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My Pandemic Experience

For the first time in my life, I became fully aware of interdependence. A simple negligence on my part could cause me to catch Covid-19 or pass it on to those around me even if I am asymptomatic.

These days, I don’t hum the refrain of our Quebec folk song in the quite the same way: It is the oar that moves us forward, moves us forward rather it has become: It is the Covid-19 that moves us along, moves us along…

Truly, I feel that I am being pulled along by it.   I left Haiti for Montreal on March 19, to participate in some community activities in and then a medical follow-up. When it came time to return to my country of mission, the borders were closed and all international air travel was suspended because of the Coronavirus pandemic. This has been going on for two months now and I still have no idea when I will be able to return. It is really Covid-19 …that drives us.

What’s more, one case of Covid-19 was declared at the Salaberry Residence, where I currently live. As soon as this was made known more elaborate measures to prevent the spread were immediately implemented such as more frequent hand washing, isolation and social distancing. I had to get used to new ways of living that were not easy at first. Then, in spite of the precautions, a few days later, a full outbreak was declared in the house with 5 more cases, and before long, another 6 people were infected. All the sisters in the house were tested and whether they tested positive or negative, all were strictly locked down in their rooms.

For the first time in my life, I became fully aware of interdependence. A simple negligence on my part could cause me to catch Covid-19 or pass it on to those around me even if I am asymptomatic. I learned with stunning, even frightening lucidity that I was responsible not only for myself, but for the person next to me. Her life could depend on me…

I found myself in lock down for 14 days, even though I didn’t have the coronavirus. At the end of this period, further testing revealed 4 new cases in the house, so to protect ourselves, we needed to start a new isolation period of 14-days. What a letdown!

How would I survive all this time without being bored, or distressed or discouraged? First, I took all the time I wanted for prayer, reflection and reading. I took the opportunity to go to bed earlier at nights as well. I found I needed the extra sleep and rest. I enjoyed calling the sisters to have news of them and their activities.  I enjoyed being connected with them even though we could not see each other every day.

I spent a lot of time working from home. Technology allows me to stay connected with my mission in Haiti. Thanks to Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp, I participated in meetings of the Implementation Committee or the Management Committee of the École Émilie-Gamelin where I work in Haiti. In addition, I often communicated with my sisters in the local community of Torbeck, sisterly chats, and community meetings or just to be in touch with the sisters in temporary vows. The work of the formation team takes up a lot of my time with phone calls, writing documents or virtual meetings. In short, I often have busy days.  Before the pandemic, I wasn’t a “techno” person, but I am becoming one. As the saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining”.

During this time of isolation, which began on May 3, I thanked God each day for being able to live this pandemic period in this way. In many impoverished countries where Covid-19 is beginning to do serious damage, water shortages make frequent hand washing almost impossible, overcrowding and cramped housing prevent containment and even social distancing. Poverty frequently deprives people of access to the internet and telephone that would allow other types of communication so necessary in these difficult times.

After 19 days of  being in lockdown, what a joy it was on May 22 to make my first trip outside and let myself be embraced by the warm rays of the sun and admire the majestic trees of Montreal in their springtime splendour. I was amazed as if I had just come out of a dark cell.

This period of isolation makes me closer to me appreciate more my own life experience and makes me more sensitive to the delicacies of God in my life. Even if it is the Covid-19 that seems to be rowing the boat Providence watches over this little boat and we can remain in it quite safely.

Ghislaine Landry, SP