Pandemic Diaries 4: Week 1 – The Countdown Begins

Pandemic Diaries 4: Week 1 – The Countdown Begins

March 21, Saturday – Day 1: Not sleeping for long hours and then sleeping on a mess that was the last 24 hours makes it feel like this hour and the morning are two different days.

I wake up to a social media war.

Right after we leave, the owner of the student halls clean the place and takes a video of the rooms, blaming us for being liars. Addition to that, the prime minister, who wasn’t around when we needed him, pays a visit to the halls. He doesn’t even see the rooms but the cafeteria, as if we could’ve gone to the cafeteria during the quarantine, and takes a video saying that the place is excellent but we are spoiled kids.

“They wanted a hotel so they plot this.”

“Those are old photos.”

“They are so spoiled, they look for luxury.”

“They shouldn’t have come, they are so irresponsible.”

How can we even plot this? Where did we find these photos? Or did we make them dirty and took photos? Like at 4 am when all we wanted was to sleep. These claims are merely bizarre.

Meanwhile, people whose flats see our rooms have a new hobby of stalking us and filming us and taking photos of our every move. Though we do nothing wrong.

Sleepless days, the stress, the fear, addition to hunger and cold of this morning, the hatred of many of our people. We ‘didn’t like’ the disgusting rooms that were thought to be a fit for us. We volunteered for this quarantine, it was the federation’s idea. The scars on my face from long hours of wearing the mask, the allergic reaction of my hands to the sanitiser, running to our country for safety like kids who just fell, running to their mothers for comfort. We’re doing everything to both protect ourselves and others. We don’t deserve this treatment. This should be our safe place.

On a positive note, we’re not alone. It’s not just our families and us but many people are joining this fight on our side. However, we are trying to tone it down rather than heating up the argument. This shouldn’t be what the people and the government are focusing on. We need to get back to the main topic: beating coronavirus.

We can’t do it, as long as we are trying to beat each other up.

March 22, Sunday – Day 2: We wake up to another scandal. The more we want things to calm down, the more politics get involved in the topic. Fake news was reported about some people moving around the rooms and two people escaping the quarantine. That’s ridiculous because:

  1. We all are extra cautious. We are already careful but we also watch our steps more, as we know that all eyes are on us.
  2. Police officers are going around and waiting in front of the hotel.

It doesn’t take long for the truth to come out. The mayor was behind this. First, he was annoying but only seemed concerned about his people. Now, he is just petty. What does he think he would gain from such news?

We are more than all these things happening to us. We decide not to let anything to bring us down. The music rises from the hotel, as we play music and sing and dance and chat from balcony to balcony – with a certain distance between us, obviously.

Some nice people of our public are also doing everything to keep our morale up. We receive a gift package of Turkish pastries from a bakery including simit and poğaça which are great for breakfast. In North Cyprus, we have this online commercial video page, Neydi Olacağı, which makes videos that are comical and sometimes has essential messages that represent our culture well, while promoting certain products and business. They sometimes just do amusing videos, too. It’s quite popular now. They come up with a video idea for us that would both cheer us up and give a message to our worried loved ones that we are doing okay. We each would give a message and try to say a tongue-twister, which makes the video fun. Cool idea, right?

My parents also dropped a bag off with some stuff I needed from home, as well as LOTS of snacks. Coffee, most importantly. My parents like to exaggerate, two people carried the bag to my door. When they put it down, it made such noise that I knew they brought the bag even before they knocked on the door. I’m not complaining though, opening up that bag was the best feeling I had in what feels like ages.

Let me tell you this, coffee never tasted better. Coffee. Balcony. Sun. Music. A community of balcony people singing. And my newly arrived bag. I’m feeling better already.

March 23, Monday – Day 3: Partial lockdown starts in Cyprus today. Most places are shut down, except for my parents’ workplaces but they won’t be working every day. Some people blame the lockdown on us. Idiots, they don’t see that this is necessary. “We are forced to stay at home because of you,” might be the dumbest shit I have ever heard. Boris Johnson also announces a lockdown across the UK, bloody about time.

I need to get back to university work I haven’t been able to do. I’m supposed to have some Spanish exams next week that has neither been cancelled nor confirmed to be still happening. Also, a short story to finish this week. The internet here sucks. I mean the internet in Cyprus sucks, in general, but this particular location is even worse, they are trying to fix it but I still need to postpone the bunch of masters interviews I had scheduled for these two weeks. I’m such a mess, at the moment, too. Getting back to doing work feels harder than I imagined. Everything feels irrelevant.

On the bright side, the video is out, and it’s hilarious. People have done some creative stuff with it like turning the tongue twister into a song and trying to tell it with a mouth full of water. Now I wish I’ve done more with it.

