How the mission field prepared me for self-quarantine

It’s day one of official self-quarantining – day five of unofficial self-quarantining. As I try to work to get into a routine, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect as well as a lot of time to work on my blog – a pretty good combination for inspired writing if you ask me. One of the things that struck me tonight was how my time on the mission field in Cameroon surprisingly prepared me for quarantine in Delaware/New Jersey.

Let’s go back two years ago and pretend that the coronavirus hit in Spring 2018 instead of Spring 2020. I get the news and instantly feel sick to my stomach. What am I going to do with all the free-time? How will I be able to cope with so much time with just my family or even worse, my own thoughts? The thought of not being able to get out of the house and do anything makes me sink into a constant state of worry and anxiety that over time (and probably a short amount of time) would morph into a depression.

However, luckily (or maybe not so luckily because God’s timing and all that), this isn’t two years ago and I was able to spend four months on the mission field in Cameroon where I learned quite a bit that undoubtably prepared me for COVID-19 and the self-quarantine that came along with it.

Peter after one of our “scheduled” quarantine activities – tennis!

I can still plan, even with “nothing to do”. More than once in the last 72 hours, I’ve had someone say to me, “Yeah, you’re a planner, this must be driving you crazy,” and they’re absolutely right – to some extent, it is. BUT, self-quarantine isn’t stopping me from planning as much as it’s changing the way I plan.

I approach the day thinking about two categories of “tasks” – things that need to get done and things that keep me grounded. In Cameroon, the things that needed to get done included homeschool lesson planning, language learning, blogging, amongst others, while things that kept me grounded were reading my Bible, working out, going for walks, and journaling. Similarly, the balance now is between the traditional to-dos of intern work or school work and the working out, devotion time, and stress relievers like reading or writing.


Then, I schedule those things out with blocks of time. During COVID-19, our world is changing daily, if not hourly, so I switched my Google Calendar from a weekly view to a daily view. Just that switch helps me focus on the greater certainty of today instead of the unknown of the end of the week. Those little switches help me go into each day with focus and direction instead of at a loss for where to start.

I can survive only seeing a handful of people on a regular basis. I love the people that I’m self-quarantined with, but I definitely tend to like people a lot less after being with them for more than 72-hours straight (and that’s a generous 72 hours). I don’t think those feelings are unique to just me either. But living in a circle of huts with only three other people over the age of 18 to talk to, you learn how to get along and make it work. More importantly, you learn how to value that human interaction time more than your similarities or, rather, your lack thereof.

My anxiety won’t overtake me if I’m not busy. If my plans get canceled (not by me) and I suddenly have an unplanned night at home, I get overwhelmed by the free-time. My anxiety starts up and I shut down, not able to do anything because I have so much time to do anything. I’m an extrovert and a planner and even after coming home from Cameroon, those anxious thoughts still come up, but the difference is that now I know the two lessons above. I know that I can be still and operate with “nothing to do.” I can enjoy a slower pace of life. That wasn’t something I was able to

the view out my window of one of my “homes” in Cameroon

do before Fall 2018. Use this thought as almost a mantra to keep yourself grounded throughout this time, because the mind-set of knowing you can do it can make a huge difference.

Needless to say, self-quarantining is not the way I wanted to spend my spring semester of senior year, but it doesn’t fill me with absolute dread the way it probably would have two years ago. I’m not saying you need to go live in the rain forest in Cameroon for four months to be able to cope with quarantine as an extrovert planner. Maybe start with just changing your perspective.


OCNJ: Early Morning Boardwalk Guide

In mid-August, Peter and I celebrated our two-year anniversary by going down the shore to Ocean City, NJ. We live in New Jersey, so this wasn’t a super far trip, but it was great being able to get away for the day and not spend hundreds of dollars doing so. As many of you know, I am absolutely NOT a beach person. However, the appeal of Ocean City, for me, comes mostly from its boardwalk. Since Peter enjoys the beach, I thought this would be a nice compromise and just a generally fun way to spend the day!

Our plan was to meet at his aunt’s house the night before because she lives about 15 minutes from Ocean City and then head to the beach in the morning for sunrise. After sunrise, we didn’t have much of a plan. I had found a blog post about coffee shops in Ocean City, but that was the extent of the planning we did beforehand.

Sunrises, Bikes, and Breakfasts

The morning of, we struggled to wake-up and get dressed, but we managed. We found a IMG_0236parking spot a couple blocks out from the boardwalk on one of the free-parking streets and then, as we walked closer to the boardwalk, we passed about six or seven closer spots! We for some reason over-estimated how crowded the beach would be at 5:45 in the morning. We walked out to the beach with our blanket and found a place to put it on one of the jetties. Straight out over the water, we could see the sun come up and if we looked slightly more to the left we could see Atlantic City in the distance. We sat there for a while enjoying God’s beautiful. Then we strolled back to the boardwalk, feeling as though we had all the time in the world to enjoy this peaceful morning.

On our drive over I had found a place for breakfast that was actually on the bay side of Ocean City. It was called Dockside Kitchen. We wanted to rent bikes before Dockside Kitchen opened at seven though because that was going to be our main form of transportation for the day. There turned out to be a bike rental place, Oves Restaurant & Bike Rental, on the same street that we parked. When we wandered back there from the beach, it looked like the guy was just starting to put some bikes out. I told Peter to go and ask what time he opened. When he asked him he responded, “I can open now if you want me to.” Perfect! We got our bikes—I picked out a pretty yellow one, and then we were off!

