Quarantine Diaries, Part 2 - Home-schooling, Mega-pods, and Yeats

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We're back with Part 2 of our Quarantine Diaries series! This week, we share stories from both students and staff in the ERG community. Read on for reflections on parenting, advising, and being global health researcher in the age of COVID-19.

Sangcheol Moon, first-year graduate student

Tell us a bit about your quarantine situation.
I'm still in the University Village staying with my two kids. My husband had been here with us but he returned to Korea now (he's in 2-week mandatory self-quarantine mode in Seoul). He came here for the birthdays of the kids (both were born in late March) but to our disappointment obviously, we canceled the birthday party... Yes, it's crazy being 24/7 with 2 kiddos while I have so much zoom zoom zoom.

What I liked the most about living in this amazing community, UC Village, was that I could arrange a lot of play dates.... but there’s no such thing anymore. So I try to take my kids bike-riding outside the apartment often.
I usually use Amazon Fresh for grocery shopping (Normally I make an order after kids go to bed, and I get FRESH grocery bags on my doorstep in the morning and finish organizing everything before the kids wake up.) But Amazon Fresh delivery is broken, Wholefoods delivery is broken! Sometimes on a very lucky day, if I click the check-out button right at the moment the clock hand changes to the next day (12:00), I get a spot. But that rarely happens. And I find many items are missing when delivered due to unavailability at the moment of delivery. I promised to make a Korean-style tofu dish for the kids, but I had to tell them, Mommy doesn't have tofu today  😌

Ha. Home-lunch. Everyday. The hardest part.

And.. Ah. homeschooling. 😰  I respect teachers for being so kind, so inclusive, and so patient.  

What's a show that captures how you’re feeling today?
Not exactly for this question, but I recently finished watching "Anne with an E" on Netflix. And I find myself having feelings like 'magical', 'wonderful' from very small or near things that have always been there.

What’s your information diet these days?
As I'm disturbed every 2 minutes, I don't actually need to worry about how to 'diet'. Rather, I should always worry about whether I'm following the news properly or not. When I finally have some my-own-time, sometimes I try to follow the trend skimming today's main news section, but soon I feel exhausted and just end up hovering on Netflix or the free (by luck of COVID) Berlin Phil archive 😌

Peeping mom’s zoom time...

What’s the difference between a weekday and weekend for you?
Weekday: more Zoom (more candies for the kids, asking them not to attack me while I'm on Zoom)
Weekend: less Zoom (fewer candies)

Ariel Chu, work-study student

Tell us about your quarantine situation.
As a work-study assistant for ERG, it's so boring not being able to greet students by the front desk or interacting with other people in general. I miss being in the office, but I'm sure this is applicable to many other ERG staff and students as well!

What song captures how you're feeling today?
"Are You Bored Yet?" by Clairo is a perfect capture of my mood these days, especially 10 minutes into doing my assignments.

What's the difference between a weekday and weekend for you? There's only one difference between weekdays and weekends for me at this point. On weekdays, I sleep in and feel guilty about it. On weekends, I sleep in and feel less guilty about it.

How does being a student feel right now?
As a freshman, I was so excited to close off my first year of college with an exciting semester! Unfortunately, that is simply no longer possible. My heart goes out to the seniors, however, as I'm sure they've put over thousands of hours into school and extra-curriculars to receive a formal graduation, only to have coronavirus cancel plans.

Megan Amaral, Manager

Tell us a bit about your quarantine situation.

My quarantine “pod” includes me, my husband, my daughter and our au pair from Spain. We are fortunate to live near a large, natural park overlooking the bay in Pt. Richmond. Having this extra space and nature has made the quarantine much more palatable. Until recently, we had spent time only with each other. Delta, who is now 2.5 was increasingly troubled by the lack of social interaction.
- “I’m sad.”
- “Why, Delta?”
- “I don’t see kids.”
Last weekend we merged with another family to create a “mega-pod” so their three toddlers can play with ours. Delta is over the moon.

What's a book that captures how you’re feeling today?
Well, A Handmaid's Tale comes to mind first, but not because it is an accurate reflection of my life right now--just a few elements. Our au pair and I started watching the series just when shelter in place began. We noticed right away that the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in a house had some similarities for COVID-19 life. The similarities sorta end there.

What’s the difference between a weekday and weekend for you?
This is actually pretty much the same as my pre-COVID life. Weekends are when I am not doing my UC Berkeley job and spending full days with my family. I get plenty of quality time with my daughter: walks, gardening, making crafts, reading books, and cooking together. I do these with our au pair often too. We all clean the house and work on indoor and outdoor projects. When I report for work Monday-Friday, I get set up in my temporary office in our RV around 8:30 and leave around 5:30, only taking a quick lunch. Again, pretty much my old schedule, but without the commute.

