Play Hard

10 women, 10 tales of lockdown from around the world

HLN's Delilah Kealy-Roberts takes us on a trip around the globe. From Madrid to Buenos Aires (and of course, the North East) we're finding out how different women have experienced lockdown.

Written by High Life North
Published 29.05.2020

By Delilah Kealy-Roberts

If there’s one good thing that has come from lockdown, it is the connectivity that we have embraced. Many of us have been more motivated than ever to pick up the phone (or the Zoom chat) to call our friends in different corners of the country – and the world – with a fierce desire to stay in touch and support one another through this difficult time.

In doing so, we can see that everyone’s lockdown experiences are unique, yet with a striking sameness whether you’re quarantined in New York City or Newcastle Upon Tyne. This curious realisation led us to get in touch with some brilliant women around the world, each in their own lockdown cocoon, learning to adapt in their own distinct ways. There may be oceans between us, but lockdown has certainly become a common experience that has unified people across the world.

Let’s take a trip to around the world to find out how five women are experiencing lockdown life.

Madrid, Spain

Olivia Simpson, 24

First stop, we checked in with Olivia, who is currently living in Madrid, working as a language teacher and translator. Spain has been one of the worst affected countries in Europe and was plunged into a tight lockdown on 4 March.

We asked Olivia to give us some insight into lockdown life, and how she has been keeping herself busy while stuck indoors:

“Quarantine has been very strict here in Spain, there is no daily exercise and we’re only allowed out to go to the pharmacy or the supermarket. It’s great that I’ve got my balcony as I can get some fresh air every day which keeps me from feeling too cooped up.

I’m still working which is great — it gives me a bit of structure, which I’d really be craving otherwise. In my free time, in the evenings and weekends, my housemates and I have created a podcast called “Honey We’re Home Pod”. In the podcast, we interview interesting people from around the world about their Covid-19 experience. So far, this has included actors, a member of the GB Paralympic team, and a Nobel prize-winning scientist (which was really interesting!) We’ve learnt about the way each person’s industry is being affected and what they’re doing personally to cope.

We also discuss books and TV shows, which is great because I’ve definitely been binging Netflix anyway, and if we say it’s for the podcast it feels like it’s more purposeful!

Since speaking to Olivia, lockdown restrictions have been lifted slightly throughout Spain. There are now different exercise slots for different age groups, meaning that most people can finally get some fresh air and exercise — we’re sure this has been enthusiastically welcomed!

Kanagowa, Japan

Yuko Matayoshi, 29

Yuko is an industrial engineer who was living here in Newcastle until recently when she returned home to Kanagowa in Japan. So far, Yuko has been staying at home for five weeks.

She told us a little more about the situation in Japan and what she has learnt from her lockdown experience so far:

“Actually, here in Japan we can go out at any time because our government cannot restrict our behaviour by law. However, I work from home, and many restaurants and shops are closed.

During this experience, I’ve learnt a lot about the poor political power in Japan that was caused by a lack of interest from many people. For example, Japan was slow to take countermeasures compared to other Asian countries, like South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan. Our government seemed to prioritize the Tokyo Olympics and the economy over our wellbeing.

The lessons that we should take away from this are to stay at home to save lives and help each other. In addition, we should all take part in the next election and change politics to live safely.”

New York, USA

Kat Shaw, 31

At the beginning of the pandemic, New York City was one of the worst affected places in the USA and the silent streets of Manhattan were documented in eerie photos which resonated with people around the world. In New York, lockdown came into effect at the end of March. 

We spoke to Kat, who is living in Brooklyn with her partner and working as a Marketing Manager, about lockdown life in NYC and how she has adapted her normal routine:

“One of the weirdest things about lockdown in New York is how quiet it is all of a sudden. When we go on our balcony, we’re used to hearing people, music, cars, and the subway train. But now it’s quiet. Just the train on occasion.

