September 15, 2020
“Wow, what a time to arrive,” chuckled the 7-Eleven shop assistant as he looked out of the store windows to the semi-darkness outside. We smiled ruefully in response. It was 2pm.
I Just Moved To California. It’s Like I’ve Arrived Into The Apocalypse
Moving continents in the midst of a pandemic has not been without its challenges, so when we touched down in San Francisco last Tuesday it already felt like we’d done the hard yards.
That evening we arrived in Palo Alto in preparation for my wife’s new Job at Stanford University. Predictably, I woke prematurely the following morning due to jet lag. Looking through the slats in the blinds of our Airbnb, the sky had an unmistakable orange hue. I assumed it must be sunrise and privately congratulated myself for having the good fortune to witness such a delightful Californian welcome.
But as I lay there over the next 30 minutes, the light didn’t alter. I looked at my phone and was disconcerted to see the weather forecast wasn’t predicting sunshine, but smoke. I didn’t even know that was a setting. During the hours that followed, rather than getting lighter, the sky turned redder and darker. By the afternoon, California’s wildfires had caused the sky to resemble the angry, dying light of a distant sunset.
While we were taken aback by the colour of the sky, we assumed that this had perhaps been a common side effect of the fires that had featured in the news bulletins of recent weeks. We didn’t want to reinforce the British stereotype of always talking about the weather the first day we got there, so instead deployed another and adopted a stiff upper lip.However, as we walked into town it was clear this was unusual by anyone’s standards. The main street has been temporarily pedestrianised to allow restaurants to arrange tables – all two metres apart of course – on the road so businesses can operate outdoors while indoor dining is prohibited. Few people were tempted by the prospect of al fresco dining though. It was hard to blame them; the epicentre of Silicon Valley suddenly looked like it belonged in an episode of Black Mirror.
It’s safe to say this wasn’t how we had pictured our first day. It was both sad and unsettling to see our new hometown, which evidently had so much going for it, almost devoid of life under an ominous, otherworldly sky that was in equal parts compelling and intimidating.
The drama of Wednesday’s radiant sky hasn’t been replicated since, but the air quality has worsened considerably. As the San Francisco Bay Area is surrounded by forest fires, it’s afflicted by the smoke regardless of which way the wind blows and, on Friday, California had the poorest air quality of anywhere in the world.
Health warnings were issued advising residents to “stay inside, keep windows and doors closed, and keep your indoor air purified.” Some office workers received free respirators from their employers while a staff member at Stanford University used the institution’s online forum to enquire about the “best ways to remove hot ash from outside work surfaces”.As new arrivals, we were ill-prepared for the smoke’s detrimental health effects and have neither respirators nor indoor air purifiers. Without them it’s impossible to avoid the harmful particles that irritate your airways.The fires in California are the worst on record. In total six of the largest 20 blazes ever recorded in the state are currently raging and, with several weeks of the wildfire season remaining, three million acres of forestry have already been destroyed.
The previous record was 1.8million acres, which burned during the devastating wildfires of 2018. During those months, many residents bought respirators to cope with the poor air quality and so are better equipped to deal with the pollutants in the air this time around. As new arrivals, we were ill-prepared for the smoke’s detrimental health effects and have neither respirators nor indoor air purifiers. Without them it’s impossible to avoid the harmful particles that irritate your airways. Upon our return from brief trips outside for food, our throats feel sore, so it’s disconcerting to reflect that the air quality is probably not much better in the small converted garage that we now call home.
Putting aside the elephant in the room of the glowing orange sky above, the other observation we made on Tuesday was that everyone in Palo Alto wears masks – even to walk along the street. This is because, back in May, Palo Alto city council issued an emergency order requiring all members of the public to wear face coverings outside their home. This strong stance was in stark contrast to the numerous government U-turns back home.Before we arrived we’d read that California had the highest number of Covid-19 infections of any state in the US. We had also seen coverage of the vehement protests in the country opposing the lockdown restrictions. So we anticipated there would be some fairly liberal interpretations of the rules. Yet it has been quite the opposite.
