By Fajer Ahmed

I am grateful that I was one of the first people to return to Kuwait, as part of the biggest eviction plan for Kuwaiti citizens. My initial trip to Abu Dhabi was planned for 10 days, but because of COVID-19, I was only able to return this week, making the trip a total of 57 days. I am now in 28 days of solitude in my own apartment. I am not allowed to leave or have guests, or interact with my family that lives in the other areas of the house. I am very grateful for this time of reflection.

The process to fly back was actually very organized and simple:
1) Request to come back – I registered on a website filling out important details, like my medical history. http://withyou.e.gov.kw/
2) Collecting information – I got instructions to download an app called Shlonik, so that the ministry of health can monitor my location.
3) Flight details – We were not allowed any carry-on luggage but were allowed two bags of 32 kilos each (such a relief cause I was worried we would be getting 20 kg).

4) Boarding – I went to Abu Dhabi international airport, but no one was at the airport except the Kuwaitis on my flight. We checked in and boarded as you would on a usual flight, which was a little strange, because all stores/gates at the airport were closed.
5) Flying – Every seat had a bag with gloves, masks, sanitizer, a mobile chip and a small meal. The flight was full, with the only empty seat next to me. It was a bumpy flight, but everyone was so happy to fly back.

6) Arrival – We were escorted out of the plane one by one. We then sat in a tent as if we were in a classroom taking an exam. We were told to check our phones and make sure the Shlonik app was working.
7) Activating our bracelets – We were then escorted to another area, where they registered our information, like any symptoms we had, and where we would be quarantined. They then put on us a bracelet with a chip that monitors our location.

8) Getting tested – The test was painful for me, although many people had a different experience. It was a swab that they stuck all the way up the nose. I get my results in two days.

I am very grateful to the Kuwaiti government and the frontliners that made sure that we got home and stayed safe. I now have to legally stay in solitude for 28 days, as no one else was traveling with me. Being alone though does not mean being lonely. Being alone is a time to reflect.

I also think that the best thing we can do in a time of crisis is ask ourselves what we can learn from this.
Here is what I learned from COVID-19

  • That calling this a crisis and letting fear take over does not really help anyone.
  • So much good is happening right now, because of COVID-19.
  • So many people who were stuck in Kuwait without jobs and could not afford to go home because of visa violations are getting the chance to go home now, while violators are being prosecuted.
  • Our environment in Kuwait is getting cleaner. The weather is very cool for April.
  • Taking the time to stay at home and reflect on our lives and where we are going is the break we all wanted.
  • Most of us are spending more time with family.

I think we should choose to celebrate the good things that come out of COVID-19.
Also one other note: So many people made sure I came to Kuwait safe, including expats, so hearing that expats are the ones bringing or passing on the virus is not a nice way to say or think. Frontliners are both Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti, and that is how our community has always been. Flight attendants, nurses, doctors, ground staff and security guards were all both Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis at the same time.