Life as an Expat under Medellín’s coronavirus quarantine


As much as it seems to take the rest of the world by surprise, Colombia has been on a lockdown quarantine order since 7 pm, Friday, March 20. Currently, this period is due to last until April 13, but as we’re seeing the world over, everything is subject to change on a daily basis.

I’m a British citizen who moved to Colombia in October 2019. I’m employed here by a Colombian company, have a valid migrant visa, a rented place to live and have been enjoying my boosted quality of life in Colombia. For these reasons, not once has it crossed my mind to return to the UK amongst all this uncertainty since my life in Colombia is safer than Europe at present.

As for many people, quarantine started out relatively jovially; we were determined not to succumb to cabin fever and to stay productive and creative. After returning from a lovely beach holiday on the north coast and knowing that my parents were safely back in the UK, I welcomed the idea of working remotely and felt lucky that I was able to do so.

An hour or so before the lockdown was put in place, I went out for a run to take a last look at the outside world for a while. Already the streets were empty and seemed like they belonged to a different city entirely. A couple of fellow joggers and dog walkers were out, offering friendly nods as we crossed paths. However, there was also a group of men lingering suspiciously who called out to me in the hopes of a reaction (they didn’t receive one).

This duality of human behaviour is what’s struck me most during Colombia’s lockdown. Clearly, seeing a gringa-looking person in the street or supermarket now can engender a different reaction to what it did a month ago; there are certainly a few inquisitive looks that come my way now, as locals question why a foreigner would be in Colombia and not in their home country. Since Europe is now the center of this pandemic, I can’t help but feel that Colombians are worried about perhaps contracting the virus from me since I look like an outsider!

However, there’s also an immense sense of solidarity and community, with knowing looks and smiles exchanged from afar whenever I’m in my residence’s garden or on my way to the supermarket. In general, paisas seem to be feeling much more insular and keen to go about their lives with as little interaction as possible. This is entirely understandable and shows how seriously the people of Colombia are taking this lockdown (something that doesn’t seem to be the case in my home country!)

And so, my lockdown routine has taken shape and, as with anything in life, I grow increasingly accustomed to it. I wake up, feeling grateful that I can sleep more since I no longer have to commute and also pleased that there’s less traffic noise outside. I make myself a tea (some things never change!) and get settled with my laptop to start my working day. My fellow quarantinees are great at meal planning and finding recipe inspiration so that’s a positive way we spend our day; preparing and enjoying meals.

Aside from work and food, I’ve been basking in the sense of international community that this awful situation has brought about. Trying not to while away too many hours on social media, I use the ideas I find there to entertain myself with online meditations, yoga and sports classes, recommendations for podcasts, books and films, and of course, various apps to keep in touch with loved ones around the world.

For now, I’m using this quarantine as a time to reset, to reflect on everything that I do have and to think of ways I can help people who really are losing vital parts of their life by the day. With a constant flurry of bad news and gloomy statistics, friends at home losing their jobs, concern for vulnerable grandparents, a family wedding this summer being cancelled and lockdowns being extended the world over, the only thing I can do currently is to support others and look to the future with determined optimism.

I’m grateful to live in a country that has reacted quickly to this vicious virus and has taken measures to protect its citizens and residents, but I fear that the most testing times for healthcare and the economy are yet to come.

About the author: Laura Field is a PR and Communications specialist based in Medellín and holds a degree in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford.


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