by Lilly Obina
If I say, COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise for my family, someone might think I am crazy but I am not. COVID forced my family to recoil from the hustle and bustle of the world and start relying on each other for survival and keeping sane with a sense of normalcy and a little sense of humor. It allowed us to bond and find what brings us together rather than what keeps us apart while having so much fun at it.
For starters, in our quarantined space, we are four very busy people. My husband, William, is retired from federal government but now drives Uber full time. My son Keene is 16 years old, a full time high school student who played competitive soccer and works for McDonald’s part-time. Doreen is a full time student in her final year at Carleton University taking Masters in Public Policy and Administration Management but also worked part time at Immigration Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Lastly, myself, Lilly, who works full time as Project Executive at IRCC as well. I was very involved in the community so I used to have a lot of community events and loved spending time experiencing restaurants, travelling and spending time with friends and coworkers outside work for drinks and other activities.Then BOOM COVID happened abruptly and quarantine ensued. During the first few days of quarantine, we were really stressed being in the house all day with four people with absolutely no private time and no activities. The only silver lining was that during the weekdays, most of us worked or went to school so we only needed to find activities for after work or weekends. Keene was having much break and he was first excited but that changed very quickly.
The following weekend, we sat down and thought we could change our situation by becoming more creative with how we spent our time. Here are some of the activities that we engaged in:
1. House Party of four – We decided to have a house party in our home where we were the guests and host at the same time. We made a great dinner of Pecan Salmon, vegetables with Sweet Potato fries. I went and shopped for fresh ingredients from the grocery store. We went to LCBO and bought a variety of drinks and setup the bar table. The guests showered and dressed up in their best attires for the night. We decided to stream the party live on Facebook to share with friends. All my family members were dressed to kill. I was cooking all day and setting the stage for the guest to arrive. We decorated the house with red, blue, green and orange lights to set the party mood. We set the time of arrival to 10PM. At 10PM, the guests went outside the house and were welcomed like they were not members of the family. We then ate dinner and started dancing. My 16 year old was the DJ. William and I opened the dance and we partied till 3AM that Saturday. It was such a memorable night. When the video feed went off on Facebook, my friends were calling to make sure we continue streaming the party life as they were enjoying the party with us. Here are some photo snippets:
2. Learning to ride a bicycle – All my life I never had a chance to ride a bicycle but always wanted to learn. My 16 year old is 6.1ft and strong. Furthermore he can ride a bike very well. One evening, I asked him to teach me how to ride. We spent the evening where he was teaching me how to balance on the bike in my garage. We later went to try my skills on the road. It was so much fun to be taught how to ride a bike by my 16 year old. We laughed and my whole family was there to cheer me on. Here is a few shots:
3. Karaoke and Ugandan Traditional Dance Night – We spent one evening singing Karaoke. We sang church songs, country music, other genres like “We are the World”, “Island in the stream” by Kenny Rogers, “Power of Love” by Celine Dion among others. We danced to traditional Ugandan songs. We discovered that we can actually sing. A new talent discovered.
4. Playing Tumbling Tower & Uno – We played the Tumbling tower and Uno. These games brought the worst cheating instincts to all the members of my household. We laughed like we never laughed before. We were yelling and having so much fun that probably the neighbors would have called the police. Every time the building tumbled down, we would have a roar like the lion in the jungle and we all laughed at the same time. This really made the house come alive
5. Language Training – French & Runyankole – Keene is the only one fully bilingual in the house. One evening, Doreen decided that she needed to learn a few words in French. In turn, Doreen started teaching Keene his mother tongue that he has not learnt a single word since he was born because we only speak English at home. It turned out to be an interesting evening listening to the learning process and accents coming from the two. It was hilarious.
6. Time Alone – After a month of quarantine, we were starting to look for opportunities to spend time alone in this confined space. This was not possible. I decided to go out and spend time driving in the country and spending time in the car listening to music. That was so rejuvenating and relaxing. It renewed my spirits and I felt very relaxed.
7. Running – One day, I was speaking to my son in Toronto who works for Ontario government. He is now working from home. I told him that I miss my gym. In response, he told me that he runs during his lunch break which makes him feel so much better in the afternoon and gives him a chance to get his exercise in as well. He asked me to try. That evening, I asked my 16 year old to go for a run with me. That first night, we ran 4KM. The next day my body pained so much but I went back again and again and again until my muscles got used. The run reminded me how I used to run in high school long time ago. After a few days, I started going on my own and did 6KM then 8KM and today I am now running 9KM on a regular bass and really enjoying the outdoors and feeling fresh when I come back from the runs. I created a challenge forum with my sister in Uganda and my friend in Toronto where we post our results daily on our running progress.
As you can see, there are many things we can do during this quarantine to keep us all engaged, have fun and spend quality time with our families. Go ahead and enjoy the quarantine in more creative ways and share with us your stories my friends!
Ugandan-born Lilly Obina holds an MBA from Dalhousie University, a community leader, former candidate for Ottawa Municipal elections and currently works as a Project Executive for Immigration Refugee & Citizenship Canada (IRCC)