By Juan Luna (TheLorian)
Knock! Knock! Knock! I hear the sound loudly. I’ve been anticipating those knocks all day. I know who is on the other side of the door, so I yell, “Hi Janell, thank you!” I wait, giving Janell time to move away from the door before I open it. I see her as she walks down the basement hall of Binz. I look down to see the bag of goodies she’s left behind for me. My daily sustenance. My food!
I’m a curious person, so I peak around at the hall. I count the bags outside the other doors. There are at least three of us here who are being isolated. I clutch the bag tightly as I slip back into my room and close the door. I wonder who the others are; how did they end up in quarantine?
My story starts in my home country, Colombia, where everything was a little crazy due to COVID-19. Airports were closed while businesses were just starting to reopen. I chose to return to my school in the United States, Loras College, so I was forced to take a special flight that was strictly for those who could prove their travel was necessary and not tourism.
The flight to the U.S. is always a time-consuming journey but well worth it to me. I leave from Cali, Colombia, flying across all of Central America to get to Florida.
I have to make several stops on my way back to Loras. My first stop is Fort Lauderdale. I was lucky to have the chance to stay there for two days this time. This time I was able to go to nearby Miami.
Miami is warm and humid this time of year. Built along the turquoise coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a city where everyone seems to be on vacation–even during a pandemic.
My stop was productive. The 48-hour layover allowed me to visit my sister and unload most of the stress caused by the challenges and constant changes of travel: the cancellation of my original flight out of Cali; the stressful departure of my rescheduled flight, full of confusion and nausea; and the trauma of seeing people garbed at the airport in full-white hazmat suits.
The next stop after Florida was Chicago. I stayed there for less than one night. I walked to the bus station at four in the morning for my final leg to Dubuque. I talked to a woman who was getting on the bus with me. She let me know she was addicted to heroin. Aaah. Good times.
When I finally made it to campus I was quickly moved to my temporary home – the basement of Binz – for my mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Most of my days are exactly the same. I wake up at 8:30, shower and attend online classes. From 11 to noon I have my lunch, which Janell brought the day before. All three of my daily meals are in that precious bag.
In my free time I do homework and sometimes I play videogames or watch movies. I talk with friends virtually or on the phone. I browse social media and exercise in my room whenever I get random bursts of energy.
Other than the back of Janell as she’s retreating away from my door, I don’t physically see many people. The exception is the occasional visit from my friends. They come to my basement window and I stare up at them as they stand outside. I scream to them so that they can hear me through the glass and they scream back. In this way, we stay updated on what’s going on in each other’s lives. Although currently my life never really changes much.
My friend Manny visited me at my window the other day. It was the usual hollering back and forth through the window. But this time it was slightly different. I heard another person scream “Hey Manny!” from another floor in Binz. It was another friend. Manny shouted, “I’m with Luna!” We then proceeded to have a very loud conversation between two windows and several floors. There’s no privacy in a conversation like that.
But, hey. That’s life in quarantine. That’s life during COVID.
Life is always a little different for a guy from Colombia who’s living and studying at a small college in Dubuque, Iowa, USA. But this year is downright weird. Loras has always been a warm and welcoming place. Not so much this year. COVID saw to that.
This one started with me feeling very alone and isolated in the basement of Binz. I’m so ready to get back to normal. Stay safe, everybody.