This is a transcription of our special episode ‘SSoP Podcast: A Message from Coronavirus Self-Isolation in Prague.’
David: Welcome to a special episode of Strong Sense of Place. Today we get concerned about the pandemic
Melissa: That is way less fun than getting curious about, say, Switzerland.
David: So much so, so much so. So, hello. I hope you’re well. I hope everyone you love is healthy and safe and if that’s not the case, I hope you’re taking care of yourself and we extend our love. Just, truly. It is a hard time to be a caring, thinking, empathetic human right now and from us to, hope and love and peace.
Melissa: And air hugs.
David: And air hugs. We’re healthy. It feels weird to have to live in a time where you have to say that, but there we are. We’re doing fine. Before we go any further, I wanted to just have a moment of gratitude for people who are working in health care and delivery and grocery stores and sanitation and all the rest, so the rest of us can try to be safe and manage this crisis. If that’s you, thank you for doing that. We are recording an extra episode because two things are true. First we want to keep Strong Sense of Place a virus-free zone as much as we can because we think you’d want a place that’s not all about the virus right now. And so we’re trying to do that. But it also felt weird to not say anything at all and just keep going like life is normal because life is not so much normal right now.
Melissa: Really not normal.
David: So here we are.
Melissa: Here we are sitting in our flat in Prague. As we record this, we are starting day 30 of our social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, lockdown, whatever we’re calling this thing. It’s been going on in Prague for maybe a few days more than that. The timeline has gotten a little hazy for me, but the first thing that happened is that shops and pubs started closing, and —
David: Overnight. We woke up one morning and they were, like, ‘The stores are all closed now..
Melissa: Yeah. And we were on our way to celebrating Dave’s birthday at one of his favorite restaurants — which we’ll shout out to now even though we can’t go there. Some day, we can all go there again. It’s called Mr. Hot Dog, and they have fancy hot dogs and handcrafted cocktails. We were going to go there to celebrate Dave’s birthday and woke up to find that they were closed, and I think that was the first time that we realized we needed to be staying home a lot more. To be honest, we spend almost all of our time at home anyway because we work from home and we are hardcore introverts, but mentally it’s a little bit different to not be going to the gym, not be going to the coffee shop, which: FUN FACT, were our two major ways of socializing with other human beings. I realized through this process that I don’t need a ton of face-to-face interaction, but boy! do I like being around people and smiling at them and waving at them and acknowledging their existence in the world.
David: Yeah, just walking in the streets and seeing people doing people stuff. And walking their dogs and go into work or whatever it is and just having that little —
Melissa: ‘Hello,fellow human!’ So, the restrictions in Prague are not as tight as they were in, say, Italy. We are required to cover our mouths and noses when we go outside and there is actually a fine, if you are caught by the police without something covering you. You can use a scarf; it doesn’t have to be a mask. Currently restaurants are closed except for takeout. All the pubs and nightclubs have been closed for weeks.
David: A lot of the restaurants have windows open, so you can stop by and get something to go. Which raises the question, should you?
Melissa: Yeah, it’s a battle every time I go for a walk. It’s a mental battle… Yes, I want to support these places that I desperately want to continue to be in business, but at the same time, I don’t know. Is it safe? Is it a good idea? Should I just be staying home? These are the questions we are all asking ourselves, I think. But there are several delivery services in Prague. We get our groceries delivered. We’ve had some special fancy food delivered, so we’re doing that both to support the community and to keep our spirits up.
David: Yeah. So nonessential travel is not a thing right now. Nobody’s doing that. Nobody’s going anywhere. And we are probably here for awhile. It is unclear how long. That leaves us with armchair travel. So, let’s read something good to help us see the world when we can’t explore it ourselves. And now’s a great time to read and to practice empathy. We started this project to learn more about the people who are on the planet with us. And that has not changed, and we still hope that you’ll come with us
Melissa: And it feels even more important now than it did before. We are literally all battling this thing together at the same time.
David: Yeah. Somebody, a friend of ours presented this idea that seemed to super-groovy eight weeks ago, which does not seem so groovy anymore. That we are all one organism. That we are all droplets on the same leaf. And at the time I was, like, ‘Man, that’s kind of groovy.’ And now I’m, like, ‘No, that’s closer to the truth than you might initially think.
Melissa: And I feel like if we don’t think about the world that way, we’re all going to be in even more trouble further down the road. We are all connected. So to the best of our abilities, we are going to keep going with this project.
David: Yeah. On the upside, this project only requires Mel and I to continue and we already live together, so hooray!
