Post 32: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 32. WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship.

TODAY’S TOPIC: Remote Learning

The future is calling

RafifJ, #Malaga, Spain

Remote learning, distance learning, online courses, online collaboration – whatever you call it, it boils down to the exchange and processing of information in a socially distant and hygienic environment. Today, anyone reading this blog is using the Internet. In their daily interactions with others they also use applications like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, WebEx…..I don’t need to go on, do I? We are learning and unlearning – learning to use new technology even as we unlearn what is “traditional” education.

Our kids are learning and unlearning, too. From language classes to business principles, students are adapting to the new way of acquiring knowledge and the accompanying etiquette. We know about online manners: hate speech and bullying have severe consequences; disrespectful comments will earn the wrath of fellow participants. Instructors define the rules of online classroom behavior, much as they did in their brick-and-mortar classrooms.

What is changing, though, is how we acquire knowledge, and the pace at which we acquire it. Along the way, we’re unlearning some of the old rules. Is a 4-year degree really so important? Can one acquire the same amount of knowledge through multiple online sessions? Increasingly, Generation Z kids, who were raised with plenty of technology, acquire knowledge not just through in-person classrooms but through online learning and eBooks as well. These once nontraditional learning methods are fast becoming the norm; we did not need the #Coronavirus to get here, but it has accelerated adoption. New traditions are being formed. Forget about commuting or packing a lunch; today’s learning is available to anyone, virtually anywhere, if they have an Internet connection and a device.

I experienced this myself a few years ago when I did my master’s degree in strategic communication at my alma mater: The American University in Washington, D.C. I joined AU’s School of Communication for its a top-notch online master’s program. Two years later, I had earned my degree at a pace that was right for me. The program’s flexibility allowed me to play with my kids, take care of my work, and even have some time for myself. I actually wrote a couple of blog posts for AU about their program and its benefits. No, I’m not getting paid to promote it.

Today, I’m happy to say I’m still in touch with many of the students and professors I “met” during my remote learning experience. Every so often, I teach a proposal course at AU for the same program (just held a session via Zoom a week ago).

All in all, I think remote learning is the way to go. It’s the way we are going, at any rate. “Resistance is useless,” as Douglas Adams once told us. You can look it up online.

Interview with a University Professor

RJD, #Beirut, Lebanon

Today I interviewed a professor at The American University of Beirut (Suliman S. Olayan School of Business) to find out his perspective on remote learning. Here are his thoughts:

What do you consider to be the benefits of remote learning?

“I think the student has the option to learn at their own pace. The student can also replay the material (specially Voice over PowerPoint) over to ensure they understood the material. Another advantage is that they can review the material on a schedule that works for them. Some people are more clear in the morning, others prefer the evening. And finally, I think not having travel time allows them to concentrate more on the material and the assignments at hand!”

What do you not like about remote learning, or what don’t you find effective? 

“I believe remote learning takes the fun out of campus life and limits the students’ ability to interact. I also think that, even in large groups, students learn from one another when the session is on campus. For instance, when I tell them a story, or when they share their experiences, and we all relate. 

Also, I feel remote learning makes it more difficult for a teacher to know if specific students are having difficulties with the material because you can’t see them all the time! 

It is also more difficult to ask questions online if the class is large. Between reading questions and answering them verbally, for instance on Adobe Connect, I can lose my mind and it is very distracting! 

Reshuffling my classes from in-class sessions to online also took a huge effort to produce; to perfect it was also very tedious. For instance, when you are speaking, sometimes you say “ummm,” but in a presentation, you have to force yourself to stay away from these pauses.

Finally, I love to tell my students interesting anecdotes and stories about my personal business experiences to illustrate a point, and sometimes this happens spontaneously. In remote learning, I am finding it difficult to relay such stories and make the class more interactive. 

On the other hand, the material that we had to prepare this semester can be used over and over, should the need continue (for instance some colleges are thinking about remaining remote in the upcoming Fall semester).”

Would you recommend remote learning in general? 

“Absolutely not. It takes the pleasure out of teaching and out of learning. It makes the whole experience mechanical. I am noticing that a lot of students are not learning as much, are not as disciplined about assignments, communication via email is not the ideal and I just don’t have the time with 4 courses and over 100 students to talk to each one individually.”

Remote Learning

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

This is not a topic I claim to know much about. Although I do consider myself a lifelong learner, I usually research and learn about specific topics that interest me. I have never attended a class remotely.

