The view from my window

A glimpse into the lives of MCC workers around the world during the pandemic

A city landscape with mountains in the distance

Do you ever catch yourself staring off into the distance, maybe looking out the window and getting lost in the wind rustling through the trees for a moment or two? Though the pandemic has disrupted just about every aspect of our daily life, looking out the window can be grounding and can offer some peace.

We reached out to MCC workers around the world to catch a glimpse of the views from their windows. We've asked them to describe how their lives have been impacted by the pandemic and to show us the views they see every day.* So take a virtual trip and jump into a new reality with us. We hope this change of scenery will give you a chance to pause and remember our MCC friends around the world.

*All submissions were collected in early February 2021. COVID-19 restrictions are reflected around that point in time.

Olivia Osley—Beirut, Lebanon

During each morning of Lebanon’s current 25-day, 24-hour COVID-19 lockdown, I look out this window as I drink my coffee and work from my desk, providing coordination for all of MCC’s internally-funded projects in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. From my window, I can see downtown Beirut in the distance, some of my neighbors enjoying their balconies and an abandoned building that was damaged during the Lebanese Civil War. Due to the lockdown, there is less traffic and it is quieter outside, making it easier to hear the call to prayer every day from the blue-domed Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque and on Sundays, the bells from a nearby church.

Lebanon and COVID-19: Currently (as of February 4, 2021), Lebanon is having a 24-hour lockdown, which began on January 14 and will continue until February 8 (after which they will roll out a multi-phase gradual reopening of the country throughout February and March). Most of the private sector and public institutions are closed, with some exceptions for entities that provide security, public safety and health. Pharmacies remain open, but grocery stores are open for delivery only. There is a form you must submit online to request permission any time you need to leave your house. The airport remains open, operating at limited capacity.

Olivia Osley works as the program coordinator for Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Andrea Unzicker—Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos)

Each morning in Laos, the Buddhist monks from the neighborhood temple travel from house to house to receive their daily food from adherents. It is called sai bat or morning alms-giving. We go on a morning walk each day around 6:30 a.m., so we pass various groups of monks from the temple near our house. We get to say hello to many neighbors along the way who are sitting outside waiting for the monks to pass.

Laos and COVID-19: When Laos first became aware of COVID-19 in March 2020, it went under immediate lockdown, strictly enforced by roadblocks. Only two people per family group could be designated to get food for the family, otherwise, we could not leave our house. The land borders and commercial air travel have been closed since then. For these and other reasons, Laos has not had more than 45 cases of COVID-19 in the last year, and no one has died.

As of now, with few active cases in the country, there are only some preventative restrictions, like no large public events and weddings. Funerals and parties must be kept small. It seems unlikely that Laos and its neighbors will allow people in and out of the country until the high community spread in other countries is under control.

Andrea Unzicker is the MCC representative for Laos.

Amanda Talstra—Lusaka, Zambia

This is the view from our front porch, in the early evening. The view out of our window is very green since we are in the rainy season now. Most MCC staff in Zambia are working from home and meeting with partners and the team remotely. We feel fortunate that our house is also the MCC office, so we are able to socially distance easily.

Zambia and COVID-19: When the first COVID-19 case arrived in Zambia, the government tried to weigh the costs of public health measures with economic and social costs. Zambia is land-locked and relies on imported fuel, some food and most medications. Almost 60% of the population survives on less than $2 a day and would not have the resources for a stay-at-home order. While there was never a total shutdown, schools were closed from March to October 2020, and then again in January 2021. Limits have been placed on public gatherings and events and where possible, businesses have shifted to remote work. Victoria Falls and national parks tourists visit for safaris are nearly empty. COVID-19 has been disastrous for the Zambian economy and in 2020 it became the first African nation to default on its international debt since the pandemic started. The government is seeking debt restructuring relief from the International Monetary Fund.

Amanda Talstra and her husband, Daniel Talstra, are the MCC representatives for Zambia.

Kaitlyn and Luke Jantzi—Kathmandu, Nepal

This is the view from our rooftop on a clear day. This is the outdoor space for our apartment in Kathmandu. We spend a lot of time up here—the kids have scooters that they drive around on, we have picnic meals, we hang our laundry and we drink tea with friends (physically distanced). We have several planters and hopes to grow vegetables and flowers as many of our neighbors do. It is nice to look across the rooftops and see so much greenery amongst the largely concrete neighborhood.

Cityscape photo of Kathmandu, Nepal
View from Kaitlyn and Luke Jantzi's window in Kathmandu, Nepal.Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn and Luke Jantzi

Nepal and COVID-19: In 2020 there was a strict COVID-19 lockdown which meant you could only leave your home for a few hours a day to get essential goods. In the last couple of weeks, schools and most public facilities have begun to reopen with distancing and sanitizing procedures in place. There are circles painted on the ground outside of most shops to space out people who are in line. We also have our temperature checked and hands sanitized by a guard outside of every public facility.

