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Life in the Time of Coronavirus (4)

Posted on Apr 21, 2020 by

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Continuing the series with two new stories from two brave women — different but also similar in some respects. One comes from Romania and the other from the Netherlands.

The idea behind this project is to illustrate how people cope with the current situation, how their lives have changed and how they see the future. Just normal people living normal lives.

None of the pictures are mine — they were provided by the person telling the story. Now, let’s dive in:

Mădălina, Romania

Instagram: @mada_and_thepack

I need to rewind a couple of years back for that is when my story about “isolation” began, actually. I used to live in the Netherlands and some other places until 2018 I think, or 2017, it’s all a bit blurry now. Then I realised I had an unfulfilling lifestyle, I was surrounded by people on all fronts and still felt out of place. So, I decided to come back to Romania, where I’m originally from. I was lucky to be able to keep my job so the transition was smooth – work was the same, but better because I had more freedom and flexibility to do what I love; the environment was familiar although much has changed and is constantly changing in what you can call a developing country.

I tried first living in the big city, Bucharest, but living in a flat turned out not to be my thing (anymore) – I was bored to death so I think I know how most people feel now. I had my job to keep me company but as I started feeling physically sick – I had migraines very often and just a poor state of mind – I decided the sensible thing to do is to move with my parents for a while, in the countryside, where I spent most of my childhood.

My parents live in a small village, up north, where everyone knows everyone and life just happens every day, with no need to “make things happen”. No stress, no pressure. I would work remotely, pretty much every day, and when I didn’t work I helped around the house, yard and the veggie garden. It was good being back home after so long. Looking back at the time spent there, it really transformed my relationship with my parents for the better.

Last year I bought a house an hour away from Bucharest – because the big city is where opportunities lie (!?) – in a village where I knew no one, but it was cute, small, hilly, very close to a beautiful natural reservation and had two friends living in the town nearby. Why not? When I say house I mean more like a shed but I am working on transforming it into a small, cozy house. I actually bought it for the area where it is – quite remote – and for the spacious but not too large yard. And because it was crazy cheap. I like being self-sufficient so once the basics are done, I would like to be able to take care of it on my own.

I live here alone, whatever that means. And when I moved, everyone thought I was crazy for isolating myself this way. What was I meant to do with all my time? With my youth actually? A flower withering in the middle of nowhere, they thought but didn’t necessarily say it out loud. Well, not sure about the flower thing, but the withering definitely. I heard the word “isolation” so many times that I began to understand that people actually don’t know what isolation means and how hard it is to isolate oneself from the rest of the world. Think about it. Working a day a week from a café whilst not even noticing people around us, doesn’t make us less isolated. Isolation is a state of mind, especially in this time and era.

I cope well with this pandemic. Finally, no one’s asking me why I keep isolating myself – duuuuuuuuh, #stayinghome #savinglives; no one telling me to buy guns anymore – they mean it more against bears than for humans, I hope. No one telling me how often I should go to the city and how to make sure I spend my time/life with a purpose and not wastefully. A purpose. People now tell me they are jealous on me for having a garden. Aha. What?! There’s so much work in the garden…

I have five dogs and they’re a handful. Very sweet though. Last year I found two sets of two abandoned puppies and I took them, obviously; these are Gri, Alba, Lusha and Tipsy. In December we got the 5th addition to the pack, Gicu. But I didn’t realize I needed to train them as soon as possible so now we are in the midst of chaos; what was I thinking? I am not the pack leader yet, Gri is. Working on getting this right. So no, definitely #notaloneinthetimeofcorona! I sometimes secretly wish for some alone time.

Madalina 01

I started an intensive training program with them, led by me, the wannabe pack leader; I already learned so much, they’re better teachers than I am. I spend most of my free time on the dogs nowadays but also on the garden. I rarely go to the town anymore and just a couple of days ago I was impressed by my cutting down on gas spending – now that gas is actually cheaper, sic! I see people when I go to the shop, I made some acquittances here; I see people passing by the alley, they always say hello, I say hello back, the dogs bark like crazy.

