Continuing with updates from our first-year students, today we’ll hear from Victoria. Like almost all students, her Spring Break plans required some quick pivots to a new set of activities:
Fletcher friends near & far,
I originally had been planning share about the HKS Palestine Trek planned for Spring Break. Except…so much has happened since the beginning of March that changed everything. Israel banned tourism in the West Bank for two weeks. All student organized treks were canceled. I was especially upset on behalf of the Kenya trek, because this was the first time a trek was organized to the African continent and they worked so hard to make it happen. The US has also begun to take COVID-19 more seriously.
After all of our canceled Spring Break plans, I decided to hunker down at home and self-quarantine and promote proper social distancing with one of my Blakeley friends who moved in while my two other Fletcher housemates returned home to Michigan and Thailand. When they left, it actually made me emotional because it felt like they were truly moving out the way we would after graduating. These have been strange times, but I know the Fletcher community has not idled. Locally, our Fletcher Military Fellows and other fellow classmates have launched into rapid response to aid the Tufts Medical Center and other efforts. I’ve also observed my peers doing their part to help and support other essential workers in supermarkets, delivery services and other local businesses stay afloat. I have been working with my undergraduate institute to support displaced students moving out of the dorms as well as assisting alumnae in China to send PPE supplies to the US. From the professional front, I’ve been working in my internship with the US State Dept GEC to create a digest of all the relevant literature on COVID-19 misinformation and public messaging in regards to China as well as participate in their Rapid Response Team to ensure timely analysis reaches any Embassy and Consulate that requires assistance. The information just keeps coming in!
Naturally, my Spring Break ended up being extremely busy with using my time to help in whatever way possible. However, I also know that keeping myself busy was a way for me to avoid dealing with my own feelings about the pandemic. I’ve been on-and-off tracking it since January when Wuhan, China went into lockdown. It’s been fascinating and terrifying watching how the narrative around COVID-19 prevention has evolved in the last few weeks in the US and Europe. I find myself engrossed in following my ER doctor friends in NYC through their Instagram stories of life on the frontlines that often leave me gasping for air and in tears because the most I can do is stay inside and not be a nuisance. When not trying to get some kind of work done, I’ve taken to more frequent housecleaning, stress cooking, tarot reading, remembering to video and audio call friends and family, and obsessing over my plants as ways to not be constantly “productive” but simply “be”.
As a fun activity, Hexi and I have tried to join forces and make use of the time we no longer have to dedicate to rehearsals with the Fletcheros and the Ambassachords by doing violin and vocal covers instead. Alas, we’re lazy. But I have been more mindful of the songs I allow to get stuck in my head and sing out as I tend to do. Lately, the Hunger Games OST has been in heavy rotation, and especially The Secret Sisters with “Tomorrow Will be Kinder.” I thought I’d share a small snippet of it here as the lyrics embody what I keep trying to tell myself to stay vulnerable, aware, but also hopeful.
And like I said, the Fletcher community is strong and supportive. It’s hard to be responsive and satisfy the needs of every student during this time, but at least many of our professors have been understanding about many of us trying to learn from different countries and time zones, household conditions, stranded from support networks, and feelings all kinds of feels and in flux. In our project groups, we’ve all taken time to reflect and joke about the situation, discuss more seriously and still go about the work we set out to do. I even just received an email from one of the classes I’m cross-registered in at the Harvard Kennedy School, which was an invitation to join their “Learning from Home” Slack group.
I hope everyone is taking time to do what they need to do for work and school, but also remembering to cut yourself some slack when you can’t seem to keep up as you normally would because you technically have more time on your hands now. These are not normal times.
On a side note, it was also actually my 26th birthday on March 26th and formerly, a few other Fletcher friends and I had considered doing a massive joint birthday at The Sinclair in Harvard Square to celebrate all of us born at the end of March and beginning of April. Instead, Hexi got to show off the cooking skills he doesn’t get to exercise while living in Blakeley and made a delicious Chinese-style braised pork while I baked us a Thai Tea Custard Cake. This is also the day that the Chinese government sent out a notice saying that all foreigners with valid visas will no longer be granted entry during the global pandemic. I knew then that until we flattened the curve globally, it’s going to be quite a while before I get to reunite with most of my family. Definitely not how I planned to spend my 26th, but here we are.
So now, I end this update with a Persian poem a classmate has recently shared with the community before we all dispersed to different corners of the world to wait this out.
Where we live
Is no place to lose your wings
So love, love
Take care. Stay Home. Wash your hands.
From a loving distance,