This blog is an archive for my research, interviews with designers and museum staff, and travel experiences as I explore multilingual design practices in Taiwan.
Fulbright research abroad in Taipei, Taiwan began in March 2021.   




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“How I’m wrestling enjoyment out of being in quarantine”

~me in quarantine from the point of view of my neighbor downstairs~

Language: English
Date: March 3, 2021
Listening to: “Tabasco and Sweet Tea” by the Cadillac Three

I’m in quarantine at a small hotel in Taipei, at the corner of North Linsen and De Hui St. My breezy bunker for two weeks is shaped like a diamond, with the flat top part making up the windows that open outwards - much wider than windows in a tenth floor room where people are being kept in solitary confinement for two weeks should be allowed to open. But thankfully when I lean out the window, it is much more likely that I am leaning out the window to talk my fellow Fulbrighter and quarantine comrade living in the room below me than it is that I am eyeing the ground to see if it looks like a soft enough landing for escape.

I called him over to the window at lunchtime yesterday, inexplicably excited that the hotel staff had left a bag of cold Burger King at my door for lunch after days of Taiwanese bento boxes. It came with a cup of soda and I explained that part of my fast for Catholic Lent was that I could only drink water unless I was with others*, and could we chat while I gulped down this glorious sugar rush in a cup? He didn’t realize Lent had started already, and we set to chatting about crazy fasts that I’d heard Catholics undertake and he shared a completely fascinating memory of traveling in Jordan over Ramadan (unsure if he would recommend it unless you are a particularly agoraphobic traveler. On one hand you have the run of the usually packed tourist spots but on the other hand the entire country, including your hotel staff, seems to stop doing their day jobs for a month). I have entirely faith-based reasons for fasting while he does not, but we both agreed that it’s an achievement to prove to yourself that you are capable of at least some level of self control. Then he looked up and said “It’s just like this quarantine, right? There’s a satisfaction in knowing that I can stay here and keep busy for all this time.”

I laughed, and ditto’d the comment, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was proud of the fact that I was wrestling enjoyment out of being in quarantine. Don’t get me wrong,  some moments I would give anything to walk even a block down the street, order my own food, hug a friend…the list goes on for a while. But the unique source of pleasure in this quarantine has been the absence of a different feeling that’s been dogging me for months since my virtual graduation: the quiet conviction that I was going nowhere and my job applications were not going much farther. I’m sure this is a very familiar feeling with all 2020 college graduates in the face of the global pandemic.

In the absence of this fear, activities and jobs I was too beaten down to complete in the last few months have reappeared, like snow lilies after a winter storm. This blog is a great example, but smaller things that possibly only I realized were missing came back, such as drawing with no eraser in sight and listening to music in the background instead of filling the quiet with neurotic podcasts of people talking over each other. And even within my solitary 85 square feet, small new experiences happen every day. For example, I ordered potato chips that taste like steak dinner. The Taiwanese CDC texts me every other day that they care about me, and I need to tell them the moment I cough. The Buddhist temple across the street from my hotel has been setting off fireworks and lighting offerings for Lunar New Year for days now. The smell, sound, and even the tiny pieces of firework ash that float annoyingly through my open window and land on my white bedspread all remind me of my family’s Fourth of July celebrations. In the mornings I spend an average of two hours convincing my long-suffering family and friends to download a Taiwanese messaging app and video call me. It’s been so nice that I want to keep my new early wake up time, a present from the initial jet lag, to continue to call people for the next 9 months.

If anyone reading this is feeling stuck in a rut similar to mine this summer, I have very little advice unfortunately. I’m not as callous like many influencers and blogsters who preach that you can just choose to be more positive, and I certainly can’t tell people to follow my example and travel during a dangerous time. However, don’t be worried (like I was) that you’ll never be as productive, as cheerful, or enjoy the things you once did before the sluggishness set in. The habits (good, bad, and ugly) we all learned during lockdown will take some time to replace but there is a change coming very soon.

*If this seems like a weird fast, I would encourage you to reflect on if you’ve found yourself reaching for a beer or an iced latte not because you really wanted on…just for something to do in the past few months.  

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