We’re keen to meet our neighbours properly, but they have a one-month-old baby and are understandably cautious given the maelstrom around us. As a result of the pandemic and the wildfires, we can neither meet our prospective Friends inside nor out, so for now, we merely wave at each other from the window.
Settling in a new country is never easy, and the unique circumstances have added additional challenges. Though it has bought us time to overcome the jet lag, it feels strange to move to a faraway land with so much to offer, and have to sit inside as the Golden State burns around us.
Chris Atkin is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisjat
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal Oregon Wildfires Are Decimating Homes Near Me And I'm Terrified About What's Next I’m A White Teacher. This Is How I’m Bringing Anti-Racism Into My Classroom I Spent Three Years Homeless. In This Pandemic, No One Should Be Sleeping Rough
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Lisa Barlow claims Meredith Marks slept with ‘half of New York’ | Page Six
January 24, 2022
N3iYmGso2uA
Julia Fox takes Kim Kardashian’s silver boots for a spin with Kanye West | Page Six
January 24, 2022
yfT1cIOluVQ
Alex Rodriguez is ‘enjoying life’ amid Kathryne Padgett outings | Page Six Celebrity News
January 24, 2022
e_vD2utAwh0
‘The Bachelor’ Host Jesse Palmer on Why Men Love the Show and if He’ll Return for Another Season
January 24, 2022
zqtWHnfxLlA
'You Won't Be Alone' Director Goran Stolevski on Macedonian Folk Thriller | Variety Sundance Studio
January 24, 2022
kc11dJavWPY
'The Princess' Reexamines Princess Diana's Life Through a Different Lens - Variety Sundance Studio
January 24, 2022
tXedAjEQT3w
"90 Day" Underwear, "Too Hot to Handle" & "Kandi & The Gang"
January 24, 2022
qil1w33lZz8
Adele's Superfan, Ye's Funky Feet & Shawn's Slip-Up
January 24, 2022
-_H5fJpZXM8
Taylor Swift CLAPS BACK at "F--ked Up" Comment
January 24, 2022
UcVj4p4tHlE
Kim Kardashian Spotted Near Black-Owned Coffee Shop, Filming New Show | TMZ
January 24, 2022
kCzotJr2xuo
Adele Cancels Her Las Vegas Residency Due to COVID Setbacks on Crew | TMZ TV
January 24, 2022
JcBHMBnIluA
Arnold Schwarzenegger Involved in Brutal Car Wreck | The TMZ Podcast
January 24, 2022
f0mFMP3Crf8
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
19
Nov
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group H
Sydney FC - Shanghai SIPG
17
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Spain - Germany
14
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Germany - Ukraine
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Liverpool
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Aston Villa
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Valencia - Real Madrid
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Verona
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Bromwich Albion - Tottenham Hotspur
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Napoli
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Roma
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Inter Milan
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - Juventus
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Monchengladbach
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Wolves
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Wolfsburg - Hoffenheim
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Valladolid - Athletic Bilbao
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Alaves
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Sociedad - Granada CF
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Torino - Crotone
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Villarreal
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern Munich
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Manchester United
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Sheffield United
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Cadiz
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Real Betis
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Augsburg - Hertha Berlin
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Stuttgart - Eintracht Frankfurt
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
RB Leipzig - SC Freiburg
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Rotherham - Preston NE
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Fiorentina
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Watford - Coventry
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Norwich City - Swansea City
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Blackburn - QPR
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Derby County - Barnsley
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Huddersfield - Luton
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Nottingham Forest - Wycombe Wanderers
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Fulham
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Sheffield Wednesday - Millwall
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Brentford - Middlesbrough
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Birmingham - Bournemouth
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Sevilla - Osasuna
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Benevento - Spezia
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Leeds
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Ferencvaros - Juventus
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Barcelona - Dynamo K.
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group A
Salzburg - Bayern Munich
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group D
Atalanta - Liverpool
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.