On Coronavirus, Quarentines and Social Responsability: My Personal Experience
Ever since I've created my account on Hubpages, my focus has always been two of my passions: Books and movies. Nonetheless, today I am planning to go out of my usual ways and write about a subject that has been worrying me for some weeks now.
I was born and raised in a small town in Buenos Aires province in Argentina. I finished high school two years ago, and last year I moved to Buenos Aires City to start university. Since I know Hubpages' users are from all around the world, I feel I should explain a little bit about how the university experience is here.
Differing from other countries, Argentina has many public universities across its territory. Maybe the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) is the most prestigious one internationally, but there are also other universities where you can get an excellent education for free.
Most of us here grew up watching American movies, where the students live in their university' campus and there are all these clubs and boys with university' jackets. It is not what it looks like here!
First of all, the only persons that have to move when starting university are the ones who, like me, do not live in the cities where the important universities are. For example, the kids who were born and raized in big cities just continue living in their homes.
Buenos Aires City is an expensive place to live in, so when you have to move on your own, you do not always have enough money to rent an apartment on your own. That is my case. So since last year, as I prepared for my university's entry exam, I've been living at a student's residence.
I share a room with four other girls: One is from a nearby city, two from other provinces and the last one is a foreigner. Many of the girls that live in the residence are foreigners, most of them from Latin American countries. That is one of the things I like the most about the place. Our customaries, vocabularies, and accents are quite different, and I consider it the most interesting experience. I have learned a lot, and also, I have made many friends.
The residence has four floors: The first is where the kitchen and dinning-room are, the second and the fourth floor are where us residents live, and the third is where the owners live. They are a Chinese family.
Of course, in times like these, living in a place that is full of people, and where you have to constantly share common spaces, such as kitchens and bathrooms, things can get difficult.
I arrived just the day before the pandemic was declared, after being at home all summer. It might have been my second or third day when a girl tried to make some conversation in the kitchen, while we were cooking. During March and April, there are always new girls at the residence, and the kitchen is the place to socialize and make friends. We talk for a little bit, and I asked her where was she from, failing (as always) to identify the accent. She told me she was from Germany, and that she had arrived at the residence the past Friday.
It seems incredible now, but some weeks ago we were not in full alert here in Argentina concerning the virus. We were already hearing the news from Europe, but it always seems to us a place so far away, that apart from buying alcohol and hand sanitizer, we continued with our lives as usual. That was why, at first, the idea of asking this girl more questions did not immediately come to me: Where did you arrive in Argentina? Did you quarantine as it was asked? Also, I didn't want her to think me rude.
At that moment, social distancing after traveling abroad was not obligatory. It was just something that was "suggested"; people who did not comply were not well seen, but there were no official orders regarding this topic. But when I talked to my mother on the phone, she urged me to ask that girl a little more about her arrival, just to be sure.
The day after, the same girl came to me and asked me if I have already started my lessons. I told her that I had not (Classes were supposed to start on the 16th, but that date had already been changed) and asked about hers.
And that was when she told me that her classes had not been postponed, but she could not go as of yet. As she had arrived from Europe, she had been told to wait fifteen days before starting.
She was supposed to be in quarantine. Isolated. But she had decided to quarantine inside the residence, keeping contact with around thirty potential victims every day, most of which had no idea what was going on.
I texted the owner of the residence, demanding answers: The safety of the people inside the residence is her responsibility after all. I told her what I knew, and she promised to make some inquiries.
I could not believe that, given the situation worldwide, the owner would allow a person who had just arrived from Europe to move into the residence without making sure that she had completed her fifteen days of quarantine; that she was indeed healthy. But I still contemplated the chance that I had misunderstood what the girl had told me (Her Spanish was very good, but she still was somehow unsure speaking it) and it was all a false alarm.
Turn out I had understood everything alright: The owner talked to the girl and she told her that she had arrived in Argentina, the same day she arrived at the residence. That had been not even a week ago.
The owner, of course, excused herself saying that there were no official orders to quarantine when the girl arrived, but really: You receive a girl that comes from Europe, the place that (At that moment at least) has the most victims in the world, and it does not occur to you to ask about her arrival?
The measure was to ask the girl to move to an individual bedroom (She was sharing with two others) and remain there for a week, when the end of her quarantine should have been, had she done it properly.
The day after this, we had another case of irresponsibility.
One of my friends, who lives just across the corridor from me, told me that her roommate had just come back from a trip to Brazil. That girl just passed by in the morning, and casually told my friend that there was a possibility to receive an order to quarantine from her workplace because of her trip. But she was not planning on isolating herself for the time being. This happened the same day that Argentina declared Brazil a country of risk, and order everybody who came back from there to remain isolated for fifteen days. My friend was really worried about that, but she didn't feel sure about speaking to the owner so as not to créate trouble with her roommate.
So again, I texted the owner and communicate the situation to her.
She told me that she knew that my friend's roommate had come back from Brazil, but that it had been more than two weeks ago, which knew was untrue. I insisted, so she again promised to "inquire". A little later, she texted me saying that she had spoken to the girl again and that I was right.
My parents were already worried about me, so when I called home to communicate all the recent news, they went crazy. And they immediately gave the order I feared the most: "Come back home right now."
Of course, I understood the fairness of their command: I was in an unsafe space, the classes were not beginning for at least three weeks, so there was no real reason for me to stay where I was.
It was the saddest "trip back home" I have ever had.
I got a last moment ticket on the bus, I put some of my belongings inside a suitcase and I left. I did not even have the chance to say goodbye to my friends and my roommates in person.
When I got home we all quarantine for the remainder of the week. I had not had direct contact with any of those girls (We did not even touch at all and I washed everything I used in the kitchen before cooking) but we had inevitably shared some common spaces, so we all wanted to be on the safe side. I could not touch my parents or my sister; I could not visit my baby cousin, see my grandma or my aunts.
Three days after I came back home, mandatory quarantine was declared. That was on the 20th of March. We have all been at home ever since.
I have had some university homework sent to me, but I have not idea when classes are going to begin. I have no idea how I or any other student are going to do with our exams. Or the laboratory practices that I am supposed to do before July.
I miss my friends and my university, but most of all I miss my city. Seeing Buenos Aires city so very empty and quiet is heart-breaking, but I know it means that something good is happening: People are taking care of themselves and staying at home.
I am doing my best to study a lot and making the most of my time, but I am also trying to slow down (something that I don't do a lot since I started university) and give some time to the things I enjoy and had not had much time to do in recent months.
And I am trying to stay hopeful.
Some days ago, I read an interview with a Spanish quantum physicist about coronavirus. When asked about the good and bad things that will result from this crisis, he answered that, even though sometimes it seems like we repeat our mistakes, our collective wisdom increases.
He said: "Do not doubt it, we'll be wiser"
I am repeating it to myself every day, while I am hearing all the sad things that are happening in the world.
My family and friends are all healthy, and my country is also doing very well considering the circumstances, so I have a lot to be grateful for.
Now that I've taken all that out, I can go back to my books and movies with a clearer mind.
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