back to normal

It has been four years since the mask wearing days started, and thus time for a pandemic year review. Or maybe I should call it a post-pandemic review. The pandemic is supposed to be over, the covid cases are still sometimes reported but little by little life has started to go back to the way it was before the pandemic. I have difficult to believe though that life will get all the way back to normal – these years have had a big impact on me as well as on society and I wonder if a common cold will ever again be something to not really think twice about.

In Japan, many people have started to take off their masks in public. I find that I have, although later than my wife, slowly gotten comfortable showing myself without a mask. There is no mask mandate at our son’s kindergarten so he gets to see the faces of his teachers. And even at the doctor’s office I see people waiting without masks. The temperature check is still very much in effect though, and when having a fever there is another level of caution than I remember from before.

Still, the effect of the pandemic is a tangible part of everyday life here, and it was not until we went to Sweden in December that I really got a sense of how a big part of the world no longer seems to consider the pandemic something worth thinking of at all. Taking the plane from Fukuoka to Tokyo, almost everyone was wearing a mask. Changing terminals at Narita airport, and it was like leaving Japan. Most people were not wearing masks and on the plane from Abu Dhabi to Denmark I believe that my wife and I were the only people on the plane who were wearing masks. What a contrast to the year before when everyone flying was required to wear one.

During our time in Sweden, not once did I wear a mask, and since we have been fortunate to not get sick, I have almost not thought of corona at all. On the plane back to Japan I even removed my mask since there were not many people and no one seemed to be coughing, and with a sleeping boy next to me I enjoyed flying for the first time in many many years. As we were passing mount Fuji in twilight I was thinking to myself that I hope I will be able to keep this feeling throughout the year, and get back to a pre-pandemic sense of being. That would be a blessing for 2024.

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