How I Feel Here

Several people asked me whether Finland requires a two-week quarantine upon entering. My friend checked in for me when she was contacting the Finnish Border Control, and they told her something to the effect “recommended, but we do not check.” When I exited into the terminal, there were airport personnel meeting returning passengers. They were giving everybody the following flyer:

Granted, I am doing way more than that, starting from the fact that I didn’t go anywhere except my mom for five days before departure. I told Boris that he should buy all the food before I arrive (normally it’s one of our favorite things – to go to a grocery store together).

Looking at the rest of the world and Finland, I want to say that Finland is lucky not to have air conditioning and tourists. Or rather, both are present in small enough quantities not to make a negative impact.

Since there was never a mandate for wearing masks in public, and even a mask advisory didn’t stay for long, it looks like most people do not quite understand that masks protect the general public, not mask wearers.

Finland has close to none cases for over a month, and most of the restrictions are already lifted.
I do not know how I would feel about what I see around if my personal circumstances would be different. Right now, the whole thing feels pretty surreal, so details do not matter :). But I would say two things.

First, what I see proves to me that our normal norm is not gone forever. Perhaps, the most unbelievable thing was seen crowds of people going to the stadium on Saturday night:). There is still a lot of protection on place, and if you pay attention, you notice, but it does not prevent most of life going as usual.

Second, on the second day of being here, I got a very strong feeling, which can be described as “there can’t be heaven in one place if there is hell in the rest of the world.” This first moment when I thought, “I want to stay here forever” was fast gone. Through that first day, Boris was telling me all the time: relax and see how peace looks like. But he agreed with me when I told him: it can’t be peace when there is a war all around. Until the virus is defeated in the whole world, it won’t be the end. We are very thankful for the forces above us, which gave as that holiday in the rear at the time of war. But that’s a time off from the front, not the end of the war.

In the course of the past several months, we were often saying to each other “when this all will be over,” presuming we won’t be able to see each other in person earlier than that. And now we feel very distinctly, that “this” is not over. We got a leave warrant for good behavior πŸ™‚

I can’t believe it’s still Friday!

‘I can’t believe it’s still Friday!” – that’s what I said to myself about an hour ago. A Friday of Independence Day weekend, which would be perfect, if happened in the time of peace.
Even though there are none of the usual Independence Day activities, I still planned a lot. This week, I finally felt that I am very close to a usual self, active, getting things done, making plans, and completing the projects.

We had a shortened workday yesterday, and I was able to complete some of my shopping and other errands. I stopped myself from trying to do even more, knowing that I would be entirely exhausted by the end of the day if I tried. After all, I am not thirty-five anymore. That was a wise decision – I had enough energy today not only to finish shopping but also to finalize my order for the new stairs in the Home Depot. It might sound not like a big deal, but that’s what I had to do:

1) to come there without the laminate samples I took home several weeks ago to choose the best match
2) run back home with another, more promising sample to check 3) stop at ALDI on the way home, because it was indeed on the way.
4) pay with my Home Depot credit card.
5) lose my card somewhere in the store
6) rush home, call the credit card to report a loss.
7) at some point to receive a text message from my neighbor, that she needs some help with her computer
8) come to her house and fix the problem (which fortunately ended up having nothing to do with a computer)
I also did a lot of cooking and baking, and fixing some floral arrangements on the deck, which were damaged during recent storms, and installed a new printer at mom’s house.
Today, this bubble in my eye is finally gone, and I started to wear contacts again. That also helps me to feel more like a human πŸ™‚

While discussing with Boris this whole situation of masks and not masks, we were trying to figure out why it all worked in Finland, although the face-covering was never mandatory there. Boris said that he thinks it’s mostly because of air conditioning. In Finland, most private houses do not have it and all office workers are still working from home and are supposed to continue in the same manner until September.

The airconditioning idea looks very logical. It would explain the Southern states’ spikes. It’s not really the fact that they were opening too rapidly, but rather “how many people trickled into the newly opened bars with airconditioning.”
I guess I will wear a mask in the office, even if I will be the only one who will return back πŸ™‚

How To Talk About Racism

When the protests started two weeks ago, and I was thinking about how I could help the cause, I resolved never to let the racist speech go around me. I resolved never to walk away in silent disgust, but to speak up, each time. I resolved to make it clear that the racist language is socially unacceptable.

