All News from Schools May 15, 2020

“Try To Praise the Mutilated World” – Alexia Dochnal’s Quarantine Journal

In this poignant essay, Alexia Dochnal ’22 discusses her life in self-quarantine and offers her perspective on these troubling times.

Alexia Dochnal ’22, who has previously written about International Week, Academic Travel, Service Learning, and the TASIS Faculty, discusses her life in self-quarantine and offers her perspective on these troubling times.


Dear Diary,

Another day in quarantine, and it’s time for my first class of the day.

It’s crazy to think how connected we are in these strange times—connected to our friends and our teachers and our regular lives, even in the midst of this terrifying pandemic. As I take notes on Dante’s Inferno and on the standard form of an ellipse in my bedroom, and as I listen to my teachers through the computer screen, I can’t help but wonder what everything would look like if we didn’t have all the opportunities we have today—if we were separated from everything we used to know, everything that was important to us, and plunged into uncertainty and isolation.

After my first class, I go out onto my balcony. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I really live here, surrounded by the dream-like mountains and the crystal blue lake and the creamy blue sky. It’s in moments like these, when your life gets turned upside down in a matter of days, and when you think about how many innocent people are suffering, that you see the beauty and the resilience of the world around you—especially the beauty of nature, which a deadly pandemic can’t touch. As I sit outside, I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy in the sunshine, pencil in hand, underlining words and jotting down notes in the margins. This time at home has given me the chance to read more. In these past three weeks, I’ve read six books, including Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Plague by Albert Camus, the latter of which touched me deeply considering our current situation. Somehow it doesn’t even feel real.

I spend the rest of my break between classes watching lectures for an online course I’ve been taking on the foundations of morality by Yale University, something I never had the time to do before. Whenever I have a free moment, I put it on and try to think about why we behave the way we do—especially in times like these.

After a few more online classes, I’m done for the day. I take a short break and log into Zoom again for my online dance lesson. I put on my leotard and pull out my small ballet barre, listening to my teacher’s corrections while doing what I love most.

I do my homework, blast some songs by The Doors with my sister, and finally settle down in bed. And as my eyes close, I start to think about what’s going on in the world right now.
I never thought I’d live through anything like this. It seems like something you read about in a dystopian novel, but not like something you actually experience. In just a few days, the whole world changed. The headlines of The New York Times began to fill up with the word “coronavirus.” Flights were cancelled. People were hospitalized, suffering, dying. China, then Italy, then the United States. Each nation fighting its own battle. The school closed down its campus. Lugano, always colorful and vibrant and full of life, became a ghost town. All of this is happening before our eyes.

In a situation like this one, the most important thing is to remain aware. To read the news and remember that there is a world outside the safe haven of your home. A world taken over by a force that has taken so many lives. A world in which medical workers are fighting like soldiers on the frontlines. A world that is filled with people dedicated to making it a better, safer place.

Let’s try to remember what’s truly important: our loved ones, our health, our safety. Let’s remind ourselves that situations like these provide us with a chance to give something back to the world and to appreciate those who are on the frontlines.

Last night, I was reading a poem by one of my favorite Polish poets, Adam Zagajewski, and came across this line: Try to praise the mutilated world.

We can do this by thanking our teachers for their hard work, by sending a supportive message to a friend, by opening our window when playing an instrument so that our neighbors can enjoy the music.

I hope that during this pandemic, we learn what it means to “praise the mutilated world.”

TASIS The American School in Switzerland

Founded by international education pioneer M. Crist Fleming in 1956, TASIS The American School in Switzerland is a day and boarding school committed to creating global citizens through…

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