My father is a doctor, so I grew up hearing words like "vaccine," "virus," "bacteria," and "microbes." My father always claims that I could catch a cold or even die if I eat the coldest ice cream or play in the garden without a hat in the winter (we all know how terrible it is to be ill). Even though my friends were frequently playing without anything on their heads and eating a lot of ice cream during the summer, they were not eager to catch a cold. I don't want to talk about the moments in my youth when I wasn't permitted to do anything, but about the time I experienced a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. To be honest, I was terrified for two reasons. The first is that my teacher told me that the human body dies at 42 degrees due to denaturation of specific organs and cells, which cannot function at all at that temperature. The second factor was coronavirus, which was at its peak of "popularity" at the time. After all, everything happened late at night, and we went to the hospital the next morning to have a virus test. Fortunately, they tested it so quickly, but it was positive. The first thing that came to me was death, because there were images on TV of millions of people dying. The most intriguing aspect of everything is that I have not taken any medications, except for Vitamin Z, which was only for enhancing my appetite. Do you know how good it is to be able to stay at home while studying? It is one of the best feelings ever, lying around all day and watching YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Parents can order any food for you, including fast food, which was once considered a bad dinner in our house. My parents were always asking questions like, "Can you taste this?" and "Can you smell this?" back then. Every time I rejected these inquiries by responding, "I'm fine, no problems," but one morning, as I started eating those fries with ketchup, I couldn't taste the spicier ketchup. At the time, I discovered that I had lost my sense of smell and taste. Then my days were really slow, and I didn't want to eat anything because I couldn't experience the exhilaration from food. 10 days passed, which seemed like 1000 days, and one morning, I noticed that I could smell the pleasant aroma of apple juice; it was so pleasant that I drank it all without permission. My siblings were angry with me, even though I told them I smelled it and was feeling fantastic. At the time, I considered retaking the viral test to prove that I was correct. Fortunately, it was negative. A significant element of this experience is that CORONOVIRUS strengthened my immunity, and I can now eat any amount of ice cream without thinking about getting a cold.
Coronavirus. The end of the world as we know it. Thousands of people struggled to adjust to the new way of life. For example, school has been split between virtual and brick-and-mortar, a term we all hate. School, and life in general, doesn't feel real. It's like I'm reliving one day, each day, over and over, in a constant cycle that only ceases when I'm asleep. One aspect of life that helps slow down the endless cycle is the routine of school. The best part of school besides the rare sighting of interesting classes is the searching for a nice group of friends and keeping them. You have to find people you vibe with, or it won't work. Finding the perfect group of high school friends takes work. Like finding the perfect pair of glasses. If the energy is blurry, I can't see myself staying in that situation. With there being so much distance between people playing it safe and people risking their lives, I feel like I know nobody. It's difficult to actually socialize considering I have never seen some of these people in real life. The pull to attend brick-and-mortar school is strong, but my desire to not catch a virus is stronger. Especially with people breathing down my neck constantly, trying to guilt me with “I miss yous.” Texting me “it's so fun here.” Don't forget the fan favorite “they give out free snacks.” They also give out a free virus that I'm not interested in. When the option was proposed for students to return to brick and mortar, I knew from the beginning my answer would be no. Some kids were eager to return, but not me. Sure, it would prove to be a fun social experience, where you could meet lots of new friends. But I didn't want to meet the coronavirus along with them. This decision to stay safe and at home didn't sit right with my friends. To this day, I receive requests to log into the district portal and switch that selection to “brick and mortar.” It's weird to think that I won't truly step foot on my school until sophomore year or later. Even though my friends miss me, I'm not comfortable with returning to normal school. People can pull my leg or try to convince me, but I won't do it. I'm happy standing my ground just as the coronavirus cells will stand infectiously in their noses.
What I Learned From The Pandemic While most of the stories coming out of the pandemic are negative, I have a positive story to share. The pandemic gave me a new perspective on life, and taught me how to live and enjoy life. As a senior citizen, I had been questioning my life, and wondering if I had done anything right, if I had actually accomplished anything, and what would my legacy be. Living through the pandemic helps me put these issues into proper perspective. I was depressed and thinking that my life was a waste, as I was working as a supermarket cashier, was not accomplishing anything, and just going through the motions in life. Then the pandemic hit and everything changed as I was suddenly working in a dangerous job where I could easily get sick and die, and I had to serve my customers so they could eat and survive. . The Department of Homeland Security classified food workers as essential workers, and expected us to continue working, as the nation and its citizens are in serious danger. Suddenly, my life was meaningful as I gained a new mission and purpose in life, and my job is important. I want to work and help my teammates and customers anyway I can. I want to see my teammates survive, stay healthy, and prosper during the pandemic. I want to serve my customers and make sure everyone has enough to eat so that they could remain healthy and strong. I appreciate everyday that I wake up and have another opportunity to work and serve my fellow man. I am a senior citizen, weak, tired and worn out, and I have serious medical problems. I do not know how long I can survive and continue working, but am am very grateful for every day that I wake up and have another chance to live and serve my fellow man. I do not know how everything will work out, but I have won the war. Now I enjoy, value and appreciate my life more than ever!. My teammates and customers were also Blessed with a major victory. God's Grace Leads To A Miracle When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, it was a very dangerous situation as there were no protections, no masks, no plastic dividers, and no social distancing. By the Grace of God I experienced a Miracle from God Himself! During the coronavirus and delta phase of the pandemic I did not get infected, none of my teammates were infected at the store, and I do not know of any customers who got infected at the store! Statistically, we should have had a great outbreak, but we were