Victoria Jelinek

Covid-19, May 4, 2020

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal

France decided to open up the schools in phases starting May 11th. The first to go back are elementary school kids. Our son is in the equivalent to third grade.

We received a form from our son’s teacher to fill out on Friday stating whether we’d return our child to school or not so that they could submit it to the Mayor’s office on Monday – today – to begin making plans for the rentrée. I opted to speak to the teacher about it to see what she thought (she rose exponentially in my estimation since quarantine). She said that not only are spaces limited, the same principles of the confinement remain: the objective is still to keep infection down in order to permit hospitals to tend to those who need help. That there are small children being left at home because they have a single parent who needs to work, or both parents work, or there are children whose parents can’t, or won’t, help the kids with their schoolwork. Reopening the school for little ones is an effort to help these kids and their parents. This sealed the deal for me. Yes, I’m anxious about working with a precocious single child at home. I’m worried about being able to work, and I also need time alone to replenish myself. With a small child at home, who doesn’t seem to be able to be autonomous unless he’s on a screen (watching TV, or a film, or playing an electronic game), which is, perhaps, normal, I don’t know, it’s incredibly disruptive for both my husband and me. We consequently argue about who does what and who has done more. (I often end up working after the boy and the man are in bed, going to bed very late, then waking up early when they wake up – I’m very tired…zzz…).

‘Kvetch’ aside, I feel relieved with our decision to keep our son home for the ‘bigger picture’ (in addition to what seems to be an unnecessary risk for the moment). I think the interesting element to this corona experience – the whole social phenomena’s we’re witnessing will be, I believe, written about sociologically for a long time to come (or until we humans make ourselves extinct), is that at the same time we’re isolated from each other, forced to distance physically from each other, we’re thinking about each other now more than ever. Or MUST think about each other now more than ever. We must work together to ensure the survival of our species, and the way to do that is to distance ourselves from others when possible. It’s not just ourselves and our own interests we’re thinking about for the first time in a long time. We’re being asked to consider everyone when limiting contacts, our potential exposure to the virus (with outings, errands, plans, etc.), washing hands. Even wearing a mask is a sign of consideration, a, “I’m helping YOU keep safe” sort-of-thing. It’s quite lovely, actually, when you think of it this way. It makes one feel less alone, more purposeful, and, arguably, reinforces the argument that humans are worth saving (perhaps).


“Toutes les misères des hommes dérivent de ne pas pouvoir s’asseoir seuls dans une pièce calme.” Blaise Pascal

La France a décidé d’ouvrir les écoles par phases à partir du 11 mai. Les premiers à y retourner sont les enfants des écoles élémentaires. Notre fils est dans l’équivalent de la troisième année.

Vendredi, nous avons reçu un formulaire de l’enseignant de notre fils indiquant si nous devions retourner notre enfant à l’école ou non afin qu’il puisse le soumettre au bureau du maire lundi – aujourd’hui – pour commencer à planifier la rentrée. J’ai choisi d’en parler au enseignante pour voir ce qu’elle en pensait (elle a augmenté de façon exponentielle à mon avis depuis la confinement). Elle a dit que non seulement les espaces sont limités, mais les mêmes principes de confinement demeurent: l’objectif est toujours de limiter l’infection afin de permettre aux hôpitaux de soigner ceux qui ont besoin d’aide. Qu’il y a des petits enfants à la maison parce qu’ils ont un parent seul qui doit travailler, ou les deux parents travaillent, ou qu’il y a des enfants dont les parents ne peuvent pas, où ne vont pas, aider les enfants dans leurs devoirs. La réouverture de l’école pour les tout-petits est un effort pour aider ces enfants et leurs parents. Cela a scellé l’accord pour moi. Oui, je suis impatient de travailler avec un enfant célibataire précoce à la maison. Je suis inquiet de pouvoir travailler et j’ai aussi besoin des temps tout seul pour me reconstituer. Avec un petit enfant à la maison, qui ne semble pas capable d’être autonome à moins d’être sur un écran (regarder la télévision, un film ou jouer à un jeu électronique), ce qui est peut-être normal, je ne sais pas , c’est incroyablement perturbant pour mon mari et moi. Par conséquent, nous discutons de qui fait quoi et qui a fait plus. (Je finis souvent par travailler après que le garçon et l’homme soient au lit, se couchant très tard, puis se réveillant tôt quand ils se réveillent – je suis très fatigué … zzz …).

