Rowan, 56, British/Australian, currently in England – Live: From The Pandemic

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

Tuesday (12th of May) was the start date for my new job in Hobart. I came to Cambridge for a post-doc, but my husband died half-way through, I clung on by my fingernails till the end of my contract, collapsed in a heap and haven’t got back up for 2 years. So the move to Hobart for a proper, professional job was real progress. First I needed to visit my mum in Scotland. At 86, who knows when, or even if I’d see her again, moving to the other side of the planet. I also need to finish dealing with my husband’s estate. Then the virus hit. I moved out of the housing co-op where nearly 100 of us live together, so I could isolate to not risk infecting Mum. I moved in with my boyfriend, 3 loads across Cambridge on the bike. We rented a car and headed north just as Australians were being urgently recalled. I couldn’t just leave without seeing Mum and sorting things out. We arrived just after my stepbrother, who was visiting from Australia, left and lockdown started. Mum, a professional housewife, shops at M&S and Waitrose. There were no delivery slots to be had and the best I could organise was phone shopping and delivery to the car boot with the Co-op, but that was too much of an adjustment for Mum, who snuck out in the car at 8am to get her dose of M&S, the first time she’s driven alone for years. Her husband, who is frail, would be very unlikely to survive the virus. After we left he did succeed in crashing the car into the side of the house, righting it off and requiring the attendance of all the emergency services. The trip back to Cambridge was a record 6 hours across an eerily deserted country, with a risk of being stopped by police. As I started to prepare for my flight, Australia and Tasmania both introduced quarantine in government facilities. This would mean a month in solitary confinement, with no access to the outside world, maybe not even telecommunications. Australia’s had good practice at this, it’s been doing it to refugees for years. Qatar Airways had cancelled one leg of my flight rebooking me on a later flight which missed the connections stranding me in Doha, and were unreachable. I contacted my employer to see if they’d had a change of heart about letting me start later or remotely. It took him 10 days to reply, saying they’d delayed the project 3 months, by which time I’d finally managed to get through to QA and rebooked my flight. If I caught the new flight I’d have to quarantine in Melbourne and Hobart, but Qantas doesn’t allow a stopover for this so I’d lose my flight to Hobart. I checked to see if I could travel by ferry instead and found that I didn’t seem to meet the travel criteria. So this is what my boss meant by ‘travel restrictions’. I contacted Jetstar, the Melbourne-Hobart carrier, and they said they would take me. Are you sure?, I asked, Your website says residents and essential workers only. Let me check. Long pause. Ok, no, we can’t take you. Time to contact my MP. Oh yes, you can travel to Tasmania. Are you sure, I asked, the ferry and the airline say ‘no’. Let me check. Next day. Oh no, sorry, you can’t come. Ok, well can you let me know how I meant to know whether I can travel or not? QA cancelled my flight again and this time said I can rebook any time. So at the moment, the plan is to go in July if they haven’t gone bust by then. In the meantime, I’ve reported the airline for not being contactable and complained to the UN about Australia’s cruel and unusual punishment of people in quarantine. People have died in there. By the time I get to Hobart, I hope I have sufficient sanity to actually do this job.

What is your wish for the future?

 I wish we could come out of this with a more life-loving culture. Can’t we find a way to live that allows other life to live too? The way we’re going, it’s going to be just humans and our domestic species left.

What would you like to be doing right now?  

If I could, I would be running my conservation start-up, but I can’t do it alone, if you know anyone who might want to help!

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.

Nicoleta, 25, Moldovan, currently in London (UK) – Live: From The Pandemic

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

Possibly not being able to go home for a very long time. I have had tickets booked to visit my family before the outbreak began. I was supposed to be there for my sister’s birthday and a christening for my best friend’s baby. I haven’t been home in nearly a year and I haven’t been to my sister’s birthday ever since I left home (nearly 8 years now). That was something I was looking forward to for a very long time, however due to the pandemic I am not sure when I will be able to see them next. Although Moldova is doing better, realistically I won’t be able to go home until both England and Moldova have this under control, so no more new cases. I can’t endanger my family’s health by travelling and potentially bringing it right into their home. It’s too risky. So I’ll wait until all this is over and hope that I’ll be able to hug them again soon.

What is your wish for the future? 

