Notes from the Under Quarant: Part II

Osman Özel documents the second week of his government-mandated quarantine.

It’s wild how a seemingly “singular” state like being in isolation everyday can hold a variety of emotions within: Some days begin with hope, others languidly. There are days where our spirit tugs at our sleeves, insisting we open boxes we had vehemently closed a long time ago. As people across the world enter the third week of social distancing, the “selves” we think we know so well become clearer than ever, manifesting qualities we’ve forgotten or would rather ignore.

We take a close look at Osman Özel’s second week in quarantine amid the critical increase of coronavirus cases in Turkey.

This photo diary is the second part of Notes from The Under Quarant published on OMM Journal.

Day Eight: Some Books

“For our first couple of days here there was no internet, on the third we had unlimited access.

Today books were delivered by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, they brought them around to the rooms and allowed people to choose whichever one they wanted. Among the books in the box were Tolstoy’s “What Men Live By”, Sabahattin Ali’s “Madonna In A Fur Coat”, and the autobiography of Malcolm X.

I chose Tolstoy.”

Day Nine: The End Is Near

“Everyone became severely demoralized when we got the news yesterday that quarantine stays had been extended at some centers in Ankara. Unfortunately people’s reactions to be more individualistic instead of considering the fact that they’re here for all of our common benefit.

Today, however, it was announced that our quarantine would end in five days. Although it was surreal to hear the same monotonous announcement over and over from the hallway speakers, everyone’s very excited at the news.

A man from Adıyaman on our floor who I’ve developed a friendship with won’t believe anything he hears until he confirms it with me. We come together a few times a day to assess the situation.”

Day Ten: Suppliers

“I was walking around the dorms today to take pictures when I noticed a few cartons of cigarettes in a remote corner. I wonder what else my neighbours had brought in from the outside world. The supply-and-demand system creates itself everywhere."

Day Eleven: What Is Thrown Away

“Since my first day here I have been enchantedly watching the cleaning crew. They walk into the garden with their protective suits, looking like they’ve just landed on a new planet, and throw away 3300 people’s leftover food. I know that most of the food is thrown away without being eaten and it makes me genuinely sad.

My room is filled with boxes of unopened cherry juice, I’m sure they will be thrown away when I leave.”

Day Twelve: The New Socializing

“I was on the phone with my six-year-old nephew and I noticed he was in a bad mood. When I asked him why he said that he missed his friends. I told him he needed to speak to his parents and we went over what he would say. I don’t think being six years old should prevent him from wanting to see his friends. He’s going to ask to see them for half an hour every day.

There are people who haven’t left their rooms at all since they’ve arrived, whereas on the “outside” world I see meetings and cocktail parties taking place on Zoom. One’s psychology is different in quarantine. I wonder how I’ll feel when I get out.”

Day Thirteen: Happy Birthday Ezgi

“I was properly introduced to some of my floor-mates and we exchanged phone numbers to stay in touch after quarantine. It was one of their birthdays today. We used a cookie that I had ordered from the market as a cake and a piece of paper as a candle, and she blew it out, making sure her breath avoided us all. She probably wished for her and her family to make it through this process safely.

Everyone’s very happy that it’s our last day here. It’s hard to believe, but it’s finally over.”

Day Fourteen: We’re Leaving

“I woke up early this morning. I had already packed my things; I folded my sheets and blanket and wiped down the room. I’m leaving this quarantine that took us all by surprise with a positive attitude. People used to live with the feeling that they belong to a group, then everyone was suddenly separated from each other, now we’re all caught like deers in headlights. I believe that after this twist we can reach an even better state.

What I miss most about home is sleeping in my own bed and home-cooked food. I want to photograph the silence of the city as soon as possible. They only allow us to leave under the condition that we will stay at home for another fourteen days after this.

After so much time looking out of the same window, I feel that we can look toward better places together. It’s as if we pressed the 'pause' button. The world we return to when we press the button again will be determined by the actions we take on 'pause'."

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