Quarantine – more gift than burden Shani Brownstein

Editor’s Note:
Liz Pearl

Shani is my oldest friend. No, she’s not old per se; actually, we are the same age. We met in kindergarten and have shared many of life’s ups and down since then five decades ago. For most of our adult life we have not lived on the same continent, however we have managed to meet in-person annually in our shared hometown, or elsewhere. Of course, plenty of WhatsApp and snapchats in-between visits. Thank you Shani, for sharing your wisdom and positivity in these uncertain times. Looking forward to your next blogpost!


Quarantine – more gift than burden
Shani Brownstein
Montreal, August 2020

“Quarantine” – I looked up the definition, as I am now in the midst of a 14-day quarantine, and I found numerous definitions, such as:
1:a period of 40 days
2:a restraint upon the activities or communication of persons or the transport of goods designed to prevent the spread of disease or pests
3:a state of enforced isolation

Derived from the old French quarantaine (forty), from Latin quadraginta, etc., the word traces its origins to The Black Plague in the 14th century, when ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which means 40 days.

Ahhh the plague, yes… the modern-day version is called COVID19; at this point, we have all lived with it for months, as it has reached the four corners of our embattled earth. In this day and age of (the potential for) limitless international travel (up until this past February) many of us have found ourselves struggling with the concept of government imposed quarantines and extremely limited “safe” travel…myself included.

I have lived most of my adult life half way around the world from the city of my birth, to the place my mom still lives and ironically, my son has adopted as his new “hometown”. For decades, returning there has always been accessible, easy and frequent, until the dreaded virus struck and travel anywhere has become verboten.

Silver-linings of this unwelcome experience have taught me a lot about luck, gratitude, personal resilience and the incredible support of caring family and friends. Lessons worthy of journaling and sharing.

“Enforced isolation” — taking the positive spin
To say I have been fortunate is an understatement, something I do not take lightly. When I contacted friends telling them I was coming to Montreal and was required to quarantine, one actually came to my rescue, generously offering me his mom’s very comfortable home, which has a long, narrow balcony, AKA my new walking track. This beautiful apartment faces west offering me beautiful sunsets and awesome Instagram photo ops. I am out there much of the time enjoying the fresh air and view, oftentimes just breathing and feeling immense gratitude.

Food delivery, care packages and puzzles
I have been appreciative of caring friends and acquaintances who have kindly delivered fresh fruit, vegetables, all household essentials, and a devoted son, who supplied me with additional essentials, including: wine, coffee, limes and a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle which I promptly completed within 24 hours. Puzzles are a great leisure activity to keep our mind focused and engaged. I realize, I have all that I need materially and more to sustain me physically.

14 Days, Not 40
Lucky too, it’s just 14 days… although it sounds like a lot of time, somehow it is flying by! It is a terrible thing to wish precious time away, so I am taking full advantage of this “gift of time”. I have been exercising daily including walking (circles around the kitchen island or pacing the balcony to get my daily 10K steps), Facetime yoga with my cousin in France, Zoom Tai-Chi and YouTube killer workouts. I am a relatively productive person and I am certainly no stranger to routine. Typically, I benefit from structure and daily routines including, physical activity and healthy meals.  

I’m busy: catching up with friends and family daily, helping with online shopping for my son’s impending move, and cooking and baking up a storm have kept me occupied. I finished one book and am about to start another… and surprisingly, I haven’t had much time to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, being busy as I am.

24/7 WIFI access to WhatsApp, Zoom and Google certainly provided for a smooth transition through jetlag and keeping me well connected throughout.

To sum it up, I would say, this unique experience provided me with an opportunity to be alone, yet not lonely. It has been a chance for introspection and meditation, and most important, reflection on resilience. If I had to do it all again, especially in these comfortable conditions, strange as it sounds, I would leap at the opportunity to get a chance to slow down when the world is moving so fast.

Next quarantine:
When I return to my country I will be required to Quarantine again. Now I have experience and confidence to face the 14 days and nights with gratitude and know first-hand there is in fact, a silver-lining to this destructive Pandemic.

Shani Brownstein is originally from Montreal, and has been living in Hong Kong for nearly three decades. She is an ICF Certified Transformational Coach as well as an active volunteer in her local Jewish community, including past-Chairwoman of Hong Kong Jewish Women’s Association. Shani enjoys hiking, travelling, baking and keeping in touch with her broad international network of family and friends. She is currently the Festival Producer of Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival.


One thought on “Quarantine – more gift than burden Shani Brownstein

  1. A great piece! So proud of you both…Shani and Liz. Also pleased to to have access to Pearls of Wisdom. Plan to look at the other posts sometimes later in the day. Kol Hakavod!


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