Aug 14, 2020
Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres
Since I’m your resident travel writer, it was obvious that when it came to more Covid-19 info, I was going to bring you a story with international flair. As the world slowly emerges from lockdown (and parts go back in, as cases surge again in certain places), we take a look at how measures have varied immensely from one country to the other, and even regionally. Here are a few (well, more than a few) people from various countries, telling you about their experiences during these testing times. A big thanks to my Mum for helping me get people!
Please note some of these collections are at least one/two months old, so things might already have changed for them.
Steven, 52, is from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
He lives with his partner in an apartment of 102m2 with a balcony. He’s a translator and has already worked from home for many years, so apart from a brief slowdown, his work has continued undisturbed. The original lockdown rules were to maintain social distance, all businesses closed except essential ones; they requested not to use vehicles except to go to work, requested to leave house only for exercise. Recently the parks were reopened, and then each household was allowed to choose one other household to visit each other without social distancing. “As I work from home I’m used to not going out so much, however, I am a busy choral and solo singer, and beginning on March 13th all concerts, practices, one-on-one lessons, etc. were cancelled until the end of 2020, which has been upsetting.” His remaining family lives in another province so it is normal for him not to see them during this time. He has only seen one friend since March, whom he helped move to Halifax during the shutdown, and now he is the “other household” they are allowed to visit. “I feel the government has handled it very well. However, I wish that the Nova Scotia government would allow restaurants to open again immediately with appropriate rules in place, but they say it is going to be several weeks. Some restaurants have already announced they have to close permanently. I have kept myself very busy, doing certain activities at home that I normally never have time for, which I have appreciated. But I worry about the economy, and I want cultural activities to start again, and I miss singing in the same room with other people!”
Anissa, 30, lives in a flat share in Montréal, Québec.
They’re in a 5-bed condo with garden access and Anissa has 2 bedrooms. She only recently moved to Canada after a lengthy visa process and is a bit frustrated to be stuck indoors most of the time rather than off exploring the country like she hoped to do. “I work in administration, but at the moment all I’m getting is short-term gigs as most companies are on a hiring freeze. If I don’t find a steady job then I won’t have a chance to ask for a more permanent Visa which is what I want in the long term.” Lockdown rules vary between provinces, but social distancing is widely applied, as are closures of non-essential stores. Travel between provinces has been forbidden, and the borders were closed fairly early. “Lockdown isn’t really hard for me, but I’m just frustrated that it happened just as I finally got to live my dream. I thought the rules were a bit confusing sometimes, and clearly people too often mistake end of lockdown with end of pandemic, which leaves me worried. I hope we will go back to “normal” soon so that I can enjoy my time here.”
Kim, 26, lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.
She’s in a 3-bedroom split-level house with her partner. “We have a lot of public parks within the city, and we have a huge outdoor recreation park called the 'urban wilderness' with hiking and bike trails. I personally have a backyard, so I am able to let my dog Zelda out and be outside without having to leave my home.” Before the outbreak she was a Paid Media Buyer for an advertising agency in town. She’s been furloughed due to the decreased demand for advertising in the sector she works with, but had she continued to work in quarantine, she would have been working from home without issue. In the USA, most of the rules and regulations are more hyper local than people are aware of. While the federal government has released guidelines, it is up to each individual state how strict they want to handle it, and individual cities can make regulations as well. California and New York for example have been strict with stay at home orders, but where she lives in Tennessee, the Governor had a 'Safer at Home Order' which is less strict. “Luckily, our city mayor made it a bit more restrictive to try and protect our community, but it still hasn't been insanely restrictive. I can still go to the grocery store (I personally wear a mask, but it isn't required). I can still walk my dog at the park, where it is quite easy to social distance. Most restaurants are still open and just doing pick-up orders. I can call my local bookstore and do curb side pick-up.” Every office that can work from home has their employees working from home, and places like Walmart are counting the number of people allowed in the store at a time to help people stay distanced.