As for my routine, I’m lucky enough to still be able to do my job remotely — I’ve just had to adapt to working and living at home. I don’t have an office, which means I have to work from my living space. So, every morning I can pull out my laptop and that’s my working day started. From 6 pm, my work equipment gets put away behind the sofa so that I can separate my work from my relaxation time.

I’ve been making sure that I get some exercise every day (making use of YouTube classes so that I can keep moving and stay sane!) I’ve also been spending a lot of time on apps, mainly to stay connected with friends, both back home in the UK and here in New York.”

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sol Caiafa, 19

Over in Argentina, a ‘preventative and compulsory’ lockdown came into place on the 20th of March, meaning that citizens can only leave their homes for essential trips or go up to 500 metres away for recreational activities.

We caught up with Sol, a soon-to-be student at the University of Buenos Aires and asked her how she’d been keeping herself entertained during lockdown:

“Due to the lockdown I haven’t been able to start my studies, and I’ve been self-quarantined following my return from Europe on March 1st. Instead of attending college, I have found myself learning things from the internet such as new languages or video/photo editing. I’ve also been entertaining myself with TV shows and movies in English as well as with online concerts from artists I like.

It hasn’t been easy for me to spend such a long time locked in my apartment, due to my anxiety and extreme behavioural fluctuations — I could spend the whole day lying down in bed or running around the apartment, there’s no in-between! Luckily, I can use my phone or computer to chat with my family, friends, and psychologist, making this lockdown more bearable.”

Brisbane, Australia

Lillian Elvin, 61

We spoke to Lillian, who has recently taken early retirement from her job as a district nurse in the UK to move to Australia to be closer to her two daughters. She told us that the pandemic hasn’t affected Australia quite as badly as some other countries — the government acted pretty early, and so it’s more of an ‘isolation’ than a ‘lockdown’.

We asked her how she was coping with lockdown so far and what lessons she had learnt from the experience:

“We haven’t been together as a family for over two years, so lockdown means I can focus on what I enjoy most: cooking, cleaning, and caring for my family. My daughter is heavily pregnant, so we’ve been busy helping her get everything ready for the baby. I’m so glad to be here to support her through this, and I know everything will be alright.

We were meant to be going to New Zealand to spend some time with our other daughter, which has been put on hold, but we skype her every day. I’m glad to at least be in the southern hemisphere, as I would have been very sad to be stuck in the UK knowing that my two girls are here.

I’m thinking a lot about all the people in the UK. I was a district nurse in the UK. I’m pleased that I’m not now, but I have got a yearning that I would like to help. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect, and I’m grateful for my lot.”

Wellington, New Zealand

Kim Jaques, 25

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern has been repeatedly commended on her lightning-fast reaction to the pandemic, and New Zealand has been able to do “what few countries have been able to do” and contain the spread of Covid-19.

Kim, a data analyst currently living in Wellington, told us a bit about lockdown life in New Zealand and what she was most looking forward to when the restrictions are loosened (as is beginning to happen already in New Zealand):

“I think the lockdown here has been very positive so far. We had an early lockdown, once we’d reached about one hundred cases and a very strict one as well. So, as much as I love to be outside, I’m staying home, and I’ve only been outside once or twice. So far, the benefits are showing, and we’ve been able to save a lot of lives here which is really good!

We’re also being encouraged to put teddy bears in the windows and we put Easter eggs up for Easter, to keep everybody in high spirits if they’re walking past.

One thing that I’m really looking forward to is being outside and being with nature again, being able to go for a hike and explore somewhere new.”

Newcastle, UK

Sonia Guest, 51

Here in the UK, we’re beginning to see lockdown measures gradually lift. This has provoked a variety of responses and confusion, but key workers like Sonia have been continuing to work throughout the lockdown period.

We got in touch with Sonia, a key Support Coordinator working in Newcastle and asked her what she was finding challenging about life in lockdown:

“One of the things I struggle with most at this time is being separated from family and friends. I’m used to seeing them often, and I’m finding it difficult being separated from that

In terms of work, I’m quite lucky that I’m actually leaving the house because I’m classed as a key worker. I’m able to go to work and break up the monotony of being stuck indoors all the time. I imagine that other people are finding that really difficult and I think that if I was to have to work from home for all of my shifts, I would find that a real struggle. I’m still going out and I’m talking to others, and I suppose others haven’t got that luxury.

