The Isolation Diaries

Dear Reader,

If you’ve been following along with my blog, you will know that I am writing to you in isolation as I have recently tested positive for COVID-19 (more here and here).

While I was lucky to have my health (no more symptoms!), isolation in the two-room, ground-floor apartment in Bavaria, Germany was not easy. To document this experience for posterity, I am presenting to you notes from my 7-Day captivity (I mean “isolation”) at the foot of the German Alps.

Day 1 & 2 of Isolation

Day 1 is when I tested positive for the first time and had to remain in the confines of the hotel room. Because we were unable to leave, we ordered dinner that evening and breakfast the next morning via complementary room service. On Day 2, I was officially moved to “isolation” (i.e. from the hotel, to the two-room apartment, a ten minute walk away).

First and last hotel breakfast

These first two days were filled with uncertainty. We were told to make a grocery list and it was stupidly hard to figure out how much food one requires, when the duration of the stay is unknown. My head was filled with the “what if” scenarios regarding my potential isolation durations that I have laid out for you in my last post. Additionally, during this time, we saw in the news that German officials were planning to meet later in the week to (most likely) change the current isolation/ quarantine rules — things for us could either get much better or much worse and we had no way of knowing!

Small German fridge

Day 3 of Isolation

We finally began to get some definite answers. On this day, I received an official order of isolation from the public health authority in the mail, spelling out the rules of my isolation. On this day, it was also confirmed that I did not test positive for a COVID variant of concern (to be honest, I’m not sure why this was… but I won’t fight it!), which means that I would have to do 7 days’ time in isolation. Although I wasn’t thrilled (read: super pissed) about losing my liberty for one full week of my life, I found peace in the fact that I could start making arrangements to go home — i.e. re-booking flights, train tickets, etc..

The apartment is nice but small and I am doing an absurd number of pushups and squats today (I now understand why some people come out of prison totally jacked). Additionally, I’m pacing around the small garden area in the snow and am making myself a fine rut to follow on my “walks.”

Snow rut

On this evening, I just realized that I have absolutely no idea how to turn on the stove and I have resolved to make eggs in the microwave.

Update, so, the microwave works, but it seems like a health and safety hazard. Sometimes the microwave continues to “microwave” even after the timer has stopped and even after the door has been opened (!!). I learned online that reaching one’s hand inside when the machine is still running can result in serious burns. My boyfriend and I both fear the microwave.

^^health & safety hazard

Day 4 of Isolation

I don’t feel as angry as I did yesterday. In fact, I’m starting to feel grateful despite it all. I am lucky that I can isolate in a ground-floor apartment with garden access (I would go mad if I had to stay inside the whole time). Also, I’m pretty proud of the rut in the snow that I made for myself to pace about. It is wide and deep, which limits the amount of snow that gets in my boots when I walk.

I saw a squirrel or chipmunk this morning that was all white except for a black patch on its tail. It was so fast that I did not have enough time to capture it with my camera, unfortunately.

I started writing this blog post for you on Day 4, as it so happens. I was too mad/ sad/ uncertain to begin it earlier.

Day 5 of Isolation

My boyfriend has left Bavaria (we were originally set to part ways at this point in our vacation — he wasn’t orded to isolate) and I don’t blame him — I probably would have done the same.

It’s a super cold and sunny today. I heard the bark of not-so-friendly-sounding dog close by. I did not go outside today.

I decided to hand wash some of my clothes in preparation for my departure on Day 8 (the day that I can officially “test out”).

Now that it’s late in the evening, I really can’t believe that I didn’t go outside even once today.

Day 6 of Isolation

Like a dog, I woke up eager to go outside. I went out around sunrise and paced about my snow rut for a good half hour without too many onlookers.

Early morning snow rut

I wrote a 5-page-1.5-spaced personal essay for a graduate fellowship application…. There’s absolutely no way I would have done that had I not been in isolation.

I found a German-language show on Netflix set in the Austrian Alps — more entertaining that I had expected it to be!

I just realized that the apartment front door has been unlocked this entire time! It uses a hotel key card, but apparently one must engage the lock manually — weird.

Day 7 of Isolation

Today is my last full day in isolation! I’m stoked!

Okay, so this graduate fellowship application from Day 6 has more components than I had originally thought. I basically just wrote another essay (read: manifesto) and it was exhausting.

Animal prints

I discovered animal prints from perhaps three different creatures right outside my bedroom window. I believe the prints in the middle are from a rabbit, however, I don’t really have a good idea about the tracks on the sides. Also, other than the squirrel/chipmunk thing from Day 4 and the odd bird, I haven’t seen any other animals here (um, besides the horses in the neighboring stables I guess).

I’m packing my things today! Although I cannot be 100% certain that I will get out tomorrow. Given that I haven’t had symptoms for over a week now, there’s a pretty good chance that my antigen test will return negative results (fingers crossed). I’ll literally cry — nay! Wail! — if the results are still positive by tomorrow.

I miss Boston so badly even though the weather sucks there.

^^Horses live there apparently

Day 8 – Liberation

I guess my brain was overeager at the prospect of release, as I kept waking up every two-to-three hours last night. Ultimately, I woke up for real at 5:30am. Now that I have literally hours before my COVID antigen test, I’ve resolved myself to finish and submit the graduate fellowship application that I started on Day 6 (hopefully, something good comes out of this isolation!).

Result: Negative!!

I really did believe that I would test negative for COVID today, however, this didn’t stop my heart from accelerating when I got the text confirming that I was no longer contagious and therefore FREEEEEEEEE!

With these short notes, my period of isolation looks to be brief, but I assure you that it didn’t feel that way. Every day without the liberty to move freely felt like a day stolen. My experience was cushy (I know), but it really made me feel grateful for my health and everything I could return to at the end of the day.

Never take freedom for granted! I am simply overwhelmed with relief and am grateful to be getting out. Not wanting to take any chances of receiving any more positive tests after my recovery (this can happen up to 3 months after infection on PCR tests!), I finished packing my bags and waited for the shuttle to take me to the train station.

With so much snowfall within the past week, my surroundings had transformed into a winter wonderland. It was such a bittersweet goodbye! How I wish to revise the ending of this little adventure!

Sitting on the train, I heard a chatty group pass by me and take seats not too far from my own. Speaking louder than any of the Germans and with voices piercing the hum of the train engine, I realized that I was hearing bona fide American English. The sound brought me comfort but also early-onset nostalgia, as I knew that these sounds would soon enough be ubiquitous and uninteresting. Then, one day, I will be back in Boston, sitting on the subway and trying to block out, rather than strain to listen to the conversation around me.

Despite everything that’s happened, I’m going to miss Germany…but in the meantime, I’m just trying to get home without any more incidents!

Catch you in America!



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