Victoria Jelinek


Covid-19–March 13, 2020

FondueMy son was thrilled to discover that his school would be closed “indefinitely,” even as we attempted to discuss – in a child’s terms – that it wasn’t ‘good.’  The day was gloriously sunny and the drive up to Geneva was gorgeous and quiet. My school had resisted closing down, feeling it was alarmist and that there was money to be lost – social distancing and staying home if ill or afraid seemed okay. Finding and containing worked in China and Korea, so why not in Switzerland? But I knew that now that the USA had banned Europeans from entering the USA as of midnight Friday the 13th, France had closed all educational institutions from Monday (indefinitely), Belgium, Germany, Spain to follow, and the alarming rate of infection and the consequent lock-down in Italy, Switzerland would have no choice politically but to shut down.

We had a meeting. The head of the school spoke. We would move to online teaching for the high school for the following week and re open the week after. I was devastated. I’m a substitute teacher – at one school, granted* but there can be time between gigs. For me, this was a five-week stint due to an accident, and I was loving being there every day in the classroom teaching literature, and among people who are interested and knowledgeable about books. To close it now was devastating for me personally. Moreover, I wouldn’t get paid if I wasn’t in the classroom. My husband, who runs a touring company, was struggling with the looming threat of Covid-19 hanging over travel and holidays.  We’re building a house and renting an over-priced one next to the land. Ostensibly, the teacher who had had an accident could teach online, so I was out of an income for the moment.

But, what could I do? After classes, I went for lunch with a friend and colleague and it was great. Later, upon return to Chamonix, I went to our local bar to meet friends for a drink while the kids played. It was hopping. I felt a sense of relief and hope by the fact that so many folks were out despite the threat of this disease, even as I also felt slightly anxious and it felt surreal with the jocularity and close quarters when the ‘plague’ seemed to be at our door. After a couple of hours, my husband, son, dog and me left and went to dinner. The local restaurant had some customers, but everyone was sitting at a distance from one other, and we were near the door, so we felt fine and it was a jolly meal of fondue.

And, I began ‘speaking’ to two dear friends I’d known since the 1970’s and early 1980’s, respectively, in Oregon, and who I had just spent my 50th birthday with, about what was going on here as well as there. I believe our text conversations will prove to be the saving grace at this time…

*We were called “floaters” at the literary agency that I once worked for in Hollywood. Floaters were ‘vetted,’ employed, but didn’t have a desk/’master’ of their own, and would help out or stand-in at a given desk or office as was needed.