COVID-19 Around the World

Kim in Thailand

Stories about COVID-19 from different corners of the world

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Bicycling each morning to my teaching job, picking up fruits and vegetables at the market, and teaching bright-eyed, energetic students, are all part of the simple lifestyle I grew accustomed to in Thailand. For nearly two years, I have lived in the “land of smiles.” The friendly, relaxed attitude of Thai culture has suited me more than the constant busy striving of my prior life in the U.S. As COVID-19 cases began increasing in February and March, I began receiving email alerts from the U.S. embassy: “return to the U.S. as soon as possible unless you are prepared to stay in Thailand for an indefinite period of time.” I could return to the U.S., but my gut told me to stay in Thailand.

Under the mask, there is still a smile. These are my friends from the Philippines.

A market before COVID-19

A friendly tuk-tuk driver

At the end of March, schools closed, along with many business establishments and group meetings, while a curfew and mask requirement was set in place. I found myself sitting alone in my warm room, a fan blowing in my face, finding ways to make myself busy by preparing for months and months of lessons ahead. April, the hottest month, is when the Songkran water festival is celebrated, and even the Thais’ love of celebration was overcome when this holiday was cancelled. And yet, the Thais’ smiles did not vanish (below the masks everyone is required to wear). The Thais’ congenial, cheerful spirit has continued despite the uncertain times.

Boat in a pond of floating lotus

Thailand is fortunate in that the number of COVID-19 cases has remained low. This might be due in part to the Thais’ value of cooperation. In Thailand, people showed their support of the King’s coronation by wearing yellow every day to work for three months and wore only black for a year when the previous King died. As much as wearing a certain colored shirt shows support of the monarchy, it shows Thais’ willingness to cooperate and work together. In the same way, everyone wears a mask during the COVID-19 situation and follows the restrictions set in place.

Doi Inthanon Pagodas near Chiang Mai

Sukhothai UNESCO Historical Park

For me, as a foreigner, I have sometimes felt lonely and confused, but mostly this period of quarantine has been a blessing for me. As the weeks passed, I found that I did not need work to be my purpose in my life. I slowed my quest for busyness and started taking more time for walks around the pond, watching funny TV shows, biking through the rice paddies, and simply praying and talking to God. In my solitude, I found the self-sustaining inner peace that is in all of us. Now I will always have this knowing, and can always come back to it, even during the busy, hectic times.

Rice paddies

Even with the time initially spent alone, I ended up connecting with friends and family more than ever before. I was touched by the Thai people who felt concerned for me and took to looking after me, and the friendships that could develop because we had to set down our work and come back to what is actually important in life. As much as this has been an uncertain time for all, I am fortunate that it has been a blessing for me, and the Thai smile reminds me to be positive and resilient always

How do you stay resilient during uncertain times?

Kim Turner in Thailand

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