That people would stop worshipping ‘’false’’ heroes. That our society will stop empowering those that already have millions and aren’t doing their part to help and invest a lot more in those who do (scientists, doctors, etc).

What would you like to be doing right now?  

Make use of my Odeon Unlimited Cinema pass.

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.

Karita, 29, Finnish, currently in Manchester (UK) – Live: From The Pandemic

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How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

I was in Finland visiting my mother for her birthday, when the situation over there became hectic. The small town that I’m from had their first case of COVID-19 on the day that I arrived and the panic was instant. All of the restrictions that were put in place led to my mother having to self-isolate for 14 days and to cancel her 60th birthday celebrations, because she had been in contact with me, someone who had just come from abroad and therefore was considered a risk, a possible virus carrier. I felt bad for ruining her birthday, but I felt even worse when I realised that it could be true; there was a chance that I had caught the virus from the plane, airport or Manchester, and brought it over to my mother. I felt guilty and stupid for travelling and the anxiety hit hard.

Finnish people seemed to react to the pandemic in a serious and orderly manner, right from the start. The motto over there was “it’s better to overreact than not react at all”, which quickly became my motto as well. While I was there, Finland made the decision to close the borders. That became one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. The airlines were cancelling hundreds of flights every day and I had absolutely no idea if my flight back to the UK was going to take off. I was in a situation I never thought I’d be in: the country was closing its borders, and I just had to get out. I had to get back home.

On the day when the borders were closed, I went to the airport and was able to catch a flight out. But I was angry when I got back to the UK. I felt like Finland was taking action and it was over there that I had truly realised how serious the situation was and how crucial it was to act. Back in Manchester, the people just didn’t seem to get it. UK’s response seemed very slow to me. When the country finally took action, it went instantly from 0 to 100, when the lockdown started.

Now, it’s been almost three weeks since the lockdown began. I consider myself extremely lucky and I feel guilty and grateful about it at the same time, which is an odd mix.

My friends and family are safe, both in Finland and in UK, and we are actually staying in touch more than usual, which is wonderful. Of course, I worry about my loved ones, especially those who don’t live in the same country as me, as there is no way for me to be with them if something goes wrong.

I’m “locked in” with my fiancé and my two rescue kittens. Although the apartment is tiny, it has everything we need. My fiancé and I usually work with very different schedules, so during the past 6 years that we have been together, this is the first time that we have been able to spend days together, without the pressure of doing something or going somewhere. I’ve heard about couples who have found out that they don’t really get along with each other when forced to stay in the same space for an extended period of time during the lockdown. The positive thing that this lockdown has given me, has been the confirmation that we can spend all of our time together, doing stuff or doing nothing at all, without getting sick of each other.

In a way, I’m lucky to be an introvert during this time. Staying inside, doing my own little projects or just daydreaming for hours, is exactly what I’d love to be doing at all times anyway. I feel very guilty for enjoying the lockdown, as I’m constantly aware that many people are not in the same position that I am. I’m not sure how well I’d handle this situation if I lived by myself, or even worse, if I lived with someone who I didn’t get along with. And then there are people out there working hard in the hospitals helping those who are sick. I feel anxious as I wish I could do more for people around me, but I lack the skills to be of any real use. I keep reading the news in an obsessive manner, and feel pain reading about people who have lost their lives or loved ones for this pandemic. It’s a vicious cycle, as reading the news makes me feel anxious, which then makes me want to concentrate on something creative and when I feel relaxed again, I feel guilty and open the news website again. Get anxious, relax, get guilty, repeat.

I’m a person who always has 10 projects going on that I’m never going to finish. I tell myself it’s because I don’t have the time. Well, now I do. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to finish any of it. All of a sudden, there’s a lot of pressure for everyone to finish their projects, to do stuff they’ve never had a chance to do before (at home of course), to learn new skills, to discover themselves. Social media is forcing everyone to think that if you’re not reading, writing, exercising, baking, painting, watching, learning, cleaning and filling your lockdown days with endless action, you’re lazy and you’re a failure. I think that’s wrong. The world is going through a shared trauma and people react to it in different ways. Nobody has been through this before, therefore there is no one right way of coping with it.

