Welcome to Kafkadesk’s Quarantine Diaries, our new segment gathering testimonials from across Central Europe to understand how people in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic are living through the unfolding coronavirus crisis and, maybe, give you some comfort to show you you’re not alone in this ordeal. Today, Talia, a 26-year-old American student living in Budapest, shares her story. virus quarantine
As I write this, it’s been 18 days since the Hungarian government announced that all universities would need to shut down their in-person functions in a hope to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. I am an American citizen who has been living abroad since 2016. and started studying at CEU in the fall of 2018, with the exception of spending fall 2019 at CEU’s new Vienna campus.
Coronavirus: Should I stay or should I go?
The day that the announcement was made, there was significant confusion on what all of this meant not just in general, but what it meant specifically for us. Soon after the announcement, I watched as many of my friends fled back to their home countries before borders started to close and flights, trains, began to get cancelled. At that point, I seriously considered going home, but due to my lack of health insurance in the U.S. and the hazard of a trans-Atlantic flight, it seemed too risky. So in the meantime, I am hunkering down in Budapest until this all blows over.
One of the things that I’ve found quite striking throughout this experience is how quickly everything has changed. My roommate and I remark almost daily about how one week ago, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, we never could have imagined what would be happening today, and how this also means that we have no idea what could happen tomorrow.
Since moving to Hungary, I have taken multiple Hungarian language courses, and although I’m thankful for the level that I have now, I also worry about my limited language skills affecting my ability to promptly understand the new and changing laws or if I get sick, God forbid, that my language skill would hinder my ability to communicate with healthcare workers. virus quarantine
Staying busy and occupied in quarantine
For the most part, I try to go for a walk or do an online pilates class once a day to keep myself active. Otherwise, I try to stay at home as much as possible. In the weeks leading up to the official social distancing announcements, my roommates and I started slowly buying shelf-stable food, and now we go out just to supplement what we already have.
I feel lucky that in Hungary people do not seem to be resource hoarding in the way that I see my Facebook friends from the U.S., Austria and Germany posting about. The streets are nearly empty and when I look out from the safety of our balcony, I see a few bicyclists and individuals on walks, but none of the normally jubilant friends enjoying the arrival of spring or families strolling along the Danube as the trees along the river begin to bloom. I seem to find myself looking out the window more than usual these days, wishing I was out there instead of holed up in here.
One thing that I keep reminding myself on the days where things seem more hopeless than not is the famous Mr. Roger’s quote that is often touted in the U.S. after tragedy strikes: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping”. virus quarantine
Helping each other out in times of crisis
I offer an example of this from Hungary: a dear friend of mine started a Facebook group to help provide timely translations of Hungarian proclamations and guidelines, tips for surviving the isolation that many of us feel, and academic and artistic resources for us to peruse. Another friend of mine hopes to start leading workshops on how to make reusable cloth masks.
As someone who is trapped far away from her familial support, I find solace in the fact that my support system here includes individuals who spend their time thinking of ways to help others. I find myself hopeful, despite the constant barrage of negative news, that not only will we survive this virus, but that we can come out stronger.
Stay tuned for more of our ongoing quarantine diaries segment from Central Europe!