That Freakin’ Mask

We co-wrote this on March 12, 2021, the same day Luchie was released from hospital confinement due to moderate covid symptoms.

 Iman: I’d like to give a big REAL hug to my sister as she comes back today from the hospital after being confined for more than a week because of covid19! We super, super missed you, Luchie! Not being able to talk to you face to face, have meals with you.. I missed arguing with you!

 Luchie: I still can’t believe it’s been a week that I was in the hospital. I’m just now very grateful that I can hug and talk and go to our brand new kitchen soon! I’m happy I can breathe quite normally now. I’m happy that I can continue our plans now because for some time, I was so worried things could go down for me.

 Iman: How do you feel now?

 Luchie: Relieved. I was ecstatic when I saw the result come out Negative today. I still feel weak. I have residual cough because as the doctor explained, my lungs got irritated so I have to take cough syrup still. I lost my sense of taste and smell on the 7th day that symptoms started and that of course worries me still, because one of my greater skills as a chef is my sense of smell and taste, though they said it’ll come back as normal.

 Iman: Ohhhh. You can normally identify 4 to 6 scents and flavors in a dish while I can eat a full plate and just get 2 or 3 spices right. I’m sure you’ll get it back inshaÁllah!

 Luchie: And I also missed Khadeejah (Iman’s toddler)! I was very scared I could have given it to her because of our hugging sessions before symptoms started, but everyone’s safe and healthy! And negative! So I’m really relieved.

 Iman: In the two weeks that you were out, this baby learned a lot of new tricks. But we’re so glad that you’re back so we can get back on track with our plans too. Our first day in our new kitchen can start on Sunday! All our cookies, monsters and conscious, are all waiting for our restocking. We made so much plans but in the end, we just had to go with the flow noh?

 Luchie: I think what happened is again proof that we are not in control. We planned but God’s plans are just so much bigger than us.

 Iman: True.

 Luchie: We plan for great things but nobody plans, “what if you get covid?” Remember we planned that on the first week of March we would have finished moving to our new kitchen. We planned our 1+ tonne of cacao would have arrived, and we’d be blasting those grinders and oven!? And THEN I got covid. And I still don’t know where I got it! And our cacao is delayed.. it’s still in transit too.

 Iman: It’s just been crazy. We were so sure we’ve got things planned well but no, qadarAllah. It could have been from somebody you met not wearing a mask. It could be one of the packages  you ordered online. You didn’t even meet customers for a month like Rhoda and I did… so how? I guess it will always be a question mark.

 Luchie: I felt that all my ducks were in a row and boom! The ducks were not in a row.

 Iman: I think we learned some big lessons the past two weeks. For me, the big takeaway here is that I don’t want to be that afraid again. We cannot escape what will happen in the future, but if we want to go back to normality, we need to be more mindful as we live in this pandemic. It’s reality. We REALLY, REALLY ARE in this together. The community! Because if one gets sick, the community is affected. If the people who surround us are unmindful that there is a pandemic, we ARE affected. A week ago, Mama woke up from her sleep coughing, and I got so afraid that I called my pulmonologist friend. Mama - a diabetic, post-stroke, post-heart attack seventy-two year old. It’s like a forceful shake; she COULD die if she catches what Luchie caught. I was so afraid that night and you know what, all I could think of was this “why should we be so afraid of the side effects of this vaccine in a year, in two years, in five years when the threat is here and now?” Alhamdulillah some peanut skin just got stuck in her throat that’s why she was coughing! Wew.

 Luchie: For me, the big takeway is that I’m not only responsible for my health. I’m responsible for my family’s health. For my mother’s health. I’m responsible for my staff whom I deal with very closely. I’m responsible for each and every one of my customers. I was the only one who got it while my whole family whom I live with and all the staff I worked with tested negative. Just me. Why me? And I think about my risk factors. I can’t have as an excuse my operation back in 2019… why I keep gaining weight. It’s been my excuse for two years now. I really want to be healthier. Fitter. Less exhausted. And now more than ever, I want even stricter safeguards when it comes to food safety. I want to be surrounded with people who values community health as I do.

 Iman: I hope it gives you the power, Luchie, to really jumpstart your fitness journey. We’ve seen you when you were swimming two kilometers in open waters, biking for 90 km, running half-marathons… just some years ago! You used to be able to do all that!

 Luchie: I know. I’m too young to feel this old and weak. I love making chocolates but I cannot just be working all the time. I have to take better care of me so I build up my immunity.

Iman: Let’s all work hard to let this experience jumpstart greater things for us. The vaccine for one! We are lucky that this country is allowing us to get vaccinated for free.

Luchie: I can’t get a vaccine yet for the next three months but the family can. I also would like to thank the very fine people of Al Barsha Health Center, Jebel Ali DIC Hospital and the transport drivers. All these frontliners who put their lives at risk serving us EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. THANK YOU. To the UAE government, the Dubai government who took care of me. THANK YOU.

And to all our friends, relatives, customers, partners, who have been blessed to NOT have gotten the virus, do not wait for the day that you get it and you cannot breathe as I could not. That you cannot speak because with every breath, your lungs are strained. The small inconvenience of wearing a mask, will protect someone’s child you don’t know. That mask I wear properly and you wear properly may protect somebody’s immunocompromised mother or father. We don’t need to shut down businesses and stop going out and enjoying this fabulous weather. We don’t need to be afraid, we just need to be mindful. In this pandemic, let’s forget about ideology, conspiracy theories and beliefs that any of us are invincible. Let’s wear that freakin’ mask, wash hands often and social distance.

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