So far I believed, “C” stands for Coffee. - 2020, from which we thought it becomes a new period of “roaring 20ies” and instead kicked us into the Corona madness, taught us that “C”, at least for 2020, clearly stands for something else. If we are lucky only for 2020 and not for generations to come. Life goes on; let’s not forget that. Hey, a mask can be sexy too. Damn it.
In Germany, being based in Berlin, the Corona crisis felt overall not as eerie and ghostly as in other places across Europe and the world. When it started that Corona hit more and more the front pages, I was on the other end of the globe, in South East Asia. January in Thailand, meeting new contacts in Bangkok and met with web developers in Chiang Mai, February on the Philippines where I worked on pulling a new production force together, operating from Manila and Cebu City and March on Bali, Indonesia, simply because I was never there before and people had told me, that it’s a paradise for placing film- and photo shootings in. It was only then, there on Bali, that the Corona awareness finally jumped on me, too. - Before my time on Bali, thr whole issue still felt, how to say, .. light. Sure, it became heavier when they put Metro Manila under lockdown and planned the same action for whole Cebu island as well, which they actually did, just some days after I left. But still, even then, most of the people I was surrounded with and travelling with, at that time, after Manila, on Siargao Island, were not too deeply concerned. It still looked like it was something between China and Europe and it felt like one of those virus’ attacks, we always had every now and then. Every couple of years; it comes, it goes. But press and media played the ball right. - On Bali then, concerns grew. This “C” thing was spreading. And threatening. In every direction. Still places were open, people went snorkeling, but yes, while drinking an every’s morning coffee, I was reading about, that more and more countries everywhere around the world, were locking down and closing borders and airports. That didn’t sound very good. - Then “Silent Day”, Nyepi, the most important Hindu holiday happened. For 2 days there was absolute silence all over Bali, all shops and restaurants were closed and the streetlights off. Combined with starting fear about this “Corona”, ( news started to roll in about first and rapidly growing confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Jakarta and Java ) the atmosphere of total silence and darkness created a certain creepiness. Most tourists had gone in the past few days or were suddenly not allowed in anymore. From there it all went pretty fast. The Gili islands were cut off and boat traffic was put on hold, the beaches of Seminyak and Sanur deserted, Kuta’s party streets empty, souvenir sellers and restaurant owners were begging to buy something or come in and order a meal or drink. Nyepi’s all loud and colorful street festivals that usually follow the silence and meditations, were all cancelled due to the Corona news coming from Jakarta. In the early morning hours, huge tank trucks were speeding through the streets of Kuta, blowing liquid chemicals wildly around, on porches, benches and restaurant terracces. People fled into their houses, grabbing kids by their arms. “Corona” I heard them whisper. My host later told me, that they do this every year during Nyepi, against mice, roaches and mosquito eggs, since most people will be at home and the streets are free. Whatever it was for or against, it felt spooky as fuck. - I was sitting there, in a homestay, the only other guest being a business man who was not able to return to Dubai, since Emirates Airlines had cancelled many of their flights, and thinking what this all would become. And what it actually was all about, already right now.
This was my personal peak moment of weird atmosphere and feeling. Something “out there” was really going on. And it was coming closer. - It was time for me to return to Europe anyway. There was some work to do, we had recently opened our new office in Larnaca on Cyprus and had to let the world know about it.
I was able to return with a regular flight with Qatar Airways, which was still operating from Bali airport. To Berlin. Cyprus was under lockdown already, direct flights from Europe or from Doha, where I changed planes, were all cancelled and I didn’t have my official residency papers for Cyprus with me anyway, to proof, that I was allowed in. So, Berlin, where Smiles & Coffee stills holds an office with studio space, was first choice.
When still on Bali, it was always the question, would it be better, to “sit out” Corona in Bali instead of returning to Europe? For some time it really looked like, Europe sank into massive chaos, and was dangerous and it might be better to stay away for some more time.
- While being back in Berlin now, after almost a month, it’s even quite easy to develop a feeling and opinion, that asks “What the heck? What’s all this fuzz about?” As the day temperature rose, the cherry trees blossomed and the world looked a bit less grim, people were out everywhere again; they flocked together in the public parks, occupied staircases along the water of the Spree river and drank their beers, which were served out of windows from pubs, since it was not allowed to drink inside. And still, even then, many people complained about their clipping of personal freedom.
But no one here had been locked away, we all could leave our houses, for sports, to walk the dog, for shopping or to go to work or to meet friends, in an one-on-one constellation. We could cross city, using metro, busses, bicycles or our cars.
This intense feeling of being restriced to your own little living box for a quite uncertain time period was withheld for the citizens of Rome and Paris and such, as many of my friends are still experiencing it right now. The “#stayhome” was mild in Berlin. And the feeling of a dangerous “outside” was bearable. When I drank my coffee in the mornings and looked up the building facade, I never saw anyone on their balconies, not before Corona, not now, probably not after.
Now, since 3 days, the majority of shops is allowed to open again, festivals and music venues remain closed and cancelled, small theaters continue their plays via webcam and live streamings. Everyone seems to watch Germany and Sweden right now, being the most relaxed players in this unfair
game virus vs. the people. Will there come a second wave of infections, maybe bigger than the first? Will we get away with a “blue eye”? The world changed, no one really knows yet, up to what level and permanence.
My dear friend and part of the Smiles & Coffee family, Australian born, Paris’ citizen Alexander J.E. Bradley, a photographer, awarded tour-guide, location-scout and film maker, wrote two wonderful little pieces about how it feels to be in confinement and only be able to shoot pictures out of your own window and inside your four walls.
Have a look and read them. https://www.aperturetours.com/blog/2020/shooting-from-the-window
I have lived in Paris for some time and I believe, Paris and Lisbon have made me a flâneur; I love walking. For me the perfect day is, having a coffee and a croissant on some street corner, the sun starts to crawl over the roofs of the city, I have my head and schedule free from urging things - and I just walk. imagine being not allowed to step out and walk around, creates goosebumps and discomfort for me. Friends from Nicosia sent me pictures how they try to celebrate the arriving of spring on their tiny balconies. - Let’s hope on better days, people and fresh perspectives.