Munich: In the eye of the hurricane

"Coronavirus has changed and influenced me in many ways as it has the entire world, however the change is subtle and painfully unnoticeable whilst at the same time undeniable," writes Greta from her garden in Munich. Reflecting from the perspective of her self-prescribed status as "Neo Hippie", Greta wonders sometimes if this is our new normal, or if her kids will someday read this and wonder what she got so worked up about.

I am a forty-year-old mother of two living in the suburbs of Munich, Germany. We’ve been in quarantine ever since 21st March due to Coronavirus. Ever since then our lives haven’t really changed much. Some things have changed for the worse but overall, if anything, it has gotten better.

I had been busy planning my 40th birthday when sometime in late February it dawned on me that this Coronavirus is going to be more intrusive onto my personal life than I could ever imagine. Until then I had considered it to be some kind of SARS part II (which, ironically, it actually is) which wouldn’t have much impact on me personally. After that, day by day it became more apparent that I had to first downsize my plans before I realized I had to ditch them altogether; be it birthday parties, meeting friends, going on holiday, visiting my parents for Easter down to taking the kids to the zoo. It was a slow and painful death of our social life which left me dazzled about what was to come. Like a looming tidal wave the virus was surging and this feeling was matched by the daily gazing in disbelief at exponential curves.

'Like a looming tidal wave the virus was surging and this feeling was matched by the daily gazing in disbelief at exponential curves'

However, we are fortunate in many ways and the virus has made that even clearer. My birthday was spent about two weeks into lockdown with a fabulous Zoom party and thanks to such tools we actually have since seen more of our friends than before. We moved into a house just over a year ago so we have enough space plus a garden. My husband is able to work from home quite comfortably. My kids don’t go to school yet so I don’t have to deal with homeschooling. We are reasonably well to do and basically have everything we need.

I enjoy being able to spend more time with my family, we go on bike rides and enjoy the splendid weather. We have time to talk to each other, to plan our garden, to be with each other. I taught my son to play Jingle Bells on the piano, my son and daughter have really bonded even more than before and play very creatively all day. It’s all very pleasant really.

Plus, we happen to live in Germany which albeit not immune to the virus at all, has somehow found a way to deal with it quite well resulting in an astonishingly low death rate. I personally think it is luck mostly, a combination of a decentralized system, an early warning shot when the virus initially broke out in early February and was contained and a relatively reliable health system. To make matters even more absurd, ever since the lockdown we’ve had fabulous weather and been spending most of our time in our garden. I have indeed been more concerned with sunscreen rather than hand sanitizer supplies.

'I have been more concerned with sunscreen rather than hand sanitizer supplies'

From here we currently watch the world go by. In our immediate surroundings this consist in many people out and about; mostly cycling, running, walking –basically enjoying themselves-, many parents with children and often even people who seem too old to be the respective toddlers’ parents but who am I to judge. When we go to the supermarket we run into lots of people, there are many cars driving, people walking and cycling. If you didn’t know we are all quarantined you wouldn’t notice. It’s all quite confusing.

If I want to look a little further I need the help of the most indispensable tool of our day and age: the internet. I consume news content from all over the world and that way I get quite a different picture than our quaint little surroundings would suggest. I hear about a woman living in her car ever since she lost her job. I hear about people gathering in churches in order to seek divine help against the threat. I hear about small businesses struggling. I hear about day workers. I hear about exhausted nurses. I hear about abuse in crammed up spaces people are now confined in. I hear about coffins piling up. I hear all these things.

Corona has changed and influenced me in many ways as it has the entire world, however the change is subtle and painfully unnoticeable whilst at the same time undeniable. This has left me feeling strangely removed from what is really going on and I have been noticing this to be a pattern. In order to explain, let me digress a bit (text continues after photo gallery).

'Corona has changed and influenced me in many ways as it has the entire world, however the change is subtle and painfully unnoticeable whilst at the same time undeniable'

Greta's garden in Munich. Pictures by author.

I was born in 1980 and as such I am wedged right in between what has been defined as 'Generation X' and 'Generation Y'. Thus, neither really fits to describe mine and my peers’ upbringing, peculiarities and attitudes. Secretly, I have come up with an alternative: People born around the year 1980 had their formative years during the 90s and thus were able to grow up in a blissful carefree bubble; the Cold War was over and 9/11 was yet to come. It was a time when we thought we were past all conflict and suppression, past all mistrust, inequalities and prejudice moving towards a better world for all of mankind.

Even though, ironically there was still conflict as well as terrorist attacks in the nineties – as a matter of fact, war was just around the corner raging in former Yugoslavia, but we considered that to be merely aftershocks of the two biggest imaginable evils ever at that point being the World Wars, which would die down eventually and also naturally, believing that in the end the good always wins. We were idealistic – the “Age of Aquarius” style and thus I refer to our cohort as Neo Hippies. And you really don’t get more hippie considering one of the signature events of the nineties taking place in Berlin, Germany – the Love Parade.

I see my self-prescribed status as Neo Hippie confirmed when talking to people older and younger than me respectively. The oversimplified conclusion is, whilst they see the world and people to be inherently evil I regard them as innately good. Granted, that might indeed be a little naive. Blame the nineties. As long as our opinions and attitude are not totally peculiar, we generally assume that there is a consensus for our ideas. So did I. But as the years went by I noticed that I am part of a minority. The latest blow was when Trump became president elect of the United States.

Let me just state that I firmly believe in freedom of opinion and I do not judge anyone on a personal level in regards to their political views. However, for me personally that election happening is totally beyond my realms of comprehension and I totally lack the ability to just remotely understand. Just like some teenagers look at their parents thinking “I must be adopted” I looked at the world and thought “I must really come from another planet.” After Trump I sort of just gave up and retreated into private life which was easy considering I had two small children at this point and was quite content all things considered.

'Just like some teenagers look at their parents thinking “I must be adopted” I looked at the world after Trump's election and thought “I must really come from another planet'

And that’s where I still am, now looking at the Coronavirus from the safety of my sun lounger, again not really comprehending what is going on. The fact that everything looks so eerily normal around me just adds to the feeling of alienation. Having said that, it’s not that I don’t get the virus itself, rationally as well as emotionally but I struggle with what comes in its wake, how people react to it. My biggest struggle in this context is my old nemesis – President Trump. Again be your political views what they may, but for me he adds a dimension to the virus making it a whole different level of painful. Yes, it is painful to see what this pandemic does to the world. I wonder sometimes if this is our new normal, if this is just the first of many new viruses to come and sweep over us making us hide behind closed doors. I wonder if my kids will someday read this and wonder what I got so worked up about.

In addition, I have a personal problem with the virus itself again showing my Hippie nature. I want to be free. I hate being tied down and told what to do. I understand the whole “flatten the curve”, no worries, I just have an innate resistance against bans. And maybe that is a good instinct. Because also this will pass and the important thing is what we make of it, how we will come out on the other side. As Queen Elizabeth so elegantly put it: “We will meet again” which immediately starts off the 1939 song made famous by Vera Lynn playing in my head and with that I do think that something good will come out of this in the end.

This story was shared by Greta, a middle-aged, married, mother of two from Munich. Non-alliteratively, she works as a behavioural therapist and used to work as a journalist in a 'previous life'. She couldn't live without friends and family and music.

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