I asked my kids, who are both taking college classes, how remote learning is impacting their college experience.

My daughter has “real time” classes, but the lecture is prerecorded so it’s not real time because she can pause it and take notes or take a nap. She says she would much rather be in class in real “real time” and not on a screen in her room still wearing PJs.

My son said the same thing, although his classes do not have lectures; they post the class resources and homework on their school’s remote platform.

The kids agree that they miss physically being on campus and in the classroom, where they can chat with teachers and friends. They also miss the hands-on classes like lab, darkroom, and the kitchen the most. Classes that are taught by doing and seeing and working with their hands. Unfortunately, those classes have to wait till the students can get back to campus.

In the meantime, my daughter still needs to finish and pass her darkroom photography class. In the absence of the darkroom, the teacher has given them creative assignments such as watching a movie and writing a paper about it. According to my daughter, it is a waste of time….

The truth is, both my husband and I agree that testing is a measure of someone’s ability to memorize rather than their ability to learn and comprehend. We believe in some cases it’s better for students to research the answers and learn, rather than guessing or getting it wrong and never learning the correct answer. So maybe this is all positive. Is it really cheating to take the time to look up an answer? Learning should be based on everyone’s personal abilities. It is not a one-size-fits-all. I personally hope the post-Corona school system will reassess the curriculum, standardized testing, and how we teach kids today.

My kids also agree that the whole process is weird, especially since the teacher cannot monitor if students cheat. (Perhaps they are confessing something to me).

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here. 

Post 30: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 30. WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship.

Today’s blog is about personal hygiene during the Coronavirus lockdowns.

I Still Go to the Spa

RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

As I mentioned yesterday, I change clothes for each event that I embark on at home. Sometimes I carry my handbag when heading out to the balcony. I also go to the “spa” during the Lebanese lockdown. 

My bathroom, which I luckily do not share with my husband , has been turned into a spa. I always took care of myself on Sundays with my weekly ritual of a long shower, oils and moisturizers, etc. And I always used to go to the spa for body scrubs, facials, massage, nail care, and haircuts. Now my small bathroom is my spa.

Two weeks ago, I recalled how the hairdresser uses his scissors to create a perfect haircut. I decided that after so many years, I can attempt to trim my hair and diminish the volume. It worked – more or less. 

Every other day, I wear my spa robe and slippers and I give myself a full facial treatment: I start with a facial wash, scrub, mask and complete with a serum and moisturizer. I tend to do that in the evening so I sleep with clean, nourished pores. 

Twice a week, I give myself a body scrub, alternating with a Himalayan salt scrub and a coffee scrub. I scrub and I scrub. Not because of worrying about germs only, but also to get out all of my pent-up energies! Then I use a body oil followed by a moisturizer. 

On the other twice weekly days, I use coconut oil along with some Shea butter balm to moisturize my hands (after so many 20-second hand washes and gel use, we all need to do this) and feet. I rub the Shea butter on my nails and then the coconut oil on my hands and feet and cover with gloves (hands) and a ziploc bag (feet) for an hour. 

Finally, I am giving myself a manicure and pedicure once a week (and if I am really bored), I change color twice a week. 

This all happens after my daily exercise session (a combo of dance, yoga, and barre exercises that I developed) and after taking care of all my daily chores. I created a playlist that matches a spa mood for these rituals and am enjoying the time thoroughly! 

I really miss the massages though! 

To Groom Or Not to Groom

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

That is the question.

I don’t think personal hygiene is instinctive. We learn all about personal grooming and hygiene from our parents. As babies and young children, we are bathed and dressed in clean clothes. We are taught to brush our teeth for a full 2 minutes. Taken to the barbers and hairdressers to keep out hair tamed.

As we get older, our parents stepped back, expecting us to continue to accomplish our daily routines. But they were still there to nag us if we forget. Have you showered? Did you brushed your teeth? Are you wearing clean underwear? Isn’t is time for a haircut? Did you use deodorant? You cannot go out looking disheveled!!

When we are old enough to be on our own, most of us achieve this task like pros. Notice I say “most of us” because I remember going to class in college with people who had decided to forgo the daily hygiene regimen. Their clothes were wrinkled, as though they had slept in them, and their hair was still matted to their heads from the night before. But most of us go out of our way to be clean and coiffed and NOT disheveled, especially in public.

So what happens when we don’t have to go out to work or even be seen in public? I know that on some weekends we take hygiene days off too.

