By Newman S. Gompil
As a child, my father told me a story of a man who sat in a prime location in a village market square with his face buried in a local newspaper, and with the calculated timing of a languid Puff adder, he spits out the following words in Hausa: “Lallai, ana buruoba a Lagos,” which roughly translates as: “Indeed, strange things never cease to happen in Lagos!”
These words stopped people dead in their tracks. Over the past months, life might have felt like a sci-fi movie especially from the bizarre COVID-19 induced phenomena in all spheres of life not only in Lagos but the world over, setting off devasting global health and socio-economic catastrophe, upending our world. It’s in this light that I’ll tell you my story and a few lessons learned.
The first is that my notion of homeschooling has radically changed during the lockdown. Like most parents, we helped the boys sign up on Teams (the educational app) on March 16, the night the confinement was announced in Luxembourg. Two weeks down the line was enough to cement all preconceived biases (from books and stories I’ve heard.) On a particular day, we started at 9:30 am with one of the boys only to finish at 8 pm.
That was hitting rock bottom and something snapped irrevocably. We went to bed defeated but spoiling for a fight to turn the situation around. Three weeks later, he will finish his schoolwork by noon but with cautious optimism, we chose to see it as a fluke. We were wrong. A month later, all his work was done by 10:47 am. Good grief! Although the boys were back in school from June 2020, home-schooling has come to stay for us.
Secondly, at no time in my entire existence have I ever felt inundated with information as in the past weeks. I am daily bombarded with COVID-19 messages, instructions, or advice, often unsolicited. The social media craze and especially, the ease with which videos and messages are circulated at break-neck speed is simply incredible. From WhatsApp, Instagram, or Twitter, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the flow. What’s worst is how fake news and conspiracy theories have taken a life of their own. Crazy times! I have refused to be weighed down by this unnecessary baggage and with glee, I daily flush out the garbage.
Third, with all our travel plans canceled as a result of the confinement, it was time to seize the moment and create quality family time; and thanks to the lockdown, chances are, if you name 10 amazing family movies, we’ve seen seven. Super! I have also sadly learned the importance of reaching out to friends or families whilst I can. We had planned to spend the last Easter holidays in Paris, and I decided to meet a drummer icon there. In my past visits (either for work or leisure), I didn’t make any efforts to meet Tony Allen and that will hunt me for a long time. It’s distressing that I will never see him again because he passed away on 30 April 2020. Rest in power legendary master drummer.
Fourth, every time there’s economic meltdown (like a recession), big businesses are given fat bailouts at the taxpayer’s cost while the carpenter or baker on the street corner with three employees is left to fold due to inadequate help schemes or the complicated nature of government emergency loan applications. Only a few days ago, France announced an 8 billion euros rescue plan for car industries. I won’t bore you with what`s in for the airlines. Folks from Spain, to the USA, Colombia to Cameroon with no safety nets are filing for unemployment in their thousands, getting consumed in this crisis.
Some of the images I’ve seen in the lockdown will not leave my mind in a hurry. Images of empty shelves that greeted me on Saturday 14, 2020 as I went grocery shopping and the frenzy with which soaps and sanitizers were carted away. And, how about the Kilimanjaro-high stacks of toilet papers trolleyed away as though they possess some COVID-19 magic powers?
It’s the first week of August and the recent spike in numbers of new infections, regions like Lleida (Spain) and Gutersloh (Germany) are back in confinement. There’s already talks of a second-wave situation like Melbourne going back to stricter confinement from August 6. These are unpredictable times. This pandemic has a way of putting things into perspective.