Submission — Nathan, Nidaa & Waleed

Vacuum Around The World (Pt. II)

How has life changed lately in Ireland, Bahrain or Kuwait? A couple of individuals from all around the globe tell us about their opinion, fears, and philosophy on how to handle the change we endure due to this historic pandemic. To accompany their thoughts, we show a series of pictures by Spanish artist JR Korpa.

30. April 2020 — MYP N° 29 »Vacuum« — Artwork: JR Korpa

Nathan, Ireland

It’s not often in my life that I have truly felt like I am one of the lucky ones. I mean, I knew I was lucky in the sense that I grew up during the Celtic Tiger in Ireland when the economy was flourishing. I had a good education, I’m healthy, I have a supportive family and all of that. But since this pandemic hit the world and we have all been forced to ‘cocoon’ in our own homes indefinitely, I have felt what it really means to be lucky.

I came back to Ireland on the 15th of March after being in Hungary and before that, I was in my flat in London. I passed through 3 major airports in 4 days before coming back home and somehow managed to avoid picking up the virus. However, just when I came back everything was starting to go into lock down and I decided rather than be in London among the chaos, I would stay. So, I am currently living in my family home with my parents, 2 brothers and my sister in the countryside in Ireland.

»A worthwhile investment provided you don’t live on the fifteenth floor of an apartment block in Kreuzberg.«

We have a lot of space here. The house is situated on the Royal Canal in Mullingar. It has plenty of room for the six of us not to feel on top of one of another and most importantly; there is a piano and a garden. My brothers and I have spent much of our time in isolation playing ‘spike ball’ — a game consisting of a small trampoline, a little ball and two teams who bounce the ball off the trampoline against each other to score points. It’s a lot of fun and you can get it on Amazon for about €70 — a worthwhile investment provided you don’t live on the fifteenth floor of an apartment block in Kreuzberg.

I am proud to say that Ireland was one of the first countries to take heed of how real this situation was. When I arrived home, unlike in the U.K., all the schools had already closed and nearly all the pubs were shut. I remember the first few days watching videos of Londoners jumping over one another and losing their heads over toilet roll and nappies… Thankfully, I escaped the city just in time.

»This strange departure from society has allowed us some much-needed time to reassess our values.«

Right now, I think our country is very much united, more than it has been in a long time. I get a strong sense of togetherness from calls in to the radio and the streams of supportive chat threads on Facebook and Twitter. There have been initiatives coming from people all over the country to stand behind our frontline workers. Friends of mine set up a charity called ‘Ireland’s Call’ with all proceeds coming from public crowdfunding to pay for flights to bring Irish doctors and nurses back home to help on the frontline. Musicians, comedians and performers from all over the country (and across the world) have taken to doing online performances in order to raise money for charities such as ‘’ in order to help provide care and support for the elderly — even while their own revenue streams have been almost completely wiped out.

This solidarity has given me a new belief in people. We live in quite an egotistical world and this strange departure from society has allowed us some much-needed time to reassess our values, both as individuals and as communities, and focus on what really matters most. It is something of a spiritual awakening for me and I hope that when we come out the other side, we shall go forward with the same mentality. To quote from Thoreau, “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical means but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”

In November 2017, we had the pleasure to meet Nathan for an extensive interview and photoshoot. Check it out here.

Nidaa, Bahrain

This is Nidaa Ali from Bahrain, a mother of two kids. Since this pandemic has started, it has been a total change in my daily routine since the beginning of March 2020. Most of the people in my country were not taking this matter seriously until mid of March when the government announced several instructions that could affect our lives.

I am full time with my family; I have to teach my son, which is very challenging, as I have to convince him that I am taking the role of his teacher and not of his mom. It will all depend on his mood as he just turned six in March. It was not very exciting for him to cancel his birthday party and just have a small birthday cake with parents and his sister, yet he enjoyed it.

»The whole atmosphere of Ramadan is different now.«

Many people in the community are concerned as the holy month of Ramadan will start by the end of April. In Ramadan normally all Muslims break their fast by the sunset. During the day food preparations are going on for a variety of special dishes. Now with the current situation, almost the three meals are prepared at home and most of the families are avoiding the orders from restaurants, this I think will make people a bit less interested or tired of cooking in Ramadan. In addition, Ramadan is famous for gatherings for daily breakfast and Sahoor or Ghabga (the last meal before fasting). This will most likely also disappear, which means that the whole atmosphere of Ramadan is different.