I feel the pressure too, I constantly find myself thinking that I should use this time in lockdown better, and not just sit here, on the sofa, binge watching tv shows I’ve seen too many times. I try to tell myself that at this moment, it is ok to just do what feels comfortable, even if it just lying on the floor with my cats, playing a game on my phone. You don’t have to constantly be developing yourself. That being said, I have taken on online courses, but only the ones that seem like the most fun and interesting to me. I’m staying away from things that I should be doing, if these were normal times, and doing things that I just want to do, for no reason whatsoever. The lockdown is not a competition, you don’t have to come out of it as a better person than you were before it. Everyone has just one job and that is to stay inside, stay safe and keep others safe. I think it’s ok to do just that.
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What is your wish for the future? 

I wish for the people I love and care about to come out of this alive and healthy. That’s all I need.
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What would you like to be doing right now?  

I’d hug all the people that I love and miss. I’d spend as much time as I can with my loved ones. And then I’d travel.

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.

Abby, 25, British, currently in Cambridge (UK) – Live: From The Pandemic

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

Due to being in the third trimester of my pregnancy and single I’ve had to leave my home and isolate at my mum’s house. Being pregnant has automatically placed me in the high-risk group and my living conditions were not suitable. So now this means I am staying in my 7-year-old sister’s box room whilst mentally preparing myself to give birth in June. Leaving my home means I don’t get to see any of my close friends and any family outside of the house. I currently live with my mum, stepfather and 3 young sisters. I get upset knowing that if there are no changes by the time she’s born then none of my extended family or close friends will get to meet my daughter. I’ve had to cancel my maternity shoot, bump painting and other little memory makers I had planned for my final trimester. Although they seem small and insignificant to others they really meant a lot to me. Due to the pandemic, my hospital has become more restricted and I have to attend all ultrasound scans, midwife and other pregnancy-related appointments alone. Luckily one birthing partner is still permitted and they can stay two hours after the birth. I’ll be staying in after my birth and submitted onto a ward, but this means I won’t be allowed any visitors which fills me with slight anxiety. Although I have moments where I am overwhelmed with anxiety I find my motherly instinct outweighs it all and I find strength for my unborn daughter.

What is your wish for the future? 

I wish for a sense of normality.

What would you like to be doing right now?  

I would be sat around my friends and getting everyone to feel my unborn daughter moving around in my bump.

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.

Bianca, 25, Italian, currently in Cambridge (UK) – Live: From The Pandemic

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

I have a small business so from a practical point of view it means that we don’t have as much work right now, so we’re spending a lot more time at home, and facing a lot of uncertainty. The governmental help does make a difference, especially in covering our staff’s wages, but what really scares us is whether things will go back to normal. From a personal point of view it’s much more complex, a part of me appreciates slowing down and reconnecting with people, but I am on an emotional rollercoaster. Having struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life this situation has definitely affected the balance I had found. I am often extremely anxious, about the future but also about little things that shouldn’t affect me this much. The first week I spent at home I really struggled to be productive or positive, I spent most of my days watching Netflix alone while my partner worked, despite having things to do and a garden that allows me to spend time outdoors. It definitely reminded me of some of my hardest times from a mental health point of view, which was really scary. I’m trying to feel better now, spending more time in the garden, less time on social media, more time doing things that I love and relax me, like colouring and planning camping trips for the future. This allows me to be more positive and actually see and appreciate what I have, and to spend less time stuck in my thoughts. Overall how I feel changes constantly, which is quite exhausting. I’m trying to take a week at a time, which isn’t very easy for a planner like me, but it seems to be working.

What is your wish for the future? 

I hope that everything that is happening is allowing all fo us to reflect on what world we have created and what really matters. Having the whole world being forced to slow down can be an opportunity to make big changes once it’s time to get back to “normal”. I think this situation is allowing us to see the world in a more unified way, and I’m hoping that it’s teaching us to be less selfish, to think about the consequences of our actions (for example, if we hoard on food we create food shortages) and to learn that resources aren’t infinite.
The two things that I really wish would happen are:
– Finally starting to seriously act and change the way we live to reduce Climate Change, which would have much more long term consequences;
– That we will move away from the consumption of cheap products that are made under unfair and unethical working conditions, in favour of ethically made and durable alternatives.

What would you like to be doing right now?  

I’d like to be travelling in our van with my partner and our amazing dog Ettore!

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.