I think March 2020 has been the strangest month in my life. And that is saying something, since ordinary is not a word I use regularly to describe what is going on.

The sweet

However, in the middle of all the strangeness there were still good things. So let’s start with them. The first one being the photography project I launched at the beginning of the month. The past years I have been focussing on getting better at food, lifestyle and portrait photography, but it is time for the next step. What I love most about my work as a photographer is hearing the stories of the people I work with. Unfortunately, that story is exactly what I miss in the work I deliver. The why of this conflict is too much to share now, but what I did realise is that I have to educate my clients about what I need from them in order to create the work I so deeply want to create. And that’s where my project came in. This year I was going to capture twelve unique stories, divided in four categories. When I launched my project, I had no idea what it would look like, but I decided to share it anyway. And the response was overwhelming. Within two days about half of my stories where filled. So I was forced to think about the theme of it all, and when it came to me, I laughed so hard at myself. If you’ve been around for a while, you know why I started this blog: to tell stories of seemingly unimportant moments. Once, in an earlier version of this diary, the category I wrote these little updates in was called ‘the everyday’. So that was going to be the theme of my project. Is going to be the theme of my project. When this crazy situation has somewhat reverted back to normal again.

Another happy thing this month is that we celebrated Matthijs’ birthday in Gent. Not that he cares about his birthday that much, but I make him celebrate it. Why in Gent? Because there was an exhibition of my favourite painter Jan van Eyck, and Matthijs his favourite restaurant is there. So on a Thursday I travelled ahead, stopping on my way to Gent in Antwerp to see the exhibition of Stephan Vanfleteren. The public transport in the city was completely failing, but I had time and on my way to the museum I met an elderly man from Tel Aviv with whom I discussed the world, life and theology. Something that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. About the exhibition I will share a short story later this year. For now I will just say that I loved it. When I finally managed to get back to the central station, I continued my journey to Gent. And that’s where the strangeness of this month began.

The sour

After spending some time decorating our hotel room as a surprise, I went out to buy a cupcake for the next morning. It was quite busy on the streets, but it was a Thursday after all, so I didn’t think too much of it. But when I went into a supermarket to quickly buy something to drink, it started to dawn on me that something was happening. I had never seen a situation like that: there was barely enough space to move and people were standing in line for the registers at the back of the store. Still not knowing what was going on, I made an adventure out of it and spent my time waiting in line observing my surroundings. Forty five minutes later, when I was back in the hotel again, I checked the news: the next evening the food service industry and schools in Belgium would close down in order to prevent further spreading of the COVID-19 virus. And so it began. Because later that evening, it was also decided that museums would close the next morning. We made the best of it. We slept in, I surprised Matthijs with a cupcake and confetti in bed (I included some photos at the bottom of this post), we had lunch at his favourite restaurant, perused a book store, and had a beer at a local brewery. It was a nice day, but not exactly what we had in mind when we planned it all. That’s life, I guess.

From there it spiralled further downwards. Matthijs was ordered to work from home, my work got cancelled, my project came to a standstill. All things I can cope with. But what hit me hard was the disproportionate panic displayed in society. Empty supermarkets, the flood of messages on social media from people pretending to be fine, angry looks when you dare to sneeze in public. I know, the world as we knew it came to a full stop on a Monday evening. I know, this virus is more than a regular flu. I know, change is uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean that we should lose all sense of humanity. If you feel more secure when you’re stocked up on toilet paper and eggs, go buy some. I just wish people stopped buying so much there’s nothing left for others. That the stores aren’t able to restock properly for weeks on end. That everyone took a moment to breathe. And think. And then realise that – even if this is the end of the world – toilet paper and eggs are not the items that are going to save us. I wish everyone who cleaned out the stores could consider the needs of those who can’t go without the supplies they bought in bulk just to calm their unease. I wish they would be a little more humane and show some kindness.

The everyday

After two weeks, I’m used to our new normal. Most days I quite enjoy that Matthijs is at home. Other days I really miss having the house to myself. But the days of being by myself will come again and then I’ll probably miss having him here. I use this strange time of not having to work at all to study, to create things just for me, teaching Matthijs to take pictures of me, and to work on some sort of schedule to give more structure to my life (yes, still working on that at age 30, got to love AD(h)D).

Over the past months I have exchanged my habit of having OITNB on a loop for listening to audiobooks and I fell in love again with Harry Potter. I read the books when they were first published, so back then I was the exact same age as the main characters. Unfortunately, back then my English was not good enough to read the books in the original language. But know my skills have improved somewhat, so I decided to listen to the books read by Stephen Fry. And I love them.

When I do watch TV, I watch an episode of The Crown, Money Heist, or Suits. Not too often, so it feels a bit like watching series in the good old days when you had to wait a whole week for another episode. And I have to say, I prefer this to binge watching.

And then there’s the food. We keep falling in and out of love, but the past month we’re getting along just fine. I have been cooking quite a few new things and I enjoy writing recipes again. Nothing too spectacular, but there’s nothing wrong with cooking a simple meal on a weeknight.

That’s it from me for now. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to, so don’t be shy and share your stories as well. Until our next catch up.

Love, Hester

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