I won a trip to Tahiti.
In my dream, that is.
I was ecstatic at having won the lottery, but within a few seconds, my heart sank at the fact that I had not been vaccinated. Even in my dream.
I don’t know what deeply seated unconscious desire to visit Tahiti may have led to the dream. Tahiti has never been on my bucket list. I suspect the dream had more to do with a pent-up desire to travel. To anywhere, really.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in January 2020, travels around the world came to a virtual standstill. Countries went into various forms of lockdown and borders were shut overnight.
Talk about humankind’s ingenuity. It wasn’t before long that airlines began offering flights to nowhere, partly to generate revenue and partly to maintain their pilots’ flying hours. These flights proved surprisingly popular, their popularity perhaps boosted by a chance to do some duty-free shopping. But I reckon people really missed traveling.
Now, as summer nears, seats on international flights are being snapped up. With COVID-19 vaccinations quickly proceeding in countries around the world, international travel does seem within reach for those who have been jabbed.
Alas, as I write this, I am in the fourth day of my second-ever self-quarantine, necessitated by my daughter’s return from a weekend in the US where she attended her college commencement by herself – the socially distanced event did not allow guests – and packed up stuff that had been in storage for more than a year while she “attended” classes via Zoom from Seoul.
By the way, kudos to all new graduates and teachers who, within a matter of days, had to leave campus and adjust to teaching and learning in the virtual space. They have proven resilient in face of adversity and have come out all the stronger for it.
I am better equipped to deal with this latest quarantine. Back in April 2020, when there was very little known about what was then described as a highly contagious and deadly infectious disease, self-quarantine seemed the only way to ensure health and safety. I stuck to all the rules of the self-quarantine to the letter as if my life depended on it.
We now know more about the virus and the disease it causes. We have treatment protocols and we have vaccines that are shown to be effective.
In countries where a majority of the population have been jabbed, life is slowly returning to normal. US President Joe Biden has even said that July 4 this year would be an “Independence Day” from the virus.
Aside from the jump in flight bookings, there are reports of increased sales in lipstick and condoms. Some experts predict a “roaring ‘20s” in the offing, much like the decade of decadence that followed another pandemic, the Spanish flu.
Eager to roar back to life, we are. But the reality in Korea is that we are still in midst of the pandemic, with daily new cases hovering around 700. It will be year-end before enough of the population are vaccinated to effectively prevent the spread of the virus.
In the meantime, we are being asked to practice social distancing, as we have been for more than 18 months, and to wear masks indoors and outdoors. While Korea has never gone into a total lockdown, the use of certain facilities remains restricted.
Last week, I attended a concert for the first time since the pandemic struck. It was a full house by the standards of pandemic times – every other seat at the concert hall was occupied. I gingerly took my seat, nervous about being in a “crowded” place although everyone in the audience wearing a mask. Soon, the music took over and I was no longer nervous. The evening concluded with the triumphant Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 performed by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the insistent sound of the brass instruments and the furious beating of the timpani appearing to be declaring mankind’s victory over the pandemic.
Surely, this too shall pass and we shall soon emerge from the long, dark tunnel.
We can help quicken the process and ensure the health and safety of loved ones by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 when we are offered a jab.
I recently asked my doctor if I should be concerned about getting vaccinated. His answer was plain and simple. “At this point, there is no reason why you should not get a shot,” he said.
By Kim Hoo-ran (firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Hoo-ran is the culture desk editor at The Korea Herald. - Ed