Quarantine Diaries #4: Checking in with Kerstin in Ludwigshafen, Germany

Note from the Editor: In today’s Quarantine Diaries, we’ll travel to Ludwigshafen, Germany, the city that I first worked in when I moved to Germany to teach English. Ludwigshafen borders Mannheim, which was where I lived (there’s several cities that are close together in that Rhineland-Pflaz/Baden-Wurttemberg area such as Frankfurt and Heidelberg and brings back so many fond memories of my time there!). In Ludwigshafen, we’ll check in with Kerstin, who I became friends with through my second roommate in Germany! 

Hello there, my name is Kerstin. As of April 15th 2020, I‘m 32 years old and I live in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in the attic of an old house from the 1920s with my boyfriend. We have been living there together for at least two and a half years. Our landlord, his wife and two sons live in the ground and first floor. We actually wanted to leave this place because it’s very small, with no balcony, cold winters and hot summers. We were in the middle of apartment-hunting when the coronavirus forced us to stop. Now we have to stay in this small flat for at least one more summer.

Before the coronavirus, we had dancing classes and spent lots of time in a park near our apartment to get fresh air, watch nature, or do sports. But because of the coronavirus, our dancing classes had to stop before the end of the semester.

The Quarantine and How It Changed My Daily Life

When the quarantine came, I found it really necessary. Instead of going to the park, we would play frisbee in the driveway of our landlord to get some movement. We would even dance and read there to get some sun. On certain days, our landlord lets us to use his feral garden behind the house, where we can dance, read and even do some household tasks there just to get fresh air. It‘s beautiful seeing all the butterflies, bees and birds flying around this little hidden paradise. We are really grateful to have this opportunity.

With the quarantine, we are actually allowed to go to the park as long as there is less than three people together. But the problem is that I have an anxiety disorder about getting sick and the virus has become my nemesis. I fear strangers and their uncontrollable behaviour during the crisis. Many people ignore the necessary guidelines and endanger others with their reckless behaviour.

In the weeks before the coronavirus changed life in Germany, I often felt incomprehension from others about my growing fear. They always tell me that I‘m young and healthy, so there is no danger. They also ask me, what my problem is?

My problem is that I‘m part of the risk group because I have bronchial asthma and an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto. So my anxiety disorder deepens more than ever before. My father, mother and brother also have the same anxieties so I decided not to visit them in my last holidays in March when the coronavirus first showed up in Europe.

That means I haven‘t seen them in person since January 2020 and I‘m missing out on seeing my niece grow up. Thankfully there are the internet and video chatting so I can make video calls with my family biweekly. I also use this to see my friends and my goddaughter. I could also celebrate my birthday a little because I can call, use video chat and social media to talk to family and friends.

My private life has also changed a lot, even with ordinary things like shopping for groceries or going to my therapist. Because my boyfriend does the shopping and I go to my doctors and sometimes to work, we split the possibility of infection by half.

This brings me to my occupation. My boyfriend and I are both public officials at the Mannheim University Library. When the lockdown started, we had just started our two week vacation. This meant we just stayed at home, cleaned the flat, rode our bicycles, read a lot and watched documentaries. After coming back from our vacation, my boyfriend was able to continue to work from home. That‘s perfect for him, because he‘s a software programmer and has the same infrastructure at home like at the office.

When I came back from our vacation, I started to work from home too, because of my condition. But then my boss called and said that she needed me to work in the library on-site. During my vacation, she had already ordered a permit for me and I had to come to work again.

At the moment, I‘m able to work from home every other week, which means cleaning up working devices, checking off lists, acquiring books and at least once a week do video calls with my colleagues. In the other week, I work at home in the mornings and then at the library in the afternoons. When I’m there, I‘m mostly working with books and sending them to the homes of our university staff.

The only people I see in-person since my vacation and since the coronavirus are my boyfriend, our landlord and his family, and my boss and our student assistant. Once a week I also see my therapist because she don‘t want to do video sessions. As a result, so my social life has really shrunk into a digital universe.

 

 

My Work Days: Usually a Chill Environment

 

Working at home means that I can wake up later, which is awesome! Normally my day starts at 5:45 am but at the moment, I get up at 6:30 am. I have my breakfast much more slowly then usual. I don‘t have to hurry to get to work, because thankfully I‘m already there. Breakfast itself is always the same: toasted bread with salted margarine, self brewed coffee and yoghurt with nuts and oat flakes. While brushing my teeth, I start my home office day by checking messages on my mobile phone, looking at my e-mail inbox and sorting through work for the day.

I give myself some little goals to achieve every once a while, so that I can have short breaks with a piece of conscience. Because sometimes hours go by slowly, I take a little break and look out our windows, fill up my glass of water or eat something like nuts, chocolate, or cake if I baked one.

Another great thing about working at home is the possibility of having a break if I get hungry. Most times my boyfriend and I spend lunch together and then split off to go for a walk or to do something creative or do a household task.

After-work hours start half an hour earlier than before because there is no commute home. I can start cooking immediately (the same meals I make before the coronavirus). I really like working from home because everything is much more comfortable!

 

The Evenings and Weekends: My Quarantine Retreat

 

The improv theatre group I‘m part of – of course – can‘t meet and play. But that extra time is awesome for me! I have more time for creative ideas and develop new projects for my blog (kegroskuenste@blogspot.com). In my blog, I post my collages, photography, textile work and artwork made from refurbished materials. A few years ago, I developed an interest in refurbishing trash or something old into something nice, useful or a form of art, which has since become a passion of mine.

 

 

During this quarantine, more than ever, anyone can experiment with my idea of creating something out of trash or rubbish, which we all have at home. I give tips on my blog and also give tips about cultural stuff in my region you can do on the internet. Many museums, libraries and archives had great ideas that I want to share with others and give them some ideas for spending their free time.

 

 

Other than that, I spend my free time with reading, relaxing and learning new things. I baked my first bread (so I don’t have to go outside to buy one) and a farina cake, because flour is rare during these times. My boyfriend and I also started playing chess, which I’ve never played before.

 

 

I have time to help myself grow with inspiring books. And like I said before, I do video calls with my family and friends.

Sometimes this strange time actually feel like a retreat for me, which I really appreciate. I can see who are important people and what things are important in my life. This is something I want to take with me, especially when times get easier again: by spending time with people I love and things I like to do. Thanks coronavirus for this awareness.

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