In the beginning, when the pandemic started, I didn’t believe it would evolve like this and that it would have such consequences for me and the whole world. As a teacher and mother of two children attending primary school, I was initially in panic. What is going to happen, how long will this situation continue and how the cases will increase, I was very anxious and worried, especially for my parents who were elderly and not so obedient because, in the beginning, they did not take pandemic and the virus seriously. So on one side I had work which required a lot of dedication, on the other side, my children and the worry for my parents, all this was very difficult for me mentally.
When they announced that school was canceled, then I took it very seriously and I realized that like the whole world, we will not be safe from COVID-19. Before school stopped, since I am a fourth grade teacher, many parents came to visit and express their concerns, asking what would happen if school stopped. But I honestly did not know what to say to you because no one knew anything. We were totally unprepared, and deep down I wanted all this to be fake as most people around me thought. There were many conspiracy theories that the virus is just a fabrication, which seemed absurd to me, though everyone has their own opinion.
When they announced it, I was even more worried, I advised the children I was teaching to practice and work with the parents a little because I didn’t know how teaching at a distance would work. I worked with my children and tried not to expose them to the news so they wouldn’t panic and worry because I noticed they were a little scared. However, my husband and I have tried to teach them what a pandemic is and that, if we are careful, it will go away without making much of a fuss. Whereas, when online teaching started, I was extremely busy with work, tasks, exercises, helping my children, but also with my role as a teacher. For almost 12 hours I am busy waiting for homework, giving homework and checking etc. Since this is best for my children and others, I will try to not let them get stuck behind.
In the beginning, I said that I was also worried for my parents, who I tried very hard to convince to not go out and to not communicate with their friends, to not talk to people by shaking hands. For them this was unacceptable and bad behavior. But probably seeing the increase in the number of infected people and hearing information from responsible institutions, as well as us talking to them, they understood how they should act. So at first, the first weeks were chaotic, but then we just had to obey the orders of the government and not be exposed. I did not enjoy quarantine as a way of relaxation because I was quite busy both as a housewife and as a mother but also as a teacher. However, I still found time to sit in my backyard drinking coffee while reading something or just talking to my husband.
It is tradition for people to come visit, or go out with our friends or family, but now it was only my children, my husband and me, the four of us. We lived for each other, we helped each other, we talked, we played with our children, we created our own little world. When I got out of that little world to go buy something or get a job done, I would feel anxious and I still do, since many people are unprepared and do not care much about social distance. So this made me feel unsafe and, therefore, I did not want to go out so much to take care of obligations, I left this responsibility to my husband. I believe that the danger is still here, but I hope that soon we will return to normal, although at the moment I have lost sense of what reality is.
Arjeta Shehu is a teacher at the Motrat Qiriazi Elementary School in Prizren. Ms. Shehu shares a first-person account about her experiences while in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Illustration by Renea Begolli