IGP Stories

The City and the Mountains

Middle East

Yara Younes

While the COVID-19 pandemic proceeds, strict measures have to be taken by authorities to control the spread of the virus and protect groups that are more vulnerable to the disease.

Cities that were throbbing with life in different parts of the world were forced to shut down. Although the spread of the virus spotlights inequalities in the accessibility to basic services, and highlighted different challenges for vulnerable communities who couldn’t afford to stay home, the lockdown also had unexpected benefits and positive impacts on different matters, from climate to people’s daily lives.

At the beginning, it was very frustrating for me to suddenly isolate myself in my apartment and stop interacting with my surroundings. Yet, after a while, this isolation turned out to be a brief pause, or in other words, a breather.

At first sight, it might appear that cities during the lockdown became ghost towns: deserted streets, empty public spaces, and closed shops everywhere. But, when you take a deeper look, you notice how people are transferring this vibrant life from their city or town to their homes and balconies.

I spent my time during the lockdown between my apartment and my family house in the mountains. Two totally different environments, but they shared similar behavioral patterns: people were looking for suitable alternatives to adapt to the change in their lifestyle.

In the mountains, especially early morning or late afternoons, most of the people in villages, whether they live there year-round or temporarily during the lockdown (to escape from quarantine in cities) spread in the hills for walks or hikes, or even to look for edible wild herbs. Hills became their alternative public spaces where they could keep social distancing and at the same time roam freely in nature.

In the city, the behavior was similar, but instead of getting lost in hills, people brought life to their kitchens and balconies. Some started to experiment with food recipes, others started to grow plants, and others started exercise routines and healthy diet plans. Balconies and small alleys in front of their buildings where they go discreetly for short walks became of great importance as their only getaway.

Personally, I think that not only is “Earth taking a break” but also we as Humans need this break. I needed this break. Although I was still working remotely from home, I found a lot of time to concentrate on my personal career and learn new skills, or just do simple tasks that I thought I would never find time for. I realized that the lifestyle that we adopted was so overwhelming to the extent that we forgot to stop and ask ourselves simple questions such as “when was the last time we said we have time, or we were not in a hurry?”.

Work, long and stressful hours stuck in traffic, pollution, the habit of counting on fast food or delivery meals, spending lots of time socializing or gatherings with others, along with but not limited to the economic crisis and the political problems that the country is going through and keep getting worse every day … All the aforementioned reasons were enough to contribute in increasing our stress and anxiety levels. Sometimes it’s good to have time to relax and focus on the quality of our lives and well-being.

My story with the lockdown was not always perfect. I surely had moments where I felt in need for social interaction or the urge to go out and wander in the neighborhood, but I tried my best to wake up every day with a schedule full of tasks and activities.

The point is: there’s always a good side!

This blog is part of our Covid-19 diaries – a series of reflections about life in the context of the global pandemic. Written by RELIEF’s citizen scientists in Lebanon, the diaries are portrayals of the vast range of experiences, thoughts, and activities that characterize everyday life. The Covid-19 diaries present a glimpse of what daily life looks like in Lebanon as we all move through the different stages of managing the pandemic, from full-on lockdown, to gradual relaxation of lockdown restrictions and return to ‘normal’ daily routines insofar as a return to an old ‘normal’ is at all possible.

For more Covid-19 diaries, please see here: https://www.relief-centre.org/covid-diaries

The blogs are also available in Arabic: https://www.relief-centre.org/covid-diaries-arabic

To read Yara Younes’ blog in Arabic, please see here: https://www.relief-centre.org/covid-diaries-arabic/the-city-and

Image credit: Catalytic action

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