One year in

A year ago Thursday we got our first two Coronavirus cases in Hungary. Schools closed a week and a half later not to reopen for the rest of the school year. Toward the end of May things started opening back up again, and the summer was even more relaxed with some international travel allowed. (I booked a week-long trip to Sicily but then decided to cancel.) As school started in late August and people returned from their holidays, numbers steadily increased wildly beyond anything we had seen in spring, yet no new lockdown was put in place. (Looking at the graph of cases in Hungary, our spring cases are dwarfed to the point that it almost looks as if we didn’t even have any spring cases.) We had a “lockdown light” beginning in November with restaurants closed, an 8 p.m. curfew, and high school students going back on distance learning. Then December came, and cases started falling just as quickly as they shot up. At the end of January, we reached a low we hadn’t seen since mid-October. News of one vaccine after another came out and it looked like the end was really in sight. And then things took a turn and, even more quickly than in our “second wave,” we reached a record number of cases (yesterday). Schools were ordered to close as of Monday and the country will be in a strict lock down again for at least a month.

Here we are back in March a year later and it feels like we are right back where we started. Teaching our grade 7 curriculum makes it all the more obvious that we’ve been at this for a year now; lessons and units that we painstakingly adapted from in-person to online are already formatted for this year’s students. This year when we arrived back to school in August, the lobby was still decorated for our Mother Language Week celebration at the end of February–as it is right now. Calendars have once again been left in classrooms set to the month of March. Spring is again here enticing us to go outdoors with the longer days and warmer weather at the same time that we are being encouraged to stay at home indoors. It really does feel like déjà vu.

We are told that this time it will only be a month, but of course we know now not to count on set timelines. I feel like this time it will be harder to keep people indoors as we have been living with this virus for a year now. Last spring when the cases were under 200 per day, I, like many others, avoided leaving the house as much as possible. Now that we have been working and living with cases in the thousands every day, it doesn’t feel as imperative to stay indoors. There is also no longer the novelty of everything suddenly pivoting to online. Last year I watched online film festivals, saw every performance of the New York City Ballet Spring Digital Season, did live Zoom yoga classes, and participated in online happy hours. This time around I can’t be bothered with any of that. I just want to finish this month of online teaching and for the vaccine to be spread far and wide in the meantime.

I’m ready to go back to normal life.

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