Recently, as coronavirus restrictions began lifting, I met up with my good friend Sofia for a long walk along Sydney’s coastline. The weather had turned, finally, from a perennial summer to something chillier, but the ocean was full of the usual smattering of surfers and brave swimmers.
Except for guards warning people against loitering, it felt almost like we had traveled back to a pre-pandemic past — except that version is a fantasy that no longer exists.
With Australia having controlled the pandemic’s spread, for now, much of the country is putting in place a three-step plan to restore normalcy — allowing restaurants and cafes to reopen for small groups and school to resume at least a few days a week. We are better off than many, escaping much of the devastation that is still ravaging much of the world.
But it means we are confronting the beginning of a new reality: What does normal look like when the virus is still a threat, and when life has already unquestionably changed?
New figures reveal that 600,000 people in Australia lost their jobs in April, with the unemployment rate now above 6 percent. And with friction increasing with China over a call for an inquiry in to the pandemic’s origins, the country is facing a geopolitical shift in which it may suddenly play more leader than follower on the world stage, with all the risks that come with that.
While many people are welcoming the revival of our economy, the life we return to now will still be full of uncertainty. Will a resurgence of the virus happen, as it has in other countries that initially had a handle on the outbreak? Is it even possible to plan for the future? Will we ever be able to cross borders so easily again?
But as I’ve spoken to doctors, cafe owners and friends who have lost their jobs, one thing has struck me deeply: the enduring ingenuity of the human spirit everywhere.
In New York, the 7 p.m. daily tribute to health workers is still going on. In New Zealand, restaurants have banded together to pool staff for delivery services. In Taiwan, baseball games are going forward with cardboard cutout spectators, and one band of Australian soccer fans, dying for entertainment, helped create a surprising following for the Belarusian soccer team.
That walk with my friend Sofia may be one of our last. After weeks of agonizing back and forth, immigration pressures are forcing her to leave Australia, her home of six years, to return to Sweden — and to a different future than the one she had envisioned.
Still, I keep coming back to the moments I’ve been fortunate to share with her and everyone else as we fumbled our way through the lockdown — two friends saying their vows over Zoom as the Internet froze, the taste of the air after a day inside, how green the trees looked the first time we emerged from our homes.
I wonder what we’ll hold onto, and what will fade.
Has your life changed during the pandemic? And what are you looking forward to the most as restrictions lift? Write to us at email@example.com
Now, for the stories of the week.
A Nightmare’: Losing a Home to Australia’s Fires, Then Locked Down by a Virus: A double disaster unlike anything the country has seen before is raising concerns about victims’ mental health and safety.
China Is Defensive. The U.S. Is Absent. Can the Rest of the World Fill the Void? Smaller countries like Australia are trying to build a new kind of alliance, by first investigating what went wrong in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
Big Tech Has Crushed the News Business. That’s About to Change: News organizations have long hoped that tech platforms would pay them for news. Now regulators abroad are moving to make that happen.
An Australian Soap Opera Returns, With Distance (and No Kissing): “Neighbours” is one of the world’s first live-action series to return to the set since the coronavirus outbreak started. Its new safety rules could point a way forward for the struggling entertainment industry.
Man Arrested in Notorious 1980s Killing of Gay American in Australia: The killing of Scott Johnson drew attention to a rash of crimes in past decades in which gay men were targeted by gangs of young people.
How a Band of Australians Made Belarus Soccer an Internet Smash: The group needed a fix when the coronavirus canceled games. When they discovered Belarusian soccer was still livestreaming, they converted thousands of fans worldwide.
Why Are There Almost No Memorials to the Flu of 1918? A restaurant owner in Vermont and a professor from New Zealand are among the few to commemorate the most lethal pandemic since the bubonic plague.
Around The Times
When Manhattan Was Mannahatta: A Stroll Through the Centuries: From lush forest to metropolis, the evolution of Lower Manhattan. Our critic walks with Eric W. Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
How Pandemics End: An infectious outbreak can conclude in more ways than one, historians say. But for whom does it end, and who gets to decide?
From Maternity Ward to Cemetery, a Morning of Murder in Afghanistan: Afghans don’t need a reminder that no one is safe from the country’s endless war, but they got one anyway on Tuesday.
So You Had a Bad Day … Here are some tips to pick yourself back up again, regain some dignity and soldier on after the lousiest of days.
And Over to You …
Last week, we wrote about Vernon Chalker, the man who helped turn bartending into a celebrated profession. Thanks to those of you who wrote in with your own recommendations.
I had traveled to Canada to visit my grandparents in the 1980s as a teen and learned the value of a good martini. This was my introduction to cocktails and I was excited to share my newfound knowledge on graduation night. I was dressed to impress, and thought I would even more so impress my date by ordering a martini at the bar. After a blank stare from the bartender, he returned soon after with a tall glass of Martini Cinzano on ice with no gin, no olives. I proceeded to describe how to make a martini like my grandfather made. The glaring response I got was a tall glass of ice filled with gin.
I am so excited to hear Australia is growing out of its hardened fist of just getting pissed and is appreciating what the cocktail can bring to life.
— Kevin Cushing