While there are some places that were ordered to shut down, like gyms and hair salons, it hasn't been unbearable. “I think most people in big cities control a lot of the narrative surrounding the need to stay at home and shut everything down, but I think the medium place we've landed has worked for us. We haven't seen a spike in cases, and we've still been able to go about with our routines for the most part. Many states, my own included, have ended the stay at home orders and are phasing into reopening strategies. While I don't personally agree with it, especially since the strategy we are using is working, I'll be interested to see if there is a spike in cases here and if a new, more restrictive order, is put into place.” Kim considers herself a very extroverted person and before the lockdown, she was a bit of a social butterfly. “I don't think it would be so bad if I was working but being furloughed has had me wanting to stay active. I've found that if I focus on doing home projects, it is much easier to avoid the temptation of going out. Since our lockdown hasn't been insanely restrictive, I've found that I'm able to do the things I want to do in a safe way. For example, one of my goals was to get my backyard cleaned up, so being able to safely get yard supplies from my local hardware store is great. I respect that the people considered essential going to work every day have it way worse than me, and I believe they should be getting paid more and have better access to PPE, but overall my community seems to be handling the situation better than other communities here in America, and I am thankful for my ability to safely stay at home and go out rarely.” She’s been able to see her siblings about once a week, and her mother usually once every 2 weeks or so. They're following the same precautions by only going to the grocery store once every two weeks, not inviting people over, and generally staying at home. She’s been able to see friends twice in person since the lockdown started, once we went to the park and laid on blankets far apart from each other; the second time was to take a walk around the park with our dogs. “I think the overall response to the pandemic has not been handled well.
The lack of coordinated response, lack of adequate testing, and lack of PPE in our communities has been a constant source of stress. Also, with so many people in our community unemployed or without work, the response from the government on providing aid has been atrocious. The prioritisation of large businesses instead of small local business without the means to support themselves has been disappointing. I believe the lack of leadership, reliable information, and clear communication has led to social unrest and rampant conspiracy theories.” She’s thankful for the end of lockdown, but not confident that we will truly see the end of this for a while yet. “I keep hearing people say “when things get back to normal” but I genuinely don't believe our society will ever truly return to what it was before the lockdown. I'd be interested to see what long term effects this has on our society. I wouldn't be surprised to see a more mainstream adoption of masks, more businesses foregoing expensive real estate in favour of work from home models, and a spike in the need for mental health interventions in the aftermath of the lockdown.” Kim and her partner were huge into live events. It wasn't uncommon for them to travel almost every weekend for a concert or a live theatre show. “I miss being able to go to events in person and enjoy living in the moment. I'm also personally a huge film nerd, and while I can watch movies at home, there is something special about going to cinema for a movie you're excited to see. Being an extroverted person, I've been thankful for being forced to slow down and rest, but it has been an adjustment to go from being busy almost every night of the week to being stuck at home most of the time. I'll be excited to get back into the world, but I definitely want to make sure it is safe for our community first.”
Divesh, 30, lives in San Francisco, California.
He lives in a medium sized 2-bedroom apartment, which includes a small room for storage/small office, a small covered patio, and backyard. He shares the apartment with his partner and another couple. “I am a Freelance Musician (Percussionist) and Educator. I also do some work in Arts Management and Production. I can work remotely in some respects, but others are a bit more challenging. I am teaching private lessons via video conference, about 1-2 hours a day. I have also collaborated on virtual performances. These require the musician to record audio and video of their part to a click track, thus ensuring the parts in the ensemble line up. Then, the recordings are mastered and combined to create a full ensemble’s performance of a specific piece. While this is not ideal since part of a live performance is coping with what happens in the moment, I still appreciate the opportunity to “perform” an orchestral work for family, friends, and patrons. I practice a couple hours a day just to make sure I retain my skills and also to learn new techniques. Thankfully, most arts administration work can be done remotely since it involves emails and phone/videos conversations.” The San Francisco Mayor and local officials shut down schools, communal recreational facilities, and other nonessential businesses early, about mid- March. There were strict rules limiting the number of people allowed in essential business buildings like grocery stores. Shortly after the shelter-in-place, we were required to wear face coverings in public. Local and state governments are now working to reopen each city/county on a case by case basis. Their initial approach to closing everything down was a smart tactic which probably contributed to flattening the curve in California.
