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Browse the Archive

Browse the Archive

How to use it:

Each pin on the map is somebody’s story. Every pin has a color; the color stands for a language: English, Chinese(简体中文), Spanish, Portuguese, Korean (한국어), Dutch, Tagalog, French, Hebrew (with more to come!).

Pins with numbers are clustered pins: zoom in on the map to view them individually.

You can sort the archive by clicking on categories or tags. Categories appear above the title of every post: they allow you to arrange stories by country and language. Tags appear right at the bottom of each story, and are used to mark content.

As the archive grows, our team is committed to improving our website so as to allow for a more customizable reading and sorting experience.

Categories
English United States

P.P., 64, a musician and professor from Half Moon Bay, CA

“On the negative side, many planned concerts have had to be cancelled, which has been disappointing to me and many others. With fitness centers and gymnasiums closed, it has been more difficult to work out and try to stay in shape. […] On the positive side, the lock-down has given me more time to practice piano than I’ve had in decades! It’s been a joy to revisit pieces that I haven’t played in years, and to learn new ones, too. […] I have planted a small garden, something I haven’t done since childhood, and am using this unexpected time as a golden opportunity to clear out clutter…”

As a performing musician, the lockdown that began in northern California in early March has had a dramatic impact on my life and professional activity. I conducted a concert on March 1 with a chamber orchestra at Stanford, where I hold the position of director of orchestral studies, but the concerts scheduled for March 6 and 7 with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Stanford Symphonic Chorus, and a quartet of professional vocal soloists were cancelled on March 3, the morning after our first dress rehearsal. Because of the months of preparation that went into preparing those concerts, and the large number of performers involved (ca. 250), that cancellation was very disappointing. However, everyone involved in the decision to cancel all Stanford Music Department performances as of March 3 was in complete agreement that it was the right decision, and I am grateful that we did cancel those performances and thereby reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus, which almost certainly would have spread among the performers and members of the audience.

Once the decision was made to proceed only with online instruction during spring quarter, I was faced with the question of what to do. With only a few days available to determine how to proceed, I sounded out the students about a plan to examine the orchestral repertoire through videos, recordings, and readings supplemented by weekly discussions with prominent members of the musical world. We combined both orchestras into this one online course, called “SSO Online” (orchestra.stanford.edu), and chose a 5pm meeting time since that would work best for participants in California, on the East Coast (and in between), and in Asia. All sessions would be recorded, so that students could view the sessions at their convenience and take the course even if they had another class scheduled at the same time, or would ordinarily be asleep (in Europe, for example) when the class took place.

My aim was twofold: 1) to create a meaningful educational experience for the students who would otherwise play in the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Stanford Philharmonia, and 2) to preserve the sense of community among Stanford’s orchestral musicians during this difficult time. Although it took much effort to pull “SSO Online” together, it was worth it! We wound up with 15 special guests, representing many different kinds of positions in the musical world: orchestral musicians (NY Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra), conductors (Cleveland Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra), classical music critics (San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post), educators (The Juilliard School, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Brown University), composers (including two Pulitzer Prize winners), authors, and the leaders of the Sphinx Organization – the leading program for Black and Latinx classical musicians. I opened up the course to newly accepted students who will enter Stanford this fall, and to community members, and was gratified that enrollment grew throughout the quarter, from about 40 participants at the start to about 100 for our final session with composer John Adams.

Since instruction in conducting involves live interaction between conductors and musicians, the Music Department decided to postpone elementary and intermediate conducting courses until they could take place in person. However, since more advanced students could use the time productively to study scores and work on improving their musicianship skills, I did teach conducting privately over Zoom. In this way, advanced students were able to work on their keyboard and sight-reading skills, and read books on repertoire they were studying, using the time during the lockdown to keep developing their abilities.

On a personal level, there have been negative and positive aspects of the lockdown. On the negative side, many planned concerts have had to be cancelled, which has been disappointing to me and many others. With fitness centers and gymnasiums closed, it has been more difficult to work out and try to stay in shape; instead of swimming and lifting weights, I’ve done more walking and biking, and also used workout videos for the first time. I’ve also missed seeing my students and faculty colleagues in person, as well as family and friends.

