Away from Home for the Holidays
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Just a month after the easing of social distancing measures and around 80% of the population being vaccinated, Korea marked its highest number of cases since the pandemic started with 7,174 new cases last December 8. Along with this is the increase of the number of critical patients and detection of more omicron variant infections. According to the news, the surge in new cases is driven by the delta variant along with the waning vaccinations of people 60 and older. To minimize new cases, the government is expediting booster shots and will most likely be imposing stricter social distancing measures in a few days. Because of this, it seems as if our situation is still as unpredictable as it has become since the start of 2020. For many of us, it already feels like a rollercoaster of hope and dismay. We ask, “When is this finally going to end?” only to find ourselves realizing that nobody has the answer.
So, how is everyone holding up? As for me, I’ve been trying my best to take still find simple joys and be thankful. But I can’t deny the fact that there are days when I just feel exhausted. Plus, I’ve been feeling quite homesick lately since it’s the holiday season. I remember saying to myself earlier this year that maybe by this time I can already visit the Philippines in time for Christmas, but that’s still not happening. February next year marks the longest I’ve been away from home – 2 years. Clearly, this is something I did not expect when I first decided to come to Korea. I’d always thought that it would be easy to just go back and forth to the Philippines since it’s just a 4-hour plane ride. But of course, everything changed the moment I step foot in Korea. The weekend I arrived here was when the first surge of cases was observed and a few weeks later, lockdown in Manila also began.
Up until today, the issuance of re-entry permits for many Filipinos with valid visas in Korea is still suspended or only given for special cases/emergency reasons. This means that if I leave Korea, I won’t be able to come back easily or cannot come back at all. Applying for another student visa from the Philippines is an uncertain and difficult option too since this is still suspended and is only allowed for students with government scholarships. I believe it has been easier for other countries since I have foreign friends who have already come back and forth to Korea with little or no issues at all. I’ve been constantly checking the websites of embassies to see if they have eased the rules but to no avail. This leaves me with no choice but to skip holidays in the Philippines and stay in Korea until my program ends in 2023.
I hope that I will find the strength to push through and keep a positive attitude. Being away from home is the most challenging part of the pandemic for me, but I know that this can also teach me a lot of things that will be beneficial for me in the long run. As the holidays are coming, I hope that we may all find cheer despite our challenges! J
Until next time!
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