Chronicles of a pandemic summer

A unique summer in more ways than one

Graphic Sheena Macmillan

Here’s to a summer in which all aspects of our lives took an unconventional turn.

My guitar is no longer a dust collector

One of the hobbies I was able to pick up was learning to play the acoustic guitar. I finally made use of the Martin & Co. Dreadnought Junior that had been sitting idly in the corner of my living room and collecting dust for the last 10 years or so—10 years of half-hearted excuses like “I don’t have the time for it” and “Maybe I’ll give it a try once I’m no longer busy in school.”

It is no longer an ornament with which to woo guests who come to visit; rather, it’s my little escape into the musical realm, just as I’d always dreamed.

Picking up the guitar allowed me not only to tap into my creative and artistic side, but it also saved me from the soul-crushing anxiousness I had been waking up to every day in quarantine. By imitating some of my favorite artists’ songs, I was able to improve not only my practice, but my writing.

I was able to tap into the emotions that make a song come to life. I learned how to write poetry in the form of song. For a beginner like myself, I took notes from artists like Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, Maggie Rogers, and Fleetwood Mac—artists with songs just moody enough to inspire and motivate my writing. Their lyricism evokes imagery that I believe embodies the human experience, allowing me to be introspective on topics like love, loss, hope, and bliss.

With just a few strums, I am immediately whisked away into what I can only describe as the fantastical dreamland of music.

-Reina Ephrahim

Travelling home during a pandemic

I’ve driven the Alberta-Quebec route many times, but I knew this would be different. Would public bathrooms be open? Will my answer—“I just want to see my family”—suffice when asked my reason for travelling during a pandemic? Where would be the safest place to sleep?

With Montreal the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, I knew I wanted to go back home to my family in Alberta, at least for the summer. But how would I do it safely? That question lingered with me for months as the government put restrictions on provincial highway borders and my family feared me taking a plane.

After three months of strict self-isolation, I discovered a former co-worker was driving to B.C. She had recently purchased a dependable car for the trip and already had an itinerary. She took eagerly to my offer to chip in for gas.

The morning of departure, I packed the car with my belongings, hugged my roommates goodbye, and headed west. After an initial day of driving through 12 hours of rain and a surprising June snowstorm, our luck changed. We were relieved to find well-sanitized public bathrooms, and the accommodations we booked in advance were clean, with close to no contact with the host.

The third and final day was the shortest and most exciting. While most of the roads seemed familiar throughout the drive, after passing the “Welcome to Alberta” ​sign, the roads were ones I knew quite well. After a 39-hour journey, I could turn off the GPS and drive down the country roads thinking of the hugs I would finally be giving.

-Olivia Piché

My first attempt at unicycling

Whenever I tell someone I bought a unicycle, I get one of two replies.

The first is “Oh my God, that’s so cool!”—which sparks a conversation with those who share my bizarre excitement for unicycling, an activity usually reserved for a circus number.

Then there’s the more common one: “Wait, what? But… why?” to which I can only reply with a not-so-clever “Why not?”

To be honest, I don’t really have a better answer. I can’t remember a specific moment I was overcome with the urge to learn unicycling, but it was sometime last summer. And finally I bought it, one year later.

For almost two whole weeks, I felt like the meme impatiently waiting by the mailbox for their package to arrive. And it finally did: I opened the box and heard the angelic Aaaah harmonization, a halo of light beaming off the chrome finishing of my unicycle.

I assembled my unicycle—which I named Theodore, watched a couple of instructive YouTube videos, and I was ready for my first attempt.

The first few tries were surprisingly challenging; I couldn’t mount it without the pedal hitting my calf as I aggressively gripped onto whatever was beside me. I improved over the following weeks and documented my progress along the way.

The learning curve is far from being linear, but at least it was entertaining for my friends. They eagerly volunteered to film the process, making videos I would then package into mini montages and share with them.

My latest idea was to use crutches as an aid, which was quite helpful, contrary to my previous idea to use an old mop.

It’s going to take a few more spins to get it right!

-Nanor Froundjian

Working on the frontlines

After going through my entire reading list, I didn’t know what to do with my time. I wanted to help with the pandemic, and my mom convinced me to find a job in healthcare. I didn’t hesitate since she is a nurse herself and has always inspired me. So, I started working the night shift at a CHSLD called Villa-Bonheur in Granby.

I immediately loved my new job. The residents were charming, and I enjoyed spending time with them.

Everything went well concerning the pandemic. During my two months of work, we only had one case of COVID-19—an employee, who recovered. We closed an entire floor for two weeks, and those working had to wear a hazmat suit and visor. It was a very stressful time for me since I wanted everyone to remain safe. I got attached to the residents and my colleagues.

Fortunately, everyone was safe, and after the two-week lockdown, operations went back to “normal.”

I can’t say it was an easy summer job for me. I found it sometimes difficult to work with the staff who were always running around and didn’t have a lot of time to spare with the residents.

On more than one occasion, I went into a room and found a resident crying, asking me why they couldn’t go home. It broke my heart. Although it wasn’t the easiest job, I can honestly say this summer taught me the importance of spending and cherishing time with family and those you love. We never know how much time we have left.

-Kaïlane Cook

This article originally appeared in The Disorientation Issue, published September 8, 2020.