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Life in the time of Coronavirus (1)

Posted on Apr 10, 2020 by in All Photos, People | 0 comments

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This is the fourth week of lockdown in the Netherlands. By this time, we managed to get used to the new normal — to some extent; we found ways to adapt to it or just survive it. It’s a work in progress, and the uncertainty is the biggest problem for most of us. For me, this period was quite tough (anxiety-wise) and I was curious how other people go through it. Also, having a little project helps me feel like there’s still a bit of normality in my life and I hope that, for the ones telling their stories, this opportunity to sit down and reflect was good as well.

I gathered a few stories from friends and Insta-friends to illustrate how people cope with the current situation, how their life has changed and how they see the future. Just normal people living normal lives. There is no logic in the presentation of the stories, other than publishing them in the order I get them.

None of the pictures are mine — they were provided by the person telling the story.

Bryony, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

@brizaface

https://twitter.com/brizaface

As I write this I’m on Day 18 of having Coronavirus. It’s been a scary time, but I’m one of the lucky ones. My boyfriend travelled to the Alps and brought it back with him (one of his friends at the same resort tested positive and there was a big outbreak there while he was there). What started for us as a sore throat and tiredness became a lot worse in a number of days. I suffered from chest pain, which felt like someone was standing in between my ribs constantly. I also became breathless, so walking was a struggle. For me, this was the worst part of the illness and made me panic. We were fortunate to have a thermometer, supplies and paracetamol at home. We both downloaded the app created by the OLVG hospital (Luscii) where we would input our symptoms on a daily basis. They called us to monitor us, which was really helpful. There is also a direct phone line to speak to someone. The doctor we spoke to reassured us if we still had enough breath to talk and our fevers were under 39, we didn’t need to go to hospital. The cough is aggressive and shook my whole body, and the tiredness and body fatigue has been an added struggle. We have both been waking up feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck with everything aching, including our eyeballs?! We also had a high fever for around 5-6 days, and then we both lost our sense of smell and taste. I’m SO happy it’s finally returning so I can enjoy eating and cooking again!

We were fortunate that we didn’t see anyone in 4 days between my boyfriend returning to Amsterdam and our symptoms starting. We spent most of the time at home as we both felt tired (now I know why!) and are lucky we were able to manage it at home without having to go into hospital. We’ve self-isolated and my sister has dropped off supplies for us. She was a little ray of light in the blur of some of our worst days! I’m so thankful neither of us had any underlying health conditions and are young, fit and healthy. Although as we are seeing more and more, sometimes that sadly doesn’t change the severity of this virus.

Recovery has been long and often frustrating. For me, I have had a day of feeling much better then I relapse and have to spend the next day sleeping. I have more energy to walk around the flat now but my body is aching and deep breaths are hard. I’m just taking it day by day: resting and eating well, sleeping as much as I can and being kind to myself. Everyone is coping differently at the moment, but I think being kind to yourself is so important, in any way you can. One thing that has actually really helped me mentally is the weather! I can’t believe how sunny it’s been this Spring. We have big windows in our flat so it’s nice and light, and we also have a terrace too. I’m loving these light evenings! I’ve been sitting outside as much as I can to soak up the vitamin D and it’s so quiet and peaceful out there. I’ve really noticed the lack of traffic and planes overhead.

Another thing that has been our lifeline is listening to BBC 6music Radio (@bbc6music) all day, every day. It’s a taste of home for me and makes me feel more connected. And the music they play is always brilliant!

Even though this social isolation is hard, messages and calls from people I love have been a great comfort, especially on the dark days. It’s made me appreciate how many wonderful people I am lucky to know, and I’ll never take for granted hugging the people I love. I guess it’s put a lot of things in perspective in a weird way. As the wonderful David Hockney said recently “the only real things in life are food and love” and I have to agree with him. I can’t wait for wine and pizza in the sun with the people I love!

Bryony 01
Bryony 02
Bryony 03

Andra, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

https://amsterdamming.com/

@amsterdamming

My Pandemic Story

We could not press the breaks on our way to destruction (ours, the planet’s), so something else pressed them for us. And now everything is on hold. It is a tragedy, but one we knew it was coming sooner or later – because our actions had been devastating for so long – and yet we did nothing about it. So now we have to face it. We have no choice.

These were my first thoughts when this pandemic became a reality. What I feel right now is a mix of frustration, hopelessness, and fear. Hope not so much, although I am trying. And I consider myself a happy case.

I realise that my lifestyle during this time is not much different than before. I am used to spending time in solitude because almost everything I like to do requires silence and seclusion: writing, reading, drawing, thinking my thoughts, feeling my feelings. All I miss, really, is being able to see family and friends. The rest I can handle.

I don’t follow a daily routine to keep a good spirit, I just do what it feels right at the moment. Yesterday, I was sunbathing on the balcony and reading at the same time. I felt grateful and my mood was high. Today, I looked at old photographs and got so nostalgic I almost spent the whole day sobbing. Another day, I browsed through my old journals from when I was a teenager and laughed until my belly hurt reading certain parts or letters from friends dating from the same time. Other days, I draw – it is the most calming thing for me, something that absorbs me completely. I also made a habit of watching a movie every night before sleep. The biggest adventure is when I go out for a walk, although I try not to do that more than twice a week. Instead of calming and filling me with good energy, it has quite the opposite effect. It takes effort to avoid people and the fact that I live in what it is considered the most densely populated neighbourhood in Amsterdam – the Eastern Docklands – does not help. So I’d rather spend time inside or, if the weather allows, on the balcony.

