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How To Be Alone, But Not Lonely, Despite The Coronavirus(常速)

As a writer, Lily Burana already spends a lot of time working alone at home, about an hour outside New York City. And as an extrovert, Burana says she relies on her social network to balance out those lonely hours.

It's really hard because at the end of the day, I look forward to, you know, shutting my laptop and taking my daughter to a playground or meeting a friend at a museum, and all of those things have to be table for now out of a sense of obligation to not, you know, turn myself into an accidental vector.

Burana says she's healthy as far as she knows, but she's been voluntarily cutting out most social activities in an effort to do her part to slow the contagion. She's relying on social media even more than usual to feel connected.

I don't know how people in TB sanitariums did it - right? - because you couldn't just hop on Twitter and complain about how alone you were then.
 
A woman holds lights on her balcony during a flash mob launched throughout Italy on Sunday to bring people together even as they are staying home in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Kevin Barthauer, a chef from Noblesville, Ind., isn't exactly worried about feeling alone.

It's limiting, if you can imagine (laughter), you know, being in a home with five boys.

Barthauer and his family are used to being at home together. He and his wife home-school their boys. But the coronavirus has them feeling more isolated than usual. They're skipping things like church services and extracurricular activities and starting to feel a bit cooped up.

The 6-year-old and the 9-year-old have some sort of mutual destruction pact. (Laughter) They're going to kill each other, I think.

So they're coping by organizing family game and movie nights at home.

And we watch episodes of "Star Trek" together. Luckily, we do enjoy being a family together. So that's nice, but it can be challenging.

Emily Newell says she and her husband are adjusting to working at home in Portland, Maine. She's used to spending her days with students and colleagues at the University of Southern Maine, where she teaches sport management, but now classes are being moved online.

Feels kind of isolating and a little bit scary. I don't think we were overly nervous about it initially, but as stuff is kind of starting to shut down, it's kind of that weird realization of, like, oh, crap, we might be, you know, just us and the cats in our apartment for a while.

With her parents hundreds of miles away in Ohio, Newell says the prospect of not being able to travel to be with them feels isolating, too.

I mean, my mom will probably be annoyed (laughter). I'll probably call my mom a lot.

Newell says she's also planning to cope by reading and staying in touch with her students online. Staying virtually connected is an important strategy for fighting social isolation, says Ashwin Vasan. He's president and CEO of Fountain House, a New York City-based charity that works to reduce the effects of isolation on people with mental illness.

Call that friend you haven't talked to in years. Call your mother (laughter), as they would say.

And, he says, talk about how it feels to be going through this. Vasan also suggests reframing the way we think about this period of isolation.

By distancing yourself, you're contributing to a societal act, a collective action that is not only protecting yourself but protecting others. And so if we can see some community in that, I hope that's a motivating and aspirational way of looking at something that is inherently difficult.

So in a way, he says, we can all be isolated together.
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