︎ Chanida Phaengdara Potter
Mother & Storyteller
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
translated by Peng Wu
Flight Back into the Unknown
The other day, I was asked about the moment I felt the pandemic was actually real-- when I finally felt things were serious. I describe it like the soul leaving the body.
We had been in Southeast Asia, specifically Laos where my roots begin, since November of 2019. It’s been a regular trip I plan every couple of years for work and family. The original plan was to stay through March 2020. My daughter enrolled in the international school. I made my way through Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Burma up until the end of February. We were supposed to take the last flight out of South Korea. But then South Korea had its latest breakout.
There are lessons learned here. Having masks is nothing new in this region but the moment I knew I had to leave with my family in Laos was when the US embassy sent a message that borders were closing and we only had 72 hours to leave on the last plane out. My anxiety level skyrocketed. I was already an American at the age of 3 on American soil but the moment we had to rush to a plane, I felt my parents fast-moving feet; as if the war never ended. Mind you, my husband left right before Christmas in December but my children and I weren’t alone in scrambling to leave.
Somehow we made it back to the stateside but horribly sick in all the ways possible during a season of the unknown. I had a cold. My mother’s throat was sore. My husband was bedridden with nausea. My kids were in a daze of congestion and sniffles. You believe it to be something but not anything you can understand. Minnesota was just getting used to what this pandemic was capable of. We practically flew into quarantine-- just a few days before the Governor declared a stay at home order and CDC and WHO called it a pandemic.
Spring withered but it’s more than any of us can handle. It’s August and the leaves are changing to yellow, orange, and red-- to remind us that we're not alone. Its impermanence is everything and nothing.
Hope dies last.