Thursday, May 28, 2020

Filipinos Coping with Covid - Lia Feraren, Germany

Lia Feraren

I've interviewed a number of Filipinos from all over the world about how they are dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. These interviews will be integrated in a series "How Filipinos Are Coping with Covid 19" which will appear in the online magazine Positively Filipino. Please look for it.

My official and travel blogs will feature the complete interviews. 

The following features Lia Feraren (46) who was born and raised in Manila and Cebu, Lia moved to Europe when she was 22 and is now a naturalized German citizen. She is a trauma therapist and lives in Munich with her two daughters. ~ Cecilia Brainard

Interview conducted via email on May 24, 2020
Copyright 2020 by Cecilia Brainard

Cecilia Brainard: Are you still in lockdown? Are you alone or with others? Do you see other people, and do you practice social distancing if so?
Lia Feraren: Measures were relaxed in the state of Bavaria on May 5. Before that, only "essential stores" like grocery stores and pharmacies were open. Initially, flower shops and book stores under 300 sqm could open with masks required for everyone entering the store as well as a limit on the number of people within the store dependent on its size. Social distancing is required.

I live with my two children. I am separated from their father and visitation rights were a "legitimate reason to leave the house" even at the strictest part of the lockdown. This was not the case in Austria, for example.

At the start of the lockdown (March 20. Schools closed a week before on March 13), you could only see members of your own household, your partner, children of divorced parents could see the parent with visitation rights. At the same time, offices were encouraged to implement working from home but not obligated to. Some people shifted to homeoffice but I also have friends who still went to work everyday with most of their office. Still, we followed the rules and stayed within our household.

As the numbers went down, we were allowed to see one friend outdoors and at a distance. The first people I did this for were my children who sorely missed their friends from school.

A few weeks later, two households were allowed to see each other, outdoors and at a distance. Am doing this too and it helps our moods to socialize this way.

CB: Are you working? If yes, are you working from your home or do you have to go to your place of work?  Were you affected financially by the pandemic? Did you lose your job? Did you get assistance?

LF: I am a trauma therapist with a private practice. We were actually officially asked to stay open as part of the medical system. I closed my practice to face-to-face consultations around March 13. So much was so uncertain then and I did not know how to keep myself or my clients safe. A few of my clients moved online but many just chose to wait until I reopened. I've lost income and, since I was not asked to close, am not eligible for government help. Friends of mine with small businesses received 3000-8000EUR within a week of requesting for Corona-assistance. Larger companies also receive "Shortened Work" (Kurzarbeit) financial assistance from the government, with that, their employees are paid 90% of their salaries for not coming to work. (Not working, neither home office, no charged vacation days)

I reopened my practice to physical consultations two weeks ago. It's good to see my clients again. There is 2,5 m between us and I pause the session at 50 minutes to open the windows if we are doing a 1 and half hour session. My colleagues and I have had to come up with a hygiene concept for our practice, for example, effectively removing our coatracks which is where people used to crowd.

CB: Do you go out? To take walks? To see relatives or friends? For exercise?

LF: We're very lucky here in Germany. We were never not allowed to go out, whether for exercise, to read on a park bench or to lie in the sunshine, all as long as we stay 1,5m from each other. I live near the river and I try to run every morning. It keeps me sane although doing it after 7:30am drives me crazy. Too many people, and therefore also too many inconsiderate people. Keeping distance becomes difficult.

CB:  Do you wear a face mask? Do you practice social distancing?

LF: I wear a cotton mask where it's required -- inside stores. And a medical mask when ventilation is bad or I know I need to be in a store for more than 15 minutes. They are also required when taking public transportation but I don't think we will be getting back into the subway any time soon. Yes, I practice social distancing.

CBPlease describe in a few sentences your daily routine.
LF: A lot in the routine has changed because schools are still closed to most grades. The graduation levels returned first, followed by the starting years in grade school and middle school. My two children will start in the last batch, in mid-June. Homeschooling continues. 

It's nice to be with my children a lot but also quite taxing and I also won't be able to fully go back to work until they are fully back in school. In normal times, they are old enough to be alone at home for longer periods. During this time, they are coping well but also just feel better when I'm nearby. Their routines are more upside down than mine. They are 13 and 8 years old and used to take public transportation to school on their own, walk to the bakery or to the stores themselves, bike around the church square across from us. They are not allowed (by me) to do any of that now. They receive schoolwork every morning from their teachers and answer it quite independently though they work better when I'm around. During the week, I make sure that we're up at a reasonable time and that we have meals together. I cook all three of the meals and there are drawers full of snacks. We go shopping once a week next to the English Garden, Munich's biggest park that's bigger than Central Park. I leave them on a large picnic blanket in the park while I shop so that they have time outside.

