Coronavirus quarantine Budapest

Solymar forest walk

So here we are. Stuck at home for who knows how long, but maybe it is a blessing in disguise ?

We learned about this type of thing in history class when we read about the millions who died from the Black Plague, Spanish flu or more recently the bird flu. We saw the documentaries on NetFlix, we liked to be scared by this theme over the years watching sci-fi or thrillers on the subject, yet reality is slightly different to my imagination.

We watched the crowds of crazed people buying up everything from toilet paper to every last drop of pasta and sauce in the shops. I watched one lady crying in line scared out of her wits. Life has been an adjustment so far while under quarantine to say the least, but there have been a few very positive things come out of it all.

For one, I love having the kids home. Sorry for those who are feeling crowded, or overwhelmed, fighting over internet connections and the computer, but I absolutely love it! We are all home, eating three times a day together, walking together, cooking, baking and learning together. I cannot remember a time when I felt closer to my family; maybe Christmas.A friend of mine said it feels like a very long Christmas holiday, although he added, ” but I hate Christmas!” It seems we have been forced to get back to the basics; working in the garden planting flowers, cutting the fruit trees, cleaning away and preparing for Spring. Further, playing games together like cards and Monopoly, building puzzles with my Angelina, talking about things that really matter to us and giving the time for each other’s feelings. These activities are bringing back the traditional family unit and rebounding those who have been on autopilot for such a long time.

I have also seen a switch in the kids. They are closer. Ok I am not saying they are the best buds all the time, because they are still fighting, but there have been moments, even hours long, that they have been engaged in a board game, learning how to cooperate and problem solve as a team. They also seem to bond over homework, applications to figure out, looking to the other who is going through the exact same thing. It’s a bloody miracle!

We are saving time as well as our sanity. We do not have to drop the children off or pick them up from the school at various times of the day, which is often different to our own work schedules. We were running back and forth to school from home or back, up to twelve times per day!! We are saving a ton of money on petrol, but more so wasted time following a very badly planned timetable. Now our schedules are synchronized perfectly. It makes a big difference when students’ needs are put in the center when making timetable decision. Child centred. Not teacher centered.

As a mother I am also watching how online learning can be beneficial for them as students. There are no distractions by noises in the classroom, they can reread the chat feeds or rewatch videos from teachers, and ask fellow pupils for clarity. They are nearly always connected to their classes either on Messenger, Instagram, email, Facetime, or Skype. They are peer-learning and helping each other throughout the course of the day. There is no travel time to get to school adding priceless hours to studies. There are no blank blocks, they are sleeping more, and I would bet they are actually exercising more, because everyday, without fail, we go for a hike as a family with some of the neighbours, exploring the forests or a calm walk to the local goat farm or vegetable stand to buy fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs or meat. The whole mountain seems like it is ours,; although you can hear others, we rarely see them. We all keep our distance either way. We have been transported back in time to simpler, more community centered times. Beneficial all round.

As a teacher, it really hasn’t been a big adjustment. We were already giving Skype private lessons, so we knew which apps work well. The LivEnglish program for July will most likely be cancelled and maybe even our trip home to Canada in August, but those are small sacrifices to make in the grand scheme of things. At the school, the online back office template is a little outdated, but they are working hard on every level to make positive changes. They are also available to help parents, students and teachers make the transition to distance learning. The best part, all teachers in the world will be Internet savvy and brought into the 21st century! It is the dawn of a new day, at last! Some were very stubborn at make this step, especially the older generations but I tell you, the students will benefit the most. And that is supposed to be our main focus as teachers right? Child centered learning, whatever that takes to make that happen. I cannot emphasize this enough.

As a part-time BAC Ed university student at The Open University who is already learning on their online platform, well the future we were preparing for is already here isn’t it! No surprise either, we have been preaching the news for years about the positive attributes of distance learning. Online is super convenient. I study when I want, I make my own schedule, have both autonomy and support from my Professors and classmates, we collaborate, work together and honestly why would anyone waste travel time going to a brick and mortar university when they could use that time to study. I save hours everyday not having to go to school, and some days that is all I got. Working full-time, a traditional education would never have fit in to this lifetime, sadly I was not given the best opportunities early on. I am not complaining, I made the best of the hand I was dealt. However, the UN says education for all is the universal goal straight across the world, and access to education has always been the biggest challenge for those who are poor and cannot go to school full-time and stop work for 3-4 years to get their degree. Online distance learning makes education accessible for rich, poor and everyone of us in between. It is a beautiful thing, and about freakin time! Education could bring world peace a step closer. Maybe I am a dreamer.

Today, I will be planting my new plants, sold to me by my neighbour home on quarantine after 33 years open day and night for her flower shop. During our four years in Hungary, I have never met her before. She works round the clock. The other neighbours got together around a fire Monday in full quarantine masks to celebrate the arrival of the newest neighbour, a baby boy born in the morning. We had a few drinks to celebrate, the solidarity continues to form on our street. We talked, we planned, we unite during hard times. We are lucky because this is already the norm for us; we are very close to our neighbours, a group of six families side by side; good mates who even travel together. You cannot buy this kind of comradery.

As we create the routines of our days to follow during the quarantine, remember to take the time to enjoy it, those moments, and to be present because this too shall pass and eventually it will all be a distant memory.

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