A Black Expat Opens Up About What It’s Like In South Korea During The Coronavirus Outbreak
By DeAnna Taylor
Hamid Mahdi decided to pack up his life and move to South Korea to become a guest English teacher through the Gyeonggi English Program in Korea (GEPIK). While life in South Korea has been pretty good so far, he recently found himself in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In mid to late January, Hamid began to see news of a new virus that was spreading throughout China. He observed many YouTube videos made by Chinese doctors trying to warn the world of the severity of what was to possibly come.
“I wondered how long it would be before the virus made its way over to the Korean Peninsula due to its close proximity with mainland China,” Hamid told Travel Noire. “However, I wasn’t really bothered by any of this, and simply spread the word on Facebook to family and friends that another virus is spreading in China, it might make its way to Korea (and other countries as well) and that everyone should get ready for it.”
As someone who experienced several global outbreaks including H1N1, hoof and mouth disease, and even mad cow disease, Hamid felt a little more prepared to handle any type of fly outbreaks. He always carries hand sanitizers while on the go, regularly disinfects his home, and he often wears masks due to China’s pollution.
However, one thing was different this time. His mother would be coming to visit him during his vacation from work.
In preparation for her arrival, he purchased a few extra masks for them to wear while out. His mother even came equipped with her own mini pharmacy.
“For a while, everything seemed normal with a few exceptions: arriving passengers were having their temperatures taken at Incheon Airport and passengers arriving specifically from China were being sent to a different line altogether,” said Hamid. “We started receiving emergency alerts on our phones about outbreaks in Korea and information on how to prevent spreading the virus. But for the most part, everything was ok and international travel was still allowed.”
Hamid and his mother went on with their trip to the UAE from Korea. But, when they returned they noticed more safety precautions being put into place. The number of people on the street started decreasing, fewer people were eating out, and more people were wearing masks than there were before they left. It was all due to the number of cases in his city of Daegu exploding almost overnight.
There were no more masks to purchase in stores, but luckily Hamid and his mother had just enough to last for the duration of her visit. She was safely able to make the journey back to the States.
“There have been a few more developments in the last three weeks. Korea’s number of infected cases is now at 8,162 at the time of writing this, Daegu peaked about a week ago and the number of confirmed infections nationwide have tapered off. Most people are choosing to self-quarantine in an effort to contain the spread, public school has officially been delayed until March 23rdnationwide although the news outlets speculate it will be delayed until April 6th, many restaurants in my city are still open but they rely more heavily on delivery orders to remain operational, and most grocery stores are still open.”
Hamid has enjoyed the time at home and has instead used it to work on lesson plans and building up his YouTube channel.
To catch more of Hamid’s journey in South Korea, you can find him on Instagram at @hamid.mahdi3.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.