Chai Khana’s top stories about isolation

In March, in response to the global pandemic, we asked our contributors to explore the idea of isolation. Across the South Caucasus region, our authors overcame challenges to tell the story of how their communities were responding to Covid-19 and its repercussions. Chai Khana’s editors have selected their favorite stories from the edition; check out their picks and let us know which film and article moved you during this difficult time.  

Safe Zone

By Arpi Bekaryan

I am from the generation that was born during and after the war, in a closed and isolated society. I have not experienced Armenians and Azerbaijanis living, working and co-existing together.  I do not have memories from those times; I have stereotypes that the society, school and the media taught me and everyone else in my generation. The words “enemy” and “Azerbaijani” had always been synonyms for me until I went to Tbilisi. 
This story is about a “hidden” community of Armenians and Azerbaijanis who can only meet in a third country, who have the need to talk to each other, to listen to the other side and who eventually become friends.

Azerbaijan has been under virtual lockdown since March 24, when the government strictly limited public movement in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
For weeks, the residents of capital Baku have been largely stuck at home. They are allowed to leave for essential trips--like going to the grocery store or the pharmacy -but need permission first.
As a result, the streets of central Baku, which normally buzz with activity, have fallen silent. Photographer Emin Mathers used his regular walks to the grocery store to document how his fellow Bakuvians dress during their precious moments outdoors during the time of Covid-19.  

After my second week in quarantine, when I started receiving more and more calls filled with existential crises, I realized that my own crisis was not far off.  
I decided that it was time to find some inspiration by speaking with artists. How have they managed to stay motivated and true to their craft in the face of so many challenges?
This project is a dialogue with artists from Yerevan and elsewhere about how the pandemic has changed their lives and how they are continuing to create even when stuck at home. 

“Right now I have some money and my parents have their pensions. But later…I do not know what will happen.” 
Akif*, 39, is used to making sacrifices to care for his six-person family. The household’s sole breadwinner, he had been living illegally in Moscow and sending half of his income from his clothing and household goods store to his wife, children and parents in Shamakhi district of Azerbaijan, 120 km from capital Baku.
But now his shop in Moscow is closed, due to the quarantine, and he is stuck in Azerbaijan, where he was updating his travel documents when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Ruhangiz, 70, has been active her entire life, from the time she started working in her early 20s until 2014, when she learned she had breast cancer. The disease forced her to suddenly stop working and stay at home. 
When Azerbaijan announced a countrywide lockdown, Ruhangiz faced a new wave of loneliness. Her sudden isolation reminded her of the traumas she suffered earlier in her life. Despite this, Ruhangiz remains hopeful and never forgets to water her flowers.

The indefinite present, called the state of emergency, began about two months ago, and who knows how long it will last. The main signs of a new reality, the main characteristics, are isolation and distance. We don’t know the results yet. We have a vague present that, like an abandoned game, is frozen and endless.
"State of Emergency" is a deserted game. It’s an excerpt from the abandoned game we live in now.
The lines from this diary are thoughts accumulated over the course of a month.The city has become like time, a labyrinth that is endless and uncertain.
‘’State of Emergency" is an attempt to save time, describe it, and remember.

Follow the link;
Wait for 2 minutes, until game is fully loaded. 
Go to full screen mode;
Click the mouse on any place of screen;
How to walk:
Use WASD buttons on keyboard to move. W forward, A back, A right, D left;  Or use arrows.
Jump – space;
Shift W – walk fast; 
Use mouse to look around. With older computers game can be slow and sometimes can not even work. You can not play with your phone. 

Abroad, alone

By Maryam Mumladze

Imagine being completely alone in an unknown country far from your loved ones, without close friends and family members, and suddenly being stuck in your room. No one knows when you can go back home or what the future will bring. This uncertain time might be even harder - even more challenging - if you experience it as a foreign exchange student.
This project focuses on the personal experiences of international students, including Maryam Mumladze, the author of this photo project, who were in Aalborg, Denmark during the coronavirus pandemic.
Each student has his or her own way to deal with loneliness, boredom, insecurity, fear and despair. Their decision to create a home away from home unites them, but their response to isolation was unique and largely based on their unique culture, social background, interests and traditions. 
For instance, Proiti and Khayal, both from India, buy ingredients from Middle Eastern grocery stores and spend hours cooking and eating the food they love.
“We often get together to recreate what we miss about home. It is an escape from reality and a way for us to feel a sense of calm in a troubled world.”
Juan, from Colombia, who has been living abroad for 12 years, uses the family photos, letters and special rocks and seashells he always takes with him to create a spiritual corner wherever he goes. 
“As I grow older I realize that this is what helps me carry my home with me, like a snail.”

Until recently, there were only 20 families living in Gurdzauli, a village high in the mountains of Adjara. The Covid-19 pandemic and the state of emergency in Georgia brought unexpected change to village life. To avoid the danger of being infected, families started to move back to their ancestral houses. Once deserted, the houses are now full of people. The family of Givi Bolkvadze, 51, is one of them. Thirteen people have moved back to the family home.




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