Arriving at the airport in Singapore accompanied by 80s radio tunes was surreal, to say the least. I felt like the whole world except for me discovered how to teleport, making airports obsolete and leaving them deserted. Seeing another human being in the departure hall that is usually buzzing with people ready to see their loved ones, enjoy their honeymoons or fall in love with a new culture was now a curiosity.
The ground staff of Singapore Airlines took 45 minutes to decide whether my family and I were allowed to fly to Germany. From my rental contract over my confirmation of enrolment at the University of Freiburg all the way to proof of my German health insurance - I tried to do everything to prove that Germany wants me there. Or at least that I sincerely want to be there. Finally, with the last boarding call, they decided to say yes and we made it just in time to the aircraft.
A Boeing 777. A majestic aircraft that can carry up to 550 passengers - a fact I interestedly learned while I and the 19 other passengers took off. One would think that having a Triple Seven all to yourself (almost) would make you feel powerful and important. No waiting until those tiny bathrooms aren't occupied. Stretching your limbs wherever they want to go in Economy Class. Having no one judge you when you make your way to the onboard mini-bar for the fifth time to get yet another bag of crisps (they're just so small!).
The truth, though? The opposite is the case. A large chunk of the almost 13 hours long flight ends up being dedicated to questioning what is happening to the environment and how COVID-19 is proving the world that we are capable of staying within the planetary boundaries and helping nature recover. Locking people inside their homes for just 1-2 months has already resulted in a peak number of leatherback sea turtles hatching on Thailand's beaches. Blankets of smog have lifted. The water is less troubled.
Are we less troubled too? I'm torn. I see my two closest friends in Freiburg cope with the Corona pandemic in two opposing ways. While the one has condemned the virus from the start for locking her up, convincing her more and more that a nihilistic worldview is the most accurate, I've never seen the other as happy as she is now. While the one decays, the other flourishes as a result of being forced to press pause and spend time caring for herself.
One thing is for sure, though. Being locked inside - whether that's a house, a tiny student room or a Triple Seven - makes you realise what you long for most. What you're missing right now, or what you've missed before. While my one friend proposed to turn our weekly movie nights into a daily event, the other announced that she would prefer a bi-weekly version.
And I? I want to spend my 14-day quarantine here in Germany watching videos of baby leatherback sea turtles crawling towards their new life - a more self-aware post-Corona life. One where they no longer choke on plastic straws - the thing I currently miss least.
Jesler van Houdt
UCM-student Jesler van Houdt (half Dutch, half German, calls Singapore home) is doing a Double Degree in Freiburg and keeps a blog for Observant. For the next coming weeks she will write about how Covid-19 influences her normally so international lifestyle. The city of Freiburg has decided on a two week lock-down, both its university and Maastricht University only offer education online for the time being.