It's life Jim, but not as we know it

Things here in the Netherlands have started to open up again after what has been described as an “intelligent” lockdown. Primary schools have been back for a few weeks with half sized classes, as the children did half school at school and half school at home. From today they are now back full-time. Except my son still has one day a week home school as there aren’t enough teachers. (NB This is a national problem that the Teaching Unions have been complaining about for some years. In the time we have been going to school here we have had numerous strikes to raise attention and try and secure further funding to the sector. That has been partly successful, but the situation is exacerbated by the current crisis. Vulnerable older teachers are staying at home instead of being in front of the classroom, and there is not enough supply teachers willing to risk a new workplace to cover them all.)

The different sports clubs and activities that we do are mostly beginning again, though not always in the same way as before or at the same times. My daughter’s ballet class is now on the pavement outside the sports centre, as sport is OK to take part in again outside, but not inside. Beavers and Cubs were restricted to outside meetings, though now they can go inside but not for running about games and exertion.

It is a minefield trying to navigate what the rules are for all the different activities and how they are changing. Turning up at the right place with the right things at the right time is a manoeuvre. And then you often need to make your way through cones or taped barriers to follow the procedure once you’re there.

One of the difficult things about this pandemic, as an ex-pat, is the fact that you are so distant from your family and friends back home. If anything happened to my parents, or my sister what would I do? What could I do? With the quarantine rules how could I be of any help if I were able to go there? Would they still need my help in two weeks time when I was able to do anything with them?

Fortunately, so far, they are all in good health, but that’s not guaranteed to continue. For now, we hold them in our prayers and continue to watch the situation there from here.

Though the other side of the experience has been the necessity of learning about the different ways that lockdown has been implemented around the world. How restricted are people, what shops are allowed to continue open, how far apart should you all stay, when are masks needed. The answers to all of these are different in every country. And the reaction to the populace has been different too, in terms of how well, or not, they have abided by those rules. Of course all I can really judge is what I see happening here, and what is reported on the news. One of which is incredibly localised, and the other of which is sensationalised and likely biased. So it’s not necessarily a good judge of the world situation.

From what I have seen, I do think we are lucky to be in the Netherlands, and that the response here has been thought through and fairly well implemented. And most importantly of all, it’s had the support of the majority of the people here. The intelligent lockdown treats everyone as able to make their own decisions. Working at home was advised, staying at home was advised, avoiding public transport was advised, but there was no set rule. Schools were shut, gatherings of large numbers of people were banned, places where people met up were closed, but overall they gave out guidelines and trusted the people to follow them. And the results on the rate of infection can be seen.

Where do we go from here? Things are opening up, but it will take a long time for them to return to normal, if they ever do. We have cancelled the summer holidays we had planned, and are instead looking at going within the Netherlands. Partly as we have been at home for so long it will be nice to see a different four walls. Though how that will work and what we will be able to do once we are there I’m not sure. But it will become clearer closer to the time. For now we’re trying to take each day at a time and see where we get to. International travel and events with large crowds are going to be a while yet, so I am focusing on what I can do here and the benefits of where we are. That is the key to staying positive about the whole situation.

Having the kids around had started to feel like the norm, and they are aren’t here, though the respite is welcome, it feels weird. Just as well we only have four weeks left of school before the summer holiday starts then!

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