Quar [Br(u)no] antine: What To Do While Stuck At Home
Despite the existential gloom that has befallen the city of Brno and the world, it is important to keep a brave face for your children. Self-imposed quarantine can be made bearable with an afternoon bowl of buttered popcorn, a shot of Jack Daniels whiskey, two screens to access the internet, some fresh air and the ability watch a cat moving around in the garden. Photo credit: Bruno Zalubil.
The name of this weekly column is Bruno in Brno. The words fit nicely together in a symmetrical way for the headlines: Br(u)no.
For the time being, however, that shorthand moniker might as well be: Quar [Br(u)no] antine. Bruno in Brno in Quarantine.
Admittedly, this jumble of words and punctuation is not elegant. Then again, nothing is particularly pretty about this coronavirus pandemic. I’m in voluntary quarantine or, as they call it in the United States, “sheltering in place”. I’m not sick. Nobody I know is sick. But anyone could be and, soon, maybe many of us will be.
How are you coping with this situation? Are you okay with being stuck inside when the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the birds are chirping? Are you able to work from home? Do you stay in contact with friends and family? What are you doing to stay sane? Are you stressed out?
I have two toddlers. That means my wife and I put on a brave face and try our hardest to make things fun. My life in quarantine in Brno over the past week — Quar [Br(u)no] antine — has so far been manageable. Maybe your present life is similar, maybe not.
In any case, let’s share our experiences. Please provide some ideas from your quarantine and your present life in the comments below or on Facebook.
Both kids went to preschool. The wife and I shared the desk in our attic home office. She was on one side and I was facing her on the other.
Working from home, in my case, has included three to five conference calls a day. Day No. 1 was 12 hours long as my startup software company dealt with immediate tasks (a scheduled release of new features) and long-range concerns (adjusting to the inevitability of an economic downturn). Writing, marketing campaigns, advertising and website designs all had to be updated and even started from scratch.
Colleagues still went to the office on Holandská Street. When they realized that Eatology, the ground-floor restaurant, was closed, it was the final straw. Suddenly the pandemic was real. Now everyone works from home. As soon as the East Coast of the United States came online in the Brno mid-afternoon, online communication strained under the pressure.
That evening, the government announced that even the preschools would be closed. So much for a respite from the toddlers.
I went for a jog in the early morning. I saw about 20 people during the five-kilometer run. The only other runners were three women. All of them had scarves over their mouths. I did not, and felt terrible for it, even though the restriction had not yet been announced. We kept a social distance and I touched nothing, not even the front-yard gate. I did push my right earphone deeper into my ear a few times. Is that okay? I’ve trained myself to catch myself whenever I raise my hand to my face.
The wife and I had to schedule time in the home office for conference calls. I had a 9 a.m. meeting. We switched places at 10 a.m. She got the kids to sleep during my 1 p.m. meeting and then kept them away for my 3 p.m. call.
The wife made a delicious Irish Stew for St. Patrick’s Day. We sent an image of my children eating it to an Irish friend. The timing was perfect. He stopped by 15 minutes later on his way home from his office. (The stew passed muster as authentic, making the wife happy.)
Like so many offices and schools, we were able to have the Brno Writers Group meeting in a Google Hangout. It was nice to see the group members and hear their stories of dealing with this situation. Every story is now understood through the prism of our current restrictions. How will literature and art reflect the fact that the entire world has come to a standstill? The Brno Book Club, which meets online next Wednesday, will surely have opinions.
The wife and I drank wine and ate pistachios at the kitchen table well into the night. Are we okay with food? Do we have enough toilet paper? Do we have enough cash? Is half a tank of gas enough? The kids slept soundly in the other room.
The boy woke up with an infection in his eye. Our pediatrician knows our children well and she was aware that this infection had spread to many children around the neighborhood. She was available by phone, listened to the symptoms and texted a prescription. It’s not the normal doctor-patient interaction, but you make do with what you have. The wife went for a run to Avion to get the eye drops. She covered her mouth the entire time.
Cyrilometodejske gymnasium, where I teach English conversation one morning a week, moved lessons online. The IT Department adjusted the school-wide system to allow for communication and scheduling. The graduating seniors took it upon themselves to help set up additional feeds and train the teachers to use the technology. Other schools are doing the same.
We got lunch at a local restaurant. It is so small that it doesn’t have a website. They have a table inside the door, you order your food (cabbage soup and chicken schnitzel with potato salad) and then wait outside. It was a lot of food. And tasted excellent. It was like a picnic at home.
At around 10:15 p.m., as we were falling asleep, somewhere nearby, there were fireworks. Czech people really love their fireworks.
The show must go on — and actually will. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City has closed its doors but it has opened its online performances to the world for free. A new opera is shown every night at 7:30 p.m. EDT. Then it is available for 20 hours, which is perfect to provide the background for the following workday in Brno. Go to https://www.metopera.org/. Famous singers and other theaters are also streaming performances.
I have always been addicted to news. I want to be the first to know everything and tell people about it. So, I went shopping: The Wall Street Journal has a deal for three months for $1. I already have subscriptions to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Like I said, I’m addicted. The paywalls for many newspapers and periodicals are down.
The weather is beautiful outside. The girl wore a dress to look like Elsa from Frozen and she has been “freezing” different parts of the house. The boy has two new dinosaur stuffed animals. They were to be rewards for a scheduled visit to the doctor (to compensate for the pain of giving blood). Now there are many dinosaur roars around the house.
As I worked, the kids had a picnic with their plastic toys in front of the French doors in the attic. They were greatly entertained by the neighbor’s cat, Alex, as he moved around our garden.
How will this experience affect my children? Will they forever be the Coronavirus Generation?
This was a day off from work. That meant time to read many articles from all of my publications and to continue reading all of my books. It was also a day to pay with Duplo toys.
I signed up for “Science Matters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19”, an online class from Imperial College London that is available for free through https://www.coursera.org. You can never get enough information.
It was the first day of spring and the trees had little blossoms on them. It was time to whip the garden into shape. I’m lucky to have a big garden behind my home. There are a lot of weeds and, most importantly, a lot of social distance. The winter garlic is breaking the surface. The blueberries and strawberries look good.
We still haven’t resorted to videos, a minor victory. Next week may need to include some screen time.
In any case, there are many more days of self-quarantine to come. Please share your ideas for living in quarantine. Especially if you have active toddlers!
Be safe. Be well.