Submission — Sara, Ronit & Antoine

Vacuum Around The World (Pt. I)

How has life changed lately in Jordan, India or France? 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. Accompanying this we show a series of pictures by Spanish artist JR Korpa.

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

Sara, Jordan

In late 2013 I visited my paternal grandmother in Toulkarm, Palestine. She was, at that time, in her nineties and lived a life stripped off any modern-day technologies. The only piece of sophisticated technology she owned was her fridge which had a small number of fresh ingredients, enough to make a hot meal for a day or two.

I wanted to get away from the constant state of connectedness, knowing everything that was happening at all times. Knowing where everyone was, what they were eating, what they were listening to. Every thought was on display for me to view and soak in.

I asked my grandmother one day: “Teta, don’t you get bored? Don’t you want to know about what’s happening in the world?”

“No,” she answered, “I am not bored, I am lonely sometimes, but I’ve seen enough from this world. I have less to worry about now. I accept and deal with what comes when it comes. I do not need to foresee it.” Back then, I thought this was foolish. Of course, we need to know what’s happening at all times, we need to plan and work and progress. We need to compete and fight for what is ours. How can we do that blindly?

»I could see the pandemic catching up like an enemy running after my dreams.«

In 2018, four years after my grandmother had died, I got married to the love of my life and moved to Saudi Arabia. For me as a woman who used to have little to no restrictions on my life, the culture shock was a punch in the stomach. On my first day in the city of Jeddah, I realized how much I had to get used to. My residency was linked to my husband’s. I was issued a card that had the following inscription: “Wife to” and then my husband’s name. At the bottom, there was an additional line saying, “not allowed to work.” That’s what I was suddenly reduced to. I was angry, bitter and helpless. A fire was burning inside of me for a whole year. One day I erupted, and I decided to change my life. I needed a place to thrive. After a year of applications and paperwork, my husband and I were ready to move to Toronto, Canada for a new life—a fresh start and somewhere I could call home. My dream was created, and it was a beautiful pool of opportunity and excitement. I was ready to jump in.

In February 2020 I traveled to see my mother in Amman, Jordan to spend two months with her before my husband and I permanently move to Canada. I spent the first three weeks with a knot in my stomach. I was reading the news and could see the pandemic catching up like an enemy running after my dreams, and it was closing in.

»I am still fragile. And I am still in danger.«

I am writing this now with heaviness. The pandemic caught up to my dream. It broke it and gave it back to me to reconstruct. So, like most people in the world, I am faced with unexpected free time and a sense of uncertainty. I fill it with the most popular activities; yoga, meditation, over-eating, binging on series and self-improvement talks—which seem to keep the underlying sense of insecurity at bay for most of the day. Yet, every evening at 6 p.m., the emergency sirens sound. It is a loud reminder that—no matter how much yoga, meditation or prayer I do—I am still fragile. And I am still in danger.

The current time I am spending at my mother’s home has been a quiet reminder of the time I spent at my grandmother’s in 2013. There is a sense of calmness and a slower pace that brings me back to myself. Yet, it is interlaced with a global sense of sadness for those who are suffering.

»We are all waiting for this in-between state to end, so we can move to a better place.«

In my religion, Islam, some believe that when people die, their souls travel to an in-between space called Barzakh. Or what some call limbo. When souls reach Barzakh, they are shown their place in either heaven or hell. So, those who were good during their time on earth spend their time in Barzakh in bliss and enjoy their in-between state knowing they will be in a better place soon. I feel as though we are all in Barzakh. We have shed the lives we once had before COVID-19 and we are all waiting for this in-between state to end, so we can move to a better place.

Being in the unknown is scary. But I keep my grandmothers’ words close: “I accept and deal with what comes when it comes. I do not need to foresee it.”

Ronit, India

I am currently staying in my hometown Dehradun, Uttarakhand with my family. I feel I made the right choice of coming to Dehradun from Mumbai as I’ll get to be with family in these hard times. I feel the lockdown in India should have taken place much earlier in order to control the situation as information from worldly organizations like WHO had been passed to everyone in a recurring manner.

People were initially taking it casually which lead to an increased number of coronavirus cases. According to, there are more than 14.000 active cases in India, leaving many anonymous cases yet to be discovered.