spared and no one got infected at the store. I believe my teammates and I were spared because we were acting in accordance with God's Will and serving food to people who had to eat to survive. This positive situation lasted until the incredibly contagious omnicort variant came about. Give to Others The pandemic taught me the importance of my job and made me determined to serve my fellow man and make life pleasant for them.. I realize I must serve my customers so they they can survive and I try to be as friendly, kind, and polite as possible so they can enjoy their visit to the supermarket. Opportunities to serve my customers are limited less. The other night I had a customer come in come into the store at about 11:15 PM and the store closes at midnight. He was in sorry shape as he was freezing to death and asked me for help. He only had one glove on and it looked like his other hand was just about frozen, He told me he lost his phone and wanted to use the store's telephone. I called his party and put him on the line, with his friends and they said they would send someone to pick him up and give him a ride home. I thought the problem was solved and went back to my register to wait on my customers. He figured out how to use the store's phone and made another call. This time he got a negative response as they said they were not sending anyone to pick him up and give him a ride home, and he was on his own. He came and told me the depressing situation. Then two of my best customers came in and went shopping. I told them the alarming situation I was in, and asked them if they would give him a ride home. Of course they agreed and the driver gave my friend a ride home and then came back to the store, picked up my customer and gave him a ride home. God is still working miracles in the supermarket after all these years! Mindfulness I learned to be mindful of the situation, to cherish the moment and focus on the present. I focus on the present and forgot about my past mistakes, disappointments, and failures. I am serving my customers in a very dangerous situation, and it is imperative that I succeed, so my customers can survive. My health, happiness, and satisfactions became second to accomplishing the overall mission. Mindfulness has improved my happiness and satisfaction. Here is the URL for a very informative video about the pandemic. Please view it and let us know what you think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhAbjiPZXRA
We've all lived a life that we considered to be normal. Nothing has ever questioned the normality of our everyday routines, at least, nothing until recently. Not many people in this world have truly faced a pandemic, if they have then they might already be aware of the terrors that come with each pandemic that occurs. Many younger generations, including myself as a Gen. Z., have not yet had this previous experience when facing such a drastic and overwhelming change. For me, pandemics are something you only learn in a history class, like the infamous yellow fever. The idea of experiencing an event similar is something I couldn't have imagined especially as a seventh grader. At least, not until the middle of my eighth-grade year. When COVID-19 first created an uprising, it was feared, since it was something, everyone was uncertain about. What made this uncertainty worse, especially for me, was the idea of not having a cure or solution. When the news plastered the overwhelming information and the internet posted daily updates on the growing cases, it was almost terrifying. It was a new society that evolved based around this commotion. I still remember the empty shelves in the stores and my mom getting groceries early in order to stock up on what the news had been saying, "was going to run low for a while" whether it was toilet paper or canned food. The commotion reminded me from a scene in a zombie apocalypse show, like where each character would rummage through abandoned stores looking for medicine or canned food. To me, the terror was each "what if." Not only that, but I wondered, "For how long do I have to live like this?" I remember in the beginning, getting ready for track practice. Everyone on my team was so excited for the first meet of the season after working for about two weeks to get where we were. It wasn't until the highly anticipated meet got canceled, and then canceling practices for the rest of the year. Soon, my school moved completely online. Every student had to move their belonging from their lockers back home. Each day we went in order of getting our books and notes based off our last names. I remember being one of the last and grabbing a box to shove my textbooks and notebooks into while wearing my cloth mask. I remember the following week being the first where I got introduced to online learning and the now infamous platform, "Zoom." Classes ran shorter, and teachers didn't know how to adjust to such changes - I was barely into the second semester when a trivial event, like COVID-19, had to take away that comfort of my routine in my own life. There was no more going to school regularly, there was no more eating in at restaurants, no more seeing friends I used to see almost every day and the hardest was no more seeing my family which just showed this dire feeling of hopelessness in society. I remember looking at social media to everyone's silence and invisible cries on the growing depression and loneliness we all felt from being alone. I think this feeling that was building up was something that everyone could relate to. It was something that the entire globe was experiencing. To me, it didn't matter what the background was since we all had that one common emotion relating to coronavirus. Of course, with this virus being global, it stirred conflicts that were especially apparent in the news like pointing fingers at China or any Asian related country for the faults of COVID-19. These past couple years of being isolated and in this pandemic was time where every group of people, whether it was political or not, pointed fingers or argued on topics that may have not been related with COVID-19. We all were in a period of frustration and anger, and a time of reflection that would soon turn to a period of protests or riots around the country. Now, referring to the isolation it allowed most of society to turn to social media. The new hit being "Tik Tok." This is where being isolated didn't have to mean being bored or depressed, or even stressed of the current political, economic, or other underlying issues around the world. It was a platform that gave us entertainment. It was a way to get our newly developed voices and opinions to be heard, with the more time on our hands of course. For me, I think the pandemic was both a time of reflection and a new start for the country to be able to understand; however, I think that it was also a time of chaos and fear that instilled its way into our world through the overall idea of the pandemic. Though today COVID-19 still exists and constantly mutates into another variant, we can try to live to what can now be a life of normality whether it is living with more vaccines or more masks in the world. This is now what is going to be common and what is going to be "normal." So, for me, I don't want to live again not being able to be thankful for another form of a routine that I had before.