Kaitlyn and Luke Jantzi are the MCC representatives for Nepal.

Elizabeth Miller and Neil Richer—Bogotá, Colombia

Most of our time is spent in the main living area, which is where school, Zoom church, movies, games, play, cooking and eating all happen. The view from our window looks out of this main living area and has made us feel much less closed in than we would otherwise.

A city landscape with mountains in the distance
View from Elizabeth Miller and Neil Richer's window in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Miller

Colombia and COVID-19: We just had our second big COVID-19 peak in December and January. For most of January, we were either in lockdown or modified lockdown. On February 2, 2021, they downgraded us from level red to level orange, which means there are fewer restrictions.

Elizabeth Miller and Neil Richer are the MCC representatives for Colombia.

Katerina Parsons—Washington, D.C.

The sound of starlings and distant helicopters is pretty typical for a Washington D.C. afternoon. Though I live only 4 miles from the Capitol, I haven't been inside its buildings since March 2020, when the MCC U.S. office in Washington pivoted to virtual advocacy. It feels strange sometimes to make calls to congressional offices from my bedroom, but then I remember the advocates across the country who make calls from wherever they are!

Washington, D.C. and COVID-19: Washington, D.C. is still in a public health emergency. There is a mandatory mask policy, indoor gatherings are capped at 10 people and outdoor gatherings are capped at 25. Restaurants and shops are open at 25 percent capacity, but many people avoid indoor spaces wherever possible. We're fortunate enough to have free and widespread testing available, and vaccinations have started for frontline workers and those over 65, but the spread is still significant. The racial disparity in COVID-19 deaths in Washington, D.C., is the highest in the nation.

Katerina Parsons is the legislative associate for international affairs at MCC's Washington Office.

Zacharie Leclair—Montreal, Québec

Every day before sitting at my desk, I pull the curtains and take a few minutes to watch outside. In the winter, everything becomes covered by snow and immaculate. I live and work on the north shore on Montréal, Québec, near the Thousand Islands, an area where snow falls are abundant. On a radiant morning after a snowstorm, the scene is especially dazzling and the branches of the trees bend under the weight of the snow. Today is a cold one: -23 Celsius (or about -9 Fahrenheit).

Quebec and COVID-19: Here, the pandemic struck hard. The provincial government has imposed a curfew and a general lockdown of all “non-essential” businesses. I have the privilege to work from home, but many have lost an income in these circumstances. I see more people taking a walk than usual. Confinement in the midst of winter is more frustrating than during the rest of the year, where people can enjoy their backyard and indulge in outdoor cooking, gardening and swimming.

Zacharie Leclair works as a research and communication assistant within the Ottawa Office team.

Bruce Buckwalter and Rose Shenk—Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

MCC Ethiopia housekeeper and cook, Yeshi Muluneh, grinds freshly roasted coffee in our laundry room/kitchenette. She usually does this in the normal kitchen, but because there was a Zoom meeting happening in the adjacent living room, she moved the noisy operation to the laundry room. During COVID-19 we try to have no more than two people in a room at once, always masked and with windows open. Sometimes we have to make creative use of the house and office space to keep people separated.

Ethiopia and COVID-19: COVID-19 rates in Ethiopia are currently spiking, with total numbers of reported positive cases just under 138,000 and just over 2,000 reported deaths nationwide. The government has issued mask and physical distancing mandates since the beginning of the pandemic. Other interventions include ubiquitous handwashing stations; limiting student numbers in schools by having students attend every other day; limiting church attendance and other meetings or gatherings to less than 50 people; quarantine for seven days upon arrival into the country; etc. As in many places, COVID-19 safety protocols are taken more seriously in the urban centers than they are in the countryside where rates are low and most people simply go about their lives as usual. MCC has helped partners implement six COVID-19-related interventions across the country.

Bruce Buckwalter and Rose Shenk are the MCC representatives for Ethiopia.

Jacob Sankara—Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo

This video were taken through my living room window. This is where I like to spend time in the mornings while having my breakfast and during some days when having lunch or if I needed a little rest. I enjoy the view of the mountain called "Mount Goma" and also seeing the passersby in the alley.

DR Congo and COVID-19: The government of DR Congo has enforced a curfew since December 19, 2020, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Other restrictions include:

  • Schools closing to prevent a new wave of COVID-19.
  • Travel between certain provinces requiring a negative COVID-19 test.
  • Mandatory temperature checks and handwashing at the entrance of some public places.
  • Mandatory wearing of masks for all passengers in the same vehicle.
  • Prohibition of mass gatherings.

Jacob Sankara is MCC's peace coordinator for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.