Luke Ambrose, a British journalist, knew this year was going to be chaotic, something he thought he was prepared for, but the nature of the chaos caught him completely off guard. As he walks in the fields on the outskirts of the Hungarian city of Pécs, he shares a number of thoughts that have continued to creep into his mind. "I think, dream, question."
Landing at Budapest Airport on January 3rd, I could not have imagined that I would not be on another flight within a couple of months. I had plans, plans to begin my next chapter in life. I hoped it would lead me back to The Netherlands, my home for the last year and change. My brother and two close friends had planned weddings for the upcoming summer, and I was due to fly back to England for each of them. This year was going to be chaotic, something I thought I was prepared for, but the nature of the chaos caught me completely off guard.
Nearly four months later and I am still in Hungary, Pécs to be specific. And while my plans have not gone as I have imagined, I count myself extraordinarily fortunate. I am confident I would be less calm if I had to pay the wildly high Amsterdam rent I was paying a few months prior or I had any underlying health conditions. It did not take me long to understand the extent of my luck in this situation.
Almost counterintuitively, the global crisis has slowed my own life down to something just shy of a complete halt. Which is not how I imagined this year going. To make things more disorientating, spring has truly sprung in central Europe, day after day I am greeted by blue skies and a soft breeze in southern Hungary. It is as if our planet is soothing us in our time of need, like a mother singing to her newborn.
'It is as if our planet is soothing us in our time of need, like a mother singing to her newborn'
By trade, I am a journalist and writer, so quite often I long for 'time', time to write, time to work on projects. However, most often I find myself longing for time to think. If this pandemic has offered us anything, it is precisely that. So without blinking, I grasped my fortune with both hands, or more aptly perhaps, both feet. Each day I step out under the blue skies and glowing sun to walk in the fields on the outskirts of the hillside city.
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The hillside city of Pécs. Picture by Luke Ambrose
As I place one foot in front of the other on the uneven ground, I begin to ponder the utterly bizarre world we now live in. I think, dream, question. What comes next? Who knew our societies could shut down this quickly? How lucky are we to have people, much smarter than I, working tirelessly to overcome this crisis? Is it okay to think some good may come out of this? The list of questions which have passed through my mind over the last couple of months is endless, almost impossible to recall.
'The list of questions which have passed through my mind over the last couple of months is endless, almost impossible to recall'
But most of all, my mind turns to the idea of 'value'. Why do I, or we value x over y? Are bankers truly more valuable than nurses, shop assistants and teachers? How do we value time? Have we taken our value to this planet for granted?
As you read this, the majority of the world has come to a standstill. I am sure you have been asking yourself some similar questions. Perhaps you have gone a step further and drawn some concrete conclusions. If you are anything like me, most of your conclusions change each day. I know many of the questions I have posed lay unanswered, perhaps they are unanswerable altogether. A few thoughts though have continued to creep into my mind on my timeless walks in the countryside.
First and foremost, I truly believe we are resilient and smart enough to overcome this pandemic. I am no doctor, world-leader or researcher, but I have faith in those who are.
Secondly, I am confident that this situation has had some benefits for our global society, eroding some of the walls separating us. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, nationalism and other issues seem somewhat irrelevant when a microscopic virus threatens us all. Your political persuasion, skin colour, sexual orientation, language or religion mean nothing to a virus. And it will take a collective effort to defeat it. I only hope the erosion is not quickly repaired in the
weeks, months, or years after we have been given the dreamy ‘all clear’ we all so desperately want to hear. The human memory can be short and selective when it wants to be.
'Racism, sexism, xenophobia, nationalism and other issues seem somewhat irrelevant when a microscopic virus threatens us all'
Thirdly, I know that a pause in the rat race, which is many people's lives might provide some much needed time. That is not to say that we will not have some negative effects, because that goes without saying. But I am confident I am not the only one who needed some time to think, create, decompress, reflect. Time is and always has been the most scarce and valuable resource of all. I hope you seize the opportunity to utilise it as best as you can if you are given the same fortune I have been.
Lastly, I believe that this crisis, or at least our collective response to it, will prove to the powers that be that massive collaborative change is possible. Let us all hope that the pandemic will shake those who need shaking from the apathetic slumber. A deep sleep which has delayed the global change needed on so many levels, for so long. If this is the case, then we may be able to dream of a world that does not only survive, but that thrives.
This story was shared by Luke Ambrose, a British journalist who usually lives in the Netherlands but is currently in Hungary. Luke is the founder of The Odin Media Project.
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