It was a very long groundhog day. It all started in March when schools, courses, play stations, cinemas and all possible places where everyone could get infected began to closing up. The school hadn't worked for a month. These economic crises have been continuing for now. Some branches were opened off the record. Mostly, computer clubs or bars were running themselves unofficially. To be clear, anyone who had offline business couldn't have made a lot of money.Before pandemic our city was quite polluted because of contaminated air.And my friend's friend recommended to buy masks to filter the air.Even though it did not help a lot,I bought 60 masks for 2100 Kyrgyz soms.Half of it was black and the other half was white.Then one mask costed 35 soms.In period of pandemic I sold some of masks for really high price.It was one of the safest masks for breathing.I gave masks to the store which is in our yard.By the way store owners were my neighbors.So,I offered them this idea and we made a deal.One mask costed 500 soms and you could use it for a month.So masks were sold out.It was really good idea and I embodied it.I don't know why I did this because I didn't need money.I didn't even spend this money.I think it was not even to make money,but simply to implement the cool idea.Once we tired to sit at home and went to walk.And we were shocked that there was no one in the street.Fresh air like in mountains,trees were much greener and livelier than before quarantine because no cars were being driven,so no traffic jams and unclean gases which cars produced.After this,you begin to appreciate nature and become more friendly to the environment.Also we had curfew after 8pm.To be out,after curfew without permission was to risk punishment.In the summer 2020,I got sick of Corona virus.I'd been ill for three days.Firstly,you feel weakness but everybody have different types of symptoms.It seems to me that after the Corona virus,everyone became weak and lazy and began to forget all events.Perhaps,these“everyone”were my grandparents.They started getting older.I visited them everyday,so I noticed it then.But in general,in my family no one had been sick with the virus for a long time.Then school started.This was the moment where very groundhog day started.My school was online, and it was quite bad.I studied at usual public school.I was in 8th grade.First of all,I thought that we are going to study on zoom with cameras,but most of lessons were on Whats App.Most of the teachers just sent video tutorials for a topic of lesson and sent exercises.So they didn't teach us.Some teachers didn't even answer to my questions.All we needed to do was register ourselves.So everybody liked doing nothing.That's why I decided to change my school.It was quite easy to study for me so at the end of 8th grade,I finished it with excellent marks.To be honest,I sometimes cheated.So,the first rule is to learn by yourself and not to wait until someone forces you.At winter I bought one game and played it for whole winter and spring.Cinemas and all possible branches began to be open.Of course, they had been closed and opened for many times,but by the summer everything was open.Every week something new came out,I mean movies,games and serials.After sitting at home and not doing absolutely any sports,I got hypodynamia.After taking two-weeks of massage therapy at 8 am on the other side of town,I started to exercise frequently and became healthier.Everyday was alike.A looped day is like in which you wake up and try to do something interesting and looking for something to occupy yourself with.It was very boring at home so I tried to do everything.Everyday I walked and rode a bike.I replayed all my video games,board games,started to learn math,all school objects and read all books.I could do all stuff and hobbies that I couldn't do before quarantine.One year of sitting at home gave me more opportunities and free time to build a plan or think about future but I didn't do anything. I just lied on bed,watched YouTube,played games and did some useless things.It's hard to control your will or future because there is a lot of temptations in life which divert you from your goals and aims.Only strong people can upgrade themselves and fight with laziness.So laziness is killer of your aims.To be honest,I won my laziness at the end of spring 2021.Also my eye vision became very bad to end of the year.To cap it up,results of pandemic had been bad.But there were also many good sides.I think it was a break or pause to think and do what you couldn't do before.It was challenge for people, everyone perceived it differently.Relationships between loved ones got improved.Personally,I began to communicate more with relatives.During this time,some people slowed down and became lazier.Everyone has spent this pandemic in their own way,fun or sad,productive or useless.As if the time had stopped for the humanity,to look back at their mistakes,to slow down and to understand the main value of life.
Do you know why I wanted to write about this topic? There is nothing in the world like the smell of hot bread made from natural wheat flour and baked in a hot “tandir” (Uzbeks bake bread in a special oven made of clay)! Especially if this bread is covered with the loving hands of your loving mother! This process may seem simple to you, but the smell of hot bread has become unforgettable for me due to one incident… Beautiful spring. However, due to the quarantine caused by the spread of the coronavirus, no crows are seen on the streets. My family (me, my husband and my little daughter) and I live in a rented apartment in one of the city's apartment buildings. The reason for the pandemic is that we almost never go out of the house. We only go out when we need to (usually my husband does). In the apartment across from us lived an old Korean woman (she spoke to us in Russian). He took his dog Niki for a walk every morning and evening. My daughter loved playing with Niki. The old woman lived alone. From time to time the old woman would come to see her sister, who was standing a stop away. I used to hang a bowl next door to my neighbor while I was cooking delicious meal. We did not leave the house due to quarantine. Of course, we barely met our neighbor's lonely old woman. One day my daughter Malika and I opened the door to go outside to pick up trash. The door to the apartment across the street (the old woman's house next door) is open. I was surprised. The lonely old woman would never leave the door open. At the sound of our footsteps, Niki looks out the door with sad eyes. When he saw us, he jumped out of the door and started walking around us. I thought Nicki was happy to see Malika. But for some reason Niki began to lead me to the open door, biting my anxious skirt. I was really scared to go into my neighbor's house. At that moment, a thousand thoughts crossed my mind. Then I gathered my thoughts and decided to go home. As far as I can see, the poor old woman is exhausted and helpless. Looks like she haven't tasted meal in a long time. We immediately called the doctors. At first we thought the old woman had a coronavirus. Fortunately, he was not diagnosed with the disease. She had high blood pressure, dizziness, and fatigue. He left the door open so that no one would know when I died. We also admired Niki's intelligence and dedication. Without him, his master would have died. We often took out food for the old woman, and for Nikki as well. Soon the old woman recovered. One day the old woman said to me, "Dilya (that's what she called me), if you go to your village, bring me a loaf of hot bread baked in the tandir, and I want to smell the hot bread". I said with pleasure, "When I go to my village, I will bring you hot bread". Days passed, and the air became hotter and hotter. When you go outside, it burns like a hot oven. It was the arrival of summer. At this point, you want go to cool places and relax around the eastern stream. Fortunately, quarantine restrictions in Uzbekistan have been eased. Now it's time to go to our hometown. We were very happy with that. On my way to the village, I was overjoyed to be able to bring hot bread to my neighbor. We had a pleasant weekend in the village. My husband was called to work because the quarantine restrictions were relaxed. I immediately went down to bake hot bread. I hurried to town, hugging two loaves of hot bread. As I went, I imagined how happy she would be to give the hot bread to the old woman next door. Little did I know that we had come a long way with such thoughts. Here we are at our destination. As soon as I got out of the car, I saw people gathered in front of our house, and something stuck in my throat ... In the morning, the old woman died. Sorry, I didn't make it ... I burned myself, but to no avail ... Since then, when I smell the hot bread that has just come out of the oven, my heart becomes strange ...
