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2020 Article Contributing Writers Pandemic

Restless

Written by Ange LaGoj

I cannot sleep. It is 2 AM, I am exhausted, but a hot, screeching, soul agonizing scream wants to burst forth from my chest. After months of washing my hands, wearing a mask, avoiding unnecessary social gatherings, I am being called back to the classroom. I’m confused. What changed? Has the virus dissipated? Did its mode of transmission change? Did the school buildings that the governor deemed as obsolete and/or unsafe for children change shape? How is it that some educators can teach remotely from home, but I am denied that privilege? Is their life more valuable than mine? 

The virus “that has changed the world” prevails. There are upticks in Europe – Italy, Spain, France. There is a new hot spot – India. Thousands of tests come back positive daily in the United States. Clusters of infections arise throughout New York. 

As I attend four days of professional development in preparation for one hundred and eighty days of uncertainty, anxiety, and risk, college campuses in New York have opened and shut down in a matter of a few days.

I sat in a classroom with nine of my colleagues – mask and shield on, 6 feet apart –  listening to half-formed directives about teaching live and at a distance simultaneously, keeping accurate attendance records of 3 groups (hybrid live, hybrid remote, all remote), maneuvering two devices in order to share my screen with the students in front of me and those permitted to stay home without revealing confidential records, providing high-quality instruction as well as social-emotional learning, identifying visible signs of COVID in our students, maintaining constant communication with parents, devising ways to assess students equitably, fulfilling IEP accommodations, allowing students mask breaks periodically throughout the day, directing one-way traffic in the hallways while reminding students to face front and pull their masks up, cleaning the desks in between periods, covering classes and monitoring students while our colleagues are out getting tested for COVID. 

My mind is in a fog. I read commentary online about how teachers like me don’t want to go back to work. We are lazy. We like sitting at home in our pajamas. We don’t understand that our role is to monitor kids as their parents work. It’s unjust that we have been doing this job for years and now we don’t want to do it anymore. 

We are misunderstood. The truth is that I love teaching so much that I cannot sleep over what is happening to it. I was upset that I could not plan my units and lessons this summer. (I was not sure about what I was teaching until two days ago.) The truth is that I miss interacting with my students. This year, I will not be able to approach them to help with their work, encourage or comfort them. I cannot give them prizes or share celebrations with them. I cannot provide paper or pens. I will be 6 feet away and on the other end of a Google Meet. I will not be able to see their puzzled frowns change to enlightenment. They will be smiling behind their mask or maybe at home. I will continue to miss them. 

I will also miss my niece. She is two months old; a premature baby. She doesn’t have all of her vaccinations yet. Her immunity is low. I will be babysitting high school students while she grows up. When I see her – 10 months from now, after a 2-week quarantine and a COVID test, she will not recognize me. 

I am hoping to have children of my own someday. I am turning thirty-four in October – one year before any potential pregnancy is deemed high-risk. I am on fertility medication that will have to be suspended if/ when I contract the virus. I wonder and worry about the possible long term effects that COVID has on bodily functions. While I am teaching/babysitting, I may be risking the lives of my possible future babies. 

I will miss my husband if and when I contract the virus. He is immunocompromised – a type 1 Diabetic. COVID might be inconvenient, a little flu, for ordinary people like us (K-12 teachers and students) but for him, it could be deadly. 

I need health insurance. I cannot quit a ten-year investment and find work “at McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts” as some people have suggested to teachers who are worried about returning to school buildings to watch over teenagers as their parents work “essential” jobs. 

Therefore, I will report to the school building in a couple of days. I will sit in a classroom (will it be disinfected?) with my colleagues, wearing a mask and foggy glasses under an echoing shield. I will know that our counterparts – ten teachers from a nearby school-  who were supposed to be sitting in a similar configuration are now at home, in quarantine, because they have already been exposed to the virus. I cannot make sense of this situation. This defies logic. The tormented scream lives lodged in my throat. It wakes me up at night.

I was once bright and enthusiastic about teaching. I loved World Languages (my subject) and adolescents (my target audience) so much that I invested thousands of dollars and years (fertile years) of my life to nurturing this career and serving the society and the community that demands my presence in the building while the pandemic rages on. I am deeply disturbed. I am fighting the shrieking scream of logic. I cannot rest.


Ange LaGoj is a high school Italian teacher who majored in English years ago, and wrote for her college newspaper. During a recent bout of spiritual restlessness, she found her way back to writing.

2020 Contributing Creators Contributing Writers Pandemic Photography

Looking Through the Darkness

Photos and Text by Arkadeep Mitra

One look through the window, and it confirms that the world outside is still in a state of quarantine. The roads are deserted and the people out there are few and far between.