I realized how difficult it was to follow through just a couple of hours later. One of the most frustrating parts is that a lot of racism comes from my home country and from the Americans, who came here from the same place. Over a year ago, I reduced my presence in the Russian blogosphere to about ten percent of my previous activity. But that time, I did not feel like anything I am saying could make a difference, so I reduced my presence there to a small group of close friends, many of whom are not fluent in English. 

For about a week I was torn between wanting to keep my promise, and not wanting to start any discussions in Russian, but then several people emailed me and asked me to say something, They were writing to me that they do not have enough information, that Russian media is keeping silent about the riots, that their immigrant friends are horrified, and that they want to know the truth. 

Continue reading “How To Talk About Racism”

Quarantine Activities, and What is Not.

During the past three months, people often talked about new activities they engaged with during the quarantine. Many shared their new hobbies; people were posting about classes they were taking online, about learning new languages, cooking the restaurant-quality dishes at home, baking their bread, taking virtual tours, you name it. 

Other people were posting that they did not understand why some people take classed, learn new languages, baking their bread, etc. 

As for me, no doubt, I explored some new activities during that period of isolation. And now, when more and more of my usual activities return, I was wondering which of the new ones will stick. 

It looks like not that many. From the beginning, I didn’t like many of the virtual activities other people enjoyed. I whole-heartedly hate all the virtual travels and virtual museum tours. Maybe, it’s because when I was a child, only televised travel was available. Or, perhaps, because I know how far from experiencing the art in real life, all those virtual tours are. I even tried to click a link for the museum activities a couple of times and confirmed that I hated them indeed. 

Also, I never took online classes except for required work-related training, and I didn’t feel like the quarantine is a reason to change that. 

Another “no” was, surprisingly, virtual group classes. The office fitness center was offering an enormous number of different fitness classes, as early as at 6 AM, as late as 9 PM, weekdays, and weekends. 

At first, I was quite enthusiastic about them and quickly signed up for some. But after just two classes, I realized that that’s a waste of time for me. I am very good at exercising on my own, and if I need instructions, I prefer them on a one-on-one basis, except for some yoga classes, which produce a lot of spiritual energy. 

First, it seemed to be a shame to have such a variety of classes online for no extra cost, and not to use them. But why should I do these classes, if I didn’t enjoy them before? I resolved to stop “making” myself participate in online classes instead of doing what I was always doing. Now I have one personal training session a week with my old instructor and one individual yoga session with my old yoga teacher. And I am doing everything else by myself, at times which work for me. 

During quarantine, I did more online movie watching than before, a lot of them – with Igor. However, it looks like when my normal-usual activities are picking up, that online movie watching is going away. It becomes less important, and all of a sudden I do not have time for it πŸ™‚

Like many others, I started to bake more. Not cooking, I always cooked all or most of my meals; I tried new things, like quiche, but it can also be considered baking :). As for baking, I tried a lot of new recipes. I think that very few of them will stay with me. With some, I tried them just to prove that “I can do it,” that it’s not rocket science, and I am happy I did. But many will become “one -time recipes.” 

We are not over with quarantine. We are not done with a pandemic. But I am thrilled with volunteering opportunities that are now available, and waiting for more to open. 

Everything What’s Going On

I have five blog posts in drafts which I panned to finish over the weekend, and they are not going to be finished. The current situation, and the ignorance of many regarding the situation does not let me focus on anything else. It’s not like there is nothing else in my life. I just can’t make myself to talk about all the rest of it…

State of Mind Update

Sometimes, I feel good. There are moments when I feel calm and content; when I can say to myself – I am feeling good.

But if I will be honest with myself – I am not the whole person now. I think that the primary reason for that is that other activities can’t replace the activities I had to cut. I enjoy all the things I can still do, and there are plenty, I was delighted with how I’ve spent the Memorial Day weekend.
But there are many things in all areas of my life which are currently off-limits.

I know that people hate what somebody says: “I want my life to be back to normal!” I do not think you should hate others for saying that. I think that everybody, including those who understand the necessity of the quarantine measures, would rather have their lives differently.

