The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. But there are a few aspects that are consistent across the board. We’ve all had to become comfortable with wearing masks, keep an open heart to our neighbours, and work together to survive.
We recently heard from Francis, a Mzansi Masks customer who runs Easy Five Guest House. He shares about the learnings, struggles, and moments experienced during COVID-19.
How have you been coping with COVID-19 in a personal capacity?
My wife and I are Canadian expats who have operated a guest house here in Cape Town for the past five years. We closed the guesthouse a few days before the country went into Level 5 lockdown and have been closed ever since. Our staff were sent home on full seasonal pay. Plus, we were able to obtain the special UIF-TERS payments for them all, which has certainly been a bone for them.
Unfortunately, my wife, who continues to work for a Canadian company and spends periods of time there, went to Canada in late January, per usual, and was unable to come back in April, as we had planned.
So the biggest personal impact has been that we have spent the pandemic 13,000 km and six time zones apart. It’s not unusual for us to be apart for lengthy periods – we cheerfully signed on to this lifestyle five years ago – but we certainly never anticipated a period this long.
Still, we have no real complaints as we are both safe, healthy, and are in an immensely privileged position of being able to weather this storm with minimal financial or emotional damage. As soon as international travel into South Africa is again permitted – we have fingers, thumbs and toes crossed that it will be as early as November – she will come down here.
How has work/business been affected by COVID-19 - is it business as usual?
It’s definitely not business as usual. My wife has worked from home since the outset of the pandemic and even now goes into the office only when it is absolutely necessary. And our guesthouse, of course, has been completely closed. It will stay that way at least until the end of this month.
Even then, I expect to do very little business this year – our clientele is almost entirely overseas visitors, and I doubt South Africa will see very much international tourism this year. This sector has just been devastated, and it will take some time to recover, but I don’t believe the government had any alternative.
What measures have you taken to ensure safety for yourself, your employees/colleagues, and your family?
During the peak of the pandemic, I ordered everything I needed and simply hunkered down. Even now, I venture out only when absolutely necessary. My staff have sheltered at home, and are all safe and healthy. My biggest concern about reopening the guesthouse is the risk to which they may be exposed as they take public transit to and from work.
How have you enjoyed your Mzansi Masks?
My family lived in Lesotho for five years in the 60s and 70s when I was a boy. I still have my own original Basotho blanket that has been on my bed since then, and my mother used to sew outfits for my sisters using shweshwe cloth. So when I was looking for masks to wear, I really wanted something local, and I loved your designs.
I can’t say I “enjoy” them as I absolutely hate wearing a mask. I have pre-existing medical conditions that can challenge my breathing and wearing a mask certainly doesn’t help that when it happens. I also really hate what masks symbolise - this awful global pandemic that has cost so many lives and disrupted everyone everywhere. Plus, they really make my beard itch.
But I am committed to playing my part in defeating this pandemic, and so I will wear a mask without hesitation or complaint, and practice all other sensible precautions. I do enjoy that I can wear something that is stylish and locally authentic, though. My sisters and my wife all want their own.
What is the first thing that you will do once lockdown is over?
Pick my wife up at Cape Town International. 💕🤗
What's the most unexpected activity, item, or way of life that has become the new "normal" for you?
I don’t know that I can choose the “most” unexpected. We have all had to adapt in so many different ways and to simply accept things that in any other context would simply be unthinkable.
Maybe the most unexpected thing is exactly that – our collective ability to adapt and accept. (Except for those who refuse to do either, and their behaviour is anything but unexpected.)
Get your Mzansi Masks
We love hearing stories like Francis’ one. They bring a smile to our faces and inspire us to continue to create beautiful, handmade barrier masks.