Melissa: And we have a lot of books to get through. Having said that, my concentration is not what it once was. I used to be reading, I would say, between three and four books a week, if they were average length. I have been going through books at a rapid rate, but not being able to get more than a chapter or two into them. It’s tough to concentrate and read and really fall into a story. So that’s making me appreciate the ones that hold my attention even more. My personal catnip, as I think our audience probably knows by now, is a manor house, a Gothic mood, some secrets, and a heroine I can believe in. So that’s what I’m gravitating toward. But we’re also getting ready for Season Two, which means we are trying to read some books set in very exciting places around the world.
David: And you’re working on a blog post about fictional heroes, and how they’ve dealt with quarantine.
Melissa: Kind of the same emotional circumstances of quarantine, if not necessarily a quarantine-scenario specifically. So I started thinking about Anne Frank and how one of the things I love about Diary of a Young Girl is that she and her family are in these terrible circumstances. They are terrified. They’re hiding out. They don’t know how long it’s going to go on. They have to be quiet all day long. Everything they know has been turned upside down. And somehow within all of those constraints, they still live. They laugh, they fight, they find a way to celebrate birthdays. They are committed to life. And I love that. And that made me think about other characters in novels who find themselves either alone — or in completely different circumstances where they’re isolated from other people or from what their normal life is — and how they kind of rise to the occasion and make the best of a really terrible situation. So that blog post is coming, and I think, I hope, it will be fun to read and give you some role models and think about maybe some books to read while you’re staying home. To help you keep your spirits up and help all of us be as close to the best version of ourselves as we can be in these trying times.
David: While we’re talking about that, I also wanted to put in a plug for audiobooks. Audiobooks are fantastic. Audiobooks, totally count as reading just to get over that stigma. And it is particularly a good time to listen to an audiobook where you already know the story. So for instance, if you’ve seen the movie The Martian, the book, The Martian is fantastic and it’s very similar of course to the movie, but has a lot of detail, a lot of character-building and whatnot. And that’s just one example. But you can listen to an audiobook for a story that you already know, and it doesn’t matter so much if your attention goes in and out because you already know the major plot points and now you’re just picking up detail. That’s been useful for me both now and on things like long flights and whatnot where it’s difficult to concentrate, but you also want to be distracted somehow.
Melissa: Yeah, I’ve been having some trouble sleeping. That’s weird. Usually when I wake up in the middle of the night, I pick up my Kindle and put the light on very low and read until I fall back to sleep. But given everything that’s going on, that doesn’t always work right now. So I have started to listen to the audiobook of Jane Eyre, and I will say I’m about halfway through it and I’ve heard maybe 45 minutes of it because I keep falling asleep. But that’s great. That is what I wanted to be happening and just to, you know, second Dave’s idea, if there is a story with which you are very familiar, it can be really comforting to have someone tell you that story while you’re doing other things. It’s also great for when you’re coloring or drawing or knitting. I’ve also — I’m going to admit — taken to just lying down on the floor and putting my headphones in and listening to a story for a while when I need to chill out.
Melissa: It feels very bittersweet that we are coming up on the end of our first season, especially given the state that the world is in right now.
David: Yeah, we had intended at the end of the season to some weeks of break —
Melissa: And celebrate, I think.
David: — and feels a little weird to stop talking.
Melissa: Yeah. We don’t really want to be separated from all of you. We’re attached emotionally. I will say that we are so grateful to all of you for coming along with us on this first season. We have two more episodes to come.
David: Cuba is coming out on April 27.
Melissa: And the circus, which I’ve been excited about since we started this project. We also are planning to ask all of you to participate in a brief and what we hope will be fun survey so that we know how we can better serve you moving forward. We started this project with our ideas of how it was going to go. We’ve changed, the world’s changed, and now you all are part of it, and we’re really excited to hear what you think and what you would like to see from us next.
David: If you have ideas about how to make this show more engaging for you, please let us know. Also, if you just want to say hi because this is a good time just to say hi, I/m at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mel is at melatstrongsenseofplace.com.
Melissa: You can always find us on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook at @strongsenseof, and when you get emails from us, just hit reply. We get those. We read all of them. I answer all of them.
David: Yeah. People seem shocked that we are not behind some kind of marketing facade. It’s just us. It’s the two of us, sitting here. If you hit reply to a newsletter —
Melissa: Currently in our pajamas.
David: If you hit reply on a newsletter, we are going to hear from you right now. So as always, thank you so much for listening. Our next episode on Cuba is on April 27th, we will talk to you then. If you can, stay home and read.
Melissa: Take good care of yourself and the people you love.
Top image courtesy of Matthew Henry.
Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
If you like the work we do, you can help support us through our Patreon! That'll unlock additional content, too — like Mel's recipe for Banh Mi Bowls, and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is © 2021 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.