I was utterly shocked after reading the report that I had received then, and suddenly fear engulfed me; my hands started shaking, I began to shiver, and the World around me froze.Initially, my mind stopped me from opening it; I waited for my wife to open it for me instead. Yes, I was tested Covid Positive on August 20, 2020. I was not ready for the mental harassment and faced the ugly society. Many thoughts started to enter into my mind, and with little space to think precisely, I have already thought of misery, pain, suffering that was about to come. There were zero cases in our locality, and I was the first person to be reported as Covid positive at my branch as well. I used to work for a reputed bank. I rechecked our financials and discussed the same with my wife if I do not live to see another day. Also, the society we are part of didn't sympathize with a Covid Positive patient. I tried to consult a doctor who was not ready to see me or even talk to me over the phone. I requested him, but he asked me to call Municipal Corporation authorities and no further suggestions. While returning home after the humiliation from the doctor, I received a call from my office to join a con call; they were aware that I was unwell, and as I was on leave from August 17, 2020, they could have skipped my name, but I was asked to be in the call, adding more misery, my head was distressing, and I was feeling breathless. After reaching home, I called up the concerned authorities; they suggested self-quarantine and asked me to continue taking the medicines I was already taking and disconnected the call. I was surprised and shocked by the answer. Also, to our surprise, they showed after 9 days, and a wave of fear spread in the locality. People started to think that it was my 1st day of quarantine; however, it was the 9th day. The moment to remember was my son's monthly birthday that I celebrate every month, so I asked my parents and sister to celebrate this moment with him. Even while in pain, we all made him feel special on the day. He was happy, he asked me why we all were crying, and no one had the answer for his sweet little question. So we did it, and I got little motivation. I am happy to celebrate his 40th month birthday this month. Sometimes, a reason to smile is more significant in Life to live it with happiness. I wanted to live with the moment. I was stepping into the unknown, and it was not easy. Sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already have and trust that it is worth fighting for; I have amazing people around, and that's what is enough to fight to live another day. My wife served me the food, tasted delicious, and enjoyed every bite as if it were my last. The minister of Yama was already on his way to fetch me to the heavens. I said to my wife, "I don't want to die." Hearing this, she hugged me and said, "Don't worry we are in this together, and nothing will happen to you, I will not let anything happen to you, just stay calm." We both were crying and trying to be strong. We had a big reason to worry as there was a substantial single-day spike in the positive cases on that day. That night I couldn't sleep, it was 1.30 am, and I started to suffocate in my own thoughts. I imagined my death, and every time it was different. I started to search out for memories with my parents, siblings, friends, wife, and most of all, my son. I wanted him to hold my hand and take me along somewhere. I was crying for hours, and the ocean of tears in me was not empty. I am weeping now while mentioning it here as I remember every single bit of it. My wife was sleeping in the other room. I wanted to hug her for the last time, but I could not do so and kept staring at her from a distance with the hope that it is not the last time. I wanted to tell her that I loved her a lot, kiss her feel the warmth for the last time. She was looking breathtakingly startling while in sleep—the hair strands on her luminous face were something. I wished that if ever I had a time machine to go back one day—so many wishes to fulfill, so many people to meet up and celebrate life with. I lingered in the small World of four walls that were created by my mind and heart. I tried to write a simple letter on the roof to the mind, "Dear Mind, Please Stop Thinking, Stop Thinking of Death." I realized that day, "Life has its ways of turning things upside down, hit you hard when you least expect it. It will test your resolve to the last bit of spirit in you. It makes you question everything around you and take you for granted. But sometimes it's a good thing, it's the best way to move onwards and upwards." Today we live in a society that is always ready to play the blame game. Pandemic adds more spice to it, and people neglect the facts and accept the myths. Life is pleasant, and we should live it with the correct mindset. We all need to embrace Life's primary purpose: living, as Life is full of surprises and unpredictability.
Nisrine is confined to the balcony — not because of a pandemic. Madame has simply ordered her to not leave the house. Though Balcony Nisrine (the nickname I've given her) is a character in a book and this lockdown is my reality, I struggle to decide which scenario is worse. I always judge a book by two things: the cover and the first line. I subconsciously chose the book while skimming aisles of a Dollar Tree over a year ago. It reminds me of me: a hardcopy with an unfussy cover. A simple appearance to contrast complex inner contents. (It being a one dollar is a plus.) To my expectation, the first line of the story piques my interest. But the book doesn't get opened until my brain is cornered, two weeks into the lockdown when I finally decide to do something more productive than: Watering my succulents (all nine of them died a month into the lockdown from overwatering); color-coding my already–color-coordinated closet; video calling people who I never had a substantial relationship with prior to 2020; and watching DIY videos on YouTube. (I've learned how to give a mediocre self-pedicure, make banana-oatmeal cookies, and use toilet paper to remove stains from white sneakers.) I read the first page of the book in full. Then the second section. I read the opening line of that second section again. The rains came to the foreign city with red skies. I like that the sentences are short, gentle, and poetic. I continue reading and make substantial progress the first two months during lockdown. But I abandon the book because I begin an unexpected romantic relationship with a friend. Developing a romantic relationship during a pandemic is trending. Everyone I know is suddenly in a relationship. But I believe this is mainly because solitude inclines hearts to grope for love, or anything related to it, even if only on the surface and from a distance. I am not the exception. But the policeman in the book is. He has access to family and colleagues. He has the entire city in the palms of his hands. Yet his heart gropes for unreachable Nisrine — her balcony existence. Much like the pandemic, my relationship is precarious and transient. I fall in love with someone who will eventually be a fiancé until he decides that he isn't ready to be with me; the pandemic made him do it. And, just like that, the number is deleted; the ring is gone; the pandemic is dwindling; I return to the office and remove the “Congratulations” balloons, toss the engagement ring streamers, insistently thank my boss for the expensive gift he bought us when “us” was a thing — but I keep the “Newlyweds Forever” mug for heating up ramen. But I digress. Reading about someone falling in love who is confined to a balcony is hopeful during a pandemic. I stop reading the book right after the policeman risks his life to show love to Balcony Nisrine. Before the vaccination and the proposal. Before the in-laws meet. After we share a non-Facetime first kiss. (The phone is inert; his lips, dynamic.) Why that relationship at that time? Because Balcony Nisrine motivates me. Because the lockdown circumstances have ironically become the ideal ( — remote love is better than no love, right?). Because I haven't gotten to the part where war breaks out and Balcony Nisrine returns to her home country and takes her heart with her. The part where virtual conversations triumph in-person dialogue because we've forgotten how to socialize independent of technology. The part where the policeman cries himself to sleep at night. The part where proposals become entertainment and relationships are a result of loneliness, not love. The part where you only remember how to love from afar. Actually, I don't know what happens after the policeman risks his life to visit Nisrine on the balcony because I haven't finished the book. Does Nisrine return home? Does the policeman cry himself to sleep? Who knows, but I do know that the lockdown made people hopeful. And that hope could either create or break a person's heart. And that I was part of the group who experienced the latter. The policeman has a heart that has ached for a woman he could only love from a distant. So, his solution is to risk. Go to her, even if prohibited. Even if loving her puts him at a disadvantage. Even if they both understand that the “right” time will never exist between them. He lets his heart grope for her though he knows the furthest she will go is the balcony. I used to pity Nisrine — stuck in the center of the city with nowhere to go but within. Now I envy her. Favor her fictional scenario over my reality. To have a slow, unexpected love that surpasses distance — deep and risky and unambiguous. Well, it could've been a result of loneliness, not love. But since I don't plan to finish the book, I technically don't know if Nisrine and Policeman's love ever ends. And that is reason enough to envy Nisrine.
