Is it Even 2021?

Well, it’s August already. In the year 2021, supposedly. But is it truly even a new year?

A year ago in Algeria, international flights had just started to open up, and Adam and I jumped on the chance to go to Greece for a few weeks. Our trip to Crete, Santorini, Naxos, and Sifnos, was a dream. When we returned to Algiers, we had to quarantine in our house for two weeks, but we were too busy eating feta and capers and basking in our post-vacay chill to care too much.

So if feels a little weird that here we are, a year later, and the COVID situation in Algeria is worse than ever. The Delta variant is much more infectious and so people are contracting COVID (even vaccinated people), and tragically, there are more a lot more deaths from COVID here in Algeria than last year. This wave seemed to get bad really fast. Just a few weeks ago, we were going to the beach, eating swordfish and drinking white wine at a seaside restaurant in Algiers, but now restaurants are closed, save for takeout and delivery. Oh, and in early July, Adam and I hosted a big (mostly outdoor) July 4th party at our house, but we would not be able to do that now.

Last week, the Algerian government announced that parks and beaches are closed. Large gatherings like weddings and circumcisions are banned, and the fact that the government keeps using “weddings and circumcisions” in the same sentence has made me realize that circumcisions must be much more common here than I would have thought.

What is different for us this year is that we’re vaccinated. But then the news this week that people who are vaccinated can still spread the Delta variant makes everything feel, well, terrible and scary, tedious and endless.

What’s not different for us this year: We are going to Greece next week. Yep, our beloved Dutch friends – the ones who were right when they told us we’d fall in love with enchanting Sifnos – have departed Algiers but will be vacationing in Sifnos before their next posting. They invited us to join them, I booked a room in Sifnos a few months ago, invited our travel buddy Sarah, who lives in Paris, and we pieced together some flights that were, I’d say about three times what they’d normally cost. But it’s a been a minute since we’ve had a vacation and we’re figuring the DINK (dual income, no kids) lifestyle, coupled with making 25 percent more money at this “hardship” post means we’re not going to stress to much about paying more than what things might cost during normal times.

Who knew when we booked this trip a few months back that another wave would crest, but if this pandemic has taught us anything, perhaps it’s that it’s never over. In order to travel to Greece, we just have to show our proof of vaccination, but I think we’ll get PCR tests just to make sure, as the virus is raging here.

There’s something very unsettling about both feeling like I’m in the same place as last year but then realizing all the things that have happened since then. On the one hand, there’s still a bad COVID situation (although last August it was improving here an Algeria, and currently it’s getting worse); people around the world continue to die unnecessarily from COVID; travel is weird and uncertain, and the rules are changing all the time. All that stuff is the same as last year. But then I think that since last summer, I’ve been to the United States THREE TIMES. I was told I had cancer. I flew back to Michigan for surgery on two separate occasions. I was told I had a clean bill of health, information that seemed to make me forget that the health crisis altogether. (Really, weeks go by and I think, with a start, did that really happen?) I’ve worked 40-hour weeks for a year at the U.S. Embassy, producing YouTube shows, planning for the re-opening of an American cultural center that’s been closed since March of 2020. I’ve traveled around Algeria, to Bou Saada, Bajaia, Bechar, Ouargla, Oran. A year ago I was obsessed with cooking, just like everyone else was for a few months, and lately, I can hardly be bothered to open a can of tuna. (But maybe that’s just the heat wave we’ve been having?)

So things happened, time has passed, and logically I know it’s a whole new year. But is it? I mean, is there even a song of summer? I know it’s nice to have a theme to the summer (2019’s #hotgirlsummer and this year’s pro-vaccine #shotgirlsummer) but what if this summer isn’t the summer of 2021 and just #summer2020alloveragain.

Anyways, next up for us: Sifnos! Just like 2020. It’ll be a very similar trip, although this time Adam and I will not get perilously lost on a hike and get in a big old fight on our wedding anniversary. Or probably we will.

Stay safe and sane!

Emily

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