March 24, Tuesday – Day 4: Another gift arrives today. A local bookshop gifts us all puzzles. People get down to it immediately and start complaining about how hard it is. I love puzzles but I’m trying not to have any more distractions than I already have. Last summer my mum and I started this 2000 piece puzzle and we worked obsessively on it for days. This one is easier than that one but yeah, I know that I have the potential to just do the puzzle until I finish it and neglect my work. Again. But I do end up making a start in the evening, can’t stop myself while everyone complained about how hard it is, I like a challenge. I don’t find it as difficult but I do get what they mean. I limit myself to only doing some of it.

We’re getting used to the place we’re in, we’re trying to see the bright side of things, but sometimes it’s not that easy. The food portions are small, though most of us have received snacks from our parents. Today things get force as some people receive undercooked chicken. This country also has a hard time understanding what is vegetarian and what is vegan and they really have a limited sense of what they can cook for them.

March 25, Wednesday – Day 5: Today is one of those days that we feel supported. A psychologist volunteers to take care of us and she is not only voluntarily taking care of us, but she is trying to organise activities to boost our morale. She collaborates with a local artist who does a daily radio program. They open a group chat for all of us quarantine youth, have us share our messages and ask for songs on the radio via the group chat.

We also receive more gifts. Two poetry books that are written by one of our friends who is currently under quarantine with us, and the mother of another friend in quarantine. Also, they send us some instant macaroni and canned iced coffee. They come different times of the day and opening the door to find these in front of my door gives me a childish glee. I don’t even care what is in front of my door. I’m just happy that there is something. The fact that someone’s thinking about us. Someone’s doing these things for us.

This situation really shows the best and the worst in our society.

I can’t focus on writing my story, but I find myself another way to keep on working. Gathering more information about the topic. I’m writing a short story that takes place in the 1950s of Cyprus. Internet is really not the most reliable source on this topic if you can find enough information that is. Our history lessons lacked detail and in general, they sucked. But I have the best resource of all. The best library ever, my grandmother. I interview her and also my mum, though she wasn’t alive back then. I learn so many things that I wasn’t aware of about my culture. Such a shame we’re not taught about many of the things about our own country. At least, we can hear about the near history from our grandparents but Cyprus has such fascinating ancient history that people don’t talk enough about.

March 26, Thursday – Day 6: I hate it whenever I wake up to this, period. This is like the worst timing, and it is one of those harsh ones with painful cramps and sickness. If a nurse came to check on me now, she wouldn’t be convinced that this is just my period and would send me off to hospital get tested… Thankfully, that doesn’t happen.

We receive another video idea for our mothers this time. They would give us a piece of motherly advice then try another tongue twister. My mother doesn’t want to do it at first but then she agrees.

Although I managed to limit myself to 1-2 hours a night of doing the puzzle, I finish it. The image is an old map of Cyprus, and it has a limited colour scheme. Normally, this wouldn’t be my choice of puzzle but I had fun doing it. I should do more puzzles.

March 27, Friday – Day 7: Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus and honestly, I can’t feel sad about it. Karma is a bitch. I wouldn’t wish him dead, but I hope this would be a valuable lesson for him. If this isn’t the proof that the UK messed up both with this situation and their elections, I don’t know what is.

Our problems with the food don’t seem to end. We are trying to not complain much about it as we are being fed and they weren’t prepared but half of our quarantine is already done and we’ve been trying to collaborate with them to fix specific problems, though they are only getting worse. The portions seem to be going okay for people who eat meat but for vegetarians & vegans things are not looking so good. For the last few days they have received like two spoons of canned mushrooms, nothing added, straight out of the can.

Even worse, today, many people found hair in their food. I wasn’t one of those, but after I finished eating, I felt sick with the idea that maybe I had it, didn’t see it and ate it.

It’s not being ingrateful, as many blame us for being, about everything that happened, but my problem right now, and since the beginning, is two things. One, HYGIENE. I don’t know how I can emphasise this more for them to understand. HYGIENE IS CRUCIAL. Two, people not keeping their words. First, they promised us a good, hygenic quarantine condition, we got the horrible halls. Then, they promised us a fast internet for our assignments, they still couldn’t fix it. Instead, we are paying extra for more mobile data which isn’t working properly either, as the connection here sucks. Many of us had to ask extensions and postpone online meetings, interviews and missed many online classes. Finally, they told us that it is important for us to eat well so they would have a dietitian check on the menus. Two spoons of canned plain mushrooms don’t sound that healthy to me. Am I wrong? Or undercooked pink chicken. Or hair in food.

Well, at least we’re halfway there.

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