“It’s crazy that right now we’re almost like prisoners. We’re not prisoners but we can’t go out the way we used to. It’s contradictory. As far as my family is concerned, being an international student, we are a sort of used to it because we know what it’s like to be away from our loved ones,” says Alicia Granci, on a Thursday night, leaning against her bedroom bed, while I listen to her from my living room through a video call. “I think we are already mentally prepared because we know that we have to be strong and move forward with our projects, which in this case is to study,” adds the Argentinian student, who now lives in Australia.
Alicia and I have known each other for some years now. We take the same course at the university, we share the identity of South Americans and a passion for dancing Salsa. Seeing someone who is part of your everyday life on-screen gives an even more (un)real feel to the pandemic – in fact, all the interviews in this project have something of fantastic and experimentation, of looking in the eye without looking in the eye. But that’s a reflection for later.
Back to Alicia. In our pandemic interview scenario, she talks about what it’s been like to be more at home and how the relationship with the Australian family who she lives with has changed: “I’ve always had a good relationship with them, but as I was almost always away from home, at university or at work, I never had a moment to sit down with them and talk. And now we sit down and talk about life, we have so much more interaction. This human contact is super important in all parameters, so the relationship that was already beautiful was intensified by a hundred.”
She comments on the relationship with her family back in Argentina as well. Although she doesn’t talk to them every day, she says how calling them makes her happy. “Seeing their smiles it’s something I enjoy,” she says. But she adds about coping with the uncertainty of when she will be able to physically see them again. “It’s like ‘aww, I want to hug them so much’! We don’t know when we’re going to be able to travel, so we have to think positively that we’re going to see them again. To have them a little bit closer by the voice at this moment is very important.”
Continuing with a voice full of pride and affection, Alicia adds about the love she has for her land. “Ever since I was born, Argentina is in my heart, from minute zero. And I don’t think that’s going to change. I think what happens to all Latinos when they leave is that we see many things that we think ‘I wish we could be at the same level of the country we live in now,’ at least in terms of health services, for example. But this love and appreciation, despite the needs that Argentina has, it’s always with me, because that’s where I was born and where I feel I belong. When I drink my mate… my voice always gets like this because, ‘Sí, soy Argentina’ (‘yes, I’m Argentinian’).”
“At the moment, I’m very happy that the president in power [of Argentina] took the decision, and said it publicly in words and also showing in actions, that more important than the economy is the health. That for me is the most important in any part of the universe. I am proud to say that the president cares about the population of the country where I was born and the country I love,” she adds.
When asked about the little things that make her sane during the quarantine, Alicia talks about music and sunshine. “For me, listening to music is a huge thing. And going out for a walk helps me too. I try to forget everything. Absorb the sunlight and think it’s recharging me, like when you put the phone in to charge until the battery reaches a hundred per cent.”
She also shares the learning that the pandemic situation has brought her. “I think I appreciate everything we have a little bit more. There’s a lot to be thankful for and valued beyond the financial, because now that I’m home, not even money matters anymore. Family affections, being sane, having a roof over your head and food, are the simple things you need to live. After that, whatever comes, I don’t know,” she concludes.