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New to the area as COVID-19 hits

A tight Indian hug and namaste to all my readers. This is how I want to greet because I am bored of saying “Hello” for too long. My name is Shivani Sharma (I never use my last name to emphasize on my individuality, but I want to share my last name in this instance). I am a 25-year-old single working woman, born in India and living in Adirondacks! Isn’t that a miracle? What were the odds of a girl born and raised in the tropical weathers of Delhi, third largest metropolis globally, moving to the frigid subzero temperatures of Adirondacks?

I was 18 years old when I came to the States all by myself with two luggages full of clothes, Indian food (of course), memories and big dreams. I have changed a lot since then in my outlook, perception about people culturally, eating habits, etc. Life got so busy that I never could sit by myself and think about all the transitions and experiences. But then, Adirondack happens, and I have all the time on this planet to think and maybe overthink and look in retrospect.

Honestly, I had my own reservations moving to this place for feeling isolated and not having anyone to talk to, but the first week of my moving here, I met this amazing woman who offers to show me around and take me on hikes. It was amazing to know how people in a small village with very little diversity have a much wider perception about other people and cultures.

In the midst of exploring the wilderness, snow sports and things to do around here, the pandemic happens. I should say it breaks my heart a little when my mom calls me every day, panicky and anxious, wanting to know if I am OK. I wonder how helpless it might feel for a parent who is 8,500 miles away from their kid and under travel ban. These are the times I never anticipated, out of everything I prepared for when leaving my parents behind in India and moving here.

I should say the international community is always worried about something in this country, but this situation is unique in the kind of stress it brings with it. The great uncertainty for people who graduate this semester trying to find a job, who might need to return forever if they don’t, ending their American dream. People worrying about their families in India, which might have contained the virus but not the people who are trying to spread it on purpose. (Being a country of 1.4 billion people, it’s a challenge to contain anything). People needing visa renewals amid the crisis with travel bans in place, that might make them illegal in this country if not renewed before deadlines. The majority of the international student population never even bothers to open their insurance cards, let alone knowing the PCP to contact in need. The expenses associated with health care are far more intimidating than dying of a real sickness if they catch one.

Irrespective, the fact of the situation is, none of the issues I mentioned are greater than people dying of the virus worldwide. A community effort at the level of cities and states, nationwide and globally, is imperative. I pray for the well-being of this globe, but I worry the most about my home country (India) and my raise-country (America) because I can’t see it perish, life cut short for all the beautiful souls who deserved to live their great lives. As a fact, I know that this shall pass, and the flowers will bloom to mark the summer, and so will our lives!

Shivani Sharma lives in Lake Placid.

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