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Diary of a coronavirus-positive Kiwi in NYC: Day 8

Diary of a coronavirus-positive Kiwi in NYC: Day 8

Simone Nathan, a Kiwi living in New York, documents life in quarantine as she battles symptoms of COVID-19.

Diary of a coronavirus-positive Kiwi in NYC: Day 8

Click here if you missed Day 7, or start from the beginning at Day 1.

Day 8:

As a little Jewish kid in New Zealand, I attended yearly religious summer camps where we learned about our culture and accidentally kissed our second cousins.

On a Friday at one such camp, as the Sabbath approached, our counsellors called a last minute gathering to tell us all some horrible news: we’d run out of toilet paper and had no time to buy more before the Sabbath began. There were only four rolls left for the entire camp! The counsellors had all the kids come up, one by one, and take as many plies of toilet paper as we felt we would need for the next 24 hours. Some took a couple; others took half a roll. Eventually, we sat back down and were immediately told that – gotcha, we hadn’t run out of toilet paper! This was actually a brilliant and morally unambiguous exercise to show each of us how much we valued our own comfort over others. The more plies you took, the more selfish you were. Never mind the kids who had IBS or their period: the lord had spoken and he said we were naughty little Jews!

As soon as COVID-19 hit and I heard that the supermarkets had experienced an unprecedented toilet paper panic, my eyes rolled to the back of my head and I blacked out, recalling this disturbing childhood trauma – and isn’t that what religion is all about? This current climate felt like the perfect and most poetic time to celebrate the upcoming Jewish festival: Passover, which commemorated a plight for freedom and the transformative power of plagues.

But I suddenly realised how ill-prepared I was for the festival. I had no matzo (the unleavened cracker thing), little food that matched the eating requirements we were meant to keep, and no alcohol – not necessarily needed for the festival, just would’ve really liked some. No sooner had I emailed a nearby synagogue, than a Rabbi told me he was coming over with the desired food items and a hot meal. This sent me into a flailing panic, where I hurriedly put on makeup and smart clothes out of respect and then worried I didn’t look sick enough and took it all off (not my clothes).

Now for the Zoom ‘Seder’, the Passover dinner where Jews all around the world gathered to ask the same four questions: 1) Can you hear me? 2) Can you see me? 3) How do I turn on the audio? 4) How do I turn on the video?

This is quite a specific in-joke for Jews, taken directly from a boomer chain-email and is also not very funny.

At the end of the night, it is tradition to sing a song that translates to ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’; fittingly placed at the point during get-togethers where you drunkenly start to posit trips you should all definitely take soon to Cabo San Lucas! But this year it felt like more than a shameless plug for tourism – it felt like a little note of hope for what the next year could bring; a prompt to think about where we each imagined we might be this time 365 days from now. I, for one, knew where the hell I didn’t want to be. The Seder ended up being one of the highlights of this entire quarantine! The lowlight? Probably getting coronavirus.

Read Day 9 of Simone’s coronavirus diary here.

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