On the positive side, the lock-down has given me more time to practice piano than I’ve had in decades! It’s been a joy to revisit pieces that I haven’t played in years, and to learn new ones, too. There has also been more time to read, catch up with the backlog of email, and stay connected with family and friends through Zoom and FaceTime. I have planted a small garden, something I haven’t done since childhood, and am using this unexpected time as a golden opportunity to clear out clutter. I am fortunate not to have suffered emotionally or physically as a result of the lock-down, and am enjoying the reduction of stress and increased ability to regularly get a full night’s sleep that has resulted from the situation.

I also feel very fortunate to live in comfortable surroundings and not to have been severely impacted financially by the pandemic. My wife and I have adapted fairly well to teaching over Zoom, and can continue to do so for the time being. The situation is manageable for now, but by the time fall arrives, I hope that life will be able to return to normal, or at least closer to normal than it’s been since March.

[submitted on 6/15/2020]

Categories
English United States

Y.H., 45, a teacher from Gallup, NM

“…With the lockdown, I had the time to notice that the Navajo Willow tree in my front yard was sick. Had I not been stuck at home under this pandemic, I would not have noticed the smell—foul vegetable and yeast— from the tree. […] If not for the lockdown, I would never have had the time to observe the arrival of Spring…”

After three months without a haircut, my husband had a bright idea: cutting his hair, himself. It turned out that the person who actually had to do it was me. We took a kitchen chair into the bathroom and laid out newspapers on the floor. He got his yellow Remington trimmer. He told me how to trim his hair: hold the trimmer and just pull it back, just like a comb. First time, fine. He changed the spacer to the next smaller one, and I cut again. Fine. He changed the spacer the third time. Oh shit! I was kneeling down, adjusting the newspaper on the floor, and he said “Look, just like a comb.” Then I looked up and saw a bald strip. We essentially had to shave his head at the point. Had he not switched to the third spacer, everything would have been fine. Actually, it turned out okay. He does not look bad. He is a guy—it doesn’t matter. He was balding anyway. He said “We all need to do this once in our life time”.

With all this time staying home under quarantine, I learned to cherish what I own, my house as a shelter to protect myself and my family, and had the time to really observe and appreciate the town I live in and the landscape around me. Before this all came down, we always travelled whenever we got a break. With the lockdown, I had the time to notice that the Navajo Willow tree in my front yard was sick. Had I not been stuck at home under this pandemic, I would not have noticed the smell—foul vegetable and yeast— from the tree. I found holes in one of the branches we pruned last summer. I saw white sap coming out of the branch and a little bit from the trunk. I looked up Navajo Willow to discover it was sick with a disease called Alcoholic flux or slime flux. I then joined two disease-related tree/plant groups on Facebook in the hope of getting advice from people who know tree/plant diseases and how to take care of them. I observed my tree and then saw a long brown beetle once on the sick branch. I looked up willow tree on Google and was shocked to see the images of how beetle larvae devoured tree trunks and roots. Shocked by the images, I did not sleep well that night. I also finally ordered three pine trees that I wanted for the last few years and planted them with my hubby in my yard. Now, it’s the second wave, and I’ve learned to water and take care of them.

If not for the lockdown, I would never have had the time to observe the arrival of Spring: my Crabapple and Asian Pear trees bloomed this spring; the fuchsia and white flower petals fell on the ground and the green leaves came out. And then, the arrival of summer.

[submitted on 6/14/2020]

Categories
Brazil Português

S.S., 54, a recruiter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Corona virus tem sido um agente de muitas mudanças positivas na minha vida e agradeço a ele por isso. Hoje me importo muito mais com as pessoas ao meu redor e busco oportunidades de ajudá-las…”

Corona virus tem sido um agente de muitas mudanças positivas na minha vida e agradeço a ele por isso. Hoje me importo muito mais com as pessoas ao meu redor e busco oportunidades de ajudá-las. Estudo kabbalah ha 5 anos e usamos o termo ‘compartilhar’. Desde que o virus chegou, tenho compartilhado muito mais.

Desde 2007 trabalho em home office. E nao sou uma pessoa de sair muito. Entao a quarentena não tem sido um sofrimento. Me tornei menos consumista e descobri que isso é muito bom! Sempre atuei na causa animal e durante a quarentena observei com alegria muitas historias de adoções. Escolhi doar mais tempo para ajudar ONGs a encontrarem novos lares para os peludos. Fiquei com medo de engordar! Entao comecei a fazer jejum de 16 horas e, pra minha alegria, estou emagrecendo!

