The Black Expat: What's It Like For This Chicago Native During The 21-Day Lockdown In South Africa
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of April Pope

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of April Pope

The Black Expat: What's It Like For This Chicago Native During The 21-Day Lockdown In South Africa

Africa , living abroad , South Africa , Johannesburg , South Africa
Kelsey Marie
Kelsey Marie Apr 13, 2020

April Pope is a Chicago native who spent a decade in NYC working in the music industry. After visiting South Africa for the first time in 2015, April instantly fell in love with the country and knew she would be back. 

For the next 4 years, April would travel back and forth between South Africa and New York, and in July 2019, she finally made the move.

April moved to Johannesburg because of her “love for the music, culture, and really my love for all things South African.”

Although she has been to the U.S. since moving to Johannesburg, she was in her home in South Africa when a 21-day lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic was announced. 

We had the chance to talk to April about her experience being under lockdown in Johannesburg. 

Travel Noire: When you heard that South Africa would be put under lockdown for 21 days, what were your initial thoughts? What made you stay as opposed to returning to the U.S.?

April: When I initially heard about the rumors of a lockdown, I was immediately concerned. I didn’t know what a lockdown would look like. 

After President Ramaphosa addressed the country, I felt a bit better. I was happy that the government stepped in quickly before COVID-19 spread out of control. 

Photo courtesy of April Pope

As for being here vs. going back home, I actually never thought about going back to the U.S. However, if I were confronted to make a choice, I wouldn’t be comfortable on a plane, confined to a window seat for 13 hours. 

Also, I work here [in South Africa] full-time and didn’t want to risk not being allowed back in the country. Plus with the number of cases in the States, it’s really alarming. 

Travel Noire: What did you do to prepare for the lockdown?

April: I started preparing well before the lockdown was implemented and at the time, South Africa had less than two dozen cases. I didn’t know what the road ahead would look like, so I ordered two boxes of N95 masks after reading up on the virus. 

Hand sanitizer was a bit scarce, however, one morning I went to the store for something and noticed that a few people were standing in line. I had no clue what for, and when I asked, a woman told me that Click’s [pharmacy] received a shipment and was waiting in line to buy some [sanitizer]. That’s when I knew I really needed to make sure I was prepared.

Photo courtesy of April Pope

By the time I was able to get to the shelf, there was only a handful left and I bought two. From then on whenever I went to the store, I made sure to buy one of everything — tissue, soap, disinfectant, a box of gloves — just in case. 

Travel Noire: What is the energy in Johannesburg like right now? How are they handling the Coronavirus pandemic?

April: It’s pretty quiet around my area and from the reports on the news, it feels like everyone in the country is taking the necessary precautions and abiding by the lockdown rules. 

Photo courtesy of April Pope

The President made it clear prior to the lockdown that there was no need to panic buy. Some listened and some didn’t. A few days ahead of the lockdown, there were long lines at the grocery stores and certain things were hard to find. However, the grocery stores and pharmacies are open and people may leave their homes for essential items. 

At the grocery store, the crowds are limited now which is a good thing. Depending on the store, some things are easier to find than others, yet if something is out of stock at the moment, rest assure it will be stocked within the coming days. 

Photo courtesy of April Pope

It was made clear that there is definitely enough food supply in the country, which was also great to hear. 

There’s also social distancing tape on the floor by the checkout lane, so it’s clear that people must stand apart from one another. 

Photos courtesy of April Pope

As for the pharmacies, before you enter you have to sign a form. On the form, they ask if you’ve traveled internationally within the past 30 days. If you’re experiencing a fever, cough, etc…you must also provide your contact information. 

Also, throughout the shopping center, all fo the digital monitors have precautionary information about COVID-19 as well as decals on the floors and storefronts. 

Photo courtesy of April Pope

Travel Noire: What is your daily routine like now that you are self-isolating?

April: Throughout the work week, I still wake up as if I’m physically leaving the house to go to the office. I’m up at 8 a.m., then I do my daily stretch, shower, get dressed and eat a light breakfast by 8:45/9:00 a.m. 

I generally shut my laptop down no later than 6 p.m. and then I take a few moments for myself before I start dinner. 

For the rest of the night, I relax. 

Photo courtesy of April Pope

On the weekend, I totally march to the beat of my own drum and ease myself into the day. 

Travel Noire: What activities do you do to keep your spirits high and to stay occupied?

April: A lot of my time is spent doing home workouts, cooking, listening to music, reading, watching a few Netflix documentaries, trying to master a hair tutorial on YouTube and most importantly keeping in touch with my family and friends. 

I’ve recently started running up and down the parking garage since all of the parks nearby are closed. Also, Coursera is offering free courses that I’ve enrolled in a few. So that’s been fun. 

Photo courtesy of April Pope

Travel Noire: What are some self-care tips you have for surviving lockdown?

Photo courtesy of April Pope

April: Take the time to decompress from your everyday life. Some mornings, I sit in silence for a while and reflect a bit while sitting on my patio. I’ve also taken the time to test out a few skincare products that were accumulating in my cabinet. And for those who are experiencing the lockdown period alone, there’s beauty in owning your space! I love to light candles and drink herbal tea. 

Travel Noire: How are South African news outlets reporting on what’s going on in the U.S.?

Photo courtesy of April Pope

April: The news outlets I watch are pretty consistent. I watch ENCA for local news and CNN to keep in touch with what’s going on in the U.S. I feel that both are doing well with up-to-date information.

Travel Noire: Have you noticed any difference between how the U.S. is handling the pandemic vs. how South Africa is handling the pandemic?

April: I applaud South Africa for keeping a close eye on the number of coronavirus cases locally and implementing a wave of precautionary measures prior to instating the lockdown. 

You can keep up with April on her Instagram.