In this time of Social Distancing, most of us are probably struggling with at least some degree of boredom. A few weeks we were too overwhelmed by all the work (school and otherwise) to even think about being bored. I know that before all this happened I would've been so grateful for one day to just sit at home and do nothing. Now that it's less of a choice and more of a "chore" it's harder than it seems. But self-isolating yourself is important. You get to be a hero by staying at home, and you don't have to change out of your pajamas – though you probably should, at least once in a while. All those young adult dystopian novels led us astray, our story of how we saved the world aII together will be one never before written about in books. So now with all this free time, what should we do… well, I talked to some friends and got some ideas.
Reminder! We’re all going through a stressful time, especially being away from home, and it's fine not to master a foreign language from scratch or complete all of your projects in one week. However, it is a good time to focus on your hobbies, anything that keeps you afloat and happy. These are just some simple suggestions and ideas to pass the time.
Transitioning to online studies has been stressful for students and teachers alike. We need to remember that this may be as confusing and annoying for the professors as it is for us. The Estonian University of Life Sciences has done a really nice job with transferring classes online. Most students recognize the online learning platform Moodle, I have some classes that take place through this website, which makes it easy to do the assignments on my own terms and time. It has been hard trying to get used to online seminars, there are so many more distractions sitting at my home desk than sitting in a classroom. For me, it’s just very awkward speaking to my laptop. I have Russian through an online lecture - and hearing my own voice repeated back to me because of the video call is disastrous indeed. However, there are some positives: at any time I can go get water or something to snack on. Also, there’s no need to wake up early and change out of pajamas. We should appreciate the hard work the professors are putting into this, making sure we won’t need to extend the studies into summer. But without classes, it’s hard to have a daily schedule so you can create your own. This is mine:
- Wake up without an alarm (but hopefully before 11am), make breakfast and do some work for school. I find that going straight to work stops me from procrastinating, and if I‘ve slept well enough I’m much more motivated to actually get something done.
- Around 2 or 3pm I get hungry again, so its time for a light lunch and a walk. Even an hour outside in the forest helps to clear my mind and gives me a break from staring at my laptop. Put on your headphones and it's easy to float away into the world of music and away from all of this.
- After a run or walk, I attempt to do some work or at least get something started.
- Before going to sleep I watch something on Netflix (currently re-watching Stranger Things) and crochet, as it can be relaxing and nice to show off once finished.
Taking a walk in nature. Photo: Izabela Ginda.
Of course, this is if I don’t have any lectures. On those days, I focus more on the lectures and then relaxing after that.
Along with the quarantine worries we are also receiving various ideas from social media. Many posts have been calling us out to do something “worthwhile” with our time. That having all this free time should lead us to learn a new skill, language or start a business. And that was my view at the beginning, I was sure I was going to get a lot done. Yet there’s something we should remember...this is not a vacation, it’s an emergency situation. It’s stressful and scary, as we don’t know much about how this will go on and when it’ll finish. It’s okay if you don’t achieve something during this time, the most important is to stay safe and as stress-free as possible. It has been almost four weeks and I’ve yet to finish my book, essay or paint every day as I wanted to. We are bombarded with school work, yet days of the week don’t exist for most of us anymore. Here are some ideas for when you start feeling bored or tired of schoolwork. There is no need to “make proper use of your time”, but it is important to keep yourself active and to do something that lets you forget the situation for a while.
As most who are reading this are probably students, I can understand that cooking may not be a very common thing. Or at least not advanced cooking that differs from the basic various spaghetti/rice and sandwich combinations. This is the time to #treatyourself! Grab your roommate and make delicious food. Trust me, cooking can actually be fun and provide a break from staring at your laptop.
If you’re lucky to have an oven - bake a cake! My favorites are carrot and banana! Banana bread is very simple:
- Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar in one bowl. In another mix the wet ingredients: a bit of oil, eggs (or ground flax seeds for a vegan option), milk (any type will do), and of course mashed bananas! Once you mix the contents of the two bowls put in the oven for approximately one hour at 180ºC and wait for a delicious cake. Carrot works the same, just add carrots! As for the proportions, just be reasonable, it all depends how big you want the cake to be.
Banana bread. Photo: Izabela Ginda.
