How a family of five experienced confinement in the city
They had left Beijing shortly before the lockdown. Only to find themselves in quarantine in Palma soon again. The family of five spent all day in their apartment before they moved boundaries to the rooftop. And turned it into the headquarter of their architectural practice and the class room for their teenage kids. As well as a playground for their little one and a fitness studio for the whole family. Neither could they go back to China nor visit their relatives in Austria. Like everybody else they were confined to their home. Just that theirs was actually a holiday apartment. Nonetheless they remained confident. With the experience of the coronavirus crisis “we learned to survive everything”, says Karin Hepp.
She and Andreas Thomczyk had moved to Beijing fifteen years ago. The couple founded an architectural office and soon realized award winning projects in China. But Beijing is not only the place where they based their business. Their three children were born there so it became the hometown of the family. To stay in touch with friends and family in Europe Karin and Andreas started looking for a holiday home. And found an apartment in the center of Palma. Mallorca with its abundance of opportunities and the direct connections to their relatives in Austria seemed just perfect. It was – until traveling was not an option anymore. And neither was hiking nor cycling nor any other activity outside your flat.
The first days seemed to be easy. Karin and Andreas were working from home just like their colleagues in Beijing. Being self-employed they are used to it. And the online classes for their kids also worked out very well. Over time however, they felt stranded, with no chance to return. Not only since there were hardly any flights to China. They also would have to pass a two-week-quarantine in a hotel at the airport plus one more week at home. Still, with the extremely strict confinement in Spain time stretched out. So how did the family fight the cabin fever?
“We try to go with the flow instead of setting strict targets”, Andreas recounts. “For us this works as a general strategy for life and it worked out particularly well facing the challenges of Covid-19.” They spent time to improve their Spanish and to play guitar. And they developed new routines as a family. In Bejing it’s only on weekends that they find the time to cook and eat together. So taking care of three meals for five persons every day was another experience. And Karin got the kids and Andreas into yoga. They actually started taking online yoga lessons on the rooftop.
“Of course, we all had our meltdowns,” Karin remembers. “The teenagers more than the rest of us. They are missing their peers. And as parents we just can’t compensate for that. But the experience they made with the well organized online learning system of their schools will probably be the most valuable they made during lockdown. I’m sure they will be able to study at any place in the world, now, no matter where they live.” Just like Andreas and Karin learned that working online from overseas is no problem, “even though it seems like working 24/7”.
Their little son missed his toys so he was overjoyed when the old lady living in the attic brought him a box of toy cars. Meanwhile they know all their neighbors in the street. From the first day of quarantine on at 8 pm sharp every night they all meet on their balconies clapping hands or knocking on pots. Followed by a saxophone-solo of a neighbor across the street, probably a professional musician. The cone shaped yard between the houses reflecting the sound.
Coming home from the first walk after six weeks the other day Andreas recognized what he missed most: „The breeze, wind, smell of salty water, getting chilled, noise, the wide views. I missed feeling tired from walking, animals, beauty and surprises. I missed the unknown. I missed feeling happy and satisfied. There is one thing I would not like to have missed though: the experience we made during the last three months.“