By the age of 5, I already attended a fair share of quincenearas and knew by then that I did not want to have a traditional 15th birthday celebrated by my Mexican culture. Wearing extravagant gowns with lace trims wasn't my style. I'd rather don a Jedi robe and in lieu of a flower bouquet, I'd carry a lightsaber. My parents, partially to blame for my love of all things Star Wars, gave me the middle name Leia, after Princess Leia. I was a freshman in high school and college and was turning 15 in 2020. My family kept trying to persuade me to have a quinceanera, even trying to coax me into having an 18th Birthday celebration, customary in my Filipino culture. Despite their persistence, they caved in and built the Star Wars themed party I dreamt of, including personalized lightsabers down to handcrafted Baby Yoda ears to wear, to be followed by a Disneyland trip. March, Friday the 13th, a day before my party, there was news about quarantine for this thing they referred to as Covid-19. All that meant to me was my party and trip were canceled. It was spent binging Star Wars to peel our eyes off of the coverage of COVID. We soon realized much was unknown, except for the numbers–numbers of infected, number of countries with outbreaks, number of dead. Numbers were something I loved, math was my favorite subject; solving equations or analyzing statistics. I've never been more scared of numbers. School announced we were doing distance learning and it became a reality, it wasn't just my birthday that came to a halt, everything I normally loved doing was put on pause. Everyone thought it would be 2 weeks, an early spring break. Two weeks became a month, a month became two. and then the rest of the year. It was when our school issued Chromebooks to learn from the safety of our homes that it cemented—2020 history included life in a pandemic. Online school brought challenges: I dreaded someone noticing I was still in my PJs, secretly trying to scarf down breakfast while in class, or dozing off because of the comfort of doing school at home. Uncomfortable desks and creaking chairs were something I thought I would never miss. I longed to hear the chitter-chatter of my classmates, instead of the silence of muted mics. There's a pang of guilt for feeling my world has turned upside down; it's not even remotely comparable to what others go through. Before the pandemic, my only worries were maintaining a 4.0GPA, working towards my AA degree, and meticulously planning that perfect 15th birthday. Instead, I was consumed with worry over things I never thought I'd agonize over. Extreme germaphobe tendencies of my mom plastered on sticky notes were instilled in me, I worried about what germs were harbored on each inanimate object I touched (or even just barely grazed). I felt like I was constantly washing my hands to the tune of Happy Birthday, a reminder that my celebrations were called off, not to mention the constant washing made my eczema flare-up. My hands were dry and itchy, burning when I would apply hand sanitizer for what felt like the 100th time that day. Breathing in another person's air became my worst fear as the CDC reported how the coronavirus spread. It shouldn't be an issue because I wasn't going anywhere, but my father's a correctional officer-a frontline worker. Every night we had a longstanding tradition; I would sneak to the room right before he fell asleep, and put one of my stuffed animals next to my dad as I kissed him goodnight. However, that petrifying word, numbers, haunted me at home. A great number of staff and inmates were infected. Anxiously, I would refresh the website that tracked cases at his work, praying we wouldn't see an increase. The news reported many frontline workers were making makeshift homes away from homes to protect loved ones. Our family just couldn't fathom the idea of dad living away from home. Hugs became air hugs. No cuddling together on the couch. Goodnight kisses turned into video calls as we made that heartbreaking decision because my mom and I both had underlying health conditions. My world became all about screen time. School had turned into Zoom meetings, visits with my sister and nieces who lived just a walk away were now on FaceTime, hanging out with friends in person became video gaming together online, and to be informed with the outside world, I was now consuming more television and social media than ever. My Sweet 16th was another quarantined birthday, which also meant the pandemic reached over a year! However, there's that glimmer of hope as I received my COVID vaccine. For a sense of normalcy, I get dressed up as if I'm going physically somewhere to meet online. I believe in science and chose to make the best of what I can do from the safety of my home and my newly transformed room my parents did for me to make things just a little bit easier. After all, I'm now spending so much time there, we might as well make the most ideal space for me to be in!
Corona was said to be approaching, spreading across the borders, officially reported in Italy and Algeria. The weather this winter has been all but wintery. It was said that the virus doesn't survive in the heat, that's why spring rushed in and February has been warm enough for the bees to hatch. I found it uplifting to see a premature hatching of the bees! It was said that the virus's fatality was overrated. They reported statistics in the radio this morning about it and the Taxi driver said it was America. Why wasn't it spread in Denmark, why wasn't it in I don't know where in Europe? How come China's economy was getting too strong? he said; they built a frigging hospital in 10 days! One expects anything in politics, indeed; not everyone, however is endowed with such level of political analysis. My friend Sarah, fond of documentaries, said that the Chinese ate everything that moved: bugs, bats, turtles, maggots… you name it! From another perspective, the virus was associated with God's revenge, which accounted for divine justice. But I doubt this theory is still valid now that precautions are recommended from our own ministry of health. A doctor in the radio said that they had almost found a medicine, one that was, not newly created, but an old one that when tried out on patients, they sort of breathed better… On the other hand, it was a virus, my father said, and viruses don't have a treatment. It was exactly like a flu only a bit stronger (he knows about the stats) and it was common for the flu to kill tons of people every year. It was just that the Chinese are too many. That's why it appeared like an epidemy. Temperature has started to drop down. Well, gladly! It hasn't rained for too long and it was said that we might instead die of hunger if the rainless heat persisted. Even after the official declaration of the first Tunisian case (Taxi man said it was probably a hundred cases already but they wouldn't say), one would still scroll among all kinds of jokes in the social media. I even saw the virus itself having a fb account and commenting that it had never been so humiliated, so disgracefully slandered! Mom hears the radio, and all they talk about is prevention methods. She said it was a ball of crap. The garlic price went from 8 to 30 dinars! A mere exploitation. People have no mercy toward each other and expect God to have mercy! She told my brother to wash his hands frequently, but he didn't really believe in soap. “They found no medicine that would kill it, and you think soap will?” I'm actually seeing a professionally illustrated poster by Tunisian Red Crescent saying literally “Don't kiss me, don't hug me. A smile to my face makes me happy!” Dad, with an almost gay detachment insisted it might only be serious to people who were vulnerable: The old, the sick, the frail… otherwise it's just a flu. The mail man at work whose heart's been operated more than once said “So what? Let it drop down a little” (referring to the population), “some filtering would be good”. I think he's the only one who heartily acknowledges the virus's right as a lifeless organism to coexist. Does this thing only affect humans? I wonder, because I care to see more bee swarms coming along in the spring; I might even catch some and populate a hive or two.
