs.
Then what ? Will there be another lockdown ? Will we be forced to go back home before the end of our projects? Will we be able to continue some activities online ? Is it even useful ? And apart from the working life, what will we be able to do ? Visit cities, meet people, go to bars and restaurants, taste the Czech life, everything looks more complicated, not to say impossible. But there is nothing to do, except waiting for the pandemic to decrease, staying safe at home and take care of the others. We won’t go through this by being selfish, but we won’t survive over-isolation neither. Hold your breath, grit your teeth, avoid this bloody virus and we can all go back to normal after it’s over.