«Kvetch» ​​mis à part, je me sens soulagé de notre décision de garder notre fils à la maison pour la «vue d’ensemble» (en plus de ce qui semble être un risque inutile pour le moment). Je pense que l’élément intéressant de cette expérience corona – l’ensemble des phénomènes sociaux auxquels nous assistons sera, je crois, écrit sur le plan sociologique pendant longtemps à venir (ou jusqu’à ce que nous, les humains, nous nous éteignions), c’est qu’en même temps nous ‘nous sommes isolés les uns des autres, forcés de s’éloigner physiquement les uns des autres, nous pensons plus que jamais les uns aux autres. Ou DOIT penser les uns aux autres maintenant plus que jamais. Nous devons travailler ensemble pour assurer la survie de notre espèce, et la façon de le faire est de nous éloigner des autres lorsque cela est possible. Ce n’est pas seulement nous-mêmes et nos propres intérêts auxquels nous pensons pour la première fois depuis longtemps. On nous demande de tenir compte de tout le monde lors de la limitation des contacts, de notre exposition potentielle au virus (avec sorties, courses, projets, etc.), du lavage des mains. Même le port d’un masque est un signe de considération, une sorte de chose «je t’aide à rester en sécurité». C’est plutôt joli, en fait, quand on y pense de cette façon. Cela fait que l’on se sent moins seul, plus résolu et, sans doute, renforce l’argument selon lequel les humains valent la peine d’être sauvés (peut-être).


Covid-19–March 12, 2020

Light-07My morning started with an ex colleague of mine at an international school in Geneva sending me a very long article that was ‘end of days’ in theme, with graphs and statistics, about how Covid-19 was going to kill us all unless governments shut societies down and put people over money. She and I got ‘into it’ ’cause I didn’t take it that seriously. I sent her an article from a prominent sociologist discussing the phenomena of social hysteria historically up to today (it’s compelling!), and she flatly told me I was negligent and irresponsible.

Driving up to work that day, the roads were eerily quiet. It was like a Danny Boyle film. But, work was wonderful: my colleagues were calm and informed, the day was sunny, the school did not want to close due to social pressure, life was good. Again, however, driving back to France, I had a foreboding and stopped by the grocery store and bought ingredients for two meals (and wine!), put some money in my bank account, got some cigarettes. President Macron was set to give an address on Covid-19 that evening. I suspected that he would suspend all educational institutions in France. The Italian experience was becoming alarming.

It was a superb speech, as usual. And it was also the beginning of my realization that this was a serious situation. He did, in fact, close all nurseries, schools and universities “indefinitely.” He urged people not to use the virus as an excuse to distrust or hate “other,” because viruses “do not have a passport or a nationality.” It stunned me (and my husband gave me due credit for predicting this next step, even as I wish that I hadn’t been right).


Cambodia Pchum Ben RitualModern Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic Festival of Samhain (Sow-in), which took place two thousand years ago in Ireland, Scotland, and Northern France. Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest, as well as the beginning of the dark and cold months. For these cultures, winter intuitively symbolized death, and this has remained the case in the arts and literature today. Two thousand years ago people commonly believed that the boundary between the worlds of the dead and the living were blurred at this time, which made it easier for Druids to make predictions about the coming year.

Prophecies such as this were an important source of comfort and direction for these tribes during the long, dark winters. However, the same was true of all societies at this time, who were equally dependent on a volatile, natural world. Celebrations marking the end of the growing season and a heralding in of the winter months, as well as folk traditions that told of the day when the boundaries between the living and the dead were lifted, were common everywhere. The manifestations of the celebrations differed slightly from country to country, from festivals, parades, bonfires, and costumes, to gatherings of families and loved ones in cemeteries to pray for the dead, to feasting or fasting, but the concept remained the same. The ancient celebration of the contrast between life and death, the living and the departed, is intuitively experienced when the changing of the seasons occurs. In parallel to Samhain, there was, and is, the “Dia de Muertos” in Mexico, born of the Aztecs; “Ged Gede,” a voodoo festival from Haiti; “Chuseok” in South Korea, born from an ancient Shamanistic ritual; “Tutti i Morti” in Italy; “Pitru Paksha” in India; “Dzien Zaduszny” in Poland; and “Pchum Ben” in Cambodia, for example.

The fact is that on a subliminal level, societies throughout the world recognize the magical possibilities inherent in the natural world, particularly at this time of year. In my opinion, the questions that follow are why it is that the Gallic rituals dominated to become our modern idea of Halloween? And, will the modern world return to these tribal rituals dominating culture – the consulting of priests, the convening with spirits, the sacrificing of animals – now that we are once again dependent on a volatile natural world?