On Day 12 of my Iso calendar, also known as Wednesday March 25, 2020 in the now nonsensical Gregorian calendar, I heard an interview I’d recorded on January 26, 2020 BC (Before Covid) with Lucy Armstrong on The Upshot. It aired on MainFM, my local community radio station. If you didn’t catch it, you can stream it anytime on Mixcloud.
The premise of the show (also hosted by Kya) is a casual chat with locals to Castlemaine and surrounds, asking the same handful of questions, culminating in the biggie— the meaning of life. The interviewee chooses music that holds special or significant memories. For one of the questions, I went on a bit of a musical rabbit hole to pin point the Ethiopian music I used to hear as a child far from my first home, music played by my mother that filled me with a longing I couldn’t place, and strangely, feelings of joy and sadness simultaneously. Even as time eroded my grasp of Amharic and I could no longer understand the lyrics, those songs struck at something deep inside me. After failing to find just the song that did it, I looked into the word ‘tezeta’ which popped up from some rarely visited nook in my mind. Bingo! Tezeta is not only the style of music I was thinking of, but the title of many songs in that style by a range of musicians.
How interesting that hearing the interview, with the backdrop of the pandemic, I felt that very feeling that tezeta encapsulates— a longing for what was, for a way of life that is gone, for an innocence that cannot be uncorrupted. There was a poignancy to hearing myself answer questions about my life, what I hold dear, lessons I have learnt and thoughts on the meaning of it all. What a way to test how aligned with my true self I was in answering those questions than to measure them against the choices I have made, actions I have taken, and the go-to coping mechanisms I have employed in navigating this strange new world.
I felt a sad longing for that carefree chat in real time, face to face, a longing for the way we took for granted greeting one other with an embrace and a kiss, sitting in close proximity, touching dials and mics and table tops, then getting on with our evening afterwards, which included, if we chose, dinner out, or drinks with friends in a crowded pub, or both! Mind you, at the time of recording, coronavirus had a very real presence in Wuhan, with a total of 80 deaths recorded since the outbreak, and 24 just that day. There was a general awareness of discriminatory behavior toward Asians, particularly those from China, and quarantine measures were already being enforced for travelers or people who had been to China or in close contact with those who had. But we didn’t think it would touch us, that it would culminate into global isolation. I remember marveling at what seemed to be over-the-top measures in late January when a friend who tutors at a Melbourne university told me about their preparation ahead of term commencement, to normalise the wearing of face masks in class, with her department largely consisting of international students, predominately from China.
It is really special to have a memento from what feels like a lifetime ago. I have heard it twice now, danced both times, and been reminded of my practices and value system that will get me through the present day challenges. Thank you, Lucy.
I look forward to listening to new episodes as well as catching up on past interviews featuring friends and others whose faces are familiar but whose lives are a mystery to me. What a great way to feel connected and reduce the distance in social distancing until I can once again see the many faces I miss, even faces I can’t place names to but are nonetheless integral parts of the beautiful community in which we live. A community which is still showing care from a distance and has demonstrated a resilience and compassion that has made the present time more bearable.