Now with the #Coronavirus, we are home 24/7, not going out except for a short walk. We spend most of our days watching TV and playing games online. So who cares? No one, it seems, because everyone is in the same boat. Whenever I FaceTime my friends, we laugh and compare notes on how we have let ourselves go.

I can say that in my household we all try to keep a routine. Every day we get up at precisely whenever o’clock and by 3pm-ish we have showered and dressed.

My son decided he doesn’t want to shave his beard, which he thinks looks good despite the fact that it is growing in patches. His hair, which had been cut in a very stylish way (shaved on the sides and longer on top) has now grown to a perfect length so it cascades down to look like a bad bowl cut. I tried to use hair ties on his hair, but he thought that was weird-looking …. as compared to what, the bowl cut?

My husband tries to keep his beard trimmed. But his hair is in desperate need of a cut. It is starting to curl up in the back like babies’ hair and he is tucking the sides behind his ears….

As for me, I’m not too worried. My grey is showing but I can use a box color if I want. I have curly hair that likes to be free, but I pull my hair back in a ponytail when I get tired of it. I never wear makeup (hardly did before corona anyway) and I’m living in comfy sweatpants.

The other day my husband points out that my lips are really chapped and that I should take care of them and not let them go. Umm, are you serious?? You are willing to overlook the fact that I have gained weight, have bad hair, sporting grandma sweat pants, and the only thing you notice are my chapped lips? Wow !! I should kiss him! But I don’t because I haven’t brushed my teeth yet.

I smile. I’m so lucky!

So today I decide that I’m using Chapstick. I saturate my lips with it and then I jump back into bed. I have decided I’m spending the day in bed and in my PJs just to see how that goes. If you don’t get dressed then you cannot be accused of being disheveled because you are in your PJs – DUH!

If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Bathtime

RafifJ, Malaga, Spain

I typically work from home, so the new all-remote model is not so strange to me. BC (before Corona) I had near-daily conference calls and video chats, and my routine was to get up, shower, and commute to my dining table to start my workday. Armed with my big mug full of hot coffee, I would get started on the day’s deliverables. When I needed a break, I would head to the beach and take in a little sun – that was always a sure way for me to relax and re-energize.

Enter COVID-19. Now, DC (during Corona), I can do all of my routine…EXCEPT go out. In this DC state, I feel completely trapped by fear, anxiety, and #lockdown mandates. My exciting outings are limited to going to the grocery store (oh, what will I wear!) and taking out the trash (should I put on some makeup??). I’m not supposed to do these every day, and if I’m caught violating the guidelines I can be fined or even arrested. #StayHomeStaySafe and #QuedateEnTuCasa are the only way to go, and even a single step outside the apartment, or interaction with the Amazon Delivery Hero, means I need to do the 20-second scrub-scrub-scrub song. Now my weapon is soap, not coffee, and my hands have never been cleaner or more in need of moisturizer.

Because I’m home-bound, my routines have changed. We’ve thrown out regular bedtimes, staying up until the wee hours of the morning and sleeping in. We play ping-pong on a tiled dining table, for heaven’s sake. On days when I don’t have deadlines, I’m perfectly happy to hang out in my fuzzy purple robe all afternoon. And I do that until…

…until I realize, again, that we have lost all normalcy that we may have had BC. And as my house-bound sister in Montreal (is she reading this??) reminds me, we have also lost many of our rights. Here in Spain, as in other parts of the world, we no longer have the right to go out for a walk, visit friends, or host an in-person party. We can’t shop where we want (closed or too far), and going to a restaurant is out of the question. There is nothing normal about the sad, empty Malaga streets that long for joggers, shoppers, and yes, even tourists. If we go so far as to abandon other “normal” BC activities, we will give in completely to the virus.

So I say: Trim your nails and brush your teeth! Bathe, and wash your hair! Exercise your right to shower! Wash up for your country! #StayClean for democracy!

Your neighbors and housemates – if you have any – will eventually thank you.

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here. 

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Post 29: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 29. Important Note: WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship. No copyright infringement intended WRT photos in this post.

Today we have free-for-all posts.
Tomorrow we will rise to the WRITER CHALLENGE
we got from a loyal reader.

Moving on

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

I keep imagining how we will all transition back to our “normal” lives. I don’t know if we will even want the same life we had pre-corona.

It may not even be in our control. Everything in this world progresses and changes. Nothing ever remains the same.