My younger daughter is a gymnast. Her team meets online twice a week on group video chat with their coach to train together. They do physical exercises and dance but not the actual cartwheels and handstands she does on her own. The coach does not risk injuries on the video training and keeps the movement gentle. She's awesome and it's great for the team: there's a semblance of normality, a feeling of community and movement and exercise.

CB: Do you  buy your own groceries? What precautions do you take?

LF: Yes, I buy my own groceries. I wear a mask, disinfect the handbar of the cart. In the first few weeks, I washed every single glass jar and piece of fruit I bought with soap but with the increased amount of data on the unlikelihood of surface transmission, I don't do that anymore.

Long-term precaution: I stay informed. Germany has leading epidemiologists like Dr. Drosten who consult to Angela Merkel and the rest of our government. I listen to their original podcasts and also to the original press conferences of the Robert Koch Institute.

CB: Do you order food to go? What precautions do you take?

LF: Ordering food stresses me because every restaurant has their own logistics concept and it's always a bit of learning to see who's taking this seriously and who's trying to get by on the letter of the law. So we have three trusted restaurants that we order food from. We go across time for ice cream because their hygiene concept is strict and on their website. Otherwise, I find it easier to cook, from scratch or mixed in with frozen food.

CB: Do you shop online or do you go out to stores that are open?

LF: We have managed to stay with necessities from stores that are open, including books from small local book stores who found ways to deliver within the neighborhood when they were not allowed to open their physical doors. I have children, though, and they've shot up once more. I have no idea how we're going to buy new clothes and shoes now. Stores are open theoretically but I definitely don't want to try clothes on in a store.

CB:  Do you worry about the future? Do you have nightmares or bad dreams? Do you feel some anxiety? Or do you sleep well and feel normal as usual?

LF: I felt a lot of anxiety in the beginning. Things were changing and a lot was unclear. I feel well-informed now and that our government is doing a pretty awesome job so that makes me feel quite secure. And grateful, I know that this is not the same in many other countries.

Also, I'm a therapist, glad to know that all the years learning self-regulation and focusing on meaning is helping me...

CB: What do you miss doing, with this pandemic? For eg eating out, or going to church, or seeing relatives?

LF: I miss a regularity. Coming out of lockdown, rules change every week based on which sectors are opening up. Restaurants reopened this week -- only outdoor tables, enforced distancing, you need to keep your mask on until your food arrives. It's a good sign but another new set of rules to get used to. The children's schools reopen in a month, there will be still another set of new rules. Before, you could only see your boyfriend or girlfriend, now you can see one friend but only outdoors and at a distance, it's difficult keeping track of what's allowed. Police don't really come up to you to ask if you are boyfriend/girlfriend but, as I said, I think our government's doing a great job so I really don't mind following the rules as they are. I think they're well thought-out and provide good guidance.

I miss not having to be careful, not having a 1,5m radius in my head circling around everyone around me.

I miss meandering, being in a bookstore without a goal, picking up stuff, looking at it, being able to put it back on the shelf without buying it.

I think masks are necessary but I miss life without them.

I miss my children being able to see their friends without restrictions. 

I do miss hugs and beso-beso.

What I miss most: visiting family in other countries. It saddens me that I don't know when I'll next be able to be home. 

CB: Do you have tips on how to survive this pandemic?

LF: Breathe. Meditate.

Listen to the scientists - read original sources. Find your trusted source and stay with it.

Nurture your relationship and look after your sense of connection.

CB: Please share any other thoughts about the current situation.
LF: Maybe related to your article, being Filipino has helped me through this because:

  • - we are so resilient when it comes to crises. Coup d'etats, typhoons, yeah, I'm sure we'll survive this...
  • - I grew up during the Marcos times. I appreciate the free press we have here.
  • - family is important. We keep in touch regularly as a large family during this time and it's been a big resource to me
  • - humor is a huge resource. The online groups I have with my cousins and classmates are a source of many laughs and help me feel connected
  • - I am a trained Manila jaywalker. There's no way I'm bunching up at the pedestrian lights with everyone else...
And also now that I'm German:
  • - it's impressive to be in a country led by science. I'm proud of when our politicians speak with reference to data and studies.
  • - this is what it's like to have functioning healthcare. Being tested, being asked to stay at home if you have any symptoms, all of this works because our healthcare system works
And the best combination:
  • - Germans like to complain, even though everything is being handled stellarly. As a Filipino, I get to be positive about great positives.

~end of interview

This interview is also published in Cecilia Brainard's blog in her official site,

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