Just wanted to give some news, for those of you who might be wondering where on earth I could be in the midst of this pandemic. Unsurprisingly, I am where I have been for the past six months: Ecuador. More precisely, I am in Las Tunas, a small coastal village where, as you might already know, my friends have opened a hostel a few months ago, by renovating a beautiful property just seconds away from the beach. It’s called Onda hostel and it’s awesome.
Like many of you, we have been placed in (semi) confinement for the past two weeks or so. It has been a new and challenging experience for all of us. As travellers, we are all far away from our friends and family back home, and some of them are from a more vulnerable category of people, which has got many of us worried. We don’t know whether we should stay here or try to go back and risk getting infected and spreading the epidemic, potentially to our loved ones. We also don’t know how long we might be stuck in a country that isn’t ours, and where we might not have access to proper healthcare in case something was to happen to us. All of this uncertainty has been the source of a lot of anxiety.
Mat & Maribel, the owners, have done a wonderful job at taking care of all of us. They are now pretty much prepared for any eventuality, including having to isolate us in case the virus gets here. For now, the closest cases declared are two hours away from us, and the country has been in lock-down for a while so hopefully, our region won’t be hit too hard. It is worrying to think about the limited amount of resources people have access to here, in comparison to our usually safe and organised Western countries. If they are struggling so much at the moment, I cannot imagine how the rest of the world is going to be impacted. It makes me sad to think about all the most vulnerable people right now. As usual, they are going to come last, because that is the reality of the world we live in. A reality I am very well aware of, as I find myself in a group of privileged westerners enjoying the good sides of Ecuadorian life while many are facing great difficulties.
At the same time, we have had the privilege of going through this together as a community. This has already taught us a lot. After the initial shock following the news about the coronavirus and the witnessing of infrastructures and borders shutting down one after the other in what feels like an ‘end-of-the-world’ scenario, we realised that we might have to spend quite some time stuck together. Thankfully, we form a really nice group. We decided to put some activities into place in order to keep ourselves busy and take care of our mental health, while cultivating our ties. Through yoga, meditation, group talks, common dinners and other fun projects like that, we regularly take the time to look at where we are and with whom, and appreciate each other’s company. We share a lot about what we are going through individually, and it is a great source of support. We also slowly came to appreciate how much each of our own feelings and ideas bounced off each other, surprised at how much others could influence our moods. Thanks to all of this, we keep learning from each other every day, readjusting as we go in order to find the right balance between taking care of ourselves and contributing to the community.
Therefore, in the midst of all the worry and the chaos, I feel like I am witnessing an amazing unfolding of events. Not only here, where I am blessed to be in a group of incredible people, but also everywhere else. I see people cheering for each other and helping each other out, sharing their thoughts and feelings in a new way, daring to be vulnerable. Old friends are checking in with each other, family members are more attentive to one another than ever. People are doing the best they can to contribute, by setting up support groups, sharing art, finding creative ways to get together despite the social distancing. With this feeling of apocalypse in the air, I get the impression that we don’t have a choice any more: we are forced to look at what is wrong with the world, what conditions led us to this situation in the first place. We don’t have much else to do, after all. I think we all feel a little ashamed, because we wanted to make the fun last a little bit longer. It was so much easier to live our daily lives carefree, without having to think too much about the massacre of our planet and its species, about climate change, about all the inequalities in the world. Now, we all feel a bit helpless in front of this common enemy, and these unnerving feelings, I believe, are bringing us back to what is essential, what really counts. It is so inspiring, and it really gives me hope about the future, and the capacity we have to think outside the box and create new ways of doing things in the face of adversity. Because we all know intuitively that this is only the beginning, that there is no ‘going back to normal’. There shouldn’t be.
This will require some adjustments. What we are going through is hard. While some are using this time in the most productive ways, others are still struggling to grasp the extent of the implications of such historical events, and to those people, I would like to remind them that it’s okay too, to not be the best versions of yourself at the moment. If I’m totally honest, I myself have had a pretty rough couple of weeks. I miss my family, it’s hard to be far away from them when everything is so uncertain. I actually had planned to go back to Switzerland for a while, before my flight got cancelled. I chose not to try to take another flight, and I wonder every day if I made the right decision to stay, if things are going to calm down in a few weeks or if I am potentially stuck here for many more months. And I know that I am not alone in dealing with these fears. I know many people would like to be their best selves but are just struggling to get through the day. I know some people have the responsibility of others on their shoulders, and that many don’t know how they are going to pay their bills and feed their families. I can’t even imagine what it is like for people who don’t have a home to stay at, those who were already dealing with horrible life conditions before. It is very sad and unfair.
Already, I mourn the world I have lost, the life I have left behind, because I now know the fragility of what I used to call ‘my normality’. This virus marks the end of a whole section of my personal history, as well as that of the world, and I need to mourn it. Yet this collective slap in the face reminds me that we are all in this together. Knowing that the pain I feel is shared on a global level makes me feel connected to each of the billions of people on this planet in a greater, stronger way than ever before. As we hold our breaths while counting our deads, we are reminded of our shared nature, of the universality of the instinctive feelings that we are all experiencing right now. Finally, here is an opportunity for the inhabitants of this Earth to recognise the absurdity of the limits and boundaries imposed between them, and to fight together to save their planet.
This global transition is both tragic and beautiful at the same time. I hope that we will all take the time to honour these emotions we’re experiencing on an individual level. Most importantly, however, I hope we will recognise the immense potential of this unprecedented situation. I hope that we will know how to show up for each other in these difficult times, and that instead of letting the resulting future obstacles divide us, we will choose to recreate together a new normality that will be gentler, more tolerant, more egalitarian and more respectful of this planet and its beings.
Stay safe my friends 💕