Back home at last! I arrived in Switzerland a few days ago and am now enjoying the Swiss summer. I had almost forgotten how beautiful this country is – especially the outskirts of Zurich where I’m spending the first week. It’s green, peaceful and very clean. I live in paradise on Pulau Pef, but this is the other paradise. Sometimes you have to go away to appreciate what you have back home…
What’s changed though is the way people deal with each other. Thanks to Corona, the already reserved Swiss people are now even more distant when communicating with each other. Obviously, wearing a mask or a face shield doesn’t help to create a comfortable atmosphere when you meet someone in a shop or on the street and exchange a few words. And I know it’s the right thing to do. But having spent the last four months on our island and not having to worry about distancing and wearing any kind of face protection, it does feel strange to me.
The fact of not being allowed to touch anybody is also difficult to internalize. My first reaction is often to stretch out my hand for a greeting, only to realize that the other person looks at me as if I were a Martian, probably thinking: «Where has SHE been the last weeks and months???». Some of my friends still hug me – with their head turned completely away from mine, and I do the same. I want to hug them because I haven’t seen some of them for a very long time. But I do it with a bad conscience, thinking that I may be putting myself or the other person at risk.
And then I start to rebel internally. What life is this now? I feel that touching and holding each other is a fundamental human right. That we need this in order to survive. That we will become extremely lonely if we are not allowed to have physical contact for a long time. Maybe, I’m romanticizing, and I know that not everybody is the same. But when travelling from Indonesia to Switzerland, I sensed that there was a feeling of suspicion in the air wherever I walked. If I happened to accidentally get close to someone, they looked at me with a slightly hostile or frightened expression. Nobody talked to each other, everybody was minding their own business and hiding behind their masks. And the worst – I felt that I was doing the same, without really wanting it. I thought it was the right thing to do. And in theory, I’m sure it is. But it doesn’t feel right. It should be physical distancing, not social distancing. They may only be words, but they make all the difference.
In Switzerland, infection rates are rising again, so they are talking about reimplementing more restrictions. For how much longer? Is it going to help if what we did so far didn’t? I’m not sure. I just wish, we would stop spreading so much fear and start focusing on what we can do to strengthen our physical and psychological immune system. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying «eat some vitamins and you will not get infected». But I think we should start working on our attitude and how we are dealing with this virus. It’s not going to go away for a long time, maybe never. So, we better start living with it and develop an inner strength. Make sure we keep our body and mind healthy, instead of waiting for some kind of external help in the form of a pill or vaccine. We need that too, and for people with a pre-existing health condition, it’s another story. But us «healthy» people need to take action and not let ourselves be consumed by so much fear!
The area of the world that I am currently spending my holidays in is so rich and fortunate in many ways. I realize that now more than ever because I got to know a little how people live in Indonesia. We constantly worry about everything in the western world, maybe because we have a lot to lose. In many parts of my other world, people’s daily struggle still is to get enough food and a protected place to sleep. They don’t have the luxury to worry so much as we do, and that’s why they probably consider this crisis just another like so many before. And I’m convinced it helps that they worry less.
I hope we will find a way to live with this and all future crises that are bound to come, by focusing on our strength and resilience instead of letting ourselves be consumed by fear and panic. And personally, I am very motivated to make the best of my holiday and not let myself be infected by any kind of worry.
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…