I try to keep my kids busy during the day by involving them in different activities like cooking, gardening, or washing the car. I focus to make them and myself physically active as we go cycling or walking almost every day only in our compound. Some people spent some extra money to have some joy in quarantine like buying a new BBQ kit or toys etc.

»There are people who stay in total isolation while others are worried about their summer vacation.«

It is just a coincidence that I stopped working at the beginning of March, but COVID-19 will definitely delay my return to work. Few of my relatives who also work in GCC or nearby countries are struggling to be on duty as all international transports are suspended. With all of what’s happening, people have shown different reactions. There are people who are really scared of this virus and stay in total isolation while others are worried about their summer vacation.

Many people I know like my auntie are very optimistic and very sure that this is a temporary situation and it will take some time to go away. I am personally still enjoying this challenge of keeping myself and my family healthy and fit. I enjoy spending more time with my kids and my husband, I enjoy cooking, watching new movies, and exercising. I am also very delighted to see the flowers growing in my garden every day.

Waleed, Kuwait

Kuwait’s response towards the coronavirus outbreak was one of the fastest and most effective, considering it was one of the earlier countries to face the epidemic. The Kuwaiti government took important measures to try to control the outbreak like suspending school from kindergarten to university levels on the first of March along with suspending all commercial flights on the 13th of March which caused the nation to be on lockdown. This was very vital, considering a high percentage of the infected people arriving from other countries. As the days went by, the number of cases kept increasing which prompted the government to issue a partial lockdown on all citizens and expatriates in Kuwait with strict instructions for everyone not to go out unless it is absolutely necessary.

Everyone can cope differently during quarantine time. It can be a bit difficult for extroverts like me since we are used to going out all the time and socializing. On the contrary, it’s getting me closer to my family as we are spending all our free time together. It is also giving me more free time to do things I enjoy, for example, cooking, reading, and watching my favourite shows. The days feel longer, considering that the lockdown starts from 5:00 PM every day, which means that all the usual daily activities are going to be a “staying-at-home activity.” To make it clearer, our quarantine in Kuwait is like every other country, it depends on how creative you are to spend your time at home.

»My parents left Kuwait a month before the outbreak, and now they are unable to return.«

Even though cancelling all flights to and from Kuwait aided in preventing the virus from spreading drastically, it was unfortunate for me because my parents left the country a month before the outbreak, and now they are unable to return to Kuwait. This crisis has affected everyone around the globe.

In my opinion, what Kuwait is doing is great; however, in order to prevent the number of cases each day from increasing rapidly, the authorities should implement penalties to all the private companies that did not close down to avoid unnecessary human contact, taking into account that some people might be carrying the virus but are asymptomatic. Since I am one of the people who are forced to go to work on a daily basis, I am dealing with all of the employees who are bringing cars from the customers‘ houses. This activity is putting us at the stake of getting infected from other people’s vehicles since even taking precautions will not be enough to prevent this disease from spreading to other people in the working environment.

»So many are providing their full capacities for the required efforts to support the people who are in the need of help.«

Some cities are fully locked, no one is allowed in or out. This is mandatory to prevent the spread of the infections. I believe that what Jordan did as a country — among plenty of other countries like Bahrain and Italy — by implementing the full lockdown on the whole country, has shown great results compared to what is happening to other countries. That has reduced the number of affected people to double digits per day instead of reaching the phase of having three-digits infected cases. Nothing that some of those countries who started the lockdown at the beginning of the virus spread like Jordan, now they are facing some days without registering any cases at all.

I’m supporting and trying to understand that there are plenty of factors which need to be taken into consideration before going all out. But if the lives of the people are at stake, rushing into taking such a decision will be for the sake of the country and its people.

Last but not least I would like to mention and praise the great efforts and initiatives of all of the private and governmental sectors to fight against that virus since the police, the army, the doctors, the engineers, etc. are providing their full capacities for the required efforts to support the people who are in the need of help.