Where is home in a pandemic?
Everyone's got a cleanser nowadays, right? Either in the form of some weird gel that has the unexplained gummy-bricks in it or the white foam which leaves you with a feeling of being covered in a cloud or Santa's beard. Whatever substance, colour or quality it is, the most memorable experience for me is when you wash it down. You form a cup with your shaky hands, fill it up, then at first slowly, then kind of in a rush splash yourself with the cold water. Cold. It is always cold. Today was the first night when that coldness did not have a sway on me - usually my whole body tenses up and I just wait for the whole baptism to be over. I do not know why that is, I guess I just shudder at my clothes getting sprinkled with the imagined dangers coming out of the tap. Or I hate the feeling of coldness on my face because that means I have to wake up, even though it is the middle of the night.
Quarantine has turned our usual university life upside down, there is no change of place anymore - no crowded, deodorant fragmented frat-parties, no tripping over the doorstep of my class always just a minute late, no in-between class cafe lattes with excuse me can I please have it with alternative milk. Life happens only at home. But what, or more importantly, where is home? As an international student, I have been contemplating this question since I moved to Utrecht last year, and the pandemic even amplified this brainstorming. They always say that in times of crises like war, natural disasters, or postmodern viruses that have no cure yet, you need to be with the family you love.
But what if the crisis becomes permanent and the distinction between normal and abnormal becomes so blurry, when you cannot even tell where home is supposed to be? How does a student, having lived in the middle of the wonderful university buzz of Utrecht, choose between staying put to try to make the most of the apparently best years of your adult, finally independent life and going home to help the family? Do you prioritize your potential career/relationship/academic/hook-up perspectives or are you stuck in wondering what this emergency might mean to your family? And most importantly, why do the options look so limited, so black and white?
Some students compose pro-con lists, some jump on planes in protective coveralls, some write columns to manoeuvre in this strange new reality. In a reality where your life is reduced to your daily activities inside, one is bound to face decisions through tube-shaped goggles that only allow for a limited vision. But what is stimulating to think about is where and with whom around you does the coldness of cleansing your face in the middle of the night frighten you less.