In a country like India, hierarchy is something that has persisted for long which further generates opinion differentiation between castes, status, rich and poor. Considering the population i.e. approximately 1.4 billion, which is further divided by interim factors like status and religion, following one protocol and handing over authentic information becomes a little grinding and hence, the present scenario could have been estimated on an authoritative level so as to take effective measures actively.

»In India, the majority of people blindly follow the leaders.«

India is a democratic nation; it ranges from central government to state government to district government to communities to groups and to individuals. I think the political leaders in India have a massive following and the majority of people blindly follow the leaders. The leaders need to understand the value of their word and their responsibilities respectively. They need to be well aware of the consequences that will follow.

India, in my opinion, is an emotion-driven and cinema-influenced country. People have preconceived notions about things which leads them to follow binary thinking. This eliminates the power of imagination that all of us have as humans.

One of the most noticeable updates that are being provided to us is about religious events that were held in the past days. Apparently, it has become a hot topic which has led to a spread of hatred and negativity in people regarding religion.

»Stupidity and foolishness are not bound to any religion or community.«

At this time, the clear focus should be to work as one eliminating the emphasis on religion, culture, caste and status matters. The aim should be to look within and strategize individual thinking rather than influencing the outer world through misinformation because everything that we see and hear is not necessarily legitimate.

Stupidity and foolishness are not bound to any religion or community, it can exist in any person.

In my opinion, the prior focus should be on improving and providing appropriate medical services in abundance as it is key to handle the situation efficiently.

Antoine, France

I’m working as a sailor on the Loire river in Nantes. The sixth-biggest city of France is now living at a subsistence level.

Nantes, a city of 310.000 residents (similar to Münster in Germany), was crowded and full of life before this pandemic, but now it seems totally empty. The health crisis changed our life, movements are strictly limited to first-necessity grocery, a one-hour-walk maximum a day, or for professional reasons. In Nantes, we don’t have a curfew, but there are some in other French cities. It’s strictly forbidden to meet other people at less than one meter, safety distance. French people are looking at each other with suspicion and beware of the ones who are coughing. There is a psychosis stir up by media and 24/7 news channels who buried our Latin way of life, our hugs and kisses.

»All days are the same. Only the number of deaths increases.«

When I go to work, I use to come across a lot of flats. At the moment, I can only see the open windows, they are like a reminder of the presence of life. Non-essentials shops are closed, only pharmacies and supermarkets are open. Some non-conformists are rebelling against these measures, but they are fined 135 up to 1.500 Euros

With our boat, we’re bringing passengers from one shore to another—service of public interest. Our activity is maintained, but the figures speak from themselves. On an ordinary day, we had more than 1.000 passengers, but for three weeks, it has been reduced to 50 a day—20 times less than usual.

All days are the same, the news on TV too… Only the number of deaths increases and reminds us that we are just at the beginning of this epidemic—which brings us inevitably to an economic crisis.

»Horns don’t wake me up anymore, but the birds do.«

However, despite this chaos created by an invisible enemy, I note that everything isn’t lost. Nature is the overall winner in this extraordinary context which forced to bow the most powerful mammalian on Earth. Since the beginning of the lockdown, horns don’t wake me up anymore, but the birds do. They take back control of trees. I don’t see traders running against time in the city center, but cats who have regained possession of the streets. There aren’t plastics anymore who rides on the pavements, but plants growing up back. We were the actors who were destroying this world, we are now the audience of this renewal.

More personally, the lockdown that was imposed on us since 17th March isn’t that hard because I have the permission to work. However, these radical measures, unfortunately, changed my life. I’m in a relationship with a German citizen for 4 years. We don’t have a common address; she’s stuck in Germany and I’m in France. It’s impossible for us to reach each other. It has come to a point where I realize the lockdown limits. Either I violate the laws to meet my soulmate back, or I respect the rules, even if the French Government is moving in a flawed fashion with this unprecedented situation to contain the epidemic and no deadline are enacted. That extends our ordeal.

»The GDP is falling—and with it the hope of solutions coming soon.«

But I know that the hardest hasn’t come yet. The peak of the endemic is approaching, and the economic gap is growing. The GDP is falling—and with it the hope of solutions coming soon. Our vulnerable persons collapsed around us, our elders are dying by hundreds, alone, and it’s impossible for us to cross their look and hug them for the last time—visits in hospitals are forbidden.

Lastly, I would like to quote this expression: “The wolf is in the fold, and the shepherd is busy with extinguishing the straw fire which has broken his cottage.”