By Nora Quintanilla
New York, Apr 28 (efe-epa).- A group of female transplants living on the West Side of Manhattan had been enjoying life in one of the world’s most vibrant metropolises as recently as early last month, but now they find themselves isolated in a residential building in the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
Forced to live far from their loved ones in this moment of crisis and adapt to new work realities, these neighbors opened up to Efe about the emotional impact of their experiences.
Lilia, Erika, Maria and Ana live in a West Side co-living community for professional women and female scholarship students, a residence for some 370 people that features rooms measuring eight square meters (85 square feet), community spaces and a cafeteria but which has seen a visible exodus of residents in recent weeks due to the widespread business shutdowns.
“There are days where I’m sad and I say, ‘I can’t believe I’m experiencing this in New York.’ Several family members and friends from Mexico tell me, ‘come back now,’ but it makes no sense for me to leave because I’ll be on lockdown there too and probably infect others,” said Lilia, a Mexican woman in her 20s who works in the diplomatic service.
“I’m experiencing something I hope I’ll never ever experience again. None of us likes it and you have to learn from this,” she added.
Erika, a compatriot of Lilia’s who also works in the diplomatic service and has not left the building since March 13, said this crisis will leave a permanent mark on her.
“For me, this is an experience that will spill over into work, the economy, how we think, our personal lives,” she said, adding that she hopes it “has the best possible impact” on society.
Maria, a Spaniard in her 20s who works at a design company, is one of the other residents of the co-living community.
Referring to the ambulance sirens and police and soldiers in the street, she said the situation can be “somewhat overwhelming, but it is what it is” and that considering that many families are completely cooped up inside their homes she feels fortunate that the building has an observation deck.
“I’m doing very well emotionally. This experience is helping me to realize certain things, to think about my life, if this is what I want to do, think about myself, not run around so much. These are moments for ourselves. I’m very lucky to be where I am,” she added.
The building’s dining hall, which had been an ideal place to socialize, now is set up according to coronavirus guidelines, with hand sanitizers on the rigidly separated tables and surgical tape on the floor marking distances of two meters.
As one woman sits alone and eats lunch, the voice of New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo giving a rundown of Covid-19 deaths can be heard in the background.
Ana, another Spaniard in her 20s who lives in this community and is currently working at the United Nations via Internet, said she tries to “think about this as little as possible,” heed all the guidelines and stay in contact as much as she can with her family and friends (she recently celebrated her birthday via video-conference).
“I try not to watch the news that much. I’d rather be naive than have mental-health problems,” she said.
Even so, she is not blind to the massive changes in a city that recently was one of the most coveted destinations on Earth but now has more seagulls than airplanes.
“It’s deserted. You’ll see someone walking their dog or going to the supermarket, everyone with face masks and gloves. It’s apocalyptic,” Ana said. EFE-EPA