Christina first came to Oklahoma City in 2001 to attend school our seventh grade year. Even though she was from halfway around the world in South Korea, she became one of my best friends.
We graduated from high school together in 2007. After graduation, she moved back to South Korea, met the love of her life and had two beautiful children, Yena who is now 5 ½ years old, and Sihun who is 2 ½.
We reconnected several years ago during one of her trips back “home” to Oklahoma. Since then, we talk almost daily through texting or social media.
A few weeks ago, our conversation took a serious turn as we discussed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it was affecting her family.
Now that we are basically experiencing a copy-and-paste scenario here in America that Christina has been dealing with since February in South Korea, we wanted to share her story and advice with our readers in an effort to encourage, give hope and bring solidarity.
Christina lives in Daejeon, which is about two hours south of Seoul, South Korea.
She and her husband felt it was okay to keep their daughter in school back in January and early February when news of the virus started to become the talk of the town. But on February 16th, all schools were officially closed for a week. Then two weeks. Then three.
Currently, schools in Christina’s area are still closed, and will remain closed till at least March 22nd.
“I could feel a big spirit of fear,” Christina described of those first few days. “And with the fear, a lot of hate. It was as if I was living in a crazy disaster movie.”
“Fear of the unknown was probably the biggest thing. We didn’t know how long this would last, what would be closed, or if there would be a shortage of who knows what.”
That is what seems to be the overwhelming feeling today in America. The fear of the unknown.
During those first couple weeks, Christina said everyone was encouraged to just stay away from crowds.
“Now there is a campaign going to keep ‘social-distance,’” she explained. “We are not too worried for ourselves since it seems to mostly affect the elderly, but we’ve decided to stay in, mostly to support local health officials as they work to contain the virus.”
“It is hard to have to stay in, especially in South Korea where everyone lives in an apartment, and we are on the 14th floor!” Christina continued. “But they are working so hard, and this is what we could do to help. And we have a two-year-old boy who would be licking door handles if I told him not to touch anything.”
I think we can all relate to Christina there…my two-year-old would be doing the same.
Christina and her two children have been home for almost a month now. Her husband has been going to work every day, but starting March 13th even he must work from home.
“We have gone outside, found places without people to let the kids run free and hike, but we are definitely keeping our distance away from people,” she said. “So jealous of back yards in Oklahoma!”
Note to self: don’t take my back yard for granted anymore. It’s about to get used a whole lot.
All events, schools, church services, and even private events like birthday parties and weddings are still being canceled in South Korea in an effort to contain the virus.
I asked Christina how she explained all of this to her kids. She said that before schools were officially closed, Yena came home after classes crying and talking about Coronavirus and how they could die.
“That’s when I first explained to her, we are not going to die,” Christina said. “It’s just like any other virus. We just don’t know much about this one, so we are being careful. I told her she does not need to be scared of it, or of dying. We just need to wash our hands, eat well, and do the things we can control.
“This will pass, and we will be back to normal when it does. I also tell her I hate that she misses school, but I do love spending all day every day with her. It has become sort of a sweet staycation-bonding time for us.”
Christina said she did not stock up on anything, but just bought a few more groceries at first since she knew they would be staying in. Let’s all take that advice and put that eighth package of toilet paper back on the shelf.
She said that as Moms, expect to “bend” the house rules a bit if you find yourself indoors for weeks on end like she has been.
“I was exhausted one day, so we stayed in our PJs and watched movies all day,” she gave as an example.
They are still home since life in South Korea still isn’t back to normal. People are a lot calmer now though, getting outside to walk their dogs or exercise while maintaining distance and contact with other humans, Christina said.
Seeing how Americans have just started to live through the Coronavirus implications, Christina stated that she felt as though she’d lived ahead as she looks on at us, her other home, from a distance.
“I hope everyone takes this seriously, but there is no need to freak out or to be fearful,” she advised.
“This whole situation can be so inconvenient, but it also means we have been blessed with what we consider ordinary things. I have felt a deeper appreciation for the ‘normal’ life we easily take for granted.
“(All of this) also gave me so much perspective on what a blessing it is to have a safe home to stay in and healthy children to care for. This too shall pass; hang in there Sisters!”