I opened my eyes at the insistent sound of my alarm. It was such an annoying sound, I hated waking up like that, but I had to, I needed to revise something for school and I couldn't ask my parents to wake up at 5.30am so that they could wake me up, right? It would be extremely selfish. Especially because the reason was not a real reason. I opened the window and the sun rays entered my room. I didn't even bother putting some clothes on, nobody would notice anyway. I know I'm lazy, but online school really brings out the worst part of you. I experienced it in my own skin. As usual from a month or two - I lost track of time, every day is just exactly like the one before - I sent a text to my best friend, Anna, asking her how she was. She had Covid-19 and she was at the hospital. I couldn't go visit her, but that was fine, we always FaceTimed each other, at least once a day. I revised history and at 7.30am I checked my phone: no answer. Maybe she was still sleeping. I turned on my computer and clicked on the link our Italian teacher sent us. Great, another Italian lesson where she won't stop talking. She's a good teacher but since we're in lockdown, she just goes on and on and on with our school program without ever stopping. It's April and she's already doing something we should do at the end of May. At 10am I check my phone again: still no answers. But I mean, wouldn't I sleep until 11am if I could? Most definitely yes. I had a 20 minutes break, so I decided to have breakfast. I can eat at any time and sometimes I just forget to do it in the morning: it's not healthy, but I still do it most of the days. I returned to my online lessons: I had history, the teacher was going to test some people. I wasn't even that anxious, I had my book just next to me, if I didn't remember anything, I could just look at it. But then, then something happened, something I could never even imagine that would happen. I received a call. Obviously, I did not answer for two reasons: I was at school and it was an unknown number. They called again 5 minutes later. And again 10 minutes later. The fourth time I left the zoom call, the history lesson, and answered. I would just say I had “internet issues”, it's not like they can know in any possible way. I heard a voice I did not recognize. Maybe a male? I wasn't sure. They said “Hi, is this Valentina?”. I answered affirmatively. It was probably just a call center, always calling at the right times of the day. “I need to give you bad news.” They said. Oh no, I didn't like how that was going. They hesitated. “Come on, just say it, this way you're making it worse.” I said. “Anna has passed away this morning. You were in her “favorite contacts” list, therefore I thought I should call you.” I froze. “Yes, great nightmare, now can I wake up?” I whispered to myself. “I'm really sorry.” They said. Wait, was that really happening? It couldn't be possible, Anna was 18, she was in good health. It must have been a nightmare, right? “What is happening?” I asked. “I'm sorry.” They said, and then they hung up. I looked around me: everything was in the right place with the right colors: it couldn't be a dream, it was too vivid. I fell on my knees, finally realizing it: Anna was dead because of a stupid virus. I was sure she was going to get better soon enough, I was so sure. How did that happen? I felt a tear rolling down my cheek. I couldn't move. I don't know how long I stayed in that position, I just know that my memories after that moment are very blurry. I remember my mother hugging me, I remember walking upstairs and laying on the bed. I remember crying until I passed out. The next thing I remember is going to her funeral. No, it had to be a nightmare. Just let me wake up.
The moment my brother came tumbling into the house with a sprained limb and a bruised arm at 7:20 pm is the day I realized how serious the government was with the recently enacted Covid-19 movement restrictions. Anne, my twelve year old sister was reading a book in the living room. I was sprawled on the sofa, the only comfortable seat we had in the house, having a little chat over the phone with Christine, my High School sweetheart who had apparently decided that she no longer wanted to be my girlfriend. I could tell from the tone of our conversation that a thick shadow of doom was already looming over our relationship. I was having a hard time trying to convince her that I was still the best guy suited for her in the whole world. She was obviously not getting the concept straight into her head because her replies were already causing some little balls of sweat to form around my nose. It would soon be a heavy perspiration and I knew it. My brother stormed into the house startling everyone. A swirl of cold air followed him as he banged the door behind him. He was from one of his little errands mother had always warned him against. Not that she was against his going out. Anthony is twenty three, freshly graduated from Moi University with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, still hunting for a job which obviously wasn't coming by any time soon. Mother did not just want him to come into conflict with the law enforcing officers, especially past the 7 pm curfew time. Today, he was meeting a friend whose name he had refused to disclose. It was his business. He limped to the store- room, panic- stricken and in pain. His left arm was bruised and he had a slight bleeding on his forehead. A minute later, we heard the distant wail of the police siren. Anne lifted her eyes from her book and smiled. "I had warned the ever righteous Anthony that he would soon be broken if he kept listening to the theories of that crazy brat he keeps for a friend," she whispered. "At this rate, we may some day pick him from the streets on a stretcher." I didn't say anything because somehow, she was right. Jusper's reasoning was quite absurd. He was our conspiracy theorist. Each time he came around with Anthony, he would keep ranting about how the whole thing about the virus was a hoax. My brother somehow believed him. But two days later, they came for Bobby's father; Big Ted. He was my neighbour, a very fat man who owned the only private school in the region. He was rich, at least according to the standards of the neighbourhood but he was also nice and kind. He had sponsored some few orphans through high school and I had been one of his beneficiaries during my high school days. Three days ago, he had travelled to Migori County, one of the areas which had registered a considerable number of cases in the entire region around Lake Victoria. He came back with a mild flu, but his temperature started soaring. He called the hotline and they came for him. Anne saw them. I saw Bobby in their compound two days later. He was distraught. The entire home was out of bounds. They had been isolated. He needed someone to talk to. Word had spread as it usually does in our village but this one spread faster. Big Ted had tested positive for the virus. The entire village went wild. Through the window, I saw Bobby waving at a few people who happened to pass by on the road. They huffed. Didn't wave back. I saw him return his hand, disappointed. This was Bobby, whose father had been of great help to the people. Who had stood with the people in their greatest hour of need. Selfless and honourable. But this was no regular time. People were afraid. Jusper went quiet. The virus had come and people knew it was death. But Bobby was my friend and I knew there and then that this was the time to stand with him. I called him. I saw him lifting his head with hope, looking at my direction. I waved at him and he waved back, cheerful this time. We just stood there, everyone in his compound, staring at each other, waving. He was crying. He was afraid. "You'll be fine, Bobby," I shouted. I saw a smile between the tears. A glimmer of hope. "Yeah," he said and went back into the house. Five days later, word came as a rumour, then a whisper through everyone's ears, then we heard the wails. Big Ted was no more. Things had changed for everyone. We formed a zoom meeting for the sake of Bobby. All his friends were there in solidarity. We talked to him. Encouraged him. During one of the zoom sessions, I went to the window and saw him looking at the direction of our house. I waved at him again and nodded. He knew we were together and he was happy. After the burial, we never heard the police siren again. They probably realized that they no longer had any job to do in our village. At 6:30 pm, everyone was in their house, including Anthony. Interestingly, Jusper went quiet and started putting on his face mask. He had seen the face of the virus.
