The Calm after the Storm – Assel Omarova ’23

When I was asked to write for the OIS blog, I did not want to write about the panic and the chaos of the first days of the pandemic, when I was flying on a last-minute booked flight, obsessively checking the news, emails, the status of my flight, and the number of cases. I did not want to remind myself how I felt like a paper ship caught in the storm and how I kept whispering: “The world is a mess, but I cannot be one right now.”. 

I did not want to write about the quiet and peace of the lockdown days, even though those were goof times. They were warm spring days of family breakfasts, baking, reading, and a liberating idea that you did not have to rush somewhere for the first time in your life.

I did not want to write about how weird it felt when I went out to a cafe next to my house for the first time in two months and realized that the world did not end. The sun was still shining, and people were not dying. 

I definitely did not want to write about how scary it was in July when they started to. Newspapers did it better than me. There even was an article in The Telegraph called “How to not do Covid: Kazakhstan first country in the world to fully return to lockdown”. However, I had to mention that the article did not convey that Kazakhstan was not just a cautionary tale but a country with real people who were absolutely terrified. Every person I know lost someone. Hospitals were overcrowded, and Paracetamol was a luxury. My mom’s biggest fear was her phone calling, because every time it did, it meant that someone was sick or worse. 

I want to write about today. My family and I have spent today in Borovoe, a beautiful mountain region of Kazakhstan, because we can now travel around the country. I have not checked the number of cases in a while, because the numbers are now pretty small. My Instagram is filled with pictures of my friends going out and having fun (all in masks, of course). Cafes and malls are opening up. My dad’s sneezing does not make my heart skip a beat, and my mom is not afraid of her ringtone anymore. Life is not completely back to normal, but it is good. 

If you are not at Vassar and miss snow during this holiday season, here are some photos with love from Kazakhstan. Good luck with your finals, and happy holidays!

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