Minha mae e minha tia são idosas. Tenho ajudado muito a elas, fazendo as compras e pagamentos. No início fiquei tensa, porque era muita coisa pra fazer. Mas com o tempo tudo se ajustou e agora virou normalidade. Eu pensei que fosse aproveitar a quarentena para arrunar meus armários e fazer um detox na minha casa, doando muitos itens que não uso mais. Isso não se tornou realidade, assim como não li todos os livros que eu pretendia. Me dei varias broncas por isso, me coloquei de castigo, até me dar conta de que se não dá pra fazer tudo, vou fazer o que dá. E ficar feliz. Entao um dia arrumo uma gaveta, outro dia separo itens para doação, leio um pouco…. isso é novo pra mim e também agradeço ao virus por essa mudança. Interna.

Infelizmente o presidente do meu país ê despreparado para enfrentar essa pandemia e está tornando tudo muito mais difícil para o pais. Tem sido muito triste acompanhar as noticias de tantas pessoas morrendo. Meu receio é que após essa pandemia as pessoas voltem a ser como eram antes, que o mundo volte ao nivel de poluição e a desigualdade social aumente. Gostaria que a humanidade aproveitasse esse momento para expandir a consciência, tornando o mundo um lugar de paz, respeito e amor.

[submitted on 6/12/2020]

Categories
English United States

S.S., 46, a photographer from Jackson, MS

“I looked at my credit card in hesitation. All the information from the news ran through my mind. How long can coronavirus stay on plastic?I hurried and passed her the card that she grabbed with a glove, swiped then gave back to me along with the glove. Now, I must have her germs instead, I thought…”

Covid-chicken!

I woke up mid-morning with a hunger that preparing a meal couldn’t handle. I decided to go to the local chicken joint, a block down the street. I grabbed my credit card, and i.d then slipped it into my back pocket. After grabbing a mask, I headed out the door.

Scorching sun, burnt down on me. Sweat drenched my body before I made it up the streets. I thought to myself, “Was this really worth it?” I kept on my way, knowing hunger would be worse if I turned around.

I finally made it to the restaurant. The seats had caution tape on them, like it was some crime scene from the night before. I began to heavily breathe in and out. I continued to proceed toward the door only to stop and read the sign that said, “Only 10 people allowed in the lobby at a time.” I peeped in the window and looked around as much as I could. I saw no one.

I walked in, I ordered with my head held proud. When the cashier gave me the amount to pay, I looked at my credit card in hesitation. All the information from the news ran through my mind. How long can coronavirus stay on plastic?

I hurried and passed her the card that she grabbed with a glove, swiped then gave back to me along with the glove. Now, I must have her germs instead, I thought. I grabbed the glove and empty cup then walked to the soda machine.

I looked around the buttons and wondered how many hands had touched the buttons. This up to date machine doesn’t matter, because its touch screen and everyone has touched it.

I finally selected my soda, filled it up and walked away, only to get my order and walk out when the next customer was walking in.

[submitted on 6/9/2020]

Categories
English United States

C.P., 70, a Franciscan hospice volunteer from University Place, WA

I live with Mom, Dad, Sissy and Bubba // on a street full of families and their pets. // Our pet is me, a boxer. I answer to Bob. // I don’t know why or what happened, but // everybody stayed home one day, all day //and every day since. I am one lucky dog!

After over two months of quarantine, I visited my work-from-home daughter, her husband and family pet. I was inspired to write this poem.

In Praise of Stay-At-Home

Our days used to begin in a frantic rush
led by Mom herding everyone to wake up,
wash up, eat up and hurry up out the door.

Everyone except me, I never got to go.
My days were spent alone in the house
waiting for everyone to come back home.

I’d make my rounds, look under beds,
check the bathrooms and kitchen then
nap on the couch for the rest of my day.

I live with Mom, Dad, Sissy and Bubba
on a street full of families and their pets.
Our pet is me, a boxer. I answer to Bob.

I don’t know why or what happened, but
everybody stayed home one day, all day
and every day since. I am one lucky dog!