I am a Nigerian, living in one of the county's busiest cities ever, Lagos. You see, when we first read news about how Corona Virus was affecting the west, we came up with far too many theories, anything to convince ourselves that such an evil virus could not possibly touch God's own beloved continent. It was at this point that most people resolved that being in a country as Nigeria and a continent as hot as Africa was a bliss. You see, we only had access to a fair amount of truth concerning the virus and thus, we went on living our lives as though everything was normal. Unfortunately, we had no idea of how the whole of 2020 was about to change our definitions of normalcy. It was at the time that the first case of the virus was reported, that we understood how foolish we had been in ignoring the warnings and safety measures as seen in other countries and faintly broadcast by our media. It started with one case, and right under our noses, we had a total of 1000 infected people across the country and counting by the minute. A few months passed, and we went into a lock-down such like we had never had. Of course it started with curfews, which frankly, wasn't too strange for us, due to our military background. But to have the whole country shut down, from airports to borders, markets and churches, schools and offices was an event we were not prepared for. As the event unfolded, many began to lose their jobs and businesses. Offices which managed to retain their staff, could not pay salaries as usual, hereby creating a grave financial and social anxiety, thus plunging the nation into a state of panic and uncertainty. To make matters worse, surviving a pandemic became a battle; A battle that we for long fought, a battle that knows it's victor even before it begins. It is the battle of greed over compassion, intoxication of power, the wealthy versus the wretched. Across supermarkets and pharmacies, panic buying was the order of the day. Medical supplies such as nose mask, gloves, toilet papers, hand sanitizers and even Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which are only needed around here by medical staff when dealing with the infected were scarce to get a hold of. You would think that in such a time where it seemed as though the world would come to end, people would care little for money and show more compassion to one another, but sadly, that was not the case as the prices of these medical supplies which were paramount to the fight against the virus were hijacked by the wealthy, greedy and powerful in the society. The price to pay to acquire just one pack of nose mask was equivalent to a days meal for an average family of three. During the lock-down, I worked from home. This new development did not start immediately, and surely took some time getting used to. However, I thought I had it all figured out - Wake up in the morning, have breakfast, turn my computer on and work sitting in one position, till nightfall; This new normal was fast becoming! As the weeks went by, I grew tired of my new routine. With more restrictions from the government than ever, and little money to last the months to come, the hope and longing for my old life and routine were slowly turning into a far fetched fantasy. It was at this point that depression set in. As the legendary Greek philosopher, Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal"; thus, being locked indoors with no form of social activity whatsoever was beginning to affect the state of my mental health. The social media tended to be the only peep hole into the outside world, hence, several hours spent. Unfortunately, social media could not replace my normal physical social life. I remember days where I sat by the window, starring at nothing, trying hard to occupy my mind with positive thoughts, only that these thoughts were being blocked by tall fences and the sound of emptiness. I was drowning, and fast too. I cried more times than I can remember, I thought of my dreams and goals that I had set for the year and feared that they would never be made manifest. Then somehow, in the very midst of my scattered thoughts and fears, it hit me. I am not alone in this crisis, I realized that there must be someone out there going through the same manner of confusion, fear and uncertainty as myself or even worse. Suddenly my thought pattern shifted. I went from being afraid of not knowing how I would survive the next day to thinking about how to help someone survive the present day. I wanted to bring some calm to anyone who was just like me. I wanted to give people hope, hope for today and the future. I wanted to assure people that everything would be alright, one way or another. I began what I called 'The Lock-down Series'. A platform where I shared motivational videos on social media, that would inspire those dealing with depression and other forms of anxiety due to the pandemic. In doing this, I found purpose. I found me.
