Quarantine Diaries

Sheltering in place, gracefully

The coronavirus pandemic has been thrust upon us all, and like the rest of the country right now, I’m sheltering in place. As the world fights for its life, I’ve been spending a LOT of time couch-potatoing, eating, and following the news — rinse and repeat. In the shadow of all the immense hardship and grief that people are experiencing, groaning about my boredom at home feels almost irresponsible.

It’s easy to throw up my hands and exclaim that there’s nothing to do while stuck indoors 24/7, though what’s probably more accurate is that I’m simply not being imaginative enough with what I do with my time.

To keep myself busy and accountable, I’m challenging myself to do something new and interesting every single day while I’m in quarantine. I’m doing my duty to society right now by keeping myself tucked away at home, so I’ll try to do it with grace.

(Wednesday 4/1): Chocolate Cookies, and making peace with imperfection

Today, I baked chocolate oatmeal cookies with my three-year-old niece, Emily.

I found a recipe online after I was lured in by gorgeous Pinterest photos of the small fudgy cookies. Emily and I were pumped as ever to try it for ourselves.

Making the cookies with Emily was not an elegant process.

A brief snapshot into the cookie dough making stage:

Emily violently slams the wet mixing spoon against the rim of the bowl, flicking wet batter all over the both of us. I carefully fill the measuring cup of flour according to the recipe and instruct her to level off the mound of excess flour before incorporating it into the rest of the ingredients. She slides her finger across, pushing the flour into the wet ingredients then dumping the rest of the cup’s contents into the same bowl (…facepalm). And then as she starts to jerkily mix the whole thing together, flour and powder gets thrown into the air. I throw my head around and start coughing violently, as she squeals with laughter.

I’ve babysat for Emily many times before, yet every time I still get surprised when my stiff, perfectionistic side comes out. At so many points, a part of me wanted to tie up her hands so she wouldn’t keep messing everything up. But after my last attempt to take control of the situation had failed, I just accepted that the cookies were going to look like lumpy turds on the baking sheet.

I wasn’t kidding

I suppose I was missing the whole point of the activity, which was something Emily understood better than me — to just have fun.

I always thought of myself as a free-spirited and playful person, as I always have been since childhood. But growing into an adult has morphed me out of much of that, something I barely noticed until I spent some time with actual toddlers. Lesson learned about activities with kids: do not expect anything to go as planned, and allow yourself to see the humor in imperfection.

The cookies were delicious, by the way.

(Thursday 4/2) Thoughts about Universal Pass and privilege

There has been a heated controversy about the #BruNOFail movement at Brown. A lot of Brown students have been rallying up to pressure the administration into instituting a universal-pass policy for all students this semester, in light of the COVID-19 crisis. This was to replace the current policy of optional pass/fail for the semester.

I had trouble taking a strong stance on the issue at first, but I’ve been mostly in favor of the universal pass idea. Seeing how severe the pandemic has been getting, the likelihood that there will be students whose family members will lose their jobs or lose their lives to coronavirus isn’t low. Managing a full-time course load under such grievous circumstances sounds like torture. This is not to mention, even where tragedy doesn’t strike directly, that there are gaping inequities that exist between the home lives of my more and less advantaged peers.

I ended up having a lengthy discussion about this with my sister, who thought we were demanding too much. She pointed out that all of the fuss that was being stirred up in the name of “fairness” isn’t actually all that fair to the millions of people right now who have no choice but to face their hardship head-on. Free passes, like the one Brown students are trying to protest for, don’t come easy to all the people who aren’t privileged enough to attend schools like Brown, where a few hundred email complaints and signatures might suffice to get what we want.

I didn’t have a good response to that. It made me stop and think for a bit about privilege. Many of the students who are advocating the most fiercely for Universal Pass aren’t the ones experiencing the most disadvantages. Such students say they are advocating on behalf of their peers who are less privileged or less vocal. I guess one thing’s true: the act of trying to assume the moral high-ground and combat privilege is itself a very clear sign of one’s privilege. I’m not sure yet what to make of that thought.

(Friday 4/3) Taco Day!

*cue angel sounds from heaven*

All this time in quarantine is helping me rediscover my love for making food! While inspecting our pantry and fridge for soon-expiring food, I suddenly got the idea of making tacos. Boom — Friday going to be taco day for the whole house. Afternoon into evening, I churned out what became a chipotle assembly line with all the essentials — ground meat, beans, pico de gallo, corn salsa, lettuce, cilantro, guacamole, cheese…. all the good stuff.

Sometimes, I compare my approach to food making to the way I play scrabble. I kind of just stare at all the ingredients I have in one eyeful, and then I wait for some combination that uses up the most things to leap out at me. It’s not a very strategic approach, but it certainly affords me a good deal of creative freedom. The random recipes I end up making with the food in our fridge injects a welcome bit of freshness into our days, which have been feeling so uncertain yet so repetitive lately.

(Saturday 4/4) Starting up a garden

The garden in our backyard has been ravaged by unruly weeds and grass. We decided that it is time for us to restore it to its full food-making potential.

Phase 1: Tilling the soil

In the event that we can’t count on our grocery shelves to be adequately stocked anymore, I guess we’ll be able to count on having some cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.

(Sunday 4/5) Writing my first Blog post in forever

I went on a writing hiatus after Summer 2019. School got in the way, and for a while, I couldn’t think of anything perky or contemplative to write about because I was so busy reacting to all the stressful future-career-securing work that was being stacked on my plate. It did freak me out that my imagination just dried up like that as soon as I started getting busy, but I guess that’s okay. I’ll try to see how long I can keep these quarantine diaries going :)

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Writer, Cog-Neuro Research Assistant @ Yale. Presenting my thoughts about self-development and life as a former college student || gloriawfeng.com

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