I get more walks, more bow wows with my
buddies and their masked masters, though
not close enough for our usual social sniff.

More snacks, more playing, more petting,
more snuggling, best is not being alone,
but I do miss my long naps on the couch.

[submitted on 6/9/2020]

Categories
English United States

M.M., 36, a writer from Monroe, WA

I asked one guard in the dining-hall why he refused to wear his mask, in light of the death which he could be unknowingly introducing into my community, and he smiled as he responded:”Man, I’m just trying to spread the love.”And I was thinking: Oh yeah, they don’t view us as human. Why would they care if they kill us?

Some of the guards are angry. Some are pouting. A small handful, however, are being good sports about having been ordered by their superiors to cover their faces while at work.

I’m thinking: It’s a shame it took a riot to make this happen.

The Monroe Correctional Complex (“MCC”) is one of the oldest prisons in Washington State, and the structure does nothing to conceal its age. A tour within the confines of its fifty-foot concrete wall and you feel like you’ve been teleported back through time, and ejected into the courts of a medieval castle. Aesthetically, it’s a monument to everything that might scare you about prison, but those of us who live here know it as a safe haven, and a hub of positive programming and educational opportunities. The vast majority of MCC’s incarcerated population were sent here for protective custody, after being targeted by gangs in other facilities, and for this reason, serious violence is a rare occurrence.

Still, on April 8th 2020, I sat in my cell, listening to the cages rattle, as my neighbors screamed, pounded, and shook the bars. I watched, on my television, from an aerial view of the yard, a crowd of residents kneeling around the baseball diamond with their hands zip-tied behind their backs after a group demonstration turned aggressive. And though I, myself, didn’t participate, I can’t remember many times in my life that I’ve been more grateful than I was toward those who did, because like them, I don’t want to die.

The Washington State Department of Corrections’ website claims that they’ve taken precautions to halt the spread of Covid-19 in all their facilities. Though I don’t have access to the internet, I know this because MCC has been on the news every day for over a week. Here, those steps have involved suspending visitation and all programing (educational, religious, or otherwise), closing down parts of the facility, and limiting the number of individuals allowed in others. For the past month, these steps have confined the majority of us to our living units, which least enable social distancing.

And all the while, a lot of us have been thinking:

The guards are the only possible vessels in which Coronavirus could hitch a ride into our home. So why are they standing elbow to elbow, laughing, and whispering in each other’s ears? And why in the hell aren’t they wearing facemasks?

The media is calling prisons, petri dishes. They’re being compared to the cruise ships we all saw sailing off the coast of Florida with hundreds of infected and several dead on board because the close quarters provided an environment in which it was impossible for Coronavirus not to spread like fire on acetone. A couple weeks ago, the incarcerated community in MCC received a memo, informing us that DOC staff were issued masks with the option of wearing them. Most opted not to wear them, so naturally, people got sick. Some of us wrote grievances, receiving only vague and evasive responses. I asked one guard in the dining-hall why he refused to wear his mask, in light of the death which he could be unknowingly introducing into my community, and he smiled as he responded:

“Man, I’m just trying to spread the love.”

And I was thinking: Oh yeah, they don’t view us as human. Why would they care if they kill us?

It doesn’t seem to matter that MCC is unique amongst prisons, in that a high percentage of its residents have turned their backs on self-destructive lifestyles, choosing instead, to invest their time and energies into education and other modes of rehabilitation. The mentality seems to be:

Fuck ’em. If they die, they die.

So as time passed, people continued to get sick, and on the evening of April 8th nonlethal weapons were deployed in the yard because a crowd of residents decided the long stretch in segregation that they’ll now be sentenced to, is favorable over being murdered by Washington State Department of Corrections staff. Every one of them was housed in the Minimum Security Unit, and set to be released in under four years. With the loss of good-conduct-time, which results in participating in a group demonstration, every one of their release dates will now be postponed. But the incident received national attention, and the guards in MCC were ordered to wear facemasks.

So now I’m thinking: Why are some guards still not wearing them?

Last night, when somebody asked one who was working in my unit that very question, I stood at my bars and listened closely as he replied:

“I’m hoping one of you writes a grievance on me so I’ll get suspended and get some time off work.”

