LOEWENGUTH:  Life In France Under Lockdown

LETTER From STRASBOURG

Day Begins With Baguette

And Ends With A Bon Nuit

Mae Loewenguth shelters on couch in Strausbourg, France, where she’s an
exchange student.

Tuesday the 17th of March, a bright blue sky unlike the past two weeks is hovering over northern France, making the idea of a confinement even more difficult to understand.

The world is continuing to breathe while its people are infected. The new virus, COVID-19, has taken more than 20,000 lives in France.

The country’s president, Emanuel Macron, announced Monday night, that the country will have to remain indoors until May 11.

The only reason to leave one’s home is for groceries, medicine, or physical activities.

The first day of enclosure begins like any other. A cup of tea and a baguette with butter and jam. As online classes start for the young student at midday she has the time to go for a short bike ride, as long as she has the document stating that her outing is and only will be an activity alone. If she was stopped and didn’t have this piece of paper, she would receive a fine of 135 euros.

Passing through the normally crowded streets, she notices that there is an odd sense of insecurity. Those who whip past her wear masks and gloves to protect themselves from the virus that can almost be felt in the air.

Arriving at her apartment just above a pharmacy, she had to swerve her bike to avoid running into the people in line outside, each with gloved hands and prescriptions ready. She watched to see exactly what they were doing, as one person came out another walked in.

After the five flights of stairs, she meets her roommate who has now finished her fourth series on Netflix. Upside down on the couch they try to come up with ideas that could keep them busy.

That is when the unofficial spring cleaning begins. Every sheet, pillow case, blanket is put into the washing machine. They take a minute to look out the window and peep at the others on their balconies hitting rugs with brooms to get the dust out and those next to them hanging the laundry.

The woman across the street cleaned her windows from top to bottom four times, while the older man in the house next to her is sitting in his chair, reading the newspaper with a frown on his face and a cigar between his lips.

Classes start in five minutes. The icons of her classmates appear in the chat as the teacher figures out how to turn his microphone on. In top half blouse and bottom half pajamas, she is given her assignment of the day. She writes, reads, researches, and writes again to pass the time.

It’s 8:45 p.m. and the roommates have finished their fourth movie for the week. Her eyes are heavy as the exhausting day that seemed to never end has indeed ended. They each walk to their rooms at opposite sides of the hallway and closed the doors while saying “bon nuit.”

Thinking of how different life was before this began, she closed her eyes and prayed to dream about concerts, outdoor terraces, and crowded restaurants with close conversations.


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