Imprisoned: BFS Student Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz Shares Her COVID-19 Experience in Busan

15-year-old Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz recounts her story of becoming infected with COVID-19 in Busan and spending her Christmas holidays away from her family at the Busan Medical Center.

It all happened so fast.

My father came back from a business trip in Seoul, and maybe a day later he became sick. At the time we were unaware of his sickness. The next day he took a COVID-19 test which turned out to be positive. He was the first to leave.

Our family had to quarantine for two weeks and take mandatory COVID tests. When the results came in my mom was positive. She was the second to leave.

While in quarantine one of my younger sisters got sick. You guessed it, she was positive as well and the rest of the family quarantine was extended for a week. She was the third to leave.

We were in quarantine for three weeks when we were asked to take another test and I came out positive. I was the fourth to leave.

An ambulance came to pick me up and took me to Busan Medical Center. The drive took about an hour.

Image: Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz

DEC 23, 2020

The days have been long. Longer than ever before. The white walls that look grey reflect too much the yellow-tinted lights. My eyes sting, puffy because of the dust particles. Trash hides in the corners of the room. A grumbling noise echoes the room from the hospital ventilating system. The hallway next to my room has sounds so loud. Heavy footsteps.

Clunk Clunk.

There is no rhythm to them. It is the same sound over and over again.

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

It’s been two days already that I have stayed in this hospital room. Though I share the room with two older ladies we all stay near our beds. Both the ladies look the same. They have black hair cut short and made up of curls. Their lips were thin with little hairs over them. Interaction is never common as most of my time is consumed watching Netflix and talking to my friends. I lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling. My head is empty of thought, so I just doze off into nothingness. I have that feeling where you stare at something but forget you are staring at it. My mind is blank.

There are no extracurricular activities I could use to fill the time. Nor are there people to talk to. My life, once a city, is now a ghost town. My eyes start watering. I am alone in this room with two strangers. My family’s an hour away and I need to move. I need to run, play, exercise. Next to my bed is a window. From the window came a refreshing flow of air, which heightens my sense of relaxation. HA! Just kidding. It is sealed shut. Instead of looking clear, it has a tint of grey, making the view more depressing. All you see is a wall washed of all its white paint. The window defeats the purpose of having one in the first place.

The day starts out at 5 in the morning. When all of a sudden the lights turn on my heart skips a beat. My visions blurry but I could hear people coming in. Their footsteps sound like a big object falling. Men in plastic suits have a hat that looks like something a beekeeper wears. Their mouths are covered but their eyes can be seen. One has the color of warm coffee and the other of dark chocolate. They stick a sharp needle through my vein, sucking out a little of my blood. The color is a surprise. It isn’t the color of snow whites lips but more the color of Bell’s rose. Like a dark cherry. Cherries grow in trees. Trees I haven’t seen in so long. Trees need fresh air. The fresh air I haven’t breathed in for so long. Fresh air which is outside. Outside somewhere I haven’t been in so long. Being outside is being alive.

6:00 PM

My eyes are half open as I stare into my food. I feel awake but asleep. Like when you are just starting to wake up. Black containers with a compartment are filled with… I don’t even know what. It’s hard to open the lid. It’s hard to break my chopsticks. The strength I once had, has vanished. I took a bite. It isn’t good. I put my food away. All while still on my bed.

Image: Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz

DEC 24, 2020

Today is different. Light seeps through the little clean part of the window. The sun rays rest
lightly on my pillow. I’ve gotten used to the noises. Now they are just as normal to me as the noises in my house were. Now that I think about it, that’s actually kinda sad. But that doesn’t matter. I know what I am eating for breakfast, in contrast to the times I have no idea what’s in the containers. Red spicy meat sits on top of a plump of white rice.

I talk to my parents, grandparents, and uncles. My Grandparents told me “these times are the times where you truly find out who your friends are.” And I thought about that. For a long time. I have many school friends. But I guess real friends are harder to come by. My current status is one. I only have one friend that calls me almost every single day. Back when everything was normal, I would take that as a reason to be sad. But back then you didn’t get a lot of time to think. Not everyone has a friend like that. She will stay with me forever, so I have to stay with her.

8:00 PM

The little natural light coming from the window fades. That is my cue to get ready.

9:00 PM

Writing down your thoughts in a diary never appealed to me before. Why share your feelings to a book when you can chat with a friend. Sometimes you find yourself surprised by what you are capable of doing. Something I found interesting is that now everyone fears the word ‘positive’.

“You are positive.”

If everyone around me isn’t so quick to judge. I probably would have told the whole world by now. But I didn’t feel safe telling everyone.

Image: Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz

DEC 25, 2020

I couldn’t sleep last night. I was waiting for my father to tuck me in. I was waiting to feel my goodnight kiss. That was the most I cried.

12:00 PM

Now I am waiting with my food for my little sister to say our prayers. I cry.

4:30 PM

I’m waiting to hear the “hello” I get from my mom every day. I cry again.

8:00 PM

I miss everything. But mostly the small things. I miss sharing a room. I miss the smell of my house. I miss the feeling of changing. I miss the feeling of happiness. But mostly I miss the feeling of family. Maybe that one isn’t so little.

DEC 26, 2020

The old ladies yell at me. Their voices strain through their throat.