The weather can start off beautiful, warm, and sunny in the morning, then end up with a deluge of rain and hail. The four seasons maybe predictable but some plants don’t make it from one season to the next. At times, perfectly healthy plants are eaten up by other predatory insects or animals.

I bring this up because now more than ever we need to understand that life is such a gamble. One day you could be on vacation in the tropics, not knowing there will be an earthquake or tsunami around the corner. “What incredibly bad luck,” we all say. Other times you could be attending the most boring party and suddenly you discover the love of your life. “What a lovely coincidence,” we all say.

Your money is safely working for you in the stock market, only to crash in a matter of days. Then the schools that keep our children safe and educated suddenly close. “WTF?” we all say.

So why can’t we just be happy and appreciate what we have? Why can’t we be kind to each other and to our planet?

When the world hits that restart button will we all run back and do exactly what we used to do? Even though we know the unpredictability of the world still exists and can change in an instant?

Will the return to our old life be enough? Will rushing to purchase the venti latte on the way to the crowded metro in the hopes that we make it to work on time be rewarding? Will we just continue to tow the party lines regardless of their power hungry politics?

I’d like to see people demand more. More pay for the everyday workers who have become “essential employees.” More reform in healthcare so it can be affordable for all. More attention to and care for Mother Nature, and more tolerance of others who look and sound different. We all saw on the news around the world how this pandemic took its toll on everyone. Hopefully we will pay attention, because now we realize that it can happen to us.

Maybe Papa Bernie had a point after all…

Love is in the air

Y., Barcelona, Spain

When I first heard about the #Coronavirus and before it became COVID-19, for some reason the first thing that came to mind was John Paul Young’s song “Love is in the air.”  And I kept playing that song over and over on YouTube and in my head, imaging scenes of what’s going on. I even sent it to some friends on WhatsApp.

But these scenes, although they were filled with love, were completely different from “Google-image-search” type of love scenes. Instead of getting closer to those you love, suddenly you wanted to distance yourself from them. Instead of people out happily gathered celebrating a shared love, we saw people celebrate love by staying home. And suddenly the basics, the essentials, our love became clearer, as did its lack and absence.

I leave you with the lyrics of “Love is in the air.”  There’s never been a better time for this song, in my opinion. Love is in the air, and it’s all around us. We just have to see it without getting too close before they discover a cure or vaccine. Basically, we’re gonna feel like dicks in a condom for a while, believing that love is in the air. You can sing it in your head using JP Young’s voice or the huskier Tom Jones remake. 

Love is in the air, everywhere I look around
Love is in the air, every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

Love is in the air, in the whisper of the tree
Love is in the air, in the thunder of the sea
And I don’t know if I’m just dreaming
Don’t know if I feel safe
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when you call out my name

Love is in the air
Love is in the air
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Love is in the air, in the rising of the sun
Love is in the air, when the day is nearly done
And I don’t know if you’re illusion
Don’t know if I see truth
But you’re something that I must believe in
And you’re there when I reach out for you

Love is in the air, everywhere I look around
Love is in the air, every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

Love is in the air
Love is in the air
Oh, oh, oh, oh

John Paul Young


RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

Today, Easter, was the first really beautiful day in Beirut, weather wise. Off to gardening I went. We have a beautiful roof overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with a 360 degree openness.

I took out my gardening outfit (shorts and t-shirt) and went to the roof to plant.

During these Corona times, I will not have to bring down my summer clothes since we look like we will be stuck at home anyhow. I will just keep things ready as they are for next winter!

After a nice long shower, I got dressed in my going-out outfit and joined our Eritrean housekeeper for our usual Sunday Eritrean coffee ritual.

When done, I changed and got into my lounge wear and did some chores around the house. I am now in my PJs and ready for bed.

Oh I forgot, I carried my handbag when I went “out” for coffee!

Oh, these Corona times are driving all of us crazy. Happy Easter and blessed Sunday!


RafifJ, Malaga, Spain

Some days I just don’t know what to write, but I feel that putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – is part of what keeps me going during these CoronaDays.

My routine has evolved from BC (before Corona): now Clapping Time and frequent video chats with family and friends are sacred, and I plan my day around them. My inventory of basic necessities is different, too – having an adequate supply of soap is more important to me than my BC habit of owning shoes of every conceivable color and style. Even the old salon luxuries seem pretentious and frivolous – I mean, who do I think I’m kidding with the hair color?

