How I experience the global crisis in Amsterdam

We went for a walk during lunchtime. The mornings are spent clicking through Twitter lists, checking the Guardian live blog obsessively and worrying. About the incoming tsunami of maladies and deaths. About the people caught in the health, economic, social and personal crisis. Working, focusing and then going back to the Twitter lists, the onslaught of bad news. Unthinkable scenarios have become a daily reality.

I live close to Amsterdam Centraal, the main train station. We hear the trains coming and going. Tourists arriving with their wheeled carry-ons, excited about this beautiful jewel, ready for their first Heineken and joint. It is quiet now. Some trains are coming and going. But no more tourists. It’s just us. The people of the Netherlands. All countries are fighting this enemy on their own. Not sure if the Eurozone will survive this. It’s easy to have no borders when things are good. It’s hard to have no borders when you are afraid that neighboring countries might overwhelm your hospital system.

Worse, it’s the quiet before the big storm. It’s coming. It is going to be bad, just how bad nobody knows. The estimates and numbers are mind-numbing. Unfathomable. It seems clear that it will either be bad or really bad. And that’s just for Europe. The US is dealing with complete darkness. It’s night, there will be a storm and no lights yet to understand the severity. And Africa. Refugee camps.

We went for a walk. Spring signs everywhere. The dogs were happy. A lot of people in the park, playing football. Cherry blossoms. Magnolias. We walk by each other, smile softly and try to avoid any close contact. We are in this together but we are also so alone. We know how bad this is but we don’t want to share our real feelings. No need to add to the depression of other people.

I chatted with my daughter, the dogs were sniffing areas they like to sniff. It felt good to be out. Some form of normalcy. But most of us have a heavy heart. We don’t know where this is heading and we are afraid. March 2020 wasn’t supposed to be that way. It should have been about cherry blossoms, sitting on terraces, experiencing the streets of Amsterdam coming to life. Now it’s all about uncertainty.

We walked back through the busy tourist area, now a cemetery of closed restaurants and bars. I hope governments around the world will help all these small businesses. They were profitable until last week, contributed to the economy and everybody’s lives. Covid-19 wasn’t their fault. The financial crisis resulted in the rise of populism because the corporations were bailed out and individuals left to fend for themselves. That’s when the trust in institutions took a major dive. If politicians treat this crisis the same way, I’m deeply afraid of the next wave of populism.

Tonight at 8pm, the whole nation will go on their porch and clap for all the people that keep the healthcare industry and this country afloat. There are signs of humanity and community sprouting everywhere. Who knows, it might be the sign of beautiful times to come. After the storm.