Achievements, fear and hope during COVID-19

father holding small baby
father hugging baby strapped into front pack
man with religious, symbolic red paint on his forehead, has arm around his wife who is holding their baby
Man wearing Bhutanese clothing squatting behind baby in baby seat who has symbolic red paint on forehead
Bhutanese man seated on ground in front of small alter

The COVID-19 directly entered into my life when UNC Charlotte announced a shift to all-online classes on March 11,  2020. It was my final semester of earning a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. Additionally, I was very stressed and anxious when the Mecklenburg County Emergency Management imposed a stay-at-home order effective March 26.

We were worried if we would continue getting grocesseris in the stores. My dad asked me to buy several bags of rice thinking that it would soon get finished and may not be available again. My dad was worried more than us. He frequently told us that he did not want to die at this time because our relatives would not be able to gather for his funeral as a tradition. I can see his worries and fear on his face. Slowly, he started feeling better as he learned more about the virus and heard stories of other people of his age bracket who overcame the virus.

I studied online from home and finished my final exams. After a decade of coming to the United States as a refugee from Bhutan, I finally graduated from college. I am the first person to graduate from college in my family. My family was planning for a huge graduation ceremony. I was very excited to see how my dad would feel and react when I walked on the ramp with the gown and the cap to receive my certificate during commencement.

I was planning to make the commencement very memorable and capture all the moments in pictures and videos. It is one of the biggest achievements in my life. Unfortunately, my commencement was cancelled due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state. It was moved to August, and to December, both being cancelled later.

My other plan of celebration was a baby shower for my first child. My wife Bina was more excited about the celebration and was planning and preparing about it for a long time. It was really a sad feeling to have to cancel this as well.

The baby boy was born during the pandemic. Although we are happy inside, I was also worried about how we can keep him safe from the virus. Our relatives could not visit us when we were in the hospital.

After a week of my graduation, I started working for TIAA as an Information Security Engineer. I worked from home, thanks to my employer for letting me do that. I missed driving to work, interacting with people, and getting experience in the real world corporate world.

A Hindu festival of Dashain and Tihar falls in the month of October and November. The family of my two brothers and aunt came to celebrate with us from Ohio. We talked with each other before to make sure we were not exposed to the virus. We celebrated the festival with fear and worries inside. I told my dad to skip the festival this time but he was too uncomfortable to tell that to our relatives.

I am currently pursuing a masters degree in Computer Science with a focus in Information Security and Privacy. It is all remote learning. I really miss the campus environment, library, labs, and meeting with other people.

We are planning for a rice feeding ceremony (Pasni) for our son in the first week of January. Obviously, we won’t be able to have a big gathering. We will only gather as a family, and those of us already exposed to each other.

We will make sure no one is exposed to the virus prior to this important ceremony.

Thousands of people have lost their family members, jobs and wellbeing in 2020. I feel lucky that I do not have anybody in my family who caught the virus so far, but I can feel the fear every second. I try my best to stay safe, wear a mask, and maintain social distance. The only reason I go out from my home is to buy groceries. I hope 2020 makes us stronger and inspires humanity to embrace similarities over differences.

As we all remain hopeful that we will definitely see a normal sooner than later, I am sure I’ll have a lot to share with my son about this deadly pandemic as he grows up.

This story is part of a Refugee Communities collection.