Story of an American living in Italy during the Coronavirus Pandemic
I was a sophomore in college when on a particularly dreary day, our professor confessed he wasn’t feeling well and on that day we would watch a movie and afterwards draft a three paragraph essay on what we would do had we been in the characters shoes. Being that it was a class on health and disease naturally we watched a movie that has now, in 2020, made a massive comeback. Contagion.
The mass hysteria, the looming dread, the DEATH. What would I do had I lived in that universe? Hopefully I will never actually have to experience something so extreme, but I would probably do something similar to what is now my new reality.
So what is a typical day like for someone stuck in a government issued quarantine? In short, a lot of Netflix and extreme boredom.
I don’t set an alarm in the morning because there is no where to go. Schools, jobs, events, everything not related to medical professions or markets are completely closed. When I do manage to roll out of bed in the morning I take my dog, Kylo, outside to do his business, I can never get used to the sight of this new world around me. Streets once so loud with cars zooming past me, are still and quiet. The sidewalks that were full just a couple weeks ago of early risers on their morning runs, or parents walking children to school, are now empty. The smell of freshly baked croissants wafting out from the coffee shop next door to my apartment, is now just a memory, my stomach no longer rumbles for the taste of the pastries but for the laughter that once filled the small store. In the distance I see my first sign of life, people lined up, each distanced one meter, waiting to enter the local market to stock up on groceries for the week. Unlike in America however, they aren’t buying enough toilet paper to last for the next two years
(enter eye roll). I make it to a large plot of grass, and wait for Kylo, my only companion during this time, to do his thing. It is silent except for the singing of a group of birds up in the trees, a ballad that used to soothe me, now rings like an eerie melody. The police monitor the streets, making sure everyone outside of their homes have the same permission slip that I keep in my pocket that explain why I have left the safety of my apartment. We head back inside, I prepare our breakfast, choose something to watch on Netflix and get ready to do the same thing as yesterday and the day before. I sit on the couch, a place where I will mostly inhabit until its time to go to bed with a dread that this is exactly what I will do again tomorrow and everyday until April 3rd.
As depressing as this all sounds, it’s actually not so bad. I’m taking this time to work on myself, do yoga, find online home workout videos, teach Kylo new tricks, learn to play the ukulele (so far unsuccessful), cook actual meals that take time and not just chicken and the occasional veggie, put on face masks, drink water, write my first blog in two years (sorry) and catch up with friends back in the States that I’ve neglected while living overseas. Many people can’t fathom what it’s like to be in this type of isolation, but while yes it is boring, it is oddly peaceful to be so disconnected from the hectic world that we are used to. Will I feel the same way in two weeks? Probably not, but now a week into this quarantine, I’m trying to make the best out of a bad situation, something that everyone should consider doing while the world is on pause. Breathe, count your blessings, take care of yourself (stop clearing the shelves of toilet paper, I seriously don’t understand) remember that we are all in this together and take it one day at a time.
Will I go home?
I want to. I was planning to, but ultimately decided to stay in Italy. Why? Everyone has their own lists of pros and cons and in my case my reasons to stay in Italy outweighed my desire to be home. People can have COVID-19 without showing symptoms, and the risk of spreading it to my community wasn’t one I was willing to take. Another reason: The Italian volleyball league still has yet to announce if it will continue or be cancelled…
I don’t even want to get into that… And while I could break my contract and go home to my friends and family I’ve made a commitment to my team and myself to finish this season.
Am I scared of this virus? For myself no, but for the elderly, who COVID-19 effects the most, yes. If I, a healthy, active 24 year old, get the virus I will survive it, but the chance of spreading it to someone who may not is a major problem, one that none of us should take lightly. So my final message is something you can take or leave: if you are young and healthy, living your best life like the world has no problems, then by all means go ahead. But make sure to stop and think about us in Italy, a few weeks ago we were the same as you despite the rising warnings and concern.. The ignorance that most of us displayed, including myself, resulted in a country wide quarantine that caused global hysteria, and thousands of deaths of many grandparents/parents.
Unlike the movie Contagion, there isn’t mass death in the streets, but the hysteria, instances of violence and worldwide fear is a very real thing. In times like this, it is so important to remember to try and keep calm, no matter how difficult it may seem and remember that this is not forever, it’s temporary, it will eventually pass, it has before, but until we as a species are in the clear, be kind and patient, practice social distancing, WASH YOUR HANDS and stop buying toilet paper.
I’m not a doctor or scientist, I only probably know as much about this virus as you do, everything I’ve written above is my personal experience and opinion but I can leave you with this: Kate Winslet, a doctor in the movie, says “The average person touches their face 2,000 to 3,000 times a day.. Three to five times every waking minute. In between that we’re touching door knobs, water fountains, and each other.” So please, pleaseeeeee, for your health and those around you, wash your hands.