“Don’t do exercises!” they say.

“I’m not doing anything wrong!” I say back.

My voice is obviously louder and stronger. This is the first real interaction we had. The number of complaints has been piling up in my head since I arrived. I list them out loud one by one. Loud and clear.

“You have the worst manners. You burp, fart. I thought elderly people knew more about manners. Why tf are you two speaking at 5 am when I’m still sleeping? You guys are so disrespectful!”

The words are probably all nonsense to them. They yell back, this time sounding like a hyena. Their eyes get smaller and their wrinkles become more defined. Whatever it is they are saying I couldn’t understand. But more so it gets my head boiling and my fists clenched. The energy that left when I came here all of a sudden came back. Adrenaline struck me and all of a sudden I want more action. I’m about to open my mouth and yell again, but before I could a nurse came in.

Like a flick of a light my roommate’s attention shifts to her. They were yelling, probably complaining about me. But all the nurse could do is stare in shock. It is one to be yelled at by a person and another to be yelled at by two furious old Korean ladies. I could see the fear in her eyes. She kept glancing at me but I’m already parched on my bed. My headphones were over my ears with music playing at full volume. And this is the most interesting thing that has happened yet.

I’m not writing the date anymore. The blank boring days have got me to lose track of time. I call a friend every day, desperately trying to waste my time. We play Among Us, Roblox, sometimes watch a movie. My roommates get annoyed. But right now I don’t really give a crap. They speak louder though. Probably because their ears are becoming deaf. Or maybe it’s just cause they’re mannerless beings who don’t care about the wellbeing of a 15-year-old.

“GGAAAEEETTAAANE!! I can’t believe you did this. What’s wrong with you!!”

Relax. That’s just what my friend said after I killed her. Om my god no. I didn’t actually kill her, it’s a game stupid. Lmao. I don’t know who I am writing this to. Myself I guess.

DRIIING DRIING!

The phone rang and immediately went to grab it.

“Hello, is this Gaetane?”

“Yes.”

“You are free to leave in one day.”

Oh. Did I forget to mention Christmas? I spent Christmas in the hospital. Christmas, a holiday of family and presents turned into a day to mourn. Part of me is taken away on this day. I almost cry, but I see a message. An unexpected friend. Now today, at this time. I’m talking to him. Yes, now we talk all day. We talk about our memories in the summer. The fun times we had at the beach. The fresh air we could breathe back then. It was all fun and games. Until of course. The pandemic. Two days left. Just two days left. But those two days are the longest.

Image: Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz

I get my food, but instead of eating it, I throw it away. There is bread stashed under my bed. I took it out and spread Nutella. Food that I brought from home. GOSH DAMMIT. As I pick it up the sandwich falls. I’m writing this in bed but re-encountering the day is like living it again.

Whether good or bad that day was, it’s all I could do to pass time. So instead of eating, I take the milk and it slips right through my hand. SPLOOSH. It spills all over my hospital gown. The icky wet stains stuck to my body, feeling like ice that’s melting. I smell disgusting! The ladies look up and look at me. Their stares were enough words for me to understand.

“I can’t wait until you leave,” they were saying.

But I don’t really care. I can’t wait until I can leave. Imagine what a lion feels like stuck in a cage but he has to wait two days to get out. Yes. That is how I feel. The hours after that is nothing to remember. Which is why I’m not writing about it.

“Remember when we went surfing?”

That is a text I got. This made me sad and happy. I close my eyes and dig deep into my mind for the memory. The sky was flax-gold as we walked on the bow of the beach. Cylinders of light moved across the sea. The water is dark blue but a little yellow. The sun tasted our skin and the sand scratched our feet. We stood next to each other looking at the waves carelessly dribbling into the sand. Near the shore, the pulse of the waves was calming but far away we could see the sea hoarding its mighty power. Waves crashed and roared. Looking at each other we smiled and dove in. An unexpected cool sting went through my body as I first entered the water.

It felt “BLABLA”.

The nurse enters. The memory now left me but it was nice.

It’s getting pretty late. I guess I should go to sleep. I’ll take a shower first. Shoot. I missed a whole day of writing. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. This is my last day.

DRIINNNG!!

I went to pick up the phone.

“Hello, you will leave tomorrow.”

My heart stopped. I am ready. I even packed up. Tears start falling onto my chest. I feel horrible today. This is probably one of the worst days. Finally, I was leaving. But now I have to wait another day. 24 HOURS!!!!! It is outrageous. They told me I could leave today. But I’m not. So why did they tell me that? All I could do now is wait.

The lady takes my suitcase and leads me out of the room. I don’t even say goodbye, because I know I won’t miss it.

I’m back home now. I remember how it felt like to be outside after a month. The lady walked me outside and I felt as if I was going to throw up. I haven’t moved at all and the sudden action made me sick.

This is my last time I’m writing in this book. I have no need to anymore.

This story “Imprisoned” was originally published in Busan Foreign School’s Literary & Art Magazine “Undercover” 2021 edition and is printed with permission.

Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz
Gaëtane Slootweg Allepuz
Born in Barcelona, Spain, 15 years ago, Gaetane is the second of four siblings. As a BFS student, she enjoys writing and sports. She hopes to one day become a professional football player.

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