As we near the end of our CoronaPrison – because surely lockdown will come to an end soon??? – I wonder how soon I’ll revert to my old habits, if at all. I suppose we all need to prepare for the new “normal” as we adapt to whatever social, environmental, and cultural rules that will inevitably accompany our journey to After Corona (AC).

Whatever happens, I hope that AC, I will continue to observe Clapping Time, even if privately. I hope that AC, I’ll always honor the heroes – not just the medical professionals, but the grocers and the truckers – who really did serve on “the frontlines” in the fight against this nasty virus. I hope that AC, we will not abolish human contact as a survival mechanism, or find out that we’ve become hermits.

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

If you’d like to contribute a post or give us a writer challenge, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here. 

Post 25: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 25. Important Note: WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship. No copyright infringement intended WRT photos in this post.

Star Trekking across the coronaverse

Rime Allaf, Vienna, Austria

I could swear my boots look sad, sensing that the lockdown’s extension until the end of April means our seasonal affair was cut short this year. As I telepathically reassure them and myself that our time will come again, I steal a glance at the shoes which patiently await their turn to strut their heels around Vienna’s famed café society, upon our conditional liberation, and start imagining the outfits to accompany them.

Random thoughts about footwear and fashion, which may also change as we gradually migrate our work to a digital environment, are some of the mundane things getting my mind off our anxiety-inducing reality. When I scroll (or rather, to borrow a perfect expression I read somewhere, when I terror scroll) various platforms aimlessly from one piece of depressing news to another, I cling to the confidence that our scientists will find a vaccine, and that adapting our habits is a positive necessity.

For me, most of the guidance to contain the spread of this damn virus is welcome. I’ve always hated having to lend anyone a pen. When I use the restroom at my place of work, I touch nothing (think Sheldon Cooper level, really) and use paper towels to open doors, mentally judging people I don’t even know for not washing their hands well or long enough. I’ve taught my daughter since she was little that we don’t sit on our beds with clothes we’ve worn outside, and I love that our winter gloves protect us from a lot more than the cold. I was never enthusiastic about shaking hands or kissing random people. My air travel and public transportation modus operandi, whenever possible, revolves around the mantra of “touch only when necessary.”

So while I wholeheartedly hug and kiss people I care for and conveniently forget about germs when I’m book or clothes shopping, I do like this sudden global fixation with hygiene and the reassessment of the need for endless and pointless meetings.

Of course, that doesn’t take the current stress away, and watching sitcoms – one of my tried and tested methods of decompressing – hasn’t appealed to me in these circumstances. However, over the past few weeks, it is my eternal, internal Trekkie which has helped me hang on to notions of a better future as I re-watch, for the umpteenth time, all the seasons of one of my favorite shows ever.

My brothers and I grew up watching Star Trek reruns in the US, with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock becoming a big part of our ideal world. Years later, they were joined by Captain Picard, Commander Riker and Lt. Data as I became (and still am) seriously hooked on Star Trek “The Next Generation.” In each episode, the endearing characters would face dilemmas and ponder moral and ethical questions over which I would obsess for days on end. This appealing world was a universe where character defines people, where poverty is eradicated and money is meaningless, where there is mutual respect for “the other” and the other’s way of life, where greed and hatred are rejected, where the sense of right and wrong is a guiding light, where the pursuit of knowledge and meaning drives humans and most other races, and where logic and empathy cohabit comfortably.

I’ve often advocated that watching Star Trek should be mandatory at schools and universities everywhere, and I think it can rekindle an aspiration for ideals at any age. Star Trek does make you dream, but above all it makes you think, and we all need to rethink so much about our lives.

Which brings me back to our worldly greeting problems, to which Star Trek offers the best solution even for non-Trekkies. Instead of handshakes, kisses and bearhugs with people you don’t necessarily want to touch, instead of namaste which necessitates two free hands and might be misinterpreted as purely faith-based by some, instead of a hand on the heart or chest which I would reserve to convey appreciation or respect to someone, it’s only logical that we adopt the Vulcan salute and all it stands for.

Live long and prosper.

The Walking Dead

Adam J. Wallace

One TV show that I believe really exemplifies the #Coronavirus is The Walking Dead.

Obviously, there are no zombies outside our homes, and #COVID-19 is not the end of the world. But if you look at the virus in the show (TS–19), you will really see the similarities.