And I was wondering: Why should I have to write a grievance? Shouldn’t he be fired on the spot for not complying with an order intended to keep him from killing me?

And: If it took a riot the first time, what’s it going to take now?

But mostly, I’m thinking:

I wish I could thank the heroes who took a stand on April 8th in an attempt to save my life.

[submitted on 6/9/2020]

Categories
English Switzerland

E.B., 45, a writer from Geneva, Switzerland

Medusa-like will we turn others into stone // In our self-isolation seeking our own blight? // Or in the tide of ripened self-reflection // Will we find our place beyond inequity?

The Fox

In the bus, people spoke about Covid-19.
Like swarms of sardines swirling round
And round the black-blue shadow
Of the sea to reach the light, I imagined
Distant queues self-distancing in shopping
Malls before gaining the daylight outside.
In the bus, adolescents talked about
Masquerades, giggled, and laughed.
Then, unexpectedly, we heard the screeching
Brakes as the bus halted in the middle
Of a natural reserve. Through the large
Windows we saw a majestic red fox
With a fur of amber gold crossing the strait
Road in the wan winter light, its torso
And long bushy tail all tainted in off white;
Its pointed ears and taut snout were alert.
Animals that keep a sylvan vigil in the forest
Move, hide, and hunt, sometimes uncloak
Themselves warily. Separated by a verge
From the bland gray asphalt road it traversed,
The guileful and shrewd eyes of the fox shone
Like children’s agate marbles vying to target
Other marbles. Amazed at its beauty
I scrutinized the fox’s heedful steps
As it entered the dark green fir forest
Heaved before us as an alpine totem.


 Self-shielded

Like Perseus shielded by Medusa’s
Reflection we may be shielded
By our own selves as we self-confine.

Our faces may become the mirror-shields
Of our narcissistic desires and greed.
Our imagination may overflow with protean

Fantasies that can turn against us the way
Perseus killed the Medusa with her reflection
On his silver shield. Rendered vulnerable
By the crisis, the severed head he held is ours.

Medusa-like will we turn others into stone
In our self-isolation seeking our own blight?
Or in the tide of ripened self-reflection
Will we find our place beyond inequity?



The Bell

Like tattered flags blown by a tempest
Our link to the animal kingdom is severed
By a greed-knife sharper than the sheath
Meant to contain it. The virus that came

Through bats imprisoned in iron cages
Imprisons us, in turn. Corralled as if by water
We have become as distant archipelagos
Ignoring that each choking breath vanquishes us.

Despite Donne’s warning that no man
Is an island but part of the continent
We became as islands strayed on the main

Unheeding the bell that would kill the bat
Would kill us, too, unheeding of our reciprocal
Breaths, unheeding that the bell tolls for us all. 

Tatters

Through the tatters of our greed
the virus clung to our lungs, congested

our breath. Through our animal longings
through bats, rabbits, and pangolins

sold in hermetic blood-markets for food
and drugs, the virus clogged our vital

exchange with the world. Like the first
humans, we are barren, our frayed

clothes quarantined with disrespect.

[submitted on 6/9/2020]

Categories
English United States

E.C. 70, a Shin Buddhist minister from Irvine, CA

“This has been a time of deep self reflection and […] has made the Buddhist teaching of impermanence immediate and ever present. The dharma has allowed me to be open to what is the evolving and ever fluid circumstance. The recent protests over the George Floyd murder are just another aspect of this truth…”

The global pandemic has had a profound impact on all of our lives since it came crashing into consciousness with the shutdown of businesses, schools, houses of worship and all but the most essential services, and the heartbreaking loss of lives worldwide. I watched with daily horror the unfolding progress of a virus gone rampant. It became the most important focus for our lives, and for me personally, it has required a whole new way of looking at every aspect of my daily existence. Nothing will be the same going forward and we are all struggling with the adjustments.

I am fortunate that my family and I have resources and we are not under the stress of economic hardship or uncertainty. I count us very, very lucky indeed. My heart goes out to those who don’t have that security. We are also fortunate to have a strong support community of family and friends and we will probably not feel the brunt of the tremendous changes the pandemic will bring. Which is not to say we are immune to its impact. I have concerns for the health of my family and friends, especially my 98 year old mother, my 101 year old aunt and many elderly members of our temple. None of us will be spared from the life-altering impacts going forward.