What’s your information diet these days?
KQED and NPR radio in the morning and occasionally following news links during the day. I’ve found myself reading a disproportionate amount of Wired articles.

Do you have any Zoom stories for us?
I was on a Zoom call a couple weeks ago. It was a campus leadership update call, so I was just listening, on mute, no video. I was going to run right after it ended, so started to put on my running clothes. Halfway through changing in front of my computer I realized that my camera was still pointed at me and for a second I couldn’t remember if I had turned off my video. (Yikes!) I had. (Whew!)

How does working in academia feel right now?
I feel very fortunate to work here. Being part of a university right now has helped me to: 1) keep my job; 2) stay well-informed with communications from an institution that values science; 3) be of service to others during a crisis; 4) develop deeper relationships with colleagues and students; and 5) see social and environmental challenges from new angles.

Kay Burns, Graduate Student Advisor

Tell us about your quarantine situation.
I am working from home, with lots of zoom meetings and cooking projects. My partner is stuck in Belfast with a cancelled flight so I'm on my own. Luckily I have great neighbors and we chat across our little one-block-long street and sometimes have distanced happy hours on our porches.

What are some songs or poems that capture how you're feeling today?
"Get Me Through December"  by Natalie MacMaster

"Dancing" by Robert Hass
The radio clicks on—it’s poor swollen America,
Up already and busy selling the exhausting obligation
Of happiness...

"The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

What’s the difference between a weekday and weekend for you?
On the weekends I feel more isolated and restless, thinking about wanting to get outside and connect to people. During the week I'm pretty busy so time goes by faster.

What’s your information diet these days?
NY Times, SF Chronicle, MSNBC, Slate, KQED, KPFA

How does working in academia feel right now?
I am a student advisor - and now my work feels fruitless and frustrating. I am all about supporting the students -- and so it is not surprising but I feel like I'm constantly letting people down and not doing enough.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I miss the ERG community terribly! This period really does remind us how much our community is worth, and how much the individuals in our life matter.

Yoshika Crider, fifth-year graduate student

Tell us a bit about your quarantine situation.
I'm sheltering-in-place in my cozy studio apartment in Berkeley. I live close to campus, so it's very quiet!

What's a piece of art that captures how you’re feeling today?
The other day my friend sent me this comic by Liz Climo, one of my favorite illustrators. I'm really trying not to be the alligator, but sometimes it happens.

What’s the difference between a weekday and weekend for you?
Sometimes there's not much of a difference these days... But, it has become more important to establish a routine. I like to have projects on the weekends, like a crafty thing to tackle or an interesting thing to bake, so I have a distraction from work or the news. I'm totally loving the loaf recipes Salma has shared on the ERG slack cooking channel.

Weekend COVID craft project

Essential employees spotted on a walk near home
What’s your information diet these days?
I check the NYT and the SF Chronicle coronavirus live updates page probably too much. I listen to The Daily or Up First podcast every morning. And I have some incredible friends who are directly involved with public health efforts or treating patients, and I learn so much from them. But I also logged back on to Twitter for maybe the first time in 8 years. I know Twitter has a terrible reputation, but that's where a lot of the fast-coming COVID-19 research results are being shared now. For example, I follow a researcher whose lab is running filtration efficiency tests for mask materials and posting really informative graphs as soon as experiments are done. It's pretty amazing how fast research is being shared. And this is unfortunately also a time when expert voices are being silenced, so Twitter has been great because it lets me go directly to medical and public health experts. I also get email updates from several of the health journals that are publishing coronavirus study results, so I skim those too.

How does being a grad student feel right now?
I guess I have mixed feelings. I work in global health, which as a field feels especially important now. For the last two summers, I've GSI'd for a global health class, and one of the lectures is about flu pandemics. Students found it interesting, but their point of reference was maybe the movie Contagion. The material will feel really different when I teach again this summer. My international fieldwork wrapped up in December, so I feel really fortunate that I'm not having to make contingency plans for my dissertation. But, I worry a lot about health system capacity in the places where I work. Overall though, I feel really supported. And I appreciated so much the article that Phillippe shared from the Chronicles of Higher Ed, pushing against productivity pressure right now. There have been times during my grad student career when I've been totally unproductive, and it's all been okay.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I'm so impressed by how creative and resourceful ERGies are. A virtual talent show and auction? Such an amazing idea. I'm really looking forward to that and to seeing everyone again.

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