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She lived for summer, but coronavirus took it away

The Mediterranean Sea, as seen from the shore in Tunisia. (Eya Labidi)

BAHRAIN – I’ve spent every summer of my life with my grandparents in my homeland of Tunisia.

Even with the coronavirus pandemic, I hoped this summer would be the same.

I imagined a great vacation, spending days at the beach on my Mediterranean coast, the mountains towering overhead and nature all around.

As an ex-pat – my life is mostly in Bahrain – I dreamed of spending warm evenings with beloved family and friends. Tunisia is where I made my first memories, took my first steps and laughed and cried for the first time.

All year, I look forward to my return in the summer.

I never imagined a year like this would come, a summer when I could not return.

The war that the virus unleashed on the earth has people in a panic, with many living under quarantine. Cases of covid-19 are on the rise, despite the hard work of scientists and researchers to develop medicine and a vaccine. Masks are now mandatory in many places.

Covid-19 didn’t only have an impact on our health and economics, but also on our psychology, especially during summer holiday.

I admit I miss my world of yesterday. Without it, I feel like some stranger.

No one knows what will happen in the future. True, tomorrow is another day, but will this condition improve, will it change? The situation is unpredictable.

So do I go back to Tunisia, to my grandmother’s arms, or stay here?

Eya Labidi/YJI

I feel incapable of making the decision and full of anguish.

My inner voice softly whispers, “Go do it, the tender hand of your grandmother and the sweet face of your grandfather deserves the departure to the war!”

But then I tell myself, “What about the risks and perils? The situation is unstable.”

Will the heart win over the mind or the mind over the heart? Shall I give up and avoid the worst? Chilly heart, troubled mind and very little hope.

I remembered countless delightful and unforgettable moments, like the late nights with my grandparents on the terrace, gazing at the big night sky, watching the twinkling stars as the night passed. I thought of my grandmother’s tasty food and my grandfather’s academic parkour, full of French history and old quotes.

My grandmother’s stories with their beautiful morals and lessons, the adventures with my cousins at the beach or the pool and the fun nights playing, dancing, watching videos and coming up with crazy ideas called to me.

Author Eya Labidi on the beach in Tunisia. (Sarra Labidi/YJI)

So did the fresh air, the smell of the sea, the music and the laughs.

As I write this my eyes are filled with tears and my heart is filled with love for my country and my family, trying to express a multitude of feelings and memories in a few words.

Despite the fact that the borders are open and we can leave – the countries allow tourists and citizens to come – unfortunately, this is not the time to buy a ticket to the other side of the planet.

We don’t know what the state of the epidemic will be in at summer’s end, whether borders will close again or if we will be able to come back in time. But we had to make a decision.

For a couple of minutes, we decided in favor of the adventure. We would take the risk.

But two steps later, we gave up.

It is decided. I will have to stay another year, sad and weak. I won’t get to see my grandparents and make sure that they are well and healthy. I won’t find out if 2020 and all its distress gave them any new wrinkles.

I regain control of myself. I try not to worry, to be grateful and stay confident. This situation will not last forever.

I tell myself, it’s just temporary.

It won’t be so long before I am back snuggling in my grandmother’s arms, laughing loudly and without fear at my grandfather’s anecdotes.

The tears will flow when I meet my grandparents after two years, but I will hug them without a mask or anything else between us. Missing their love and affection, I will bring all my emotions.

And I will smell the beautiful fragrance of jasmine.

Eya Labidi is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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