Today I filled out a questionnaire based on one’s reaction to the current pandemic ran by TEDS (Twins Early Development Study). Whilst answering the survey I became all the more aware of how lucky my situation is. Next to questions about self-isolation and the effects on one’s physical and mental health; finances; drinking habits; sport; eating habits etc., I was able to give pretty positive answers.
On a typical day in Marburg, we surface at varying points in the morning. This time of day is kept flexible and unplanned and more often than not framed with Brötchen and coffee. Since what would normally be a three or four bedroom flat is split between the two couples, we have adequate space that everyone may have a room of their own if needs be. As I write this, Jacob is relaxing in the lounge, Klaus is in the office, Marlene in the kitchen and I am perched on the settle (German: Sessel; think of an armless armchair, comfy and spongy) in the corner of Jacob’s and my room.
What I miss the most has turned out to lie somewhere on the scale between “this is fine” and a blessing. Instead of being able to see friends and family, many of us are reaching out to one another. I’ve had some heart-warming conversations that may have gone unhad if our busy schedules hadn’t come to their ostensible halt. I’ve lived abroad for nearly four years and for the longest time I felt like I was the needy one, frantically contacting friends from “back home”, asking if they had time to chat. For the first time in this four year period, others are seeking as much contact as myself. I no longer feel like the needy nitwit phoning home but one of many in search of connection. Last night my flat mates and I watched the film Green Book and there’s a beautiful line that I have to quote : “the world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move”. Now that contact really is just the click of a button away, I hope many can continue to nurture their friendships and touch base with their loved-ones.
As for Marburg, the only thing that’s really changed for me, apart from the odd English lesson being cancelled (luckily, most of them can continue via Skype), is my perusing of nearby cafes. Oh I do miss their kuchen sortiment, but this is a very luxurious position to be in. If a lack of kuchen is my main woe, then things must be pretty good. Though I jest about the kuchen, not being able to try out different cafes has impacted my lifestyle. Disappearing for several hours with a book, some paper to write or to meet a friend is no longer an option, but it means I’ve been able to turn “home” into a getaway. What used to be my “me-time” now takes place from where I used to try and escape.
I and my fellow flatmates have made our flat, newly moved into as of a couple of months, so cosy and comfortable that one doesn’t wish to flee to the city, though it would make for a refreshing renewal of scene. Instead the forests are our changes of perspective and home is for everything else: cooking, learning and lounging. We cook together daily and have been delving into our various cook books and summoned the delicious presence of home-made gnocchi, Yorkshire puddings, parsnip spaghetti, scones and nut roasts (not all together of course).
After our daily feasts, we enjoy the fresh air and natural surroundings. They entice us from our balcony and the kitchen window that looks out onto sunny day after day. Our latest excursions have included picking up a sofa from Local eBay (eBay Kleinanzeige) and carrying it back to our flat. This endeavour took us several hours, but a group of four is already a party and our band of laughter chugged along the Lahn, attempting sofa racing as we went.
Our cycling day-trips have taken us around Marburg and its surroundings which we may have otherwise not gotten to know. Though we enjoy our time as a group, I think we all cherish both time alone with our other half, and indeed, time by one’s self. I try to steal J away every few days, whether for a run, a walk or simply to sit side by side on the roof (which we’ve now dubbed “the terrace”) and watch the world drift by. Notably we admire the never-diminishing queue outside the Wolle-Lädchen, the Little Wool Shop, available for all your knitting and sewing needs. At the moment we think the go-to product will be equipment for knitting masks which will become obligatory as of Monday. We also admire what Klaus pointed out last week: in the sky there isn’t a vapour trail to be seen. Everything has slowed down.
But whilst reflecting on my four years abroad, I do notice a change. If I didn’t feel like I was getting enough of someone, I used to sulk and I probably still do, though hopefully less often. But why do we sulk, and why is it only with family, partners and the occasional friend? A moody companion may seem distracted and silent, but they are dealing with something extremely loud. Regressing into this state could be a form of self protection but I think it’s basic in its child-like manner. Love me, look at me, come play with me. If I’m lacking quality interaction, I hope that I ask for it, of at least I’m trying to. And the result is bike-rides, hikes and a constantly changing horizon, with said loved-one by your side. When I wake up in the morning and doze with the day’s first thoughts, a feeling tends to arise by itself and I don’t need to reinforce it: I’m lucky to be where I am.