I’ve been reminiscing about past good times during my time of isolation, viewing many photos from my years in China and from some of my travels. My favorite photos are of food; among the hundreds of images, I can remember the exact location and the taste of every dish as I savor it again in its afterimage. During the COVID-19 lockdown, there’s a lot of time – too much, even – to reflect on the world as it used to be, when people moved freely and wandering through crowded places didn’t pose untold dangers.
In many ways, however, the isolation suits me. I’m an introvert, and what others call “loneliness” is actually my preferred existence; you see, I enjoy my own company. In the midst of global uncertainty, I’m actually developing new skills as an online teacher, and as a designer of online study materials. My visual contact with students is limited to four hours a week of virtual Zoom classes. Zoom is a poor substitute for personal contact and moving through an actual classroom, monitoring students and viewing their work. However, it’s the primary tool for social contact in this new existence, even though I reach out to my students in other ways: by email, text messages, video lessons on YouTube, Brightspace (a virtual learning platform used by my college), Google Docs, and the occasional personal phone call.
My personal sheltering-in-place will last until at least August, when summer classes end, and some speculate that in-person classes won’t resume until early 2021. No one knows. Our country’s response to the pandemic has been criminally inept, endangering health and lives, and proving that our government’s real allegiance is to profits over people. I’m not naive enough to believe that we’ll emerge from the pandemic with a system of universal, single-payer health care, a more a equitable society with job and income guarantees, or greater democratization of our social and political processes, but it’s nice to envision such a country.