Days of Zoom: Quarantine in Spanish

Anna smiles at all her students through her webcam as if it would be the single greatest event that no one showed up at her classroom in Otakaari 1 this week. Our Spanish teacher seems as surprised as we are that almost the entire class is absent but yet digitally united on one screen.

Empty University. ©Hsiao-Pei Liao

I didn’t expect anyone to show up to this premier of the zoom class Basic Spanish for Professional Needs 1. Curiosity was my main reason to sign in to this remote lecture, although I was doubting the efficiency of online learning. But then fifteen other students started to tune in and a wave of “HOLA QUÉ TAL” roared through my headphones. After a clumsy beginning of rearranging webcams and crackling microphones the course quickly turned into one of the funniest sessions we had in this period and it ended with a class of Finnish and international students dancing in front of their computers to a Gente De Zona  song. We had to raise our hands every time a Latin American country or region was mentioned. It was quite an exercise since the lyrics went something like this for about four minutes: “Uruguay con Paraguay, hermano con Costa Rica – Bolivia viene llegando, Brasil ya esta en camino”

Exercise at the end of a Spanish Class.

For me the first week of remote learning was basically like being on a new playground and testing out all the funky features this space has to offer while also struggling with the most basic things. Zoom (“Your microphone is on mute – we can’t hear you”), Google Hangouts (“I can see you but I don’t hear you, is it working now? Hello, HELLO, HEEELLLOOOOO???”), Microsoft Teams (“this is cool, so practical, how does anything work here?”) and then back to Zoom again (“Wait, how do I change my background?”).

In the second week however the online classrooms became already less exciting and after the third online lecture in one day I usually feel completely drained as if my computer is taking its energy directly from me. On those long Zoom days, I’ve started cooking during lectures. I began the last Photo Theory class at 10.00 with boiling potatoes and lentils, fried some onions on the side and added extra garlic (glad Zoom doesn’t have a smelling feature yet) while hearing about the Family of Man exhibition from 1955 at MoMA. I missed bits of the second part of the lecture about the Post-Internet era as my blender was running on full steam. But by the end of it I was again fully present, switched my camera back on and sat dutifully in front of my laptop together with a steaming pot of a creamy lentil soup.

Remote learning can be a lot of fun, I mean where else would you have the freedom to cook during a lecture, or get up at 9:14 for a class at 9:15, or watch a fellow student feed their horses while listening to a presentation. But we all experience this pandemic differently and the isolation is taking its toll one way or the other. However the shared feeling of isolation and collective awkwardness of the situation also creates a sense of community. And if you start the Spanish Class in the morning by counting all the daydreamers wearing washed out pajamas and yawning from inside their tiny squares assembled on your screen, you realize you’re definitely not alone in this.

Dominik Fleischmann
MA Program Photography

Course:  LC-2001 Basic Spanish for Professional Needs 1

Song: La Gozadera by Gente de Zona -

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