Hello again everyone! Here’s a little update on my life, how I’m handling everything surrounding the COVID-19 situation:
The most frustrating thing that’s happened on my exchange so far is all of the unknown going on surrounding the corona virus. I left my host family on Sunday (March 8th) to go snowboarding with Rotary and everything was completely normal, two days before the first case had been diagnosed here in Bratislava. That following Wednesday, Rotary had to cancel our trip to the waterpark because it closed, then the slopes that we had been snowboarding on all week closed on Friday so we had to leave to go home a day early (which was a whole ordeal in itself). Within the matter of a few days everything changed. I was having the most amazing time learning to snowboard with all the exchange students here, I was in a little bubble for 4 days. Paying no attention to what was going on in the outside world, spending 24/7 with friends having a great time. Then that Thursday afternoon my instructor told us there was a 95% chance we wouldn’t be coming back tomorrow and we were all like “what???” …The government had just shut down all ski resorts in the country. That’s when things started to get real.
I was riding the train home, no clue what I was about to walk into. All of us exchange students had no idea what was going to happen when we go home, we knew our schools were closed for the next two weeks, but had no idea how much freedom would be taken away from us. The train was almost empty, and the few people we encountered all had masks. I then got in the car with my host mom and she basically told me I was going to be quarantined in my house with my host brother for at least 14 days. Within the next hours/days the government had announced:
• all three international airports will be closed down
• People with a permanent or temporary domicile in the Slovak Republic who return to Slovakia from abroad will be obliged to remain in quarantine for 14 days
• All schools and educational establishments will be shut
• Temporary border control with all neighboring states will be imposed, except for the Republic of Poland, where the situation will be continuously monitored
• International and domestic train and bus transport will be limited, except for imports and supplies
• Bars, leisure facilities and premises (ski centers, wellness centers, fitness centers, amusement parks and aquaparks) will be closed
• Social and cultural establishments will be shut down
• Shopping centers will have limited operation – on the weekend, only food, medications and drugstore items may be bought
• The opening hours of customer centers will be limited
• Visits of the hospital patients will continue to be prohibited
• The organization of sporting, cultural, social and other mass events is prohibited
• Hotels and restaurants will be open.
I can leave the house for a walk or skate around the lake, but I can’t use public transportation because it’s too risky, which means I’m going from seeing my friends every day at school to not for a while. Everyone is wearing masks, keeping distance from each other, it’s crazy to me how in the matter of a week this could happen. I went away for a Ski week with rotary and now I come back and everything’s going to be online for a while. I plan on lots of skype calls, and school will be over the computer. That will be a very new experience, group “zooming” my classmates and teachers to have classes, which means my classes in Slovak will be difficult with no one able to translate ideas for me. I wonder when the next time I’ll have the opportunity to be in the city center again…. I know that during this time I need to keep myself busy and everything will be okay.
This first week in quarantine really did mentally take a toll on me, I was doing good at first then everything snuck up on me and now it’s Friday morning and I’m crying my eyes out because one of my best friends has to leave to go home. We’re all stuck at home and I don’t know if I’ll get the chance for a proper goodbye 🙁 Every day this week I’ve gotten a notification about kids from my home district going home, kids in my district at the airport here saying bye- it’s all too much. Who would’ve thought a pandemic would hit 2020. Definitely not me.
On a happier note I have learned a lot about myself spending these past few days alone. I have all of the time in the world and I’m trying to use it to my advantage, to better myself. I go on long walks everyday in the fields behind my house with my dog, sometimes put some skates on and do a few laps around the lake. Funny story about that actually. The first time I ever put skates on my feet was a couple days ago and I decided it would be a good idea to go all the way from my house to the lake. Which is a solid 2-3km just to get there and then 6 km around the lake. So, turns out I have no clue how to stop and you have to go down a hill from my house, that was one of the scariest moments in my life, I completely lost control and was just praying there wouldn’t be any cars. I got lucky, and the rest of the way was hilarious, trying not to die on sidewalk cracks and everything. I told my host mom about it and she was like “how did you get down the hill???? Are you crazy?”. So, I learned from my mistake and the next day rode my bike with skates in a backpack to the lake. Still don’t know how to stop though, I just grab onto trees. When I do go outside, I make sure to avoid people and my host mom says I have to wear a mask (which is annoying when you’re doing some kind of physical activity but I know it’s for the best).
Other things I’ve been doing in my quarantine:
Listening to lots of music and podcasts
Lots of watching the news at night with my host mom, following the situation around the world
Spending a lot of time on Slovak, and picking up some Portuguese
Finally trying to learn how to ollie
Lots of zoom calls with my class for school
Skype calls with friends
Cooking with my host brother
Here’s a little update from my now 3rd week in quarantine/self-isolation. I am doing a lot better mentally; I’ve learned to except the situation I’m in and know there isn’t much I can do about it. I have noticed myself losing motivation to do work, but I’m trying and know it’s better to keep busy. The weather has been crazy, some days it’s 17C outside and I can sit out in the sun and others it’s been -2C, back to being stuck inside. I’m in a much better mood the more time I spend outside. I mentioned before that my friend had to suddenly leave Slovakia and go back home to the US, that was hard to get over. But I made an agreement with my host mom and she was nice enough to drive me to say bye to her. I am so glad that I had that chance for a somewhat proper “goodbye for now”. It still hasn’t really hit me that she left, we can still talk on facetime like we were doing before, so it’s like nothing has changed- but she’s actually in a completely different country than me now. When I can leave the house and go to school that’s when it’ll actually hit me.
Slovakia has introduced a few more laws surrounding the virus; it’s now required to wear masks outside, all shops are open 9-12 for the elderly and immunocompromised only, and everything should be closed on Sunday’s. Just like the rest of the world we don’t know when we’ll go back to school, if we do. Who knew I’d miss school this much…?
I just got news I’ll be switching families after Easter; I’m excited for a change in environment, but I also really do not want to leave this family now, I love them so much. At that point I’ll have been in the house for over 4 weeks so it will be good for a change, also really give me a chance to know them under lockdown haha.
Anyways, I’ve been documenting my whole “quarantine experience” in journal entries in Slovak so that will be interesting to look back at in a few years when all of this is well over. I’m hanging in there for this crazy experience, living through a worldwide pandemic in Slovakia. I have been given an interesting opportunity to see first hand how a country other than the US is dealing with the virus. I hope everyone is taking the necessary precautions, please self-isolate as much as possible (I know its annoying but in the long run it’s for the best). Stay healthy and we’ll all get through this together!!! I want to thank everyone in my life for constantly checking up on me, Rotary making sure I’m okay and I want to stay, my host family for taking care of me, I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the amazing people in my life I know this will end and am keeping a positive energy about everything.