Br(u)no: Nostalgic for Normalcy

Photo Credit: KB / BD

As expats know, “homesickness” is a theme that often comes up in conversations and, perhaps, listless afternoons. Don’t you miss your native country? Isn’t it better back home? And some people are, in fact, homesick.

For me, I miss many things from the United States, like family and friends, the mountains of Washington State and New York-style bagels, but I have never felt homesick. It isn’t a feeling that I understand — until now.

I am not pining for the United States. Rather, I am nostalgic for normalcy.

This pandemic has changed many things, and, with the mid-winter blahs, I long for the world that we used to have not so long ago here in Brno.

– I want to sit in a crowded bar with friends, talking about nothing important and having our beers replenished steadily.

– I want to have water-cooler conversations (also about nothing important) with colleagues in the kitchenette.

– I want to see a classroom full of students eager to learn but acting too cool for school.

– I want to travel to the sea and get away from the rat race of my one-task-after-another-task life for a week.

– I want to walk through the center of Brno without wondering if that guy is spreading the virus with every breath or if that woman is going to be the source of a jagged molecule that could lead to an illness that brings fever and hinders my taste.

– I want to be in the stands and watch FC Zbrojovka play football, even if they are near-last again.

– I want to be able to go to a store to buy little things that I don’t need, but that I want.

– I want to take the kids to an indoor fun park to try to tire them out.

– I want to celebrate a round-number birthday with family and friends.

Yet, none of those things are possible now or, at least, they are significantly curtailed by this lingering health crisis.

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Exacerbating this sense of nostalgia for normalcy, the coronavirus pandemic has entered a phase that is quite unsettling. It’s coming up to a year. The shock, for those lucky enough to not have been directly affected, has worn off.

There are vaccines out there, but they somehow feel overly distant and somewhere in the future.

People are supposed to be wearing facemasks — FFP2 respirators even — yet I constantly walk past people who are bare-faced.

The news is full of new variants and new escalations, but it kind of feels like someone is crying “wolf” again. The coronavirus is not even on the front-page and the lead story every day.

Worst of all, the cold and hard numbers no longer inspire fear. Remember when a thousand people infected was a big deal? Remember when a thousand people had died? Now, those statistics have jumped by orders of magnitude and they barely register. Earlier this week, the world reached 100 million known virus cases.

For a long time, I knew no one who had contracted the virus and neither did anyone I knew. Now, many of the groups within which I operate have had outbreaks, some that have led to long, debilitating and frightening illnesses. It feels like the virus is circling closer and closer.

Yet normalcy still feels so far away.

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How are you handling this mid-winter phase of the pandemic? What are the normal things that you want to do?

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