Ok it’s time for another one of my really long Facebook updates. This time about the Coronavirus... Some of y’all have messaged me asking about how traveling the world is going during this time and maybe some of y’all are curious to know the answer and my experience.
I made a post about the coronavirus the other day saying that it’s all I was seeing on Facebook. I took it down because I wrote it after being annoyed by all the posts, memes, and jokes as I scrolled. To be honest I’m not really annoyed by the posts and even the jokes it’s just that for some reason that day I was.
Anyways I thought I’d make this post about my experience with all that’s going on and some thoughts...
This year I found myself in Asia during CNY (Chinese New Year) which makes it now my 3rd CNY that I’ve spent in Asia. This year I started off in Egypt in North Africa then in Suadi Arabia in the Middle East which is technically Asia! After some time in Suadi I flew over to Thailand in mid January. While I was in Thailand that’s when things in China really started to get crazy and it was the first time I heard about the coronavirus that started in Wuhan. Even though I was just a country away from China nothing seemed to be that crazy in Thailand besides a lot of printed signs everywhere. The train station had signs. Hotels had signs. And even McDonald’s had signs. The signs said how to avoid the virus with hygiene. The one McDonald’s sign was sweet with a saying that they stood with the people of Wuhan!
At the beginning of February after Thailand I headed to Malaysia via train. At the border of Malaysia they were checking temperatures and asking people if they had been in China in the last 2 weeks while also checking passports for Chinese stamps. They found Chinese stamps in my passport from September and made sure that I didn’t have any from recently. While in Malaysia I saw some more printed signs and some fast food restaurants had hand sanitizer. While in Malaysia my throat got really sore, I had a fever, chills, a headache, and a small cough to top it off. It was definitely the sickest I’ve ever been on this world trip! So of course I got checked out... but I was not tested for the virus or anything. After getting some medicine I felt better and went to Singapore.
I crossed into Singapore via bus. When we got to the border and I departed the bus I immediately had my temperature taken along with everyone else on the bus. Next we went through the border building and had our temps checked again. At the immigration counter they asked if I had been to China within the past 2 weeks and then let me pass. Right at the border in Singapore they had signs telling people not to use masks unless they were sick. Then during my time in Singapore things got pretty crazy. The country issued a new health warning to Code Orange which is one away form Code Red which is a total emergency! Singapore had signs everywhere wether billboard size signs around the city or printouts in apartments, malls, grocery stores, elevators, and so on. The panic was real and for a reason... Singapore is a very small island nation that is a city nation. Singapore also has a ton of direct flights to and from China. When I was there they started checking temperatures at many public places such as libraries and colleges and even some malls. Grocery stores were packed with so many people it was almost impossible to shop! The stores all made policies to limit masks, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes. Over the loud speakers in the stores they asked people to only buy what the needed and not to stock up. I left Singapore after a few days via plane and flew to Doha, Qatar for a layover on my way to South Africa. The Singapore airport was fine, it just had temperature checks. The Qatar airport also had checks as well. But oh my Qatar Airlines flight from Singapore to Doha had less then 50 people on the 300 seat plane! That could have been due to the virus but I’m not sure.
I arrived in Joburg, South Africa and nobody was allowed off the plane until health officials came on the plane and checked each passengers temperature. I then crossed into Swaziland and had no checks at the border. The same went for crossing in and out of South African borders and in and out of Lesotho. They had a temperature check at the Namibia border. The Angola border also had someone at a table with a thermometer and hand sanitizer but they weren’t checking everyone. While I was waiting for my visa at the Angola border I heard the officers and each person coming into the office talk about the virus. I told them it was nice it wasn’t in Angola yet and that Africa seems like a great continent to be on during all the craziness! Even at bus stops in the middle of nowhere Angola they had signs about the virus. When entering Botswana I had to fill out health declaration form and have my temp checked before being able to get stamped into the country. And that brings me to now as I’m currently in the lovely country of Botswana with an epic missionary family!
I’ve personally had no problems traveling since the start of the virus. I know quite a few people personally who have had big time trouble traveling during this time both at the start of the virus and even more now. A few kind people have messaged me and asked how I’m doing and if my travel has been affected.
When the outbreak first started I had no idea what to think and had mixed thoughts and to be honest I still do. I see two main sides the issue, those who act like it’s no big deal at all and then those who are way overhyping it and fearful. I fall in the middle I guess. I think this virus is NO joke but also I’m not buying into the fear and panic. Instead I’m trusting God and of course taking measures to make sure I’m healthy. The real issue with this virus is the people it has killed, the hate it’s brought to the Asian community, the employees it stopped from working, the relationships it’s broken, and the fear its produced. We just can’t live in fear. There will ALWAYS be something to be afraid of. There will ALWAYS be sickness. There will ALWAYS be death. This doesn’t mean that we don’t use wisdom and concernment during this outbreak. We of course need to be keeping good hygiene, avoid gathering for some time, and appropriate steps to keep the virus form spreading more. Just because we shouldn’t fear doesn’t mean that we don’t use wisdom. Just like I’m very cautious of where I walk because of being robbed multiple times doesn’t mean that I have to live in fear. The same applies for the virus, we use God given wisdom and caution but we really don’t need to panic.
If there is anything I’ve learned from traveling it’s that being afraid and worry is the biggest waste of time and a complete tactic of the devil to keep us form leaning in Christ! During these days we must find our faith in Christ alone because at the end of the day He is all that matters.
We must also be praying and helping those affected and at risk during this time. For me that looks like trying to keep in contact with all my friends in countries that the virus has been spreading bad. It also looks like using this time of fear to point people to the God who tells us not to fear. Maybe for you it looks like asking your elderly neighbor if you can get them groceries. Or even sending a kind note and some money to the owner of the Chinese restaurant in town. Another way to love your neighbor is to be a part of this whole social distancing thing even if you think it’s odd, it will help. Those are just some ideas. We can surly use this time to spend more time with God and love our neighbors in practical ways. The church in China has been using the virus as opportunity to help their neighbor share the name of Christ boldly!
It’s crazy out there right now. I have friends in many of the affected countries and as the virus has spread I’ve seen them trust God even from the beginning. I even have fiends in China and they sure know what it’s like to be in full lockdown so for my fiends in states don’t worry, don’t panic, just bring all of it to the Lord. Stay safe and make sure that those around you more at risk are being loved and cared for!
As for me I’ll be staying here in Africa traveling around for as long as I can. It’s much calmer here and the cases are less. Like for real it’s safer here since many countries here don’t have the virus! Africa and the over billion people who call this incredible continent their home know their fare share of hardship and illnesses. I’ve gone out to villages where children die from a simple cold. I’ve seen children who look like they are about to die from lack of food. I’ve heard dozens of stories of elderly and children passing away form preventable diseases. In the past month I’ve visited the two top most HIV affected countries in the world. I’ve seen and heard a lot during my limited time in Western and Southren Africa. So with that to say I’m not too inclined on going back to the USA right now to hear people complaining about toilet paper. 🙂
Let’s definitely not under react because this thing is real but let’s not buy into fear. Because we are no longer slaves to fear, we are children of God!!!! Let’s trust and lean on Him all the way!