Now, they are assessing each region to determine how quickly they can reopen which is also a great tactical move. It’s always uncertain what may or may not be the best move, but he appreciates that California, and San Francisco especially, aired on the side of caution. He’s also found it quite easy to follow the lockdown rules. “Are they my favourite and is this a great way of living, especially in such a lively city? No. However, I understand the personal and communal benefit of partaking in the lockdown. So, my partner and I are doing our part by staying indoors, besides to run errands and exercise. We do not partake in communal gatherings. Nor are we visiting family and friends at this current time. I saw my family in early March when my parents (barely) returned from their months-long vacation to their home country, India. This was so we could connect about their trip and celebrate my mother’s birthday. I see my friends regularly via video conference and occasionally in person. We are all wearing masks, keeping distance from each other, and not touching.” They can easily communicate and coexist. For example, a socially distant walk through the park. He also recently delivered cupcakes to some friends who are either (A) sheltered in place alone or (B) it was their birthday this month. “The US government is a joke, at least on a federal level and specifically the Republican Party. I won’t bother mentioning the president since we all know how much of a joke that orange monster is. That aside, the California governor and the Sand Francisco mayor have both played an integral role in ensuring that California and San Francisco had minimal cases of COVID-19. Both Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor London Breed took immediate actions in shutting the city and state and enacting shelter-in-place. They are both slowly working on re-opening the city and state.” Divesh is a bit nervous about places re-opening. Parts of the US have already seen a rise in the number of COVID cases shortly after re-opening. “And for what, so “Karen” could get her hair done and “Bill” felt his basic human rights weren’t being infringed upon? That’s nonsense is what it is. Other states, that have plans and stages for opening up are more likely to have a successful.” He mostly misses the ability to make music with his friends the most. “I wish we could all gather together on the concert stage again and play our favourite symphonies. There is an incredible intangible feeling one gets from communal music-making, especially with a really good orchestra (or another ensemble). It feels as if we are soaring. It feels as if all members of the ensemble are one entity, that we are all breathing together, moving in synchronicity, and sharing the same emotion simultaneously. It’s hard to describe but it’s easy to feel. I miss that feeling of music.”
Emilie, 30, lives in Arequipa, Peru.
She lives with her partner and his two children in a decent-sized flat with thankfully one large balcony and a patio behind the flat, so two outdoor spaces. She’s a university teacher and teaching from home (online) every day. “It's going well, but it's been a challenge and a learning curve. It's much more exhausting than teaching in person (surprisingly), and it's more challenging making the classes fun and interactive. On the one hand I'm enjoying being able to wear pyjamas on the bottom, have a cup of tea next to me and my cat on my lap while I'm teaching, but on the other I'm really missing being able to see my students and walk around the class, and have them work in groups so I can get a breather!” Lockdown rules have varied, but on the whole, they were only allowed out for food shopping and medical care, under 18s are never allowed out, and they have a curfew at night. At one point there were days when only men and women could go out, but that quickly backfired so that didn't last. “I've found it alright personally, being in a privileged position of having everything I need and a comfortable home.
Emotionally however it's been rather hard. I haven’t seen my family since January as they live in France. Haven’t seen friends since March. For her stepchildren, it's been okay for the most part because they have comfortable conditions here in their flat, and they recently got their own rooms so at first, they were riding on the novelty of that. The eldest is rather an introvert so she hasn't suffered too much from staying home, but the little one has started to miss her friends a lot in the past few weeks. “I think the government has handled it pretty well, and I'm really happy with how the president has been facing this. It's the people who have screwed it up immensely, not respecting social distancing rules and being out and about as normal. This means for us the end has been announced as June 30th, let's pray that's true! I mostly miss going out to restaurants, being able to walk around freely, things I totally took for granted before. Also getting a break from my own people during the day!”