Tips and tricks for people who have a hard time adjusting? Look within, work within, there’s so much stuff to do and you don’t even need to get out of the house. Life is so simple, don’t make it complicated.

The future is uncertain, it always was. I have no clue what will happen after this but I am not necessarily worried. I may lose my job, I may need to give up on some big dreams but maybe this came to wake us all. I always said I want to live simply, maybe it’s time to start doing that, for real.

In the end it will all be ok. I’ll adjust. We’ll adjust. Or maybe we’ll win the lottery. Do you play?

Madalina 02
Madalina 03
The house

Ana, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Instagram: @amsterdive

“Do you remember when we were all supposed to die from the bird’s flu?” I asked my friends when COVID reports took over media outlets. “Do a favour to yourself and shut off the news”. 24/7 coverage made me extremely annoyed then. It all felt hysterical and deafening. Besides: refrain from attending my yoga classes, the thing I held on to for physical and mental balance? Never was I ever. I kept practising in group classes until the WHO declared a pandemic. I was six months into my chemotherapy journey then: there was no other option than quitting the studio.

March 2020 had started in a countdown as my chemo-trial was almost over. I was more than ready to resume my ‘normal life’. But, out of the blue, I was not only a cancer patient but also a person on the risk group for COVID 19. It felt like I was a character of some dystopian book where the plot keeps taking twists for the worse. I had no other choice than to resort to self-isolation, going out the door only once a day for a walk in the park.

I adapted quickly. My life, as I knew it, had gotten cancelled the summer before when I got the diagnose which made me stop working almost entirely. From there, many aspects of how I lived required change. Energy did not abound, so I got very critical about who I let into my life while, at the same time, leaning more on the ones who were closer. I stopped attending most social events and parties. I dropped anything non-essential to my life. In a way, it is as if I had been preparing for this crisis ever since.

When I’m hit by a wall, my coping mechanism is to keep my cool. Right now, I’m focused on finishing my treatments and healing. Somehow it feels like a tangible goal, one that is helping me stay centred throughout confinement. I didn’t really have the time yet to process cancer nor the pandemic – that’ll have to wait. I’m almost on the other end, and nothing is going to stop me now. More than ever, I have a burning will to live.

Suddenly I was home, but not unlike everybody else. I felt that people related to my situation in a different way now, stripped as they were from many of their freedoms. The messages I got had a new quality of curiosity and understanding to them; they were no longer scribbles from someone trying to find the right words, wishing you well from afar. It felt as though they were holding my hand.

The noise from the outside world stopped, literally and figuratively. The first days felt quite surreal. I got back to my habit of reading the news just a couple days a week, only credible sources that I can digest slowly. All my friends were grave. Nobody had certainties anymore. The priority was to check on each other. Before I could say knife, friends and acquaintances all wanted to do grocery shopping for me. That was both funny and moving and, even after cancer, it’s still not easy to accept the offers. Losing autonomy remains the most challenging thing for me. As for isolation, it became a shared experience: along with the suffering, there is some comfort about it too.

This year has stripped me of (almost) everything I thought I couldn’t live without and I suspect that, in the meanwhile, I’m not the only one who has gone back to rejoicing in the most simple of pleasures. A walk outside. A warm beverage. The play of light and shade pouring from our window. I also created a yoga space at home for some movement-medicine. It is definitely not the same as practising in the company of others. But, as my dear Byron Katie would put it, I’m learning to avoid ‘arguing with reality’. It is best to explore how I can navigate it. I have come full circle. Turns out, what I can’t live without comes, unsurprisingly, from within.

Ana 01
I’m big in window life
Ana 02
Isolation coping mechanisms: furious cooking

Stay tuned for more stories and make sure to follow Amsterdamian on Instagram and Facebook for daily stories about life in the Netherlands.



  1. Coronavirus journal, one year on | Amsterdamian - […] to be a journal of how I was coping with the situation. I went on and continued the series…

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