TS-19 is discovered by a scientist. He tries to warn people about it, but no one listens. The Walking Dead really shows how things can take a very bad turn if we do not listen to doctors and ignore their warnings.

Another similarity is the information we receive. Doctors and the government didn’t disclose important information. We are learning more about COVID-19 every day, and I feel like a lot more is known than disclosed to the public. 

In The Walking Dead, the only way to kill the virus is to penetrate a specific area of the brain, killing the person or zombie. I don’t believe we need to go to that extreme a level to eliminate COVID-19, but please remember to stay inside and wash your hands!

Shaking hands in 2055

RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

When we think of the Spanish flu pandemic, when our grandparents or great-grandparents were alive, we have little information. Things were not as documented as they are now. 

So imagine your child or grandchild in 2055. He is wondering why his family posted photos on social media discussing handshakes, masks, and gloves! 

Our world will never be the same, yet it will always be the same. In Lebanon, our traditions of handshakes and kisses are very much of the social etiquette inasmuch as English gentlemen stand when a lady enters the room. 

This is particularly true at large gatherings, like weddings or condolences. So when you are receiving condolences from people you know and many you don’t, a lot of people refrain from shaking too many hands (hygiene related) so they put their hand on the chest. 

It is a very respectful and hygienic form of greeting. 

As for conservative women and men within the Lebanese Muslim community, women who are veiled usually don’t shake hands with men but place their hand on their heart. A sign that says, “I don’t shake hands with men.” And many men, out of respect for someone’s wife or sister, immediately say hello and put their hand on their chest. Again, respectful and hygienic.

In the Hindu and Buddhist communities, a namaste is sufficient, with a head bow. This is something the West adopted a few decades back but only when practicing yoga! 

I have a germaphobe friend who hates being touched and absolutely can’t take the kissing on the cheeks. When someone wants to shake hands, she extends her wrist! 

Another person I know, a lovely older lady, does air kisses on either cheek. Very much like the “mwah” in movies (usually by two ladies who dislike one another and followed by a “let’s do lunch” fake statement!)

So how will we greet one another once this pandemic subsides? A colleague today told me “I can’t wait for this to end so I can give you a big hug.” 

I love hugs! I think they are more meaningful that kisses. And more hygienic! I am going to either follow the namaste or the hand-on-heart rituals to greet strangers. And lots of hugs to those for whom I have lots of love. 

Going back to 2055 children, they will probably watch a movie about the early part of this century and wonder what the handshake means!!!! 

A three-hour tour

RafifJ, Malaga, Spain

All too often during these CoronaDays, I feel that we – all of us – are somehow stranded, each in our new social distancing paradigm. The quiet in our streets and the growing economic panic has many of us shrinking into our individual mental and emotional spaces. Globally, we are getting closer to a third season of #COVID-19, having spent part of the winter, most of the spring, and it looks like at least some part of the summer under various forms of lockdown. Despite our increased presence on social media and in “teleparties,” I think we’re somehow on our own islands.

This brings to mind Gilligan’s Island. Do you remember that show? It was a 1960s sitcom about the passengers aboard the S.S. Minnow, who were caught in a storm and stranded on an distant, unknown island. If you need a memory jog, the show featured the Captain, Gilligan (crew member), Ginger (movie star), Mary Ann (innocent but oddly sexy gal), the Professor, and the Howells (a millionaire couple).

In the show, the characters, especially the Captain and Gilligan, continually try to find a way out. They use different methods and techniques to plan their escape from the island, but someone – usually Gilligan – always screws up. So they keep trying.

Even though the show had only a few main characters, there were always guest appearances – stars who could apparently make it to the island, but could not find a sustainable solution. It seemed like the characters were on their own, living in an alternate reality. They had to make up their own social rules and norms of behavior. They had to learn how to get along, despite the flare-ups that invariably disrupted the peace, at least temporarily.

Do you see the similarities?

Sometimes I feel like we are living on our own stranded islands. Captains from around the world claim to be finding a solution, but it never seems to work. Someone always screws up, and there is always a scapegoat. There are plenty of new “stars” who can make it to the podium or screen just fine, but have yet to give coherent answers. We’re trying to navigate the new social norms, keeping our distance, while sort of shipwrecked in lockdown.

I’m certainly not trying to make light of the #Coronavirus. I know that flare-ups in our societies have deadly consequences, especially for victims of domestic abuse and refugees. The numbers around the world are becoming increasingly alarming, and social distancing is morphing into political distancing. During lockdown, finger-pointing has become the new form of exercise.

