Half-pandemic May

Today, Chicago and the state of Illinois lifted most remaining COVID-19 mitigation-related masking and social distancing requirements and capacity limits. It isn’t quite the end of an era, but it is a step forward.

But when I wrote a decent chunk of this post (on June 7), many of those limits were still in place, and Chicagoland region was caught in an interesting half-way state that had as much to do with people’s attitudes as anything that was formally required.

I’ve been Chicagoland specifically because the United States, for better or for worse, continues to be a patchwork of restrictions, regulations and approaches. For the past 12 months, I’ve been able to sit down in coffee shops in Kenosha (Wisconsin) and Michigan City (Indiana), but not in Chicago and most suburbs. Masking has also varied – as I mentioned before, Kenoshans really didn’t mask much until the fall 2020 surge in cases.

In the past two months, we saw two major developments.

In late April, CDC issued a recommendation stating that people don’t have to wear masks outdoors – though it still recommended that unvaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings. Then, on May 13, it recommended allowing vaccinated people to go maskless indoors, except in public transit, government buildings, hospitals and some other congregate settings. Illinois and Chicago specifically adjusted their respective regulations accordingly – which meant, in practice, that businesses and public institutions such as libraries could continue requiring everybody to wear masks, if they so chose.

Continue reading “Half-pandemic May”

My Very Rare Family Time

I am on my way back to Chicago. It was a strange trip, for sure. After being on that overbooked UA flight, I regretted my decision to go and thought that Boris is right that we should not make too many moves during a pandemic.

In Helsinki, the situation was not the same as when I was there in October. They have way more cases than previously. Although it’s still way less than in Illinois, and the number of deaths, hospitalized patients, and patients in ICU is microscopic compared to our number, more restrictions are still instilled.

That meant that we didn’t go to any concerts, and in general did less outside home. Although this time we were biking together again.

Another factor that influenced how I felt was my panic about the speed with which our book is going and that we are behind all possible deadlines. And finally, the fact that I needed to record my presentation for the conference!

At some point, I asked Boris whether he thought it was the right idea for me to travel. He said that he hoped that I was able to relax. And the surprising thing is that it was true!

When I decided to go, I joked that it was the most expensive way to avoid holiday cooking and cleaning. But the fact is that for the whole week, I didn’t cook a single meal, didn’t wash a single plate, and didn’t do laundry. And I did only fun shopping if anything.

Although Boris had to teach a class this week and had some work meetings and some work in general, he allowed me to concentrate on writing 100%. And I am really thankful for that!
Also, I completely forgot that I wanted to print our logo on a t-shirt. And that Boris also wanted a t-shirt with this logo, and even bought a white t-shirt for that. We did it on Sunday – and that’s what I just posted:) (I wrote it yesterday but forgot to publish)

A Division Of Labor:)

Last week, before I left to Helsinki, I stopped at my neighbor to let her know I am leaving and just to chat. At that moment, I thought that I had to be on strict quarantine all the time, so that’s what I told her when she asked me what we are going to do in Helsinki.

She said: well, you can just relax at home, and go for a walk. And then she added: and you will be cooking for him, right?

I replied: no. In Helsinki, I am not even allowed in the kitchen. When Boris is here, I cook and clean and everything, and when I am over there, he does everything.

I can’t even describe an expression on my neighbor’s face. I think she never thought that could be even possible. She was trying to imagine how it can be and then saidL yea… I guess…

I think that it was the first time in all these years she knows us she thought that it may be something in this whole remote idea 🙂

***

Two weeks ago, Boris had the same surgery as I had in February. Yet another time, I see a striking difference between our health care system and the one they have in Finland. But I do not want to elaborate on this subject just now 🙂

The fact is, that it was always thought that his vision is way worse than mine, because he has limited vision fields, and some blind spots right in the middle. So, I guess he has been thinking for a while that in comparison to that, the miopy in not an issue. And it is. So a couple of days after he had his first eye operated, he told me: you know, today I realized that I need to clean the kitchen floor! And I was: awww! I am so happy!

It’s not something you would comment on when you visit, so I aways suffered in silence 🙂

The second surgery is going to be in a week, and I think that after that, he may be able to see even better than me!

Matter Does Not Disappear!

A week before Easter, when the future of traveling was one big unknown, I wanted to do something special for Boris, and I, with his consent, mailed him a parcel. There were several small bike accessories that he ordered on Amazon planning to pick them up when he would come in March (which didn’t happen). And a couple of other small things, which I added. Overall, it was a small parcel, and I marked it as a gift and put some small value on it.

The mail was slow back then. I checked the package status every day. It took mother than three weeks for it to be cleared with customs and depart from ORD. That happened on May 5, and after that, I haven’t seen any changes in its status.

I tried to file a “missing mail,” but since the package already left the US, and didn’t arrive in Finland, none of the postal services would start the investigation. I sadly pronounced the package lost.
On Wednesday, after I already departed, Boris got a notice from Finnish customs. It turned out that sometime between departure from ORD and arriving in HEL, the house number and the apartment number of the package address where switched. For some reason, some taxes were due on that shipment, but Boris didn’t know since the notice was sent to the wrong address. After the address confusion was resolved and the notice was delivered to Boris, it was too later – the shipment was sent back!
… After all, I was glad to find out that matter does not disappear!

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 🙂