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Week three of the quarantine: an experience

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Things are heating up and not only for summer but also the emotions around our locked-down world. When I leave the house once a week to take the garbage out, there are a lot of people out and about, but we stay home. People are out and about looking for things to fill the void. For some it is the missing Latte Macchiato oat milk foamed with honey, for others a seared Seabass filet with fried potato pancakes and asparagus, and for others the realization that being a real family man is different than the fairytale we lived in during “the time of great freedoms.”

Week three is complete and there is no real end in sight. I guess starting about Friday stores with shoes and paper products were allowed to reopen. The Minister of Health Adam Vojtech (ANO) gave it a nod, and in a recent Radiozurnal interview he cited that people were “complaining” that they needed shoes and paper for the decision. But a good sign is that “essentials” shopping will turn into non-essentials soon enough and carefully we can start understanding what will be expected of us in the months ahead. Will we be walking around in full haz-mat suits or just shawls? Rubber gloves at the stores or disinfectant? Will receptionists be measuring temperatures or doing swab tests upon arrival at the office? We will learn about this gradually, but in China things are far from “returning to normal.” I have read some stories from expats living there and they write that many restrictions are still in place. There will certainly be a “New Normal,” and the term will mean more than the business term famed economist and investment Executive Mohamed A. El-Erian coined to describe the after-math of the 2007-2009 recession. The world is not only going to change, but there will be a big leap forward in to digitalization.

Writing about my experiences during this three week period has made me actually think about all this more. I spend more time talking to friends about “the virus” and looking for ideas to write in my piece. My business contacts also telling me about the catastrophe a sudden “switch-off” of the economy does to their projects. Slowly but surely life will start to open up and we can appreciate the little things we so long took for granted.

My neighbor Honza managed to come by on Friday. He was not allowed in the house by my wife but I happily spent two hours in the hallway helping him drink all my beer. I think all of us family men have one of those alpha-male friends who break all the rules, are indifferent to Women’s suffrage, do only male oriented tasks and simplify life for the liberals who are trying to stay open minded. I asked Honza how many times this week he had changed his baby’s diaper? He laughed so loud I felt silly that I asked. “Change a diaper? NEVER!” Cooking? Nope. Cleaning? Nope. I was beginning to feel a little bit uneasy so I stopped the family questions. I asked him what he thought about the sports being shut down? He explained how it was all nonsense and called all the decision makers a slang term for a female sexual organ. Honza still goes to work, takes the metro, puts in his 8 hours, has a beer with his mates after work and doesn’t buy any of this epidemic nonsense. His wife and kids have never affected his Slavia attendance or watching the away games on television. I was astonished, and decided I should not repeat any of these points to my wife, at least at this point. I fell into my apartment, washed my clothes in 90C water, had a shower, scrubbed down everything like I had been working at a jobsite all day, and went to sleep.

Saturday: my friendly family neighbor. The dial-up of the vocal arguments have been substantial all week. I am not sure if it is due to us all having our windows open, or because everyone feels like me: locked up in a cage. None-the-less the movers showed up on Saturday and little Freddy packed up his stuff and gave a big “see ya!” to the family. I thought he was about fifteen, regardless he has found another place to live. A few hours later while I was on the terrace watching the smoking couple on their balcony, the neighbor came out on her terrace. I asked her if she was ready to go back to work yet and she answered that she was dreaming about it! Sunday has been quiet.

Sunday was a really nice day. At some point I looked down at my phone and it was 17C outside. A month later than last year but it looks like summer is here to stay. It had been a lazy sort of weekend with entertaining the kids, cooking and some cleaning taking up all the time. I was hoping to get a nap in as I haven’t had a mid-afternoon nap in two weeks. Also I was hoping to lay out in the sun on the terrace, have a coffee, something sweet and just indulge in the moment of our time: uncertainty and slowly developing.

But as some believe “God has other plans.” By 10 o’clock I was getting scolded about not cleaning something, not fixing the bath tub and enjoying a night out with Honza on Friday. Now I am not much of a cleaner nor a plumber, I prefer to outsource those things. And in times like these, level headed Honza is exactly the type of person I need to spend an evening talking to. I thought about bringing up Honza’s point of view on males participation in childcare and cleaning, but felt I didn’t have the energy to win that one. Instead I got to work.

I didn’t manage to fix the bathtub, but I did try. Honza would probably been able to master that one. The cleaning I also tried, but ended up only cleaning a mirror and being again scolded for not knowing how to do it correctly. So then I went for taking care of the kids.

I have always wanted children, love children, and thought they were the most amazing little beings. Friends and such even convinced me that I was going to be the greatest dad in the history of man-kind. The flip side you never see is that children never actually stop, they just recharge on a meal and then come back to full energy!

I tried reading them a book. One was not into it, the other is kicking the third one, the third one is somewhat following. Okay then how about a game? The games always turn either into a giant wrestling match with someone getting hurt, or a running match. Even if those two options are exhausted it only kills an hour on a great day. Now we have 13-14 hours to kill. I just can’t. Watering the plants? Fifteen minutes. Hide-and-go-secret? Thirty minutes. Puzzles? Twenty minutes. And so on. The field is limited and we, the adults, run out. Now the importance of schools is clear: Have similar aged children, with similar energy levels, together in one place so they can entertain and learn with each other!

So out of all the possible scenarios the “New Normal” will feature, I hope that we never entertain the notion that home schooling, or even “digital” learning, can work. It cannot. And if not just for the children, then certainly not for all the parents! Tomorrow’s Monday and I need to do it all over again, just this time with work tasks too!
Have a great week!

Paul Lysek – The idea of writing a daily update came to me by seeing, hearing and trying to understand all the things that are happening around us at this time. This story is a combination of all those sources, including friends, relatives, and experiences with attempts to bring out the satire, emotion and changing environment of the situation. It is entirely fictional, with the exception of my sarcasm.

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