On Privilege during a Global Pandemic

When you live far away from home

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

There is nothing like a global pandemic to make you realise how privileged you are.

I write this during the winter holiday from work that still pays my salary in full. I live in Germany, a country with one of the best public healthcare systems in the world. I could afford social distancing without any drastic change to my lifestyle. I am even able to take online writing workshop to fill my spare time during the lockdown.

I am very much aware of the massive privilege I enjoy at this moment when a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet during this situation. Some of my friends lost their monthly income because of the massive job cuts due to the pandemic. A lot of my colleagues are struggling to juggle working from home with taking care of the kids because the schools are closed.

However, I am also far away from home. I was born and raised in Indonesia and my mum still lives there, by herself.

Every morning my default mode is to check on her. Does she get sick? Does she have everything she needs without having to go outside? Is she coping alright? Is she okay, mentally and physically?

As I sip the turmeric oat milk latte I made from the recipe I saw on Youtube, I worry about what is going to happen in Indonesia. My friends have been sending me links to the news and projections about the COVID-19 cases back home and they look terrifying.

Indonesia might have more than 200,000 deaths by the virus in the next few months if the government does not step up its current control measures. The news even mentioned that people who have breached coronavirus health protocols there have only been punished to do push-ups.

Yes, I do have everything I need and I should be using this time of social distancing to focus on my own life and sanity. Nevertheless, so often my mind is miles away, with my mum, thinking, once again, if she is doing alright.

My anxiety gets worse knowing that Indonesian government still allows its citizens to do the annual exodus (Mudik) to their home villages that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month. Only a few hospital in Indonesia can handle COVID-19 cases, and they are overwhelmed already, so once the virus gets to the villages, we can only predict the worst.

I know that I should remind myself of the privileges I have. I should be grateful of my situation at the moment. Nevertheless, I can’t help but to feel conflicted.

Who will look after my mum if she gets sick? Am I allowed to fly back home if she needs me? Can I go home at all if anything happens?

Somehow, privilege feels irrelevant to me in this case. By the end of the day, I guess I will be okay, but it’s only a solace if my loved ones also are — Turmeric latte in hand or not.

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