Let’s just hope that, like Gilligan’s Island, the Coronavirus gets cancelled in its third season.

Cultures and customs

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

Some of what makes every culture unique is the myriad of customs that are passed down with each generation. I have always been fascinated by the way various cultures perform certain rituals and ceremonies just to introduce themselves to one another.

In the USA, shaking hands is a sign of respect when meeting someone for the first time or after some separation. These days, as we spend so much time in isolation and distancing from others, we are all speculating whether a simple action like a handshake will become an old, retired tradition. Will we adopt the Tibetan monk’s way of sticking out our tongues out to say hello? Or maybe we will simply tap our feet together?

I dug deep into my shrinking brain to remember the TV show about the alien, Mork for Ork. Do you Boomers remember that TV show from the late ’70s / early ’80s? Mork (played by a very young Robin Williams) was an alien who had been sent to Earth to observe human behavior.

Mork had a distinct greeting and handshake where the hands never touch. For his goodbye, he would say, “NaNou NaNou” and a tug at his ears. At the end of the show, Mork would report back to his superior Orson to recount his perception of the bizarre humans’ idiosyncrasies, emotions, and customs.

Despite the fact that Mork had a human friend helping him assimilate, the rest of the people around him were baffled by his quirky behavior and weird words. This reminds me of how some people (leaders included) are uncomfortable with and incensed by habits from other cultures.

Perhaps we should go back and watch those Mork & Mindy episodes again. Maybe we can learn a thing or two about our culture.

I can’t help wandering if this #coronavirus is equivalent to a brutal alien who has landed on Earth and is imposing their culture on us. We all have to comply for fear of being killed. But living under their stipulations is taking its toll on the whole world. Perhaps if we had one of the coronavirus aliens taking on a human form and explaining their culture to us, we could understand it better.

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Post 24: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 24. Important Note: WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship.

Before and After

Samia Madwar, Toronto, Canada

A few days ago I started listening to the audiobook version of Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, a novel set in New York City during the Great Recession. We see the city, and its class divides, through the lens of a Cameroonian couple hoping to get a Green Card and stay in America. Their employer is an executive at Lehman Brothers, one of the firms whose bankruptcy was seen as a catalyst of the 2008 global economic crisis.

Listening to the novel takes me back to that time of uncertainty, when the news was filled with daily reminders of the lives and communities shattered by the crisis, much as it is today. I think about how that period shaped my own outlook; like so many of my peers, I never take financial stability for granted. Now, as I watch others chronicle their experiences—including in this blog, of course—I try to imagine what stories we’ll tell about #COVID-19 in a year from now, or five, or ten. How will we remember this time?

I try to spot some clues in the stories people are telling now. Amid the regular updates, breaking news alerts, and various epidemiological studies, I’m reading about how pandemics have shaped human history and how this one fits in, or how living in isolation comes hand in hand with another epidemic—that of loneliness.

One of the best essays I’ve read recently was written by a friend who has had to practice self-isolation for years due to a health condition. In a beautifully written piece, she urges those complaining about physical distancing now to gain some perspective.

Remember that what you’re coping with now,” she writes, “is what a whole lot of people have been coping with for years and years and years.”

I’ve also been buoyed by the stories artists are crafting. Some designers are fashioning face masks (like this one and this one), poets are writing—well, poems (here’s one by an emergency physician)—and illustrators are capturing their impressions and mirroring ours, too.

Whenever I hear people refer to the “before times” and speak of a time after “all this” passes, I hope they’re also paying attention to the present—the “during.” Because that’s where all our stories will happen.

Closings and Openings

RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

Today I spent the day rummaging through what is left of my closed-down business. 

As I took things out of closets and drawers, flashbacks of happier days  came to me. The day I opened my business, the day I saw it mushroom into a bigger space, the day I moved to a larger location, and the day I felt on top of the world for my accomplishments. I believe I am now at the “acceptance” phase of mourning this loss. 

Then I thought of all the people who are facing the same predicament I had to face. My predicament was due to a black hole called the Lebanese Economy, which led to many small and medium-sized businesses to cease to exist. More than 800 restaurants have closed countrywide.

Many people the world over are facing dire economic decisions, and many small and medium-sized businesses might have to close due to #COVID-19. Let me tell you, it is a very difficult decision to make. 

