Materialities in quotidian geographies amid COVID-19
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I hope everyone is staying safe amid the constant reminder that we are still in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic. I recently moved to South Korea (hereinafter, Korea) for my PhD studies and for my first story, I would like to share my personal experiences of dealing with COVID-19 in Quezon City, Philippines and my new home here in Chuncheon, Korea.
The pandemic has drastically changed my daily routines, my quotidian geographies or the geographies of daily life. As a cultural geographer, it became of immense interest to me that people were suddenly taking note of basic geographic concepts such as distance, first with the global call to practice "social distancing," now more appropriately termed as "physical distancing." I am also interested in the materialities of COVID19 that we abruptly had to be accustomed to. Prior to the pandemic, face masks were only ever found in densely populated urban areas that have issues with fine dust (like what sometimes happens in Seoul), or in the case of my home in the Philippines, when a volcano erupted in January 2020. Nowadays, the face mask is the ubiquitous material of the pandemic, one that is necessary especially in public areas. Aside from the face mask, another material that has become an extension of myself is the hand sanitizer. I started the habit of bringing sanitizer when I was still in the Philippines, since hand sanitizers in public spaces such as restaurants are not always available. Here in Korea, hand sanitizers seem to be as ubiquitous as individually-worn face masks. Every establishment has a station that contains sanitizers for use on hands or things. But even so, I still could not unlearn my practice of bringing my own bottle for sanitation. Another key difference between the two places is that the Chuncheon administration regularly updates its citizens about updated COVID19 data. I believe that communicating this is of immense importance because it can help individuals in adopting appropriate behavior to keep themselves safe and healthy.
As someone who has just moved to Korea (It is only the start of my third week here!), I cannot help but compare the experiences that I had in both places.
I am excited to share more about my experiences as a graduate student in Korea and I hope to see all of you around campus! Keep safe!
P.S. I am attaching an old photo taken from 2020 when the Philippines still required all citizens in public spaces to wear face shields. I think it is an interesting visual for us to reflect upon our varied experiences during this pandemic.
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