It seems as if every time there’s a quarantine in Yakutsk, I end up in a personal crisis. Last year, it was an existential crisis. This year, I ended up mad at God for a few days.
On Tuesday, January 22, 2019 a quarantine was declared in Yakutsk, schedule to begin the next day. Although we were expecting it because it comes every year without fail, we weren’t expecting it so early; after all, last year it didn’t start until some time in February.
Let’s recap quickly. What’s a quarantine and how does it work?
A quarantine is declared in Yakutsk when about 30% of children across the school system are ill.
Some council of people (the Mayor, the town council and medical advisors, I would imagine) meet and decide that there should be a quarantine and for how long it should last. Near to the end of the quarantine, they meet again and decide if it should end as scheduled or if it should be extended.
This time, the last day of the quarantine was scheduled to be Friday, February 1, 2019. During the time of the quarantine, all school and extra-curricular activities are suspended for school children. However, the pre-kindergarten aged children still attend their activities because their parents have to work and there aren’t always viable babysitting options.
Four of my seven groups were included in the quarantine. I felt torn. On the one hand, I was happy to have several hours freed up each day to get some of the urgent things crossed off my never ending to-do list.
Those freed up hours also meant that I would have the opportunity to give my attention to a couple of other personal projects that I’ve been trying to get off the ground but for which I just haven’t had the time. On the other hand, I knew from last year’s experience that once the quarantine ended, makeup lessons were going to kill me and I would have to work practically seven days a week.
You can see why I felt torn: embrace the free time to catch up on my administrative work and personal projects but pay the piper later with unending hours of makeup lessons, including working on my days off.
I decided that there was no point dithering about it. I couldn’t do anything about the situation except make the best of it and not worry about the impending makeup lessons. They were coming anyway so there was no sense in worrying.
I resolved to embrace the opportunity that had been handed to me and make every single day of the quarantine as productive as I possibly could. Totally reasonable plan, right? Right.
Wednesday – Something Is Happening
On Wednesday morning, I woke up after eight solid hours of sleep still feeling tired. I figured it was just residual exhaustion from Monday night when I had stayed up late finishing up a craft project, so I drank a cup of coffee to perk me up while I did my Bible study then I went off to work, ready to implement my plan of productivity.
By mid-morning, I was feeling sleepy again and wondered why I was struggling. I threw back another cup of coffee and continued plowing my way through the day’s to-do list.
By mid-afternoon I was back for another coffee and had accepted that this was no ordinary tiredness; I was coming down with something. Once I accepted that fact, things seemed to progress quickly.
By mid-afternoon, I was dragging and I made it through the rest of the day and my two evening lessons by the skin of my teeth. As soon as I was done, I packed up my things, went home, brewed some ginger tea (my latest flu remedy) and got into bed.
I don’t remember a thing for the rest of the night.
Thursday – Down The Rabbit Hole
I woke up feeling like death warmed over. I never knew what that meant until that day. I was weak and feverish and I had no appetite. I didn’t even want my blessed ginger tea, which did not seem to be helping at all, anyway.
Thankfully, I had no lessons that day so I messaged in sick because I literally did not feel as if I had the strength to get dressed much less to walk to work. This was a landmark day for me because this was the first time since I’ve been working here that I’ve taken a sick day.
No matter how unwell I’ve felt over the last year and a half, I’ve still been able to go to work. Not so this day. I spent all day sleeping, fighting a persistent headache, and stumbling between my bed and the bathroom.
By that evening, my visits to the bathroom were of the hug-the-bowl variety; considering that I had eaten nothing all day, this just meant that I was heaving and heaving and nothing was coming up. But I couldn’t stop myself; whatever was plaguing me wanted me to throw up so off to the bathroom I’d go to tiredly heave for no good reason.
Friday – At The Edge of Life
It was when I awoke on Friday morning that I thought for the first time during my single life that I wish I had someone to take care of me at that moment.
I’ve never wished that before; no matter how badly I’ve felt, I’ve still been able to manage on my own. But I was so weak and exhausted that all I wanted was for someone to soothe me and tell me everything would be fine and to bring me some water.
I decided that I couldn’t fight this illness on my own and that I needed a doctor, so I asked a colleague to make an appointment for me at my nearby clinic. Unfortunately, the appointment was for late afternoon and I had even less strength than I had the day before so I knew I wouldn’t make it to work.
And this was when I reached the second landmark of my life here: I had to have someone substitute my two evening lessons. I knew that even if I could make it to class in time after my doctor’s appointment (which was iffy, at best), I absolutely wouldn’t have the strength to teach one lesson, much less two. This is unheard of for me. I’m controlling when it comes to my lessons; I don’t want anyone else teaching my kids and I feel that my kids depend on me to be there when I’m supposed to be. But I just couldn’t. I literally did not have the strength.
