Roar writer Ally Azizi recounts her experience returning home amidst the height of the Coronavirus.
Initially, I had planned to stay in the UK until the examination period was over, thinking the situation was not going to get any worse than it already was. Soon after making that plan, I found myself returning home. This is how my past month has played out for me.
I receive my care package from Malaysia. My family sent me N95 masks, along with some surgical masks, Malaysian snacks/ingredients and a few summer clothes. At the time, I had decided that I was not going to return home for Easter due to the complicated situation.
My close friend texts me saying that he has decided to fly home, advising me to do the same as the number of cases in the UK increase up to almost 800. In a flurry of panic, I call my mother and we decide to arrange a ticket home.
My mother calls to tell me that she has just arranged my ticket home for March 18 and to start packing my things. I have only five days before leaving the UK.
It‘s weird to see my room empty again, after sending a lot of my things into storage. I feel a wave of nostalgia as I think about the sleepovers and laughs I had with my friends. I take a taxi to the airport and meet my friend who had advised me to return home.
We check in and make our way to the Malaysia Airlines lounge where we see so many other students going home. There is a tense atmosphere and many of us do not talk to each other. When it is time to board, my friend and I make our way to the boarding area and eventually into the plane. Everyone in my cabin seems to have the same idea as I do; we all start sanitising our seats with wet wipes and tissues. I sleep for almost the entire flight, only waking up to eat dinner and breakfast.
When I finally arrive in Kuala Lumpur, it is five in the evening and the airport is deserted. The lockdown in Malaysia started the day before and it seems as if everything has just come to a stop. As we progress through the airport, we go through a thermal scanner which detects our body temperature. Immigration is smooth as there are only Malaysians in the airport. We are all given a notice to stay home for the next 14 days to reduce the transmission of the disease. After saying goodbye to my friend, I am finally on my way home. The minute I step into my house, I go straight to my room to begin my quarantine while my luggage airs out on the balcony.
20 March – 5 April:
During my quarantine, I attend my lectures and seminars online, watch Netflix and YouTube, eat four meals a day, read some books, call my friends and sleep. I realise that this is such a privilege; being bored and well-fed is a privilege. I read many stories online about those on lower incomes finding it hard to cope as many of them depended on daily wages. Some were even selling their furniture just so that they could find the money to buy food and necessities for their family. It breaks my heart to see so many sacrificing their lives just to be able to survive.
It was an interesting birthday to say the least. In the morning I go for a drive-thru COVID-19 test, as a precautionary measure. Being young, I am more likely to be asymptomatic, and I do not want to pass the virus on to my sixty-year-old parents who are far more vulnerable. I spend the rest of my day completing some university work – not very eventful.
Fortunately, I tested negative and finally left my quarantine after 19 days! Returning home has been a strange experience to say the least, as I am sure other international students think as well.