Ireland through the Looking Glass

We read in books and movies about time travel, but as you gaze across Europe to Italy, somehow a trip to the potential future isn’t what it seems. 

Ciara Walsh, 25, from a little town called Claregalway with a population of 1,248 (in 2016) has been experiencing the lockdown in the second most infected area of Covid-19 in Italy, Emilia-Romagna. She has been living in the city of Bologna with a population of 388,367 (in 2017) for the last 6 months.

Life before Covid-19 almost feels like a distant dream to us here in Ireland as we begin to cope with social-distancing and staying in our homes. Following Leo Varadkar’s speech last night, we know there is more to come.

Ciara has been showing her 6,531 followers on Instagram what life is like during a lockdown. Suddenly the role of an influencer has never been more reassuring and helpful to those who are worried about the pandemic. Trips to the supermarkets wearing masks with gloves, showing how she disinfects them and showing the daily goings-on around her estate somehow have become oddly familiar to us as the Irish edge towards these measures.

She has been doing this in the hopes of creating a YouTube video to show life in lockdown and to show that listening to what the government is saying will help hugely. 

That calmness was not always there however as she spoke about her anxiety when the news broke out in Italy: “Once it came onto the news that the entire country was going into lockdown, it was surreal. Of course, I have never experienced war but it truly feels like one. It felt so surreal to be told that an entire country has completely stopped – you can’t do anything.”

She also spoke about her ‘first sleep’ when the news broke out: “I woke up at 3am with severe anxiety – when I get anxious I get severe nausea and I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. It was crippling anxiety.”

However, Ciara felt it was important to know that her anxiety didn’t stem from her health but rather, more importantly, the vulnerable. “I know I would be fine if I got it because I don’t have any underlying illnesses but I don’t want to affect anybody around me. This is the problem that some people are adjusting to at the moment. My boyfriend’s parents are over 60 years old and I don’t want to affect them in any way because they live quite nearby.”

As a very quiet Paddy’s Day went by, we also know that Easter is around the corner. Unfortunately for Ciara, it meant that her trip to see her family was cancelled as there are no more flights leaving Italy. “It’s a weird feeling, you almost feel trapped.” Now she has been living in isolation with her boyfriend and his flatmate.

Ciara has been adjusting to working remotely as an English teacher in Italy. Working in a private language school in the center of Bologna and also helping once a month in a Middle School. “I’m about a 15-minute drive from the center and you’d have to get a bus to go in. My school is completely closed and classes are closed too. The secretary can go in there but if my boss goes in there, they can’t be in the same room. They have to go to different rooms. Considering I have to do online lessons and all of my materials are at the school, I have to get my boss to send me pictures of the books or material.”

There is hope, however, as Ciara has shared on her Instagram stories that these lessons have been going successfully so far for her which looks promising for Irish teachers who are currently going through the same thing. She has teacher meetings on platforms such as Skype or Zoom to update each other and conduct her classes. 

Since speaking to Ciara on March 11th and the information she gave in terms of numbers, you can see how much can change in a week. On the 11th, there were 10,149 cases and 631 deaths. Currently, on the 18th of March, there are 35,713 cases and 2,978 deaths. This information is not to panic anyone but to show the importance of cooperation from the measures that the government is taking and supporting each other through this hugely difficult and ever-changing time.

Although we are all experiencing what Ciara described as a ‘modern-day war’, there is hope in her words and in her actions on her Instagram story. An important message that ‘life goes on’, even during a pandemic and we mustn’t panic. For once as citizens fighting against something for our people, the most we can do… is stay at home.


If you want to check out Ciara Walsh’s Instagram click here.


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