Working-from-home has become the new normal. While we continue convalescing from the effects of the deadly virus, unsure of what the future has in store for us, we find ourselves acclimatizing ourselves to this more shut-down lifestyle.

It is this uncertainty that has been central to our emotions and thought processes over the course of the last few months. Amongst the plethora of saddening news and negative developments around us, we have been swiveling inside the cycle of being down and depressed, to something more optimistic and back to being sad. Confined to the rigid walls of our homes, there is not much we can really do. It is during these dark times that I find myself drifting towards films, and books, and quietly hoping for them to take me to some far-off foreign land. A new place, different from the constructs we’re all stuck in.

On rare occasions I turn myself to my camera. Looking through the viewfinder, I somehow hope to catch something new in the rather familiar surroundings around me. The pictures I take in black-and-white are monochromatic like life itself, myself also devoid of colors.

I try to look through the pitch-black darkness outside. Sometimes I succeed in doing that. It gives me a thrill and I feel a little better, albeit for a minuscule moment.

Doing street-photography in these times has become quite challenging and carries a huge amount of risk. 

I try not to get bogged down by the limitations and use my Canon 1200D wherever and whenever I possibly can. I look for hours and hours out of the window, gazing at the ever-changing cloudscape, the setting sun, the bright moon and the occasional airplanes flying in the sky, free.

By switching to my handy zoom-lens, I manage to capture the far-off things easily. In my eyes though, they too are devoid of any real colors. I shoot them in monochrome only to saturate them with excess colors in post-processing. It looks a little unreal, but then isn’t what we’ve been experiencing a little unreal too?

Feelings of loneliness and seclusion have often been central to our feelings during the lockdown period. To make myself less lonely, I try to consume myself, watching an unhealthy number of films and relentlessly obsessing about them. More often than not, it’s all for a lost cause as I again look out aimlessly and long for companionship and intimate conversations. 

Watching and analyzing a huge amount of movies has influenced my photography in a lot of ways. For example, my preferred mode for shooting pictures has become the landscape mode, usually in a very cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio. Also, I keep yearning for more drama in the pictures I click. 

However it very rarely comes out the way I imagine it in my head, which in turn leads to disappointment. 

Throughout my photography, I have refused to conform to a particular style or form. Always experimenting, I am perpetually on the search for a style that I could and would stand by.

But as I keep clicking more and more pictures, I realize that one cannot just choose a style for themselves. In the course of making images, the style chooses them. One does not have to force it. Till that moment though, I shall keep trying different approaches and methods in making pictures. Hopefully, my own distinct style will break out soon. 

Growing up, I had a natural affinity towards good artworks. I’d stare with awe at the paintings and with time, I learned to appreciate them. However, I wasn’t particularly talented with the paintbrush in my hand. Nor was I good at poetry. Not even sculpting.

So, I looked to other mediums to satisfy my artistic desire. That medium turned out to be photography, and the camera became my paintbrush. I caught on to it like a house on fire. Immensely curious, I’d spend hours every day learning about this beautiful device called the digital camera. 

My primary method of shooting photographs involves going out on long photowalks, on the most crowded of streets and shooting amid the utter chaos, in an act of uncomplicated honesty.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to indulge in this during the ongoing lockdown. There was only so much I could do inside the confines of my home.

While photographing things, I don’t really start-off with a lot of frames in my mind. The shooting process comes rather naturally to me. I tend to walk a lot and whenever an interesting object pops up, I take out my camera and frame it.

Technical details don’t matter as much to me as long as there’s a heart and soul to the photo. It’s only during processing later, that I really look at the pictures, analyzing them, and unearthing the hidden meaning behind it. 

I’m self-confessedly not the happiest person out there, and I don’t go out looking to capture pictures with a particular theme either. But as I’ve realized during the course of my two years of photography, there have been certain themes that continue to be present.

These themes, as I’ve analyzed, include feelings of isolation and loneliness in the modern city.

Especially at a time when we are legally prohibited from going out and about for our daily routines, such feelings are sure to overwhelm us. I sometimes wonder what kind of lost universes I would capture if I actually decided to undertake the task of photographing the emptiness of the long and unending network of streets.

Probably nothing at all.


Arkadeep Mitra is a 20 year old photographer from Calcutta. As a very disillusioned engineering student, he often indulges in photography to escape the realities of life. 

Though refusing to conform to any particular genre, you can usually Arkadeep in the streets looking through the unlikeliest of angles trying to frame the unlikeliest of pictures.

You can contact him and view more of his works here:

Note: All the pictures were taken in Singapore (where I was fortunate to visit before the pandemic kicked in) and in my hometown of Calcutta, India before and during the course of global-lockdown. 

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500px – https://500px.com/streetarc