St. John's, 16−30 July 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic affects us through a strict two-week quarantine upon entering Canada/Newfoundland where we have made our second home. On the bright side, the house project at Middle Battery Road allows us to self-isolate in our own quarters.
Day Zero: The Trip
The trip went smoothly although our eligibility to enter Canada was checked twice − before boarding the plane in Frankfurt and again upon arrival in Toronto. After arriving at St. John's Int. Airport we underwent a third check, together with a self-declaration for the two weeks of self-isolation.
Travelling in times of Covid-19 is quite a pleasure: airports and planes only carry a fraction of their capacities. On the long flight I stretched across four seats to rest after watching Skywalker Rising.
Our Volvo waited for us at the airport, right across from the exit. Our friends had put it there for us. They also filled our fridge with groceries. Never felt so warmly welcomed.
The weather is terrible: rain and fog at about 12 degrees. But it's perfect to start the quarantine as you're not tempted to leave the house. And with the books another friend checked out from the library for me (now that contactless pickup has finally been enabled), the days ahead look bright. However, we're grappling with downsizing from a 120 sqm, 3 bedroom condo to a 25 sqm one-room situation.
The Public Health Department called to check if we were feeling well and abiding to the quarantine rules. Almost didn't take the call as it came in as Unknown.
Woke up to sunshine and the day turned quite hot in our garden with its wind-sheltered micro-climate. We cleared the almost one meter-high weeds by hand with clippers; that consumed much of the morning and noon hours and served as workout too. We missed three calls from what we believe was the Health Department again while we were busy outside.
The harbour is unusually silent, very little activity. That's due to the oil crisis I suppose. However, we welcomed first the Skandi Vinland and later the Atlantic Shrike into port, two close acquaintances.
After clearing the weeds yesterday, we started to dig a hole in the garden today. What might look like a displacement activity of internees has a practical background: our goal for this year's construction work is the foundation and shell of the small extension to our house.
Picked the daisies before the pickaxe would have got at them and found that two of them had mutated heads − maybe an indicator for the toxicity of the ground? I remember having read about arsenic in the area (which has been part of an industrial harbour for centuries) in a municipal report. The smell tells us there's oil derivatives in the ground for sure...
The third day of sun in a row. While I have widely pulled back from the dirty and backbreaking work my partner heroically continued the digging for our foundation. He has by know encountered the rock and an underground puddle. I have used the exercise bike for a little workout instead.
We had fresh cod for dinner, caught in Trinity Bay and dropped off at the bottom of our stairs by friends yesterday.
It's very warm and humid and after a cloudy morning the sun has now come out.
The hole in our garden is growing. A rock has surfaced, exactly where the door is supposed to be. I contributed by carrying a heap of smaller rocks from A to B where, hopefully, they will now be out of the way.
Watched the second of Bruno Latour's Gifford Lectures on Facing Gaia online today (had watched the first back in Dortmund) and attempted to go for the third lecture right away but felt overwhelmed and quit.
Spent half the day scanning the book Relating Indigenous and Settler Identities by Avril Bell. The printer/scanner kept losing its wireless connection to the pc. Only quarantine spirit made me stick to it until the end. Came out of it drenched in sweat and with a sore neck.
As a treat, we finally activated the bbq. Burnt fat can taste wonderful, especially when it comes with a beer or two. BTW: India surprised us with the gift of a single sock within their twelve-pack; pretty ingenious sales campaign...
The digging has come to a natural halt as the excavated earth and rocks now cover what's left of the garden.
Had a first peak into Stengers and Prigogine's Order Out of Chaos.
Tonight, the first week of quarantine is complete. We'll celebrate with pasta and some red. The forecoasted rain might make the second week easier to spend within the confines of our construction site.
After six days of sunshine, rain and fog came in today. We move around the room and each other, from bed to desk to kitchen counter and back.
I put the the first week of this quarantine diary online, then moved on to read about dissipative structures, bifurcations, and their role in the self-organization of life in Prigogine & Stengers. Not easily digestable contents depite my background in physics and the studies in lifescience I did for an earlier project.
A number of coast guard ships are moving quite randomly through the harbour while emitting heavy fumes that are barely dispersed in the foggy, windless weather.
Got an email from a friend this morning saying that, according to a news release, someone on our flight from Toronto last week was tested positive. It turned out, however, that this person was on the morning flight while we were on the one in the afternoon. It felt strange to get into the focus of local attention and anxieties, if only for a moment, and we were happy to refute the information.
In an act of actual displacement activity, we watched several episodes of Dream Homes on youtube.
Rarely saw the harbour so bare of any ships.
Last night, the earpiercing roaring of motorbikes racing up Signal Hill − a popular local sport on summer weekends − more than compensated for the lack of engine noises in the harbour. Only fell truly asleep in the early morning.
Did some writing and reading. My take-away of the day comes from the concluding paragraph in Order Out of Chaos: it recounts that, according to a Talmudic text, our world is God's 27th attempt of genesis, with the first 26 having failed and this one still being subject to potential failure any time...
I notice that, despite the time at hand that isn't consumed by senseless running and driving around, I barely think about the outer world, let alone watch the national or international news. I have given in to living in our tiny bubble by the harbour it seems, where the days pass by rather quickly.
Partly refurbished two older single-hung windows; that's where the orange ear proterctors came into play.
Woke up to sun and a few clouds. The bright colours outside are stimulating after two days of grey. But with our large windows we are actually never confined to the indoors. The harbour and Southside Hill are part of our living room (/ bedroom / kitchen / study / dining room).
We're thinking about the time after the quarantine. To get rid of the rocks and ground from the digging we have to reactivate our trailer that is stored literally hanging from a pole of our deck. Also, we have invited our best friends over for dinner on Friday night and plan a trip to Pouch Cove on Saturday.
We're much looking forward to be part of the larger bubble although I hope there will soon be no bubbles anymore at all. Except that there have always been all sorts of bubbles before the pandemic as well. The EU trying to keep out economic and political refugees is a case in point (and a more welcoming attitude like that of Germany in the 2015 crisis, though desirable, does nothing to change the underlying structure either). If the pandemic doesn't teach us that we're all living in the same global bubble, what does it take?
We woke up very early without being able to go back to sleep. Maybe it had to do with our anticipation of the end of the quarantine in the evening. In any case, the day felt and actually was longer than the other thirteen.
I spent two hours attending an online workshop on collecting social media and web data. Unfortunately, it was much more technical than I had imagined. My take-away: it's possible for pretty much everyone to dig for information in the Twitter and Facebook data bases, but it isn't straightforward and you have to be a Facebook or Twitter developer to do so, something I am not planning on becoming.
We left the house to go for a walk in the neighbourhood at 7 pm, 14 x 24 hours after our arrival at YYT.
For me, the 14 days of quarantine went by in no time. It freed me from going shopping, and with the outdoors being part of our indoors, I didn't feel confined very much. Most important, I guess, was that I was with my partner and not by myself.
My favourite activity on Day One after the quarantine was to walk up Signal Hill along my familiar route off the beaten path. In fact, along more official walkways, the only permitted route around the Hill is up by the road and down the trail to North Head and the Battery from there. The idea is to make it a one-way hike. Same thing around Quidi Vidi Lake: walking is only permitted in clockwise direction. These are just two examples of the many more or less meaningful public regulations which make the pandemic more present again to me now than during the time of self-isolation.