I’m conscious that we really don’t know how long this is going to go on for, and that it’s going to be more and more of a struggle the longer it goes on. Like lots of other people, I hope that it’s all going to be over with soon and we can get back to some sort of normality!”

Stavanger, Norway

Michelle Darrehshoori, 25

Norway is currently seeing a gradual return to normality, with younger students slowly being able to return to school. Most people, however, are continuing to work from home and are practicing social distancing.

We reached out to Michelle, a clinical psychology student, to learn about her lockdown experience and ask her if there were anything elements of lockdown life she wants to maintain after this is all over:

“During lockdown, I’ve started to have a really cosy morning routine that I hope to continue with after lockdown is finished. I wake up really early, at around six and then I go straight to the kitchen and have some coffee and a nice breakfast and just really enjoy my mornings before I start studying.

I’m really happy and thankful to be in Norway during quarantine because of how much everyone is doing to stop the virus spreading and protect the high-risk groups. The government in Norway has actually developed an app called “Smittestopp” (meaning ‘infection stop’) which, with the consent of those who’ve downloaded the app, tracks them and lets them know if they’ve been in contact with anyone with the virus. So, they can then isolate themselves and stop the spreading.”

Ohio, USA

Jannelle Brannan, 23

The USA is currently the worst affected nation in the world and responses are varying from state to state. Jannelle tells us a bit about the response where she lives in Ohio.

Jannelle had recently left Spain, where she’d been teaching English to go home to Ohio, so we asked her a bit about her experience and what lessons she felt she had learnt during lockdown:

“I was teaching in Spain until I was advised to leave by the US Embassy on March 20. By March 21, I was back in the US in my home state of Ohio. I was on lockdown in Spain for a week, and I’ve been on lockdown in Ohio since March 23.

I’m incredibly lucky to be, currently, in an area with few cases. My community has been very good and banded together, for the most part, to work towards keeping each other safe and healthy. Most people are following orders, using masks and taking other precautions when out, and staying home for the most part. I think that I’m lucky to live where I do because it’s enabled me to stay safe and healthy. Though I am worried about what happens next, as we are about to reopen the state and many people are starting to not take it as seriously anymore.

I evacuated Spain to come back to the US, and the small town I was in has had a surge of cases. The difference in how much people were working to keep each other safe and healthy is so very clear between Spain and the US. While my specific community’s response has been commendable, I worry about the states that refused to close or are demanding to reopen. Overall, the US isn’t in a great position, but who knows what time will tell us. I hope we can (start to) care about others’ wellbeing as much as our own in the coming months because we’ll need to rely on each other since it doesn’t seem this is going away any time soon.”

Santander, Spain

Rachel Jetter Kell, 26

Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, has only recently started to see the gradual loosening of quarantine restrictions. On 17 May, it was announced that Spain’s daily reported number of deaths fell to under 100 for the first time during lockdown began. 

Rachel is an English teacher, living in the coastal city of Santander. We caught up with her and had a chat about togetherness and building a sense of community in a home away from home:

 “For me, it’s been difficult to create a sense of togetherness and community while living abroad because I don’t know a lot of people over here. What has really helped me is the internet, being able to connect with the friends I do have here in Spain and with friends and family back home.

I also feel that I’ve become much closer to my flatmate. We’ve been watching films together, playing board games, had a laugh, and watched the world go by from our window and this has helped to create a sense of togetherness.

However, I think what has helped me to feel a sense of community the most has been the clapping at eight o’clock, every night. Looking out of the window and clapping and seeing so many people clapping with you reminds you that everybody’s going through the same thing and if you’re feeling lonely, it reminds you that you’re not alone, everything will be ok, and it’ll be over soon.”

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