A letter from Baraka, Oct.2020 

 

A new September in Baraka has kicked off, some faces new, some old, and despite the uncertainty of a Corona filled world, life and community have sprung up inside the rooms and halls of Haanova 28. Like the years before, we gathered together in September to meet and begin our year-long commitment to attempt to become a blessing (the literal meaning of “Baraka”) to each other, the school, and Bratislava. We all knew that this fall holds many questions about what life will be like together. Will we still be in school in the coming weeks? What would it mean for us if we went into lockdown again? How will it influence volunteering for the school? Will we have good cooks among us?

Fifteen brave souls are still waiting to find out what it means to hold each other up in times such as these. Of the fifteen, five are returning from last year – veterans of life under quarantine – and the additional ten, fresh faces. David and Zuzka lead the way as workers – the live-in orchestrators of the Baraka project, Marek and Randi (me) function as helpers – extra sets of hands for coordination and coaches for several participants, and then the eleven other participants, two fourth-years, eight fifth-years, and one external individual – a recent high school graduate working in Bratislava.

Every morning a line of sleepy people tumble out of bed to meet at 6:45 for breakfast together. We are getting acquainted with one another’s habits; some sleep until 6:44 (or later), and some get up at 5:30 for cold showers and meditation (but we don’t hold that against them). After we have eaten and have had our morning inspiration – these days, from short writings about Bratislava trolley-bus drivers – we break apart. We separate, tending to our respective responsibilities; however, Baraka stays abuzz with activity.

Nearly anytime during the day, you’ll find people chatting in the kitchen, laughing over tea, and inventing daring pasta combinations. Since the school does not have open spaces for people to congregate, Baraka functions as the place where we go during the breaks.

In the afternoons and evenings, you will always find a studious bunch of students working their way through homework (or a Master’s/Doctoral thesis). 

 

We’ve spent the last month making Baraka a home, which means cleaning, painting, gardening, and getting familiar with our surroundings. We are just about to show off the space to our friends and family at the Soiree this coming weekend (COVID permitting).

 

Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have formal evenings together where we share a meal and have a program. Over the last few weeks, we have mainly been ironing out the jobs each of us will have for the year – cleaning duties and caretaking roles. However, we also have had a few very memorable evenings. Pictured here: is the aftermath of a tumble from the balance board (Japanese Queen covers playing in the background). Not shown: an evening watching Obchod na Korze (an Oscar-winning Slovak Film) and an evening about Formula 1 Racing, hosted by Hanka for a talent night.

Amid all the fun, we are keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 situation. So far, we have had three instances of concern (all of which resulted in negative tests – See addendum for new information). During such times of extra precaution, we dine in silence, war masks constantly, and temporarily isolated people join us via zoom. It’s a strange time for us all!

 

Thank you for your support and your prayers. We look forward to keeping you updated on whatever is coming our way this year, and we hope that all is well with you and yours!

Addendum: October 1st, 2020

Here in Baraka, we are learning that our plans and systems are fragile. I (Randi) completed the first draft of this letter on Monday, but before we had time to edit and send it out, we learned one of us (who had been isolated and since moved home to parents) has tested positive. 


We are thankful to have leadership that has planned for a situation like this, but at the moment, we are in a waiting period. Waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for symptoms, waiting to recover. Despite all that, spirits are high, we’ve had some delicious dinners, and we are learning to practice flexibility and patience.


How are we moving to handle this situation? Firstly, the individual that has tested positive had been moved from Baraka to their home to recover (their family had an earlier positive case that originally made us suspicious and which led to their isolation and tests). The rest of us continue social distancing and wearing masks. Since Tuesday (when we learned about the possibility), we even started eating dinner and breakfast together via Zoom. 


When the news broke yesterday, we gathered together to submit the forms needed for our individual tests and think through how to live in uncertainty for the next few days. Already infrastructure for shopping, cooking, and cleaning was in place, but we thought through how to separate those who had more exposure – they will get a brief break from the cooking. Throughout the next few days, we will be receiving appointment times from the state to get tested, our first two will have tests today (Thursday). If any person tests positive, they will be moved to another location – a very nice, empty flat that they will be able to relax and recover in, and where we can tend to them without as much risk of the broader community contracting COVID. 


So for now, we wait in our rooms; attend school, plan lessons, read, play video games (some of the boys set up a projector for their games, so they are having more fun now that they are in quarantine), and look forward to our tests. Keep us in your prayers and thoughts for the next few days! 


All our love,

Baraka