If you’re stuck in a dorm without an oven (like me) then it’s time to get creative with the stovetop. A recipe taken from my mom is stuffed peppers. They are very delicious and fill you up fast:
- First, you cut the tops off the peppers and empty out the insides and put them to the side. The filling can be made out of whatever you want. I add fried zucchini, eggplants, onions, some tomato sauce, and rice for a vegetarian option or ground meat instead or with the vegetables. Mash and mix it all together and you have the filling. Once the peppers are filled, put them standing up in a pot that has at least 3cm of tomato sauce diluted with some water and let boil/steam until the peppers get soft. Add freshly grated cheese on top and enjoy!
Another recipe is pan-pizza. I can guess that most people love or at least like pizza, but now pizza places are closed and, well, delivery costs more money. And with pan pizzas, you can add whatever your heart desires, or at least whatever you can find in the refrigerator:
- First, make dough! Mix flour, salt, a bit of oil, water and yeast (preferably dissolve the yeast in warm water first) until you gain a doughy like consistency. Roll out the dough to the size of your pan and place it on some oil in the pan and cover. Once one side is nicely “baked” you can turn it over and start adding toppings. Be creative! The best part is if you have too much dough just wrap it in saran wrap and place it in the freezer.
A wonderful Afgan dish that is sure to delight and is easy to make is Bolani. A friend of mine taught his roommate who in turn taught other friends from the dorm and it became a dorm favorite. The version shared with us is made by stuffing dough with a mix of vegetables and frying it:
- Prepare potatoes, carrots (both boiled), chopped celery, peppers and tomatoes, onions and garlic (fried) for the filling. Any combination of your favorite vegetables could work, but normally it is made with potatoes. Mix all in a pot, add favorite spices. Prepare the dough by mixing flour, water, oil, and salt – once it has been kneaded enough, roll out balls of dough to a circle approximately the size of your hand, put the filling on one half of the rolled dough and fold it over. Then it should be fried until golden brown on a pan. Serve with a dip made of plain yogurt mixed with mint, lemon juice, chopped garlic, and spices.
Home-made Bolani. Photo: Izabela Ginda.
Arts and Crafts
Once you're nice and fed, you can start being creative. Drawing and painting always relaxes me. Even if you’re not that good, now’s the time to practice! I brought my watercolor paints along with me to the dorm as they were the most convenient to transport. Every day, I try to paint at least one masterpiece. Okay, it’s definitely not a masterpiece, but maybe one day I’ll get there. Especially with all this free time on my hands. Usually, I can’t think of anything to paint so I’ve been scouring through my travel pictures (ah, those fond memories!) and trying to paint some important places in those countries.
Painting of Sangaste Manor. Photo (and painting): Izabela Ginda.
Also, if you’re lucky enough to be at home you can go search for spools of yarn in your attic or basement. Knitting and crocheting is a great way to spend time, and it’s useful for not falling asleep during online lectures. I’ve started crocheting animals – since I cannot work with them now, I’ll make them myself! There's many wonderful free patterns online, especially well done Youtube videos. I recommend this fairly easy instruction to crochet a bear.
Crocheted bear. Photo: Izabela Ginda.
A couple of my friends have even started making handmade masks to give to hospitals and other institutions that lack them. It could also be nice to create a mask for yourself – even if you don't feel sick, it is a preventive measure so that you don't spread anything to others. Even though cloth masks are less effective than medical grade ones, they're better than no masks at all. There are many websites detailing ways to make one, either by hand sewing or by using a sewing machine. It’s definitely recommended to contact a medical facility before going to donate.
Or you can start writing! There are many people I’ve talked to that said they have an idea for a book, or even attempted at starting to write one, but never finished. I’ve actually started keeping a dream journal, as I finally have more than ten minutes in the morning to get myself together.
Overall, staying in a dorm during such a time definitely has its' good and bad sides. We are separated from our families, many separated by more than one country or even continent. Maybe it's a good thing, some friends say it's not the easiest being stuck with parents after years of living on their own or partially on their own. Still, there are many ways to keep busy in a dorm, to take our minds off school for a while. Remember, it's okay to do nothing some days. Sometimes we need a day or two just to take time for ourselves without being productive. Our lives have shifted with new rules and situations, and it's important to take care of yourself and your family first. Stay safe and continue doing the best that you can to get all that you need to done, so that once this is over, it'll be easier to bounce back.
Text by: Izabela Ginda