May 7, 2020
At home

Expats at home – South Australians chat from overseas

Take a trip around the world to check in with some South Australians living overseas to see how they're faring during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Rianna Cash at home in Okinawa, with rabbit PeeDee.

Rianna Cash, Japan

Where do you live?
Since March 2019, we have been living on an island off mainland Japan called Okinawa, in a town called Ginowan. I’m originally from Adelaide but my husband Travis is from Missouri, USA. We actually had plans to be moving to Scotland in a few months but these have been affected by travel restrictions, so Okinawa is still home for the foreseeable future.

What’s the feeling like in Okinawa?
Very early on in February, Okinawa had heard warnings of the coronavirus from mainland Japan and nearby China, and some schools closed for a very short time. The general feeling on the island at that time was that this move was unnecessary. It honestly wasn’t until after the Olympics were postponed that it felt as though Japan (and Okinawa more specifically) was beginning to take more urgent action. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen more non-essential businesses close their doors but it is still not uncommon to see groups of people walking around. It is a very different feeling than what I’ve heard it is like back home.

How has your work been affected?
I was working as an English instructor but since getting married have been looking at returning to my regular work as a psychologist. Most roles here on the island have begun transitioning to online services, although Travis’s company have them now working alternate shifts to keep the workers safe.

How have you been spending your time?
With the delays to the timeline for us travelling to our next destination, it’s actually given us more time to complete the huge number of documents associated with moving to another country (for the second time) – but, more excitingly, we’ve taken this time to enjoy caring for our very young bunny, PeeDee. I’ve never had this much time off work before so it’s really given me the chance to engage in more home-based activities, like online courses, reading and connecting with family and friends.

Have you been connecting with family back in SA?
It’s actually made the distance feel a little less significant on our end because everyone is connecting via FaceTime or technology at the moment, whereas before we would watch our families and friends be together and we were one of the few depending on technology to keep us connected. It has been hard to sit still with the uncertainty around when we may see everyone again and to accept that something might happen back home while we are unable to get back to offer support or help. But know we aren’t alone in this – it’s the same all over the world right now. It really is a very unusual experience to be away from Australia while there is a pandemic and to see not only many people process this type of event for the first time but to also see how different cultures respond firsthand and to reflect on your own responses in this context.

 

Katphin Moo, USA

Katphin with wife Michelle and children Addy, Emmy and newest addition, Olive.

Where do you live?
The San Francisco Bay Area

What is the current feeling in the US and your area at the moment?
It’s quite a mix. There’s obviously a lot of anxiety around the country with the large number of cases and deaths. In California, the shelter-in-place order happened earlier than other parts of the country, so there’s some optimism that the curve is flattening and now many people are wanting to get back to work.

How has your work been affected?
I work in partnerships at Facebook, helping non-profits and community leaders get the most out of our tools like fundraising. Thankfully all of this can be done over video conferences, so I’m able to keep working. The majority of the company actually started working remotely a few weeks before the shelter-in-place orders, so we’ve had quite a bit of time to adjust to working this way.

How have you been spending your time?
We have three young kids, so most of our time has been spent with them. Sheltering at home was tough at first, but now we’ve gotten used to it and have been video calling friends and family daily to stay connected.

Have you been connecting with family back in SA?
We’ll call our family back in SA every few days. Early on I was urging them to take this seriously and stay home as much as possible. Thankfully the situation’s not as bad over there, so I’ve stopped hassling!

 

Daisy Hamra, UK

Daisy has been staying in touch with friends via a virtual pub.

Where do you live?
London

What is the current feeling in your country/region at the moment?
The public have a lot of respect for the NHS and health care workers, so most have been willing to do their part to follow the government advice and stay home to ease the burden on the healthcare system. There does seem to be a sense of restlessness emerging as we are nearly entering week seven of lockdown with no indication that restrictions will be relaxed anytime soon.

How has your work been affected?
I work in real estate private equity. Fortunately, our company is well set up to enable employees to work remotely and have been supportive throughout this process. While there has definitely been some adjusting, I feel grateful we’ve still been able to continue working given there are many who are unable to do so.

How have you been spending your time?
I’ve been trying to read, run and cook more. Back to basics. We’ve also started a virtual wine club with a group of Adelaide friends living here in London… an iso-friendly pub equivalent.

How have you been connecting with family and friends back in SA?
I’ve been doing regular group video chats with friends and family back home. The frequent catch-ups are a big positive! I strangely feel more connected to home than I did before the pandemic.

 

Sophie Clarke, USA

Sophie enjoys cocktail hour with a Kangaroo Island gin and a concert.

Where do you live?
Dallas, Texas

What is the current feeling in your area at the moment?
Most people are sensible but a few are really feeling the impacts mentally and voicing their opinions loudly. This is causing some friction between a few people. I have one friend who has gone to NYC as an ICU nurse and her accounts of what is happening on the frontline are harrowing. She is faced daily with death and is a real superhero. When you personally know someone who is deliberately putting themself into that situation for the wellbeing of others, it is very humbling. I have the utmost respect for her and all frontline workers. My heart genuinely breaks for NYC and everyone who is/has been sick and/or knows someone who’s affected. I have other friends who moved to Dallas from NY a couple of years ago and they are incredibly fearful for the friends they left behind. It feels really emotional here most of the time. The one thing that is particularly beautiful about America and Americans is the outward showing of pride and support they show almost inherently to people who are still working.

How have you been spending your time?
My world is focused around homeschooling my twins. The children have not been able to attend school since March 6 and will not return until the start of the new school year in August. I’m spending all my time keeping the house in order – have you seen how much mess kids make whentheye are home 24/7? Also, Facebook push-up challenges and training – unfortunately all racing is postponed so it is challenging to stay motivated.

 

Yasmin Zeinab, France

Yasmin is looking forward to de-confinement, which will soon begin in Paris.

Where do you live?
Paris

What is the current feeling in your country/region at the moment?
Hopeful. We are all eagerly awaiting May 11, the date the government has announced for the start of our de-confinement process, to see what life looks like living with the virus.

How has your job been affected?
I’m a lawyer. Yes, almost the whole firm globally has shifted to a working from home/online model.

How have you been spending your time?
I’ve been spending my time mostly working, reading, doing all the admin I’d been putting off, cooking and doing online class/tutorials.

How have you been connecting with family/friends back in SA?
I must say this has been one of the upsides of confinement – the extra time to connect with family and friends back home via FaceTime.

 

Are you a South Australian overseas? Email your lockdown experiences to zoe@salife.com.au

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