By the time we pulled up to Dockside Kitchen and parked our bikes, the clock had just IMG_0296turned to 7:00! Again, perfect timing! There was nobody standing out front at the hostess stand though, so we just waited until one of the girls walked towards the front and saw us. Apparently, the hostess never showed up, so she took it upon herself to seat us. We had the pick of the dock and chose a table right overlooking the water. It was slightly chilly, but I would also rather be cold than hot. The restaurant was not just known for its view and food, but they also had a really good coffee bar! I was definitely pleased with the meal and the coffee, which I desperately needed if I was going to survive being up so early.

Coffee Shops

Not surprisingly, we made several coffee shop stops in our time riding up and down the boardwalk. We probably would’ve stopped at an excessive amount of coffee shops no matter what, but the fact that we woke up before the sun made that desire for espresso even stronger!

Our first stop was Ocean City Coffee Company. They had two locations on the boardwalk and were the one place on our list that Peter had heard the most about. We went to the first location that we came upon. The wall was covered in different canisters of various coffees. They had a window in the back where you could see into where they roasted the coffee. There were a couple of places to sit, most of which were full. Overall, they had a nice atmosphere and the coffee was good too! I went with a dirty chai—so a chai latte with a couple of shots of espresso. When we finished drinking our coffees, which didn’t take long at all, we hopped back on our bikes and went to see what was up next!

The second coffee stop (not back-to-back, we did do some other things in between) was at a little hut that was attached to an arcade. I actually almost rode past it and Peter had to call me back and repoint out the sign reading Locals, showing me that this was, in fact, IMG_0295the place. By this point in the morning we both felt thoroughly dehydrated, so instead of making that worse with coffee, we opted to go for smoothies! They were good and despite having the sound of arcade games behind us, the place’s design and set-up had us feeling as though we were right on the beach at a little smoothie shack!

Our final coffee stop of the day (four total if you count Dockside Kitchen, which I do!) was Positively 4th Café & Coffee. It was located a couple blocks off of the boardwalk—actually really close to where we parked our car! It was a good last location for us to check out because it was a little after noon and we could no longer ride bikes on the boardwalk. We got lattes and a hummus platter to share. The place was really quirky. There were two main rooms. We opted to sit in the smaller back room where there was a bit more privacy and it had a fan that was blowing directly on us. The only downside of the place was the lack of air conditioning. They had a couple guitars hanging on the walls, which said, “not for sale, but feel free to play.” It was definitely a place set up with the intention of people hanging out for a while and relaxing.

Our OCNJ coffee mission was a success and made a lot easier with the help this article from “I Love Ocean City New Jersey.” We finished the day checking off four out of the six recommended places.

Miscellaneous Entertainment

As I mentioned earlier, drinking coffee wasn’t the ONLY thing we did all day.

We played mini golf at Tee-Time Golf. I had fond memories of playing the same course when we would come to Ocean City as a family growing up, so it was fun being back! The course had a loose theme of childhood stories and nursery rhymes. If you’ve ever been to OCNJ you would probably recognize the “old woman who lives in the shoe” hole, which is the most visible from the boardwalk. I ended up winning the game by one stroke if we added up just the scores. If we did it the “correct” way and based scores on how far we were from par, Peter and I tied, which was less exciting. I preferred adding it the way that I won (shocking, right?)!

We stopped in a couple of classic boardwalk shops. They were those stores with all the cheesy signs and other stuff that anyone with a beach house doesn’t need, but probably wants and will end up buying. Despite not having the intention of buying anything, it IMG_4370was fun to just walk around and see what different things we could find.

The other shop we went into ended up being less window-shopping and more actually shopping. It was a little boutique store called Sand & Stitch. We had ridden past it a couple times before it opened and I pointed it out every time saying, “That looks cute, we should maybe check it out later!” By the time it actually opened we almost had to go in. I saw a couple things I liked but didn’t know if I would ever actually wear. Peter encouraged me to have fun and try on things if I really wanted to. I think that was a statement he came to regret, considering within 15 minutes he had an armful of clothes I had handed him to carry until I made my way back to the fitting room. I ended up only buying a pair of jean shorts, but it was a fun outing. Later, when we went to return our bikes, the guy working there made a joke that “it was a good thing we didn’t get baskets, or I’d probably have triple the bags.” He probably wasn’t wrong.

I was so tempted by the sound of Pacman right behind me when we were drinking our smoothies in the arcade, that eventually I gave in and decided to play a round… or two. Peter and I decided to play a couple of other games while we were at it. We played two rounds of basketball, which I surprisingly lost—I guess after seven years of not playing my skills started wearing off a bit. Then, we headed over to Skeeball where I came out victorious! We ended up with a handful of tickets that we gave to a couple of families that had young kids. I didn’t need any more junk in my room and it definitely made the kids happy!

Final Thoughts

When we decided we were ready to leave, we looked at the clock and it was only about 1:00 PM! The sun was at its peak and it was just starting to get really hot and crowded on the boardwalk. We had spent seven hours in Ocean City that morning and were still able to get home at a reasonable time to take a nap and then enjoy the evening. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend our anniversary! For anyone who loves the boardwalk, but isn’t a fan of the beach and the crowds, I definitely recommend spending a morning in Ocean City, New Jersey.