Eggs on toast: a semester abroad

by Amanda Landwehr / Arts & Culture Editor

A view of Oxford St, taken from my kitchen window.

“Hey, wanna hear about the time I was locked in England because of the coronavirus?”

This is how I someday hope to start the story of my personal experience with the COVID-19 outbreak. Hopefully, by then, it won’t sting so much. But for now, it’s 2020, coronavirus fears are running rampant around the world, and I’m writing this from my nearly-empty flat in London.

As of March 23, the U.K. has officially been placed under lockdown after an announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Police officers are now allowed to give people a small fine of 30 pounds (about 40 U.S. dollars) for being outside of their homes without reason. Because of this, the extent of my daily outdoor activities includes running downstairs to grab my pizza delivery or taking a quick stroll around Soho Square. Honestly, I’m grateful to be living in a country where such significant precautions are being implemented by the government. In my eyes, this shutdown means that the sooner people follow these regulations, the quicker coronavirus victims can recover, and I can once again trot down to my local pub. 

I’ve had a lot of time to stare at the beige wall in front of my desk as I procrastinate finishing schoolwork on my laptop. Maybe I’m just going stir-crazy, but staring at that wall and the pictures that litter its surface have made me weirdly reflective. In these little four-by-six inch squares lies some of my most cherished memories: my senior year band trip to Greece, a friend’s birthday party, Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago, my mom and I in San Diego. 

But this situation has caused me to realize that life is not so confined to the boundaries of one four-by-six rectangle, and perhaps resembles more of a gigantic, messy collage. And that I should probably finish my homework instead of creating philosophical metaphors.

In another sick move from the world, the weather just had to be beautiful and sunny this past week. Like a sweet tease, I wanted to enjoy these rare days of London sunshine with a picnic in Hyde Park, a trip to Columbia Market or even a rooftop drink at some fancy cafe. But nope! The cruel nature of this situation limited my options to the same one garden and city streets that I’d been walking for the past 15 days. As much as I appreciated the springtime breeze and warming temperatures during my walks, it almost seemed like rain was more suitable.

During this strange time, I’ve taken to weekly grocery shopping (my new definition of ‘going out’), writing and even reading. I picked up “The Divine Comedy” from a bookshop last week in what seems to be the peak of my own existential crisis. Have I actually made any progress in reading it? Not at all. But what I have been able to do with my short attention span is watch the entirety of the popular Netflix docu-series, “Tiger King.” (10/10 recommend for the true-crime junkies out there.)

Remarkably enough, Flavia is still able to (somewhat) put up with me despite being in such close quarters. Like a true Italian, she made homemade pasta for us the other day. We’ve made substantial progress on our list of movies to watch and even resorted to making DIY Uno cards out of sheer boredom and desperation (yes, it’s possible).

Regardless of these simple distractions, the coronavirus outbreak is still weighing heavy on my mind. I’m a journalist — A.K.A. the type of person who asks a lot of questions and likes good, solid answers. I constantly find myself asking: when will this be over? Why now? What even is “normal” anymore? But in situations like this, I suppose that all that I can do is allow myself to feel the full wave of ugly emotions. And stay indoors.

I miss my local pubs. I miss brushing against the shoulders of strangers as I would fit myself into a packed tube car on my way home from school. I miss my cheap flights on European budget airlines and hearing groups of drunk teenagers stumbling out of the bars on a Saturday night. It’s hard to wake up and have nothing to look forward to aside from the vague and seemingly distant promise of normalcy. But throughout all of this, I’m just appreciative to be in good health and good company. At the end of the day, at least I’m in London, so I can’t just sit here and be mad about everything. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and although it might seem distant, it’s still there. For now, all I can do is focus on that.



Categories: Columns

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