From Mallorca, In the Pandemic, Hope
Nestled away in a Nightmare with a Distinct Silver Lining
By Jocelyn Laura Bowmaker
Good morning fellow quarantiner, I hope you are well during this pandemic. My name is Jocelyn and I am currently coming to you from a small town in Mallorca, Spain. I am now well into my quarantine, after three weeks of this global craziness and regulated isolation, I expected to feel, well, more isolated. But that isn’t the case.
Amidst the Monty Python-like level of madness that is Spain at the moment, I have been quietly going about my life for the past three (going on four) weeks now. Taken the excitement levels in my life have undergone a bit of a dive as of late. With the highlight of my last week being, finding and buying a pack of playing cards in the town’s local grocery store, (don’t ask me how much they were in Rands, it still makes me shiver).
A Good Girl
The point is if I think back to my first week of isolation, a continent away from most of my friends and family, I was anything but isolated. (Figuratively speaking of course, if any Spanish officials are reading this, I have been a very good girl and haven’t snuck out on a single midnight venture, I pinky promise.)
During my first week alone, I constantly had my little iPhone 5 in my hand, responding to hyperactive group texts that ranged from genuine concern, really inappropriate humor, (which let’s be honest, I quite enjoyed), and downright panic.
I was answering FaceTime calls from my parents, friends as well as an assortment of random individuals who I haven’t talked to in months. But, now that I’ve started conversations with them, find myself three weeks in, asking them what their favorite color is out of sheer awkwardness.
Almost overnight WhatsApp neighborhood group chats were created. (And let me answer your question. Yes, they are in Spanish. No, I do not understand what people are saying. Yes, Spanish memes are strange as all hell. But, am I going to leave, no.
Because I’m a team player that’s why. And, I am more than happy to be the token English speaker, with google translate in her back pocket. A quick heads up, South African humor does not translate well and actually pisses Spanish people off, whoopsy daisy.
Another very social non-isolating factor of social isolation is the creation and taking off of apps like FaceTime, Zoom and HouseParty. Which allows me to talk to my fellow au-pair girls every day. (And try to channel Buddha and ‘AUM’ myself when they mute me for fun. Maturely resisting the urge to stick out my tongue or flip them the bird.)
I can also attend my daily Spanish classes. (Notice the key word there being ‘can’. Your girl has been slacking and my Spanish has once again dwindled to the very unimpressive one-liner, ‘Un Cerveza Por favore’. I don’t even think that is spelled right.) But back to the point at hand, I have even managed to do a shrank-in-the-wash pub crawl with my friends using the app HouseParty. Getting tipsy from the comfort of my own room.
More Connected than Ever
I guess what I am trying to say is I expected three weeks of social distancing to feel, well, socially distant. But the opposite has happened. I feel more connected than ever.
My inboxes are filled with digital invitations to online live yoga classes and the like. I get to chat with my friends from all around the world on a day-to-day basis. (I know, aren’t I popular, wink-wink.) I am more involved and in-touch than I have ever been.
Above and beyond that, news sites have been providing constant updates. Fact-checking is at an all-time high, fake news is at an all-time low and online trolls have appeared to have crawled back into their caves.
Look I am not naively suggesting that everything is fine and dandy. I am in Spain remember, it’s an absolute shitshow here. But, a possible silver lining to all this shittitude is that we might, (just might), have (by complete accident) started using the internet as it was intended to be used.
The Way the ‘Net Should Be
COVID-19 has (through sheer necessity) forced us to start using the internet as the geeks of 1983 romantically thought it would be used. We have become the cheesy cringe Samsung advert, as we FaceTime our grandparents and read our kids bedtime stories off our phones.
We are actively sharing information, resources, and stories at an international level. This is coming from Spain is it not. (Jeepers Jocelyn do you want to say Spain one more time? Spain this, Spain that, they get it, you’re in bloody Spain.)
Okay, okay, so basically what I am trying to say is that technology is finally being used as it was intended to be used. That being, to act as a digital bridge and (yes that’s right) bridge distances, connecting people from all over the world and different walks of life.
People are, with the aid of technology, beginning to think laterally and innovate. In a time where all normal forms of innovation have ground to a halt. It began when people had their first work video call around week one of quarantine.
Amidst all of the conference call etiquette of ‘can you hear/see me’, ‘oops… sorry… no, you go ahead…’ and awkward silences, something was born. People began to create new interactive multiplayer games. Netflix group streaming became a thing, where people from all over can watch the same thing at the same time and share (theoretically) witty commentary.
Tik Tok is now becoming cult-like, with a growing following of tech-savvy 16-year-olds with bodybuilder level thumbs. (To be completely honest, these kids scare me a little.) Virtual church services and dinner parties popped up overnight. All in all, creating a virtual world to replace the real world we aren’t allowed to step foot in.
If that isn’t the plot of every futuristic sci-fi movie ever, then sue me. So all the Matrix and Ready Player One likeness aside, we are now using the internet to create digital innovations and build a virtual world to replace the coronavirus infected one outside. And yet, this virtual world is actively strengthening real-world ties around us.
If that isn’t a silver lining, I don’t know what is.
Jocelyn Bowmaker is 22 years old, born and raised in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. She is currently Au Pairing in Seville, Spain, and is being quarantined on the island of Palma Mallorca in a small town called Deia.
Stories about hope, emptiness, and what people are doing during the 2020 Pandemic.