I spent all day sleeping and shoring up my energy to walk the two blocks to the clinic, which I managed to do, thank God. After hearing my symptoms, the doctor told me that I definitely didn’t have the flu; I had the virus which had apparently caused the quarantine. Dr. Leonid looked down my throat, shook his head and tutted, then he listened to my lungs and pressed my abdomen to see if anything felt sore. Finally, he prescribed me an antiviral tablet, an antiviral dissolving solution and something to settle my stomach so I could eat, and he told me to come back in a week. I thanked him and trudged off to the pharmacy. Then another pharmacy. And another. Until I had been to all five pharmacies between the clinic and my house because no-one had the antiviral tablet that I needed. The last pharmacist told me that all the sick people had bought up most of that drug. I gave up and went home because I was too weak to continue anyway.
At home, I called my colleague and told her about my medication predicament and asked for her help in tracking down the missing medication or a substitute, and I asked if the pharmacy could have it delivered because I honestly had no strength to go out again. She said not to worry. Within thirty minutes, another of my precious colleagues had shown up on my doorstep with the medication in hand. I was so relieved, you cannot imagine.
By this time, I hadn’t eaten in two days because I had no appetite. But now that I had medication to take, I choked down two bites of leftover pastry, downed the medicine and went to bed. Thirty minutes later I lunged out of bed and threw it all up in the toilet. I hugged that bowl and I heaved and I sobbed out my feelings of wretchedness and I cried, “Why, God, why??” I wasn’t even sure what I was asking at the time but in retrospect, I think I was asking why God had allowed me to be brought so low. It was a stupid question then and it’s a stupid question now, because who of us is guaranteed an easy life? But somehow when trouble struck the first thing I wanted to know was, “Why me?”
In any case, my stomach settled after that and I was able to start re-hydrating myself with small sips of weak lemonade and water. The fever also left me but the weakness and headache remained and let me tell you, it was throughout this night that I got an inkling of how Elijah must have felt when he told God it was better if he was dead. This virus had me feeling so bad that I imagined that death couldn’t be as bad as this. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t praying to die but I’m not afraid of death and if it had come, I wouldn’t have fought it too hard; that’s how awful I felt that night.
Saturday & Sunday – It’s Still Too Dark To See
I expected to wake up on Saturday feeling wrung out but ready to get back on the horse of life. I didn’t. Sure, I woke up feeling wrung out but that was about it. I had no energy to do anything except remove a container of frozen chicken soup from my freezer to defrost. I lay on my couch all day alternately sleeping and binge watching sitcoms and Hallmark movies, not because I wanted to but because I literally had no strength to do anything else. My to-do list started looming at the edge of my consciousness again but I had nothing to give to it. Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday, except I had to wash my hair. I knew that I would have to drag myself to work on Monday and four days of bed head was not going to cut it. I went to bed on Sunday night praying that I would wake up on Monday morning feeling less weak and sucked dry.
Monday – Here Comes The Sun
And finally, I started to see the light again on Monday. I woke up before my alarm and took my time getting ready for my day. I took my time and walked to work and I took my time doing everything that day. I had an intermittent cough and I was still far below my full strength but the headache was gone, my appetite was improving and I wasn’t in the hospital, as so many people were. It was at this point that I realised that I was annoyed with God. It wasn’t because I had been sick; I was already over my, “Why, God, why?” question. No, I found myself annoyed because I hadn’t felt Him while I was sick.
There have been countless times of trouble over these recent years of my life when I’ve felt as though God surrounded me with His love as I walked through those battles but this time I felt all alone.
I couldn’t identify God’s presence at all and I was mad about that. As wretched and miserable as I had been feeling, He’s God and He could have found a way to comfort me when I needed it so much. And this was when I started to get Job. This illness is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. I don’t recall ever feeling worse, including after surgery. This illness was so bad that if I was the type of person to have enemies (I’m not), and if I was the type of person to wish evil on others (I’m not), I still wouldn’t wish this illness on my worst enemy. This was a time when I needed God the most but I couldn’t find Him then. I wanted to know where He was when I was feeling so desperately ill. I wanted to know why I felt so abandoned right in the middle of needing Him most.
In my mind, I knew that it’s not my place to question why God didn’t do this or that for me while I was sick, and that it’s my job to trust Him and not my fickle feelings. But my fickle feelings were hurt and God wasn’t in a rush to soothe them. In fact, He never did soothe them. He just waited for me to get over myself and come back to Him. It took me about four days to do it but it finally dawned on me that God had never left me because He’s immovable. So what, I didn’t feel Him during my storm; that doesn’t mean He wasn’t there all along.
The quarantine ended up being extended by another week so I was still able to be productive at work and with my personal projects, and I ended up getting even more done than I had planned. I never want to go through an illness like that again but the experience was good because it showed me a weak spot that I need to work on – my arrogance in thinking that I’m at the centre of God’s universe.
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.Job 38:1-3