“Put yourself first.” It's a mantra that most of us live by and practice daily, and in the midst of a crisis, our own survival and wellbeing become especially imperative. But just because we put ourselves first doesn't mean that we should forget about others. The world functions the best when people help out one another and make an effort to show that they care. This seemingly simple concept is challenging for many, myself included. In the early days of the pandemic, the only thought on my mind was how much of an inconvenience it was on my life. I didn't realize then how fortunate I was because I was too focused on myself to stop and wonder for a single second how others were managing. This wallowing in self-pity lasted for a couple of weeks until my stay-at-home mom suggested that I help her deliver food. My mom has been an active participant in the food assistance programs at our church over the past few years. She'd gotten especially involved in the Fern Street Backpack Program, which delivers backpacks full of food to food-insecure families with children enrolled in the school district. When remote learning went into effect, my mom switched to home deliveries. But delivering forty-plus bags of food all over our town was no easy feat, and my mom needed help. Seeing as I'd been laid off from my three part-time jobs and was holed-up at home, I was the perfect assistant. Prior to this, I had little involvement with food assistance. Sure, I knew what it was, but I'd never experienced it myself or been close to anyone who had. The neighborhood where I live is upper-middle-class, predominately white, educated, and privileged. This was the environment I'd grown up in. It was all I really knew. I'll always remember the first few days of our deliveries and how shocked I was at how drastically different living conditions were just on the other side of my town. Every Wednesday and Friday, my mom and I would drive to each location, lug heavy paper bags—two per family—overflowing with food out of our car, and leave them on doorsteps or outside of housing complexes. We'd wait for someone—usually a mother, some of whom weren't much older than me— to collect the bags, then drive off to our next destination. On one day in particular, it was incredibly hot—blistering, even. My latex gloves were damp with sweat and my bare legs stuck to my car seat as my mom pulled into an apartment complex where four families resided. She eased over a speedbump, being extra cautious since we had eggs in the back, and parked under the shade of a tree. The mother of the first family, who I'll call Nadine, lived in the basement of one of the apartments. She was disabled and had a hard time walking, so we routinely delivered her food through her window. As my mom unloaded two bags from the car, I called Nadine on her phone to let her know that we'd arrived. “Wonderful!” she exclaimed enthusiastically! “I'll be right there.” A few moments later, she opened the window with a broad smile on her face. I could tell that she was warm by the sweat that had formed on her hairline. While most of the families kept to themselves, Nadine loved sharing the details of her personal life with us. She had cancer and underwent chemo semi-regularly. She was a recovering alcoholic and a devout Christian, always ending her conversations with us with a “God bless you.” She had a daughter not that much younger than me. She had a tough life, and yet, she was one of the most positive people I've ever met. On that particular blisteringly-hot day, we had a couple of cartons of ice cream from a Trader Joe's pickup we'd made earlier in the week. We gave Nadine one—butter pecan, I believe it was—and her eyes lit up with excitement. We received two “God bless yous” that day—one for the ice cream; the second as we were heading back to the car to finish our deliveries. When we drove past her window, which was still ajar, Nadine's smile was unwavering. I couldn't remember the last time something I'd done had had that effect on someone, but it was an amazing feeling knowing that I'd made a difference. It's been over a month since we made our final delivery. My mom plans to start back up in the fall, and I'll probably join her. Assisting these families has done more than just connect me with my community; it's humbled me and reminded me of my privileges. No one is enjoying this situation. That said, I'm lucky to have employed parents, access to basic resources like food, and be in decent physical health. It seems only right that someone like me should make an extra effort to support those who aren't so well-off. After all, just because we can't be near each other doesn't mean we can't still look out for each other.
“I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6: 8. As the world was rippled by an unprecedented crisis, in terms of government responses and civilian confinement, my thriller-hazed and overstretched mind repeated this verse as the soundtrack for this out-of-body pandemic (coupled with Lux Aeterna and World War Z reassuring melodies). However, thanks to a mental slap by my remaining brain cells of logic, I came to my senses and buried the verse deep down in the coffer of my existential worries. Officially 649,662 people have hitherto perished from the novel coronavirus, a mind-boggling number and heart-wrenching reality which has exposed our health care deficiencies and, specifically, the dilapidation of our nursing facilities for the elderly and the vulnerable. Low and behold, despite school physically closing its doors, my life did not take a drastic turn for the psychologically worse. Due to school work, my general preference for snuggling in my bed watching movies or reading books instead of going out to rejuvenate my body with fresh air, my micro-phobias, and my tendency to over-analyze human interactions, I was never really an extrovert nor did I enjoy the outdoors. With the lockdown, suddenly my lifestyle became the norm. While I was pinched sometimes by bitter-sweet school nostalgia, I communicated with my friends every day, even though video-calls. This is a little embarrassing, but skipping the harrowing process of dusting my skin flaws with makeup every day was a liberating experience. The stress of catching the metro every morning and sharing my personal space with people from all different backgrounds of breath aromas, body odors, and perceptions of personal hygiene, the adrenaline of running like a headless chicken from one class to the next and having to socialize during the breaks, was gone. The extra time I gained was channeled towards creative activities, projects that I actually enjoyed. I worked more on my assignments, wrote more, read the books that had asphyxiated on my dusty bookshelves and learned more on global events, like the Hong-Kong protests, the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, climate change, how China is exactly governed and why the coronavirus happened there, problems whose gravity eradicated my amoeba-sized complaints and caprices. I reconnected with old friends, tried some online art courses, participated in online MUNs, studied more music, and experimented with the baking recipes, rampant on the Internet for intrepid lockdowners (yes I almost destroyed our oven). Regarding school, our final exams were canceled, a fact that my 5-year-in-exam-preparation psyche has not digested. I feel greater anguish for the canceled trips of the youngsters, which in my time created the most profound, inspiring, and memorable experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic brought an undecipherable hiatus to my 6-year old secondary-school marathon, by deconstructing, on the one hand, my deterministic worldview, but also by re-affirming my pesky peradventures on human relationships; laconism in the number of friends and mental solitude have become an oasis while meandering the wasteland of social anxiety, complicated friends and companions. This bunch of friends, however, becomes often invaluable. My best friend fell gravely ill, the grandfather of one of my most beloved classmates passed away. On my way towards home, one lady slapped the hand of her child when he touched the handle of a door at the bus stop. “Do you want to never see your parents? To stay alone in a hospital room without your friends?”, she screamed not to her child but towards the sky. I felt helpless, visualizing endlessly the grandfather of my friend trying to survive the abyss while being agonizingly alone. While many people reveled in the serenity of loneliness, million others were slowly scorched by its flames until they perished. In Greece we say “ουδέν κακόν αμιγές καλού”, meaning “every cloud has a silver lining”. Millions of other people are faced with the emotional paralysis of death, the uncertainty of unemployment, the phantom of depression, the anxiety of overwhelming bills and obligations. I hope that we will be able to recover stronger, united, and willing to start fixing the fissures that render the foundations of human happiness and well-being teetering and shaky. (the picture features the Grand-Place, the most famous landmark in Brussels, deserted during the peak of the pandemic in Belgium)
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