Quarantine confessions of a European volunteer

It started out easy you know. I was glad I had more time to read, I was happy to spare the walking-to-work routine.

No, actually it wasn’t easy. It all started off with a small scare and I usually laugh it out when I’m panicked. Keeps me sane if you believe it or not. Consequently I laughed a whole week. And then my roommate left and I found myself not sharing the laughter no more.

Make no mistake, it’s nice having the house to one’s self. That’s a given.

Overall there were days when I wished it would end, there were other days when I wanted it to stay that way. This time, at home, could really be invested intelligently. I’m here now again – wishing it would prolong. And it did.

It’s uncanny really. I started the month of February reading The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. For those of you who don’t know anything about medieval Italian literature, it is a novel that develops its plot during a plague. More precisely, the Black Death from the 14th century which is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population. Ten characters, seven ladies and three lads decide to escape Florence in order to protect themselves from the pandemic and also to have a good time while together. They tell stories, they dance, they sing, they eat, they drink, they sleep, they jest, they stroll.

You can imagine how eerie everything seemed, the coincidence, the queer timing. I had that book for months, never have I touched it heretofore.

Anyway, as the days passed by, the otherworldliness disappeared and I went on with my life, I proceeded to take up other tomes.

Presently, I must warn the unliterary reader. You should relinquish this reading at once if you don’t enjoy the occasional Jack Kerouac joke.

It’s funny how literature shapes our lives. Or more correctly, how we shape our lives according to literature. Or how a book manipulates our lives. Well, one or the other.

Having been alone for a whole month now, I had days and days. Good days and lazy days. On my laziest days I would crack open a cold one with the boys, except there were no boys cause I’m confined to solitary existence, and I would actually crack open one too many and would wake up video-calling random Messenger groups. And so after a few days like that, again – totally coincidental, I would come across a book that described exactly what I was going through, or one that described the manifestation of what I had only a seed in me. And so I came across Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (which nearly disappointed me) and found out that the protagonist’s fascination and obsession was being directed towards this guy Sebastian who is dipsomaniac.  And so I would eschew bevvies.  For a while at least.

Brideshead’s precursory was Notes from Underground, one of Dostoevsky’s very finest and not ironically enough I got a sudden urge for White Russians (vodka-based cocktail). Got over that one real quick.

That was relatively recent but going back to the first weeks of the pandemic I exploited all the theological guides that I had on me.

Then I took up medieval works again, commenced reading Nibelungen and Le chevalier de la charrette but gave up effortlessly. This is actually Confession for me, for nothing humiliates me more than unfinished books.

I’m glad I kept up the Bible reading though. Rather consistently. It’s an undeniable succour.

I’ve got to mention one of the aspects that bring us together as volunteers – having a surrogate country, a surrogate President. Watching Macron en direct was reasonably exciting. Knowing more about what happens in your current abode (in this case France) than you do about your own country.  It was certainly my case at least. And for the first time I felt I really finally shared something in the emotional sphere with this amazing nation. All of us trying to survive, attend to each other’s needs and protect. In isolation.

I must say I enjoy the sun, the occasional wind, not so much the lizards running about on my balcony but living right across the Loire? I couldn’t have asked for more. My deep gratitude must be expressed.

Additionally, I started teaching English officially for the first time in my life. I write lessons and prepare exercises. It’s pretty great I gotta say. I forgot how much I love correcting other people’s mistakes. So for those of you out there looking for a tutor, don’t hesitate. Unless you’re easily annoyed. You’ll have to deal with me. In which case, please hesitate.

For those unfortunate people who got to know my poor soul – they will confirm my lack of cooking skills. Well, my past lack of cooking skills. It must be mentioned that the sole thing missing was patience. Well now I got it. I got patience. So I tried a few tricks. Excusez-moi, a few recipes. Not so bad. I keep away from la bonne chère of course but you get the point. Now I can actually enjoy nourishment.

I got more nonsense to utter but I’ll do it in small doses. The fact is it’s important to be able to bear oneself. Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

P.S. I apologize for the name dropping, it makes one feel rather sophisticated.

— quarantine photos — courtesy of author –