The whole world is now affected by coronavirus.
Physically, we need to stay separate and apart as never before in modern times. Mentally, however, the situation brings us together in a common effort to handle and control the contamination.
Here are 200 words from around the world.
We have received texts from the countries marked with red. Further testimonies will be added continuously.
There have been three waves. First came disappointment and anxiety as I have to cancel all my plans and projects for upcoming months. People in art understand what it is for someone to prepare, to think through and to anticipate a project read magic to happen. And suddenly, you have to postpone everything because something bigger and unknown is about to happen.
Then came fear. As I’ve got plenty of time and vivid curiosity I’ve started to read, I am very accurate with my sources, and it made things darker. Aggressive virus, no vaccine, overwhelmed health-care systems around the globe. I was thinking about my loved ones, grandmother, parents. This is a kind of anxiety that usually parents have for their kids: outside world is big and scary and a kid is too little or has no power to stand up for himself.
Thirdly, came acceptance and reflection. I cannot do much, I should just live it through. Wash hands, stay at home, read and write. There is something bigger than our plans and our expectations like global pandemic, but also like our human spirit, love we have for each other, care and protection we want to share with the most vulnerable, human connections that became more important than ever. It’s a time for reflection of what is normal and what is important for us like a coffee and ice cream with close ones in a crowded café in a beautiful day.
A poem for our times
We flit like shadows through empty streets
Lost souls condemned to wander;
Your face is lined in sheets of grey.
I quickly turn my gaze away, afraid to look
And see my sad indifference reflected in
The mirrored fear that fills this stranger’s eyes.
And still, the world spins on, trees grow,
Clouds form, and now the breeze
Brings mocking gusts to taunt my solitude
And carry with each lonely nudge my ghostly sound.
Empty echoes fill the air with silence.
Perhaps we were not ever really here.
My name is Joshua Pollock. I am a single forty-six-year-old man living in Portland, Oregon (USA). I had two jobs prior to the escalation of the Coronavirus. I worked at a consignment shop and teach history online for a community college. My boss temporarily closed down the consignment shop to keep everyone safe.
Most people I know are social distancing properly. But many friends are dealing with loneliness and depression. We Portlanders love cafes, bars, and nature excursions. Our lifestyle is put on hold and we feel it.Yet Portland does have many unhoused people. I live several blocks away from a street with several tents set up. This issue was critical before the pandemic. Current conditions makes it more so.
I’m luckier than many. So, I’m trying to keep positive. The uncertainty of everything is overwhelming. I miss seeing my twenty-one-year-old daughter, my cousins, and friends. My daughter lives in an apartment with her friend in St. Johns. We talk often on the phone and I send her money. She is struggling financially due to loss of income. Times are hard but there is hope. Like many in the world now, hope is all I can hold onto.
New York, USA
Christian Svanes Kolding
Every hour of every day is filled with the sound of ambulance sirens. Every time I step outside, I see things I don’t expect to see: an ambulance parked on a neighboring street, paramedics in hazmat gear attending to yet another patient on a stretcher; a truck outside a hospital that’s being loaded with bodies, which have been placed inside white industrial bags; empty shelves in a supermarket that never seems to be restocked; medical supplies we can’t get.
I’m from Denmark. I live in Brooklyn with my American wife. We’re healthy-ish. We’ve had some symptoms. “We’re both monitoring” is a common thing we say these days. Outside, I wear a strange juxtaposition of running clothes and protective gear that includes a homemade face mask and latex gloves but we stay mostly inside our apartment, where many hours of each day are spent managing clients on video calls. That too is a strange paradox. We try to stay focused.
At night, we lie in bed and listen to the sirens beyond our window. It is nonstop. There’s no other traffic, no other activity outside. Just the sirens, long into the evening. We’re not safe. No one is safe right now.
Sara Riis Hasselskog
I have possibly been infected with corona virus and voluntarily quarantined for the past three weeks. I’ve had an overwhelming shortness of breath that has been my constant companion during these weeks.
I am a single mother of a 3,5 year old girl. Her father lives abroad. Since I have been sick, my daughter has been at home with me. Preschools are still open in Sweden, but I don’t want to risk infecting others while dropping her off. Life of a single mother is never easy, but it’s been a real challenge entertaining a small healthy child while I myself have literally been gasping for breath for all this time.
We share our apartment with a friend and my flatmate is not infected so far and has provided me and my daughter with food and things we need from the outside world. We have had everything we could ever wish for.
The first week I didn’t work, because I was too sick and my daughter was sick too. But after that I have been working on my laptop when my daughter is sleeping. I am a journalist. I get up really early in the morning, three hours before my daughter awakes. And I work up to three hours after she goes to sleep in the night. It’s hard, but I am grateful of my situation anyway. I still feel a shortness of breath, but I am alive. I still have a job, and my daughter keeps me motivated. I can take care of my daughter during the days and provide for us by working when she sleeps.
For all of us, it will take grit and determination to get through this. When I am better I will help sick people and go buy food for them. Because I have already had corona and I’m not scared.
Few weeks ago I was planning how I am returning to work after having two kids. i was planning on working from home for a few years, blogging, being a freelancer. I was looking for opportunities. Asking around.