Although the EU is gradually relaxing the travel restrictions, the current regulations still do not allow me to go. The wording is extremely confusing, especially because now the “internal borders” are reinstated. I had to write a formal request to the Finnish Border Control, they replied with a lengthy and still not very clear message. I had to read the border crossing regulations of other EU countries to understand what it all means :). Now we are waiting for the next revision, which should appear by June 14. Some hints are indicating that I will be able to travel after that because they promise “more options for family travel.” I think that current restrictions on immediate family members of permanent residents to cross the external border are the only family restrictions in effect.

The thing is, however, that until the whole world is cured, there is no single country which can be OK. The world as a whole needs to come out of that crisis. It is not a competition. A single country can safe their citizen lives, but it can’t win solo. It was to be a world-wide effort.

As for me, I am going to continue to embrace all the good things in life which are still available and are becoming available. I am writing about good things (most of the time) not because no bad things are happening around, but because good things help me to move forward.

Oh, and did I tell you that Vanille Chicago is back?! And they are going to deliver my postponed order the upcoming Friday! Can’t wait!!!

CRESCENDO: A Movie by Dror Zahavi

I watched this movie, although I didn’t have time, and I had other things to do. I dropped everything and could not stop. And now I can’t do anything until I write about it.

As a Chicagoan, and as a music lover, I know about Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, how I could not know? He talks about this orchestra almost every time he talks about anything publicly. I also know that many people, both inside and outside Israel, do not like this project. Barenboim always says that that project won’t bring peace, won’t stop the war, but it helps to build understanding. Now I am wondering, to what extent this movie is “loosely based” on Barenboim’s story. Because it’s way worse. And hopeless.

Twenty years ago, I resolved that I will never speak or write publicly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is one of those conflicts, where everybody is right, and everybody is wrong, and there is no way to change anybody’s opinion. And sadly, this brilliant movie proves it.

I do not think that anybody who believes that there is a right side of that conflict, should watch this movie. There is a reason why on Vimeo, the comments for that movie are disabled. I wanted to cry through most of the movie. And I want to cry now.

Close to Home

I love Vanille Patisserie, and I am sure I mentioned them in this blog at least a dozen times. I love their European-quality pastries and cakes and their macaroons. One of their stores is located on the lower level of the Ogilvie station, and in the times of peace, I stopped there to pick up treats for both office and home. I ordered their amazing pies for two Thanksgivings in a row. I ordered Mom’s birthday cake from them. Last time I was in the city, I got a big box of macaroons from them to give to my eye doctor and her staff.

They were always great. They called me when they were making my mom’s cake to double-check all the details, and a week later they called to ask how everything was, and whether mom liked the cake.
When the quarantine started, they left only one store opened, had not more than twp customers in the store at a time, and extended their delivery options. They came up with so many funny and thoughtful quarantine specials.

I sent Vlad and Dylon their “Where is Lori Lightfoot” cake. I sent alphabet macaroons set to Nadia. I sent money to their Meal Donation program: you can buy meals for first responders, and the shop with add a couple more. I didn’t have any preference, where to send, and they emailed me two days before they were going to deliver “my” donation, that it will go to the UIC nurses. They asked whether I wanted to attach a personal message, and I replied – of cause!

May 8th was supposed to be a day of free delivery to the North-West Suburbs, and I ordered a bunch of things for our V-Day/Mother’s Day, including some frozen stuff. And then on May 6th, I received an email:

Continue reading “Close to Home”

“American Dirt” – a Book Review

I have to admit I decided to read this book after I saw a sharp criticism of it in the media (which means, it was in the beginning of March, so this is yet another very belated review). I was struggling to give this book a low rating because the book is very well written, and I could not pause until I reached the end of the audiobook. However, I have to agree with those who say the book misrepresents the issue of illegal immigration. Granted, stories like the one described in the book happen. But the author is trying to convince the readers that most of the immigrants are in a death-threatening situation. I think that the idea is that those who are unaware of the hardships the illegal immigrants are going through will understand that they have no other choices. I believe that such a presumption will lead to the conclusion, that if the crime rate in Mexica and Central America’s countries will go down, there will be no reason for people to try to immigrate illegally.

I disagree with that. There are economic reasons for illegal immigration, and they are present on both sides of the border. There is nothing wrong with people looking for better lives. They should not face death threats to justify their decisions. It’s legislation problems which make the current situation illegal, although there is a willingness to work, and a need for work. That’s what should be addressed.