This has been a time of deep self reflection and has brought my Shin Buddhist teachings to the forefront of my thoughts as a way to frame and understand what is happening. It has made the Buddhist teaching of impermanence immediate and ever present. The dharma has allowed me to be open to what is the evolving and ever fluid circumstance. The recent protests over the George Floyd murder are just another aspect of this truth. The teachings have also allowed me to view the tremendous pain and anger I see with compassion, understanding and sadness. And I recognize that it is easier for me to do since I am not personally the target of the rage that is erupting globally.

There is so much that needs fixing everywhere that it feels overwhelming at times. Rather than succumb to the feelings of helplessness and frustration I am choosing to try and bring peace and compassion where I can, with the immediate people and situations I have access to. I try to emulate Thich Nhat Hanh’s words, “to be the peace you want to see in the world.” And that begins right here, right now, in this moment. I will do everything I can to respond to what may come with a heart filled with compassion, grace and equanimity. It will be a continuing work in progress for the rest of my life and I have no illusions that I will succeed. As long as I am not attached to any outcomes, I am committed to doing what I can.

[submitted on 6/3/2020]

Categories
English United States

J.E., 20, a musician from Evergreen, CO

“The things I had written about – campus life, relationships – all felt part of a world that didn’t exist anymore. This new world of strange memes, my Mother’s purchase of Zoom stock, and the misery in the country was a lot to digest. I’m sure in a few months I’ll write about the absurdity of all of it.”

As a songwriter, this was supposed to be a dream. Free from all the distractions and noise of campus, I could finally sit down and polish the songs I had been working on for so long. I could spend hours in a room by myself trying to reach that “flow state” I so loved. A state I wasn’t able to get into with roommates, deadlines, and lack of sleep.

Like the economists predict a baby boom in nine months, I suspect we’ll have all kinds of new albums to savor. When quarantine began, I left campus to my Uncle’s house in the mountains of Colorado for I couldn’t return to my parents who lived abroad. Part of me romanticized this idea – I would be like Bon Iver escaping to his father’s cabin in Wisconsin for a few months, or composer Sergei Prokofiev walking through the Russian countryside writing his ‘Classical Symphony’ without a piano.

But between Zoom fatigue and pundits spewing nonsense, my creativity often felt stale. The things I had written about – campus life, relationships – all felt part of a world that didn’t exist anymore. This new world of strange memes, my Mother’s purchase of Zoom stock, and the misery in the country was a lot to digest. I’m sure in a few months I’ll write about the absurdity of all of it.

I eventually decided I better finish what I started though and began to spend countless hours in my Uncle’s basement writing and recording my songs. I’ll have an EP out soon with some kind of digital live concert element, I still need to figure that out. It’s sad, whenever I put music out in the past, I’d throw a release show and celebrate the music with friends.

Despite this, I feel incredibly lucky to be a songwriter right now. There’s enough musical rabbit holes to get lost in on Youtube and I think I can create songs with this kind of space and time for as long as the pandemic goes.

[submitted on 6/1/2020]

Categories
English United States

S.Y., 19, a student from Fairfax, VA

“I have donated to a couple charities, but that didn’t even feel real – I have been so isolated in my house that I don’t really know what’s going on in the outside world now. It’s sad that so many people have died, their lives turning into a number on the death count. What’s even more sad is that I don’t even feel anything anymore. I just want this to be over…”

It is currently May 31, 2020, and I have not gone out for more than two months. The only times I leave my house is when I go out for a run in my neighborhood. My family is quite fortunate to be able to work and learn from home, because I know many essential workers and healthcare workers can’t. I’m very grateful for those serving on the frontlines. Without their work, the rest of us would not be able to stay safely inside our homes.

I followed coronavirus news quite closely in March and April, but I’m really tired of seeing any coronavirus related news now. Reading about coronavirus just makes me sad and powerless because I cannot do anything to stop this pandemic other than staying at home. I have donated to a couple charities, but that didn’t even feel real – I have been so isolated in my house that I don’t really know what’s going on in the outside world now. It’s sad that so many people have died, their lives turning into a number on the death count. What’s even more sad is that I don’t even feel anything anymore. I just want this to be over.

[submitted on 5/31/2020]