By Cecilia Picchi – Florence Dragon Lady Lilt – IBCPC European Rep
In the first days of 2020, all over the world newscasts began announcing that a virus called covid-19 or coronavirus was spreading in a Chinese city, that it was causing many deaths, and that the city was taking measures of containment. From Europe this news appeared distant and similar to those of other past viruses. On a bad day in February, the newscasts announced that the virus was detected in patients close to us in Italy, suddenly we heard the word "lockdown", without understanding the real meaning and how to behave. One after another, European countries found themselves with restrictions and little by little we realized that our lives were changing, they were no longer as before. #istayhome, #iorestoacasa, #ichbleibezuhause, #yomequedoencasa, #jeremainalamaison are the hashtags we became familiar with. All locked down at home except for basic needs (health and food). In the blink of an eye we found ourselves in the middle of a plot from a catastrophic film, but this time it was real life. How did BCS teams in Europe cope with the lockdown? At first I got in contact with teams to ask how they were doing and sharing advice of how to take care and stay at home. Then I noticed that teams were publishing in social networks (Facebook and Instagram) photos and videos of what they were doing from home. FB posts were similar among teams, and I was interested in learning more. I distributed a simple questionnaire. I collected the answers and compared them. I realized that it could become an interesting project to improve networking and collaboration among teams. Teams from Austria, France, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom participated. I would like to thank all of them for the collaboration and in particular IBCPC national Reps who facilitated the contacts. Photo 1 Italian teams stay together
The questionnaire was in the form of a simple guideline to describe each teams situation: 1. Is your country and town in lockdown for the covid-19 emergency? 2. Can your team-members meet and do activities together? 3. When was the last time your team could meet and do activities together? 4. Are you allowed to go outside as a single person (for a walk, jogging in a park)? 5. If your town follows covid-19 restrictions, have you organized some activity to keep the team together ? (WhatsApp group, online meetings, online gym or yoga).
The answers showed that within a few days of each other, all the above mentioned countries were in lockdown, with more or less rigid restrictions. Everybody at home, no team activities, no dragon boat practice, events calendar canceled or postponed, with the consequent disappointment.
Teams described that they keep together with WhatsApp groups, ZOOM meetings, where they can exchanged messages of various types: greetings, photos of recent or older events, good memories, cooking recipes, quizzes, jokes or motivating phrases. They all dedicated time to phone calls to keep close to each other, especially to teammates who live alone or to those who faced this period with difficulties. We immediately noticed the spirit of sorority, solidarity and camaraderie that always characterises bcs teams, the best attitude of our movement! Photo 2 Pink Butterfly in Rome #distantimaunite – distant but together
First of all, it emerged that there were difficulties and worries related to breast cancer: higher risk of being infected due to lower immune systems, difficulties in reaching hospitals for those under treatment, postponed follow-ups etc. Breast cancer taught us to be “patient”, to search inside ourselves for reactivity and to face emergencies. During Covid emergency, many BCS have been able to exploit their cancer experience to find inner strength to cope in this new emergency. Resilience! While cancer attacks from inside and individually, Covid comes from outside and affects simultaneously the entire population. Two teams had to face the painful situation of friends who passed away, one due to cancer causes and the other for Covid consequences, in both cases the social distancing made the situation even more painful.
I was pleasantly surprised by the creativity and imagination that teams carried out together, to strengthen the bonds among themselves by doing different things, albeit physically distant. Some sewed and embroidered face masks (even with the team logo), others rediscovered the creativity of painting or other craft work. Some dedicated themselves to cooking, with elaborate recipes or baking home made bread, others were reminded of the importance of a healthy diet, how not to gain weight during a period of reduced physical activity. Everybody encouraged physical activity, which is so good for body and mind, mostly through online gym programs, Zoom sessions of yoga, pilates, stretching, zumba, swing or other dances. We all missed our beloved dragon boat, so distance competitions sitting on a chair with a broomstick instead of a paddle, or paddling in a tub or on the edge of a swimming pool. And talking about boats, Danish Dragon Abreast had to postpone the launch of their new dragon boat and manage the relationships with their sponsor and authorities.
Photo 3 face map with team logo
Many teams used conference rooms like Zoom or Meet to arrange virtual gym, drinks or dancing evenings. Plurabelles, Pink Ladies Wiesbaden and Flamenco Rosa celebrated their team anniversaries via zoom and receiving video messages of best wishes (10 years for the Irish and the German ladies, while 4 years for the Spanish, once again 'happy anniversary to you!'), and more cancelled festivals: June (Dragonette Torino and Dragon Ladies 08 Charleville-Mézières, 10th anniversary for both teams).
photo 4 Zoom Anniversary party for Plurabelles Paddlers
To install and learn how to use Zoom required phone calls, an unexpected opportunity to contact teammates for a chat, and big Zoom sessions with 50-80 inexpert participants required once again team collaboration. There were indescribable emotions when we could see each other and chat again, even if only virtually. It is incredible the enthusiasm and amazement that animates these virtual parties; watching each other faces after months apart, faces of teammates we were used to meeting and hugging regularly, all with longer and untidy hair.
Photo 5 Paddling with a broomstick
Pink Champagne, Pool of Life and Vienna Pink Dragons decided to climb mountains and to cross their countries while staying at home. They reached the top of Ben Nevis, Mont Blanc and Everest climbing home stairs and they virtually visited other teams in the United Kingdom, while walking in the garden or near home. They announced on Facebook every city they reached. Pink Dragonistas "walked" from Hannover to Aix-les-Bains to be ready for the IDBF CCWC. This game, not only kept people active and together but gave opportunities to rise visibility to teams along their way. Manchester Dragons created a collective story, each person writing a paragraph and passing to the next to continue. Estelas Rosas in Spain wrote letters to covid hospitalized patients to sustain them. Dragon Boat Marina de Valencia created a literary club suggesting novels to read in these long days at home. Donne in Rosa Burida, Florence Dragon Lady Lilt, Pink Butterfly in Rome and Pink Karasis competed "paddling" with a broomstick in their living room, and sending videos to judges.
Photo 6 and 7 Maps of virtual walks
Before finishing, I copy the message that a newbie wrote in her team WhatsApp group:
"Good morning ... this morning my GRAY backpack looks at me .. PINK kitchen gloves come out of the pocket, the MAT (x under the buttocks) PINK! The GRAY backpack is there, fearing to leave space to the much desired PINK one! .. too close to the chemo! Too tired! Too much edema! Too risky! ... so many failures from doctor and finally I set feet in the DRAGON! .. first practice in the pouring rain (exciting), then too cold for practicing, then let's start! Then comes the COVID! .. all stopped! I think that a quality acquired with disease is PATIENCE! Wait for the exams, wait for the interventions, wait for the CT, wait for the radio and go ... wait to get back on the boat, I have just met you, I follow you from home, I associate a message with a face, I try, then I get lost, and I ALWAYS find myself, ALWAYS thinking that I get your emotions, your strength, your PINK! ... I woke up this morning.“
Once again we observe how much we need something in the moment when we no longer have it, but we hope this difficult situation will be solved soon and that we can resume our activities with renewed enthusiasm.
I conclude thanking all European teams who contributed to the survey. The project helped to reinforce the bond of friendship, collaboration and solidarity among us. Annecy, Bordeaux, Bournemouth, Boulogne-sur-mer, Bremen, Bruxelles, Cantabria, Cartagena, Chambery, Colmar, Florence (and Italian teams), Copenhagen, Dublin, Lünen, Malaga, Manchester, Marseilles, Reims, San Pedro del Pinatar, Thonon-les-Bains, Valencia and Vienna.