Thank You, 2020

We survived! 2020 reflections

I have posted almost zero content on social media regarding the novel coronavirus because – well, it’s all everybody talks about and posts about these days, along with the rest of 2020 politics! Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about it! Also, I don’t want any of that negativity to live on the blog.

But nonetheless, to do a 2020 recap and to NOT acknowledge COVID-19 would be such obvious evasion so here goes.

NYE 2020

Michael and I rang in NYE from across the globe in Tokyo! I cooked us a grand Japanese spread complete with long soba noodles and new years mochi. We even found a cheap box of grapes (grapes can be like $20 in Japan LOL) to do our Colombian Las Uvas tradition (you make 12 wishes while eating 12 grapes for each of the 12 months!).

Then, following japanese tradition, we went to the famous Zozoji Temple at midnight for their countdown (SO packed). We went to bed early in case we wanted to hunt for the best fukubukuro bags the next morning (new year’s “lucky bag” – where you pay i.e. $100 for a mystery bag that would be filled with $200-$300 worth of goods).

We spent the rest of Michael’s stay making amazing memories all over Japan. Weekends in Yokohama, shabu shabu in Shibuya, beach adventures in Kamakura, and my favorite – going to Tokyo Disneyland and the only DisneySea in the world, Tokyo DisneySea!

January 2020

Michael flew home (no problem, COVID wasn’t a concern yet) and I stayed in Japan for work. The virus during this time was just beginning to hit China hard, but not so much yet the western part of the world. As neighbors, us folks in Japan were barely keeping an eye on it. More people were wearing masks – but that was quite normal since in Japan they always wear masks anyway. I went to my local Family Mart and bought 2 small packs of gloves and 1 more 10-pack of masks for myself, they had plenty anyway…

We continued as normal, even still having our large get togethers and parties!

Some of our partners were planning to fly out to visit us – but they cancelled because they were scared of coronavirus. Oh well – instead, we just planned another party! We gave out awards~

And we had a pizza party~~

We all continued to work closely together. This is a photo I took of our team floor. My chair is the one with the pink scarf.

Some of our coworkers had just returned from conducting workshops to our clients in Hong Kong (real close to the motherland of the virus) and we still shared shabu shabu! We were not afraid to bump chopsticks or share food from the same pot! This was taken January 31st.

February 2020

We were following the news of the cruise boat docked at Yokohama that contained the coronavirus. The number of cruise passengers infected with the virus continued to rise so my boss told me to order hand sanitizers, wipes, and masks for everyone on our team as a precaution. But again, we weren’t too concerned. We were all planning on working in Japan through the end of our engagement and hopefully through the 2020 July Tokyo Olympics!! My boss already allowed me to purchase two more flights for Michael!! One in spring break, and one at the end of May. We were planning on seeing the cherry blossoms, taking a Japanese cooking class, and visiting Okinawa.

My only concern at this point was that I didn’t opt in to international health insurance HAH. When the global deployment team asked me if I wanted to change health plans, I thought, nahhhh, what could even happen? Well, 2020 happened LOL.

I decided to fly home early for my birthday (#24!), with full intentions of returning to Japan. In fact, I even left all of my stuff in my apartment! When I was in the US, I was keeping contact with my Japanese coworker, Kei-san. He told me the risk department of our Japanese firm just announced that employees should stop working onsite and work from home – but it wasn’t mandatory. I told my boss this (who was still in Japan) and he began to freak out a little. He called me every day asking for news/updates. At one point, my boss asked me “Emily, you call it. Should we shut it down?”

This is a log table of the number of cases on the cruise boat, by day, docked at Yokohama

My company as a whole was not yet implementing remote work – we were working as usual. Our client also hadn’t yet announced anything. But I continued to feed my boss the news – I was texting him latest articles and forwarding him email updates from our Japan firm. This was serious. The numbers in Japan at this point were rising exponentially – 60 new cases in one day (February 14th) – and that was it – we called it. We sent everyone home and rolled out the remote work policies immediately.

New work setting for those who continued to go on-site

My friends had to pack up my apartment for me – I was so embarrassed, I literally had baskets of dirty laundry waiting for them >.< My belongings, all packaged into 1 large suitcase and 1 large box, were shipped back to San Diego for $1,000 (more than an roundtrip economy plane ticket to/from Japan!). That’s how much the company didn’t want me to fly back to Japan lol.

I was sad to not get to say a proper goodbye to my japanese friends, and to Japan itself. I hadn’t even bought souvenirs yet because I was planning to buy them later on. And I didn’t get to go to Mt. Fuji! One day, I will return to the beautiful country of the rising sun!

Fast Forward To December 2020

And here we are – ten months later. For me, besides the fact that I put on maybe 15-20 pounds (cries T_T), I am feeling super OK! Usually I get sick every year at the same time in November but this year I didn’t get sick at all! It must be because of all the precautions and social distancing in place.

As for the remote work lifestyle, that wasn’t a hard adjustment for me because we worked remotely all the time even before COVID. I know I am very blessed that my situation wasn’t affected almost at all. The only thing that did happen was I GOT JACKED OF MY RAISE. Inflation was bigger than the raise I got -_- but that’s a rant for another time LOL. However, I am extremely grateful I still even have a job. Actually, my company was in the news for doing one of the biggest layoffs in the industry. Several of the people who got hired with me were let go, as well as one of my best friends who was also in Japan with me.

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When I originally drafted this blog post, it pretty much ended here. But something happened at the very end of 2020. My dad, unfortunately, tested positive for COVID-19. He is showing very minor symptoms, seems like a gentle/typical cold. And while my results were negative, we will all be quarantining for some time until my dad feels 100% better!

When the US did the first shutdown back in March, my dad’s hours at work got cut and I know just how much it stressed him out. So please keep us in your prayers – for my dad’s speedy recovery and to lift any anxiety he may be having!

I know the world right now is filled with lots of loss, loneliness, stress, and uncertainty. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives. But! We must adapt to the new normal, so let’s keep moving forward safely and responsibly and look forward for a brighter 2021!

Cheers,
Emily