28 April 2020 | Story Elske Joubert. Photos Jean Joubert. Read time 4 min.
Counting the days when lockdown is over so that I can finally go from mandatory to voluntary isolation.
Counting the days when lockdown is over so that I can finally go from mandatory to voluntary isolation.

#UCTLockDownLetters is a new feature on the UCT news site. Staff, students, parents of students: we want to hear about your experiences of work and life in lockdown. Emails, audio and video clips, prose and poetry are also very welcome. This is your space.

Elske Joubert is the newsroom coordinator at UCT’s Communication and Marketing Department. This is how she is coping with the coronavirus lockdown.

14 April 2020

It’s 07:00 and I’m standing in my parents’ kitchen on the first official day of the nationwide lockdown. I watch through the window as the sun slowly peeks over the hill in the distance – the rays gently caressing the sleeping town. With cup in hand, sipping on the freshly brewed java, I think about what the day could possibly hold.

I make the three-and-a-half-hour trek to Lutzville, a small settlement along the West Coast, two days before our president announces a nationwide lockdown. I hastily and excitedly pack my bags, eager to go “home” to family. My brothers and I arrive just as the sun is setting, the stillness of the quaint town almost audible; the vineyards like soldiers standing at attention.

Vineyards in Lutzville.

A strange sense of nostalgia envelops me, and I am struck by its intensity. Surely I have made this trip countless of times, but this time … it feels different.

Perhaps it’s the sense that I may be here for a while… I tend to visit for a week at most, leaving no time for reminiscing.

We drive up the main road in town – past the high school that stands obnoxiously on a hill. There, as kids, we playfully ran to the koshuis (built for kids from the surrounding towns) during eerste pouse and sneakily stole some lemons from the tree – we would save them for class where we’d eat them skelmpies under the cover of our desks, our condiments coarse salt and vinegar, much to the irritation of our teacher who savagely made us run three laps around the school when caught. We promised to never disobey again – all the while inhibiting childish giggles, fingers crossed behind our backs.

We would move between the grapevines on the school grounds, my best friend and I, outlines of the leaves projecting on our faces, and sit flat on the orange-brown sand, telling tales of boys and bad exams.

I’ve driven up this road plenty of times, yet somehow, today, memories make me come undone.

My brothers and I drive past the church, past the only four-way stop in town, sho’t left to our house.

This will be my home (again) for the foreseeable future … I haven’t lived here in almost 17 years.

My brothers and I love to spend hours dilly-dallying at the beach.

Isolation – together – has been difficult.

As an introvert, a writer, a low-key philosopher, isolation – as in isolation isolation – is where I thrive. It allows me the space I need to really think, gather information, analyse; space which leaves me refreshed – so much so that it makes interaction with the outside world possible (and I daresay bearable).

And as a 32-year-old grown-up, being mom and dad’s “little girl” just doesn’t suffice.

“I’m grown, stop treating me like I’m not,” is my mantra almost daily, much to the annoyance of the parents. After mumbling and grumbling to an ex-colleague on WhatsApp, I am met with, “You’ll just have to put up with it – you will always be their little girl.”

Last sunset in Papendorp – a small fisherman’s town about 10 minutes from Lutzville – before the nationwide lockdown.

As much as “this little girl” loves the family and hearing the brothers’ whispers or often boisterous laughter at 02:00 during a game of Call of Duty, mom’s radio tuned into Radio Sonder Grense while enjoying her morning coffee, or dad’s stern voice at the dining room table amidst a telecon … as much as I adore these familiar (in their very essence) sounds, the stillness of my four walls at the end of a cul-de-sac in the southern suburbs of Cape Town beckons me.

I take my cup and head outside to where morning dust settles on my feet, where fresh air replenishes my lungs. To my left, a neighbour carries away dead branches and twigs, and I coyly greet him with a subdued “hello”; straight ahead another neighbour shoe’shes some disorderly doves before threatening them with a more severe form of punishment; I head inside quickly before he catches my eye and draws me into colourless conversation.

Coming home is sweet, but the sound and scent of the city call me back – and I wonder how long still until my next homecoming.

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