It was a different summer
It was a different year
Upside down, weird, nothing like it was
It was a different summer.
These lines are taken from a song by the German band Silbermond. I hear this song often. Almost every day, we stream the morning show of the radio station that was part of our everyday life when we lived in Germany. It's 2 p. m. here when the show begins at 5 a. m. local time. Time announcements and weather reports lead to occasional confusion even after months. It is bizarre to hear black ice warnings while sitting on the terrace in the shade when the temperature is 33 °C/91.4 °F.
I would like to go into the lines of the song a little. Well, for us, it was not summer, but autumn and winter. But yes, it was a different year. Upside down - I like to joke that it is impossible to live in the southern hemisphere without gravity boots. "Weird, nothing like it was" I only feel this way in a limited way. Is it because we take advantage of new situations reasonably quickly or because we wanted to make specific changes in our lives anyway? I consider both to be valid.
In 14 days, it will be one year since Pat called us and said that he needed a few more days off because he had to help his family with their evacuation. It doesn't feel like a year. At that time, it was not clear that the houses of Pat's parents and his sister would fall victim to the bushfires.
Much has happened since then. In January, you had a little insight into our emotions and thoughts. I wrote about how we didn't know whether to fly to Australia while hosting guests in our house there. Out of a feeling, we left at short notice. Nevertheless, it was difficult for us to shake off the thoughts until our arrival that our presence could be understood as a disturbance or as a wrong signal. By that time, we only knew Patrick closer. We had only had a few phone calls with his relatives before. Looking back, we had been overthinking in advance. Our presence was seen as a positive change and even more as a sign of being welcomed.
When the families set off for their new property in February, no one knew that months would pass before seeing each other again. Neither could we anticipate that we would not be spending time in Germany in May as planned. It was our goal to decelerate our own busy life. We had not expected an emergency stop. Frankly, we hadn't realised that Queensland's government had declared a public health emergency on January 29, the day after the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in Queensland.
On March 25, Queensland closed its interstate borders at midnight, after an announcement two days earlier when non-essential businesses had to close. These first measures were drastically tightened on March 30.
What is the price of freedom?
Where does it [freedom] end?
Are two more lines from the song mentioned above.
Our thoughts were less about our freedom than about the well-being of our families and friends. The transparent communication of our government has also had a decisive influence on this. It was clearly stated from the beginning that we have to expect restrictions to our hitherto normal lifestyle (in terms of physical distance and other precautions) of at least six months, but probably more likely 12 months.
We could not continue the work of our non-profit organisation to the same extent as before. Suddenly each of us had more free time. Although our house did not shrink, we moved closer together. These few weeks have brought us closer together emotionally. Benjamin and Patrick have shown us, as we showed them, that we care for each other. What unites us today is a deep-running friendship. At no point did we get bored. We were only limited in our mobility. However, we islanders were allowed to go on a trip to nearby uninhabited islands. Jogging or a walk was even recommended as physical exercise. The peace and quiet on the island were fascinating. No wonder, considering the lack of 1,000 international tourists.
Towards the end of April, accomplishments showed that Queensland was on track to smash the curve. The first easings were announced for May 2. Family picnics and trips of up to 50 kilometres were possible again. Fine, almost everything within a radius of 50 kilometres is water. But this was a good sign too. Further easing followed on Mother's Day, May 10. From May 16, pubs and restaurants were allowed to open again with a limited number of 10 patrons at a time.
Call it the Australian laid-back lifestyle or prudence. The further easings followed step by step in intervals of 28 days. The condition was always that the policies implemented were effective. There were also backlashes. State borders were opened, only to be closed again shortly afterward when new hotspots emerged in New South Wales and Victoria.
We returned cautiously and calmly to a kind of normality. We were once again able to continue our work on a larger scale. And we jointly created other ideas and plans.
Today we are closer to normality than most other countries. I often hear the statement, "Australia is an island." I like to avoid the remark that most of the earth's surface consists of oceans and that all continents are consequently islands or peninsulas. More often than not, I hear that we have allowed ourselves to be deprived of our liberty. That is not entirely untrue. But the temporary restriction of our freedom served a purpose. Queenslanders - Australians - teamed up to protect the community. Life and health always came first.
It was and is not a picture book story. There was a vocal minority who opposed the measures. The emphasis is on the minority. Unfortunately, the lockdown also led to 130,000 Queenslanders being out of work. Targeted assistance, for example, through extended JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, prevented more disastrous effects.
Meanwhile, 500 more Queenslanders are in employment than before the pandemic. The economy bounced back and even exceeded the September prognosis. These are good signs. But the recovery will require billions of dollars in investments, which will increase public debt. Tax increases were never on the table. Reasonable for 2020/2021.
I mentioned that we returned to a kind of normality. Today is day 84 since we have not had a new case due to community transmission. All shops, bars, restaurants, venues, stadiums (with CovidSafe plan) are open at 100% capacity in Queensland. We can have private gatherings with 50 persons, weddings with 200. When I look at Germany, Europe, or the USA, I feel worried. It feels surreal, although I know very well that it is real. We chat daily with our folks in Germany, often with acquaintances and friends. It calms us that they avoid any unnecessary risk. When we asked my parents-in-law several weeks ago if they would like to spend their winter with us, they refused. That's a pity, but also comprehensible. The very long flight and our climate can be a burden. Another reason is that they do not understand English, let alone speak it. Even if they were safer here, they would only feel comfortable for a limited time.
I asked myself, can I take something positive from a time that brings so much grief and suffering? No, I must not, I must.
The past months of 2020 have caused us to pause, to reflect. These times have shown us even more clearly the reality in which we live. They have made us reconsider our desires and plans and to correct our course. In recent months, we have redefined our priorities. We have been able to experience the Australian spirit that unites the community. We got to know friendly people, online and offline, we made new friendships, we became part of another family. We are grateful for this.
We will celebrate Christmas with guests (unless there are any unforeseen). The parents and sister, with her spouse and kid, of Benjamin and Patrick, will come. We are excited about it.
We will celebrate Christmas virtually with our families in Germany. In doing so, we will even combine old and new traditions. In Germany, handing out the presents is on the evening of Christmas Eve, while in Australia it is on the morning of Christmas Day. We will be getting up a little earlier, but we can connect both traditions thanks to the 9 hour time difference.
I wish you a Happy Channuka, a Merry Christmas, or just Happy Holidays!
Please keep healthy!
Edited by Tomster