It was day one in isolation in The Hoi An Beach Resort Hotel, sitting on the steps looking out to the river front contemplating how on earth I would manage the next nine days… I was watching a very small fishing boat in the middle of the river. I had noticed it the day before, sitting for hours in the full sun.
Next day once again, sitting in the sun with a cup of tea and talking to a friend telling her about my situation, when it struck me that I could be in a tiny boat all day or I could appreciate where I am. I could be the fisher-person day in day out in the blazing sun, hoping to catch enough fish to feed my family or sell at the local market. Whilst I didn’t have a choice that my freedom was constricted, neither did the fisher-person have a choice; it was just what they did, day in day out, confined in a two and a half metre boat.
That’s when my perspective on life changed radically… I had three clean fresh simple meals a day being delivered to my door, fresh water, wi-fi and the time to appreciate and accept life. This time spent in isolation was giving me the opportunity to take time out from my busy roles as a property developer and in retail merchandising and sales – what an offering for me!
I had to laugh really. It was during that 10 days in ‘iso’, as it became known, I learnt that I would be required to do a further 14 days isolation in a hotel room on return into Australia. Well, that is if we could get there!
Our return flights were cancelled as there was no access through Singapore, and now the second alternative flight we booked was with the assurance of the Consulate that we would get the required medical certificates in time to meet the deadline at 5.00pm. We got the call to be told that the Government was not giving us permission to leave Vietnam. Hence, we missed our flight – which happened to be the last for tourists to go through Hong Kong home to Brisbane. The return route option to transit through Kuala Lumpur was also closed. Getting on a flight home was looking more and more remote for us.
At that point my friend and I resigned ourselves to a month, maybe upwards to six months, of having to remain living in Vietnam.
There were no hysterics, no obvious anger! Yes, we felt the resignation that we were basically stuck here for the long haul with no way out. It was time to deeply surrender to my future as a ‘Vietnamese mother’ as my daughter, who was safely home in Melbourne, was now calling me.
We had the Consulate and travel agents actively scouring the internet and they came up with one option – to travel home to Australia transiting through Russia! Unfortunately, there was no guarantee we could transit, without another hitch, or being stranded in another unknown country.
On our last day in isolation we received a call from a friend in Australia asking us ‘can I give it a go finding flights for you?’ Of course, we said yes, and within ten minutes they called back – yes, there is an available flight via Tokyo direct to Australia. It turned out it was the inaugural flight from Haneda Airport (Tokyo) direct to Sydney. We paid the new fare and the booking was confirmed within half an hour! What an Angel our friend turned out to be -- to act on an impulse and follow through with a confirmed flight home for us.
On arrival in Sydney we were immediately put into another 14 days of isolation in a Sydney Hotel room. When I walked into my hotel room, a flood of appreciation was immediate, as my room had a big window overlooking the Botanical Gardens. I knew I was being supported deeply.
A few days in, and we gave a clear message to catering that we were not vegan, our dietary needs were dairy and gluten free. When our food bags were delivered to our separate rooms, we each discovered that everything in the bags was white – rice, yogurt, bread, white beans – no meat, fruit or greens in sight!
It was time to allow the Sydney community to support us. By mid-morning of the first day that we reached out for help, a food roster was organised to deliver to us nutritious meals that addressed our dietary needs. It was a beautiful example of a team effort to provide us with nourishing meals, each meal being undertaken by a different person. By lunch time we were eating a delivery of delicious salmon and greens!
The email thread between us all developed into being as supportive as the food itself. The love in each email expression and the food deliveries we received sustained us throughout the 14 days of isolation in our Sydney Hotel rooms… and we were so deeply appreciative.
I have had much presented to me throughout this time, but the sustaining factor has been reading the situation of the obstacles put in my way, in order to come to the understanding that I need not be bound by four walls. At no time during the two weeks did I ever feel isolated or confined by the restrictions. In fact, during this time many revelations occurred to me, and my level of appreciation for the stillness that I felt deepened. I truly felt completely held the whole time.
By allowing connection with true family and letting people in, and knowing no matter what in this life you are presented with, the greater purpose is made clear – it is multidimensional and so expansive beyond what it appears to be.
Who would have thought 24 days in ‘iso’ could deliver such a clear perspective on life?
Merrilee P., Australia
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