For me, the days go by just as fast as always, and I’m not even working. I don’t get bored. I haven’t been bored in many many years. I think it has to do with curiosity. Being a curious person, I always find something to intrigue me, a subject I’d like to know more about. The next thing I know, I order a pile of books about it and I’m taken for the next few weeks. Then, I discover some other subject I’d like to know more about and so on. It never really ends.

Logistics wise, I go to the shop one time per week only and some other essentials I order online (and make sure the delivery person leaves before I open the door.) I do not go out for take-away anything, nor do I order ready-made meals. I just don’t feel it is the safest thing to do these days. I’d rather make my own coffee and get messy with my own food. I have always been almost a germaphobe, so you can imagine how anxious I feel whenever I have to go outside or when something from the outside has to get into my house. I disinfect everything: packages, products, and yes, I am one of those people who wash apples with soap.

The only way I can cope with this is making sure I take all possible cautions (which is frustrating because nothing is one hundred percent virus-proof anyway), stay informed about what is relevant (filter out all redundant or panic-inducing info), and go on with my life. I am not good at communicating via technology – I am a face-to-face kind of person –, so these days I am making efforts to stay in touch with friends and family. Also, I am trying not to go nuts when my mother calls me every other day to ask for updates. What updates?

The thing is, we need to adjust to the new reality because, as dramatic as it may sound, things are not going to get back to normal anytime soon. This, or we need to find a new definition for normal. To conclude, I think this crisis shows just how frail everything is (life, economy, social system etc.) and, most importantly, how few things we really need in order to live and feel grateful. Fashion, beauty, travel, status are nothing but hollow concepts right now. And if your life revolved around them, you really need to think again. Now you have the time.

Andra 01
Andra 02
Andra 03

Ioana, Zaandam, the Netherlands

I live together with my 4yo son in a 55sqm apartment, no garden, no balcony.

We have been in isolation a few days before the school closing, as he was a bit sick. The first week was weird, I had no idea where to start. When I realised I am expected to keep the household together and clean, plus work and home schooling, I panicked. The panic led to a few sleepless nights. Then, as I was reaching out to friends with kids, I saw some are fearing losing their job, some were told their job is on hold and so is their salary, some lost their income. On week 1, 4 days into the home-isolation, I was scared, overwhelmed, nervous, lacking the much needed patience one should have around a 4yo . I had a heavy pain around my chest and often every muscle in my lower back ached. I have been struggling with back pain for many years, I know it gets activated on whatever my head perceives as stress.

3 weeks into home isolation, here’s how things are going:

  • Working from home doesn’t really work with a 4yo around. I can answer an email here and there, join a conference call but chances are pretty high for my son to play rescue squad exactly when I need to speak. One of my colleagues even said this week: “best conf call soundtrack I ever had”, as the junior was playing with the “toeta-toeta” firetruck pretty loud . That is why most of my work happens really late or really early in the day.
  • I sleep when possible — in some days I get the 8 hours of sleep, but on most of the days it’s less. I’m used to sleep little, I know I need more, I’m doing the best I can.
  • For my son, we have a sort-of schedule. I kept the morning/day routine as on any other normal day; he plays and watches cartoons. When I really need to get something done for work, he gets a lot more screen-time than usual.
  • I noticed we do better when I take blocks of two hours to do something with him: building with lego duplo, something school-homework related or baking a cake. I involve my son in most of the things I do; he “helps” with everything — cleaning, laundry and cooking.
  • To my surprise, the house it relatively organised and clean, most of the things (read toys) find their place at the end of the day; the cleaning schedule has been respected.
  • Food &house wise: I have been doing meal prep for a while, I am used to keep a stock of certain products at home, groceries get delivered weekly home and usually on supplies things were pretty well organised for me, that is my normal. When the corona hit us, it got hard to keep this routine going. I had to hunt for a slot to have the supermarket delivery, I had to plan ahead and for longer term, order more and secure I have enough for 2 weeks. I was able to find everything I needed, but I had to look in more places, not just my regular ones. I noticed I spend more on groceries (& supermarket related items), so my budget needs to be refreshed short term, probably until the summer.
  • Discipline (my personal discipline), sticking to a routine and a schedule has been the best about me staying at home, it kept me grounded and (somehow) sane. Not being able to go outside when we want, has been the hardest. I get asked daily on why we don’t go to the play areas anymore or we don’t see other kids, but I made the choice to avoid contact and keep our distance. We still go out daily, but it’s for 15-30 min or so. Together with another mom, we organised a video WhatsApp playdate, so the kids played each on his house, but together while talking and seeing each other. It lasted two hours and we were both impressed on how well it went.
  • My back still hurts, some days are more painful than others. I am tired, more tired than my usual tired, and my caffeine intake doubled. Some days are better than others.
  • My sons asks me everyday when he wakes up “What day is today? Is today tomorrow?” (ce zi e azi? azi e mâine?). There are many creative ways to answer that and I am discovering them every day.

I think by the second week I reduced significantly my news intake. Now I allow myself a 30min checks on news websites and that’s about it. I also avoid spending too much time on social media.

To a certain extent, I feel I can even do more for myself — several activities moved online and I am able to access them now, while before I did not have the availability. I joined a few workshops online or a mom-support meeting on zoom. When I feel overwhelmed, I stop and ask myself what is the most important thing I need to get sorted, and I act on it. I even found some time to learn to draw, very basic, nothing fancy. I think even the bond with my son got stronger as we do a lot of things together, we don’t have the usual morning madness to leave home in time for school and he is not super tired in the evening.

To sum-up, live in home isolation keeps me busy and tired, and I am OK with that. I know it is just a phase, but I am curious how I’ll be once we are granted unlimited access outside again.

Ioana 01
Ioana 02

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

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