Now I am considering cancelling our vacations, plan nothing but the meals for the week and worrying about when I can see my 60+ parents and 80+ grandma again. My husband conveniently broke his ankle just before the virus spreaded in Hungary, so we are together at home for weeks now. No kindergarten for three weeks, so we are truly really all the time together, the four of us. We talk on the phone to the next door neighbor. We see the faces of each other only, fighting toddlers not wanting to sleep and trying to get everything on our table while between 9-12 i cannot go to pharmacies, drogeries or food shops as these times are reserves for 65+ years old people.
I feel like we just float in the void. Our lives on hold. Our relationships with others on hold. We worry about older family members, about our income. We cannot see the end of this. Uncertainty is the reality we live now in. We wish for harder measure to be taken by the government, hope for lockdown, and it does not come. The worst is not knowing how long this lasts. We are put on hold, literally.
The Corona virus emergence made me realise that I have never truly lived but rather rushed through my 45 years of existence. My life came to a standstill before most Namibians’ because my production inputs are predominantly imported from China, where business closed in December. I had to find local expensive substitutes, thus hurting my finances.
My family’s health could have been in danger too, because I recently had consecutive excursions with American based friends; been to various offices, malls, banks and hugged many friends, in addition to cash transactions with Portuguese and Chinese tenants occupying my Airbnb. I can’t remember having been careful at any of those points.
My kids’ NO school related anxieties added to my stress. While social media and international TV channels have made me a globetrotter, physically, I haven’t been outside our yard since the country’s lock-down. The only places I have been confined to are my kitchen-city, lounge-les, bedroom-ville, saint-bathroom and balcony-bay; staring without touching my nuclear family, and appreciating the spectacular landscape, clear sky and colourful birds and insects I never noticed existed. It had to take a virus for me to realise the things I truly need are here within my reach.
When COVID 19 became more heightened, I was on a trip. It was extremely scary travelling home through an airport and knowing that I was standing shoulder to shoulder with people from all over the world in the customs area. I was very afraid that I had encountered the virus and brought it to my family. I self-quarantined before it became ‘the norm’ but I’m glad I did. That was 21 days ago, and I feel OK.
My biggest concern and fear is my mother’s health will fail during the quarantine. I’m worried that I won’t be able to hug her. I’m worried that if her health fails that she will die without the comfort of her family around her. My Mom has Alzheimer’s and she is filled with anxiety and fear.
My son has had a LOT of screen time and is doing a lot of video gaming. I’m worried that he will feel alone. I’m worried about how much screen time he is doing. I’m worried what isolation will do to him in the long run.
I try to distract myself with work, podcasts and tv. I try to avoid watching the news or TV because it just makes me more anxious. I try to have my family be my priority and focus on comfort and care.
I’m going to write a letter to my Mom and be sure to mail it today.
St. Louis, USA
The bad: I own a DJ/entertainment business called Porta Party DJs, and we currently have no income due to all weddings, corporate/private events being canceled and bars/nightclubs being shut down. Some events were rescheduled for later in 2020, but many were canceled. The MLB season has been postponed, so the St. Louis Cardinals have no home games until it resumes. That is a huge hit for me since I work 3 jobs (before, during and after) for every game. I hope and pray we are somewhat back to normal by July so I can start earning money again. Otherwise, I’m not sure what I’m going to do for income or work. I’m currently researching unemployment options and assistance from the US government stimulus package and hope that is enough to get us through this.
The good: my wife and 3 teenage kids (17, 16 and 14) and I have been able to spend a lot of time together and become closer as a family. We are trying to make the best of it by making family TikTok videos and doing projects around the house. They are managing doing their online schooling very well so far.
In Peru, as we understood the initial rising numbers of COVID-19 patients across the Atlantic, we hoped the initial epidemic wouldn’t be as severe, like when it happened with the H1N1 virus. Now it is clear for most of us that this pandemic cannot be confronted individually anymore. Our government is quickly learning and adjusting its actions to the changing crisis, taking in consideration not only public health but also economic and social measures. This is bringing hope for the current weeks but we are worried for the upcoming months.
As for myself, I came back to Peru after studying and working 20 years abroad, including Scandinavia. I currently work as a Public Health Manager for one of the main country hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients. Our hospital is constantly under restructuring as hospitalization beds needs are increasing and healthcare professionals are dropping off for being on risk groups. People feel very sensible in the middle of this crisis but at the same time feel closer and empowered as a team. It is sometimes difficult keeping up the energy on long shifts and then being specially careful at home in order to avoid cross-contamination. It is specially tough not being able to hug and being close to my parents when I am back from service shifts.
My kitchen is now my office and my living room sofa is my studio. Zoom is my new reality of face-to-face interviews. The radio keeps airing, but at times, the lack of direct human contact can be painfully audible. This crisis has fast-forwarded our use of technologies to mitigate the change in sound. We have asked people to record their own audio diaries to document their life in self-isolation, and sometimes they turn out to be surprisingly emotional. It seems that people are particularly drawn to these human-interest stories as they look for ways to share their overwhelming emotions.
Last night, I went for a walk in a nearby forest and noticed how people tried to avoid each other on the trails. I came home and realized that the digital world suddenly makes me feel safer than the world outside. I poured myself a glass of red wine and dived into the comfort of a Zoom concert, where my first-grader nieces performed on piano and violin in their rooms, all dressed up and excited. In a world of technology that tends to divide us, I am curious to see how it can bring us together in a time of crisis.