Some of my dilemmas were:

  1. Having to lay off people and increase unemployment in Lebanon.
  2. Being an entrepreneur and hoping that the dark cloud will just move over and brighter days will come.
  3. Building for so many years and with a witch’s wand all is gone overnight; the customers, the team spirit, the magic.
  4. Being unable to sustain the standards and quality I worked so hard to achieve. 
  5. Dealing with suppliers who fail to understand that we are all in this together.

…and much more. It took me from October to February to make the decision. I was holding on with every bit of determination and resolve I had! Come March, I spent many days crying. Hell, sobbing. To see my 23-year-old baby on its death bed was very difficult. 

Then one day, I woke up and I was ready. I took the leap and found myself on the other side. Things began to fall in place and I became happier. Looking back, I wish I had contemplated less and acted more. 

To those considering the fate of their business, as hard as you might imagine things on the other side, please take the leap. In retrospect, having been burdened with a tormenting decision like this, today I feel liberated and ready to go on opening old drawers and shredding the past while holding on to its beautiful memories. But I’m looking forward, because the future cannot be all that bad. I have to have faith in that.

The Clash Understood

RafifJ in Malaga, Spain

Dear Self,

This year will be 17 years. SEVENTEEN YEARS since I co-founded my small business. It’s been 17 years of hard work, client relationship management, and near-constant recruiting. This little company is almost as old as my eldest son, and just may have caused me more anxiety than his Terrible Twos, Defiant Fives, and Morose Pre-Teens ever did.

In 17 years, we’ve fired a few clients; retained many, many others; and worked with fabulous consultants. In those 17 years, we have enjoyed tremendous successes, helping our customers win billions of dollars in new contract awards. We’ve retooled organizations and created efficient processes. YAY.

We have also made knuckleheaded mistakes. One of them is a major lesson (future entrepreneurs, DO NOT DO THIS): we put literally everything we have into this business. FAIL.

For 17 years, we have found ourselves swinging back and forth on the business pendulum. And then we come back to the same old question when things are down: should we stay or should we go (in or out of business)?

Now with the #Coronavirus, our small business is at risk. It’s not that we can’t work remotely – we’ve been doing that for years. But now quite a few clients are penny-pinching as they too fend off impending financial disaster.

We’re here at that crossroads again, asking ourselves whether we should stay in (as we literally have to do) or go out (as we literally are not allowed to do). Dear Self, we need to make a decision…so you gotta let me know: should we stay or should we go? If we go there will be trouble, and if we stay it will be double.


Anxious Small Business Owner

Where have you been?

Letter from Tina F. in Fairfax, Virginia, to her clients:

Hello my friends!

It has been months since you have heard from me. I am truly sorry. I know that this #Coronavirus has disrupted a lot of people’s lives and I am no exception.

The month of January was rather busy for me with corporate events and headshots. I took some time off during the slow month of February and was looking forward to March so I could start marketing and catching up with my photography business.

No one would have ever predicted that within the first few days of March, #COVID-19 would be declared a pandemic, sending the stock markets crashing. Or that schools and businesses would close and countries would limit travelers at their borders. Or that people would be asked to stay home and cities would go into lockdown, virtually bringing the world to a halt. No one would ever have guessed.

So where have I been? For a few days I was paralyzed. I had been contemplating the effects of all this on my small business. I have been thinking of ways to stay afloat. Should I offer online classes or a virtual class? But I’m not a teacher. I don’t have anything that can be boxed and packaged and mailed to clients. It’s not that easy when you are a portrait photographer. My career relies on photographing groups of people at weddings and office parties. I take pictures of families and newborn babies. I need to connect to people and look them in the eye, or touch their hands, so I can place it in the right location. Keeping social distancing would not work well at all.

I was reminded of my younger days, when street photography was a big part of my life. Human interaction as a street photographer was limited for me. I was just a voyeur and I wanted to keep my distance. I think I should go out and do that again, but it’s not worth the risk.

So where do I go from here? Well, there are two parts of my photography that I have kept mostly to myself. My first is a passion for photographing architecture, landscapes, and nature. And another passion is for manipulating photographs in Photoshop. And those do not require anything but me, my camera, and my computer.

Therefore, until the world goes back to some semblance of normalcy and I can once again engage physically with my clients, I will use this time to catalogue and categorize my own photography and even display some of my previous work to you all on a regular basis.

I hope my photos make you smile as you travel vicariously through them.

Stay safe, my friends.

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If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here.