In many ways, I’ve been very fortunate during this pandemic. I have stable work that I can continue to do from home. My home is comfortable and I have space to work and space to sit outside. I have a partner and pets, so I’m not alone. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have to manage emergency homeschooling. But apart from my partner, my immediate family is all overseas, mostly in New Zealand, where I grew up. And as an academic, my friends are mostly overseas now too, as academics seem to migrate around the world in search of jobs.
When I chose to relocate my life across the sea from my parents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, I did so never imagining the current context. I used to always tell my family that it was just the same as living in NZ: flights were similar in price to domestic flights, and it would even take less time for me to get to them in an emergency than if I lived in some parts of New Zealand.
In the second week of March, just before New Zealand shut their borders to non-citizens (which includes my husband, although he grew up in New Zealand), my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. We decided to wait and see what initial test results suggested in terms of prognosis, before booking flights to fly over. By then it was too late: borders were closed; even if we could get to NZ, internal travel was also suspended; even if we somehow did go, I might not be allowed back into Australia. He died in mid April, before we could see him again. Two other close family members have been diagnosed with cancer and begun treatment since the start of COVID-19 lockdowns. In any other circumstances, either would be reason for me to be on a plane to see them.
I read about historical situations of course where borders got shut and people got stuck away from their families, sometimes for years. But I never would have dreamed it could happen on a global scale like this to all of us, with almost no warning it was coming.
[submitted on 5/15/2020]