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  • Writer's pictureMartijn

Un-travel or Unravel?

May 2nd, 2020. Have been in lock-down in Buenos Aires since March 19th, i.e. for over 6 weeks. Nothing wrong with the location - house and garden are big, weather's nice - what's wrong is that I had other plans: land on Paris on March 14th and travel to The Hague that same week. Instead came croissants in Buenos Aires, a thoughtful and delightful surprise but not the plan. Instead, I started cleaning windows.


With my thumbnail I remove a speck of paint from the glass. I have lived in this house for three years, and until today I hadn’t registered those tiny remnants of our remodeling work. Now that we are on lock-down and Blanca is not coming, cleaning has become my job. Microscopic spots wink at me from all the windows, and the smears of varnish along their wooden frames shine in the afternoon light. These imperfections really annoy me, so, through practice, I have developed a technique to eradicate them.

First, I wash the glass with a soapy sponge, then I scrape any splatters with a knife or my thumb. I tackle the excess varnish with nail polish remover. My next step is to spray window cleaner onto the glass and wipe it with a microfiber cloth, starting with the inside before going outside. Finally, I move back from the window to scan for any remaining blemishes and apply finishing touches where necessary. I just used my technique on the balcony door: the result is flawless, and I am happy. Moving onto my living room window, I rub and imagine the millions of other humans locked in their homes. Almost half of the Earth's population, they say. I picture the empty streets in the world’s capitals, think about the cleaner air -- nature taking back its rights. I pull the trigger of the sprayer and a fine mist impairs my view. What is real? I think of the myriad of articles -fake and real news- about the Coronavirus, the avalanche of WhatsApp messages and videos that I am bombarded with daily, announcing all things and their opposite. If I acknowledged each one of them, I would be on my phone 24/7 and even under lock-down, there are many things I’d rather do, such as writing about my latest research data for instance!

About to finish this window, it occurs to me that I could also develop a technique to purge and decode the landslide of information that reaches me about this human and economic crisis. How would I proceed? Would I first discard the coarsest and most ridiculous, then comb through the rest, examining the sources, eliminating anything redundant or counterproductive? I would need to define a series of personal, simple, fair and objective criteria, even though I appreciate that absolute impartiality does not exist, certainly not in the media but not even in me. Hopefully I can create this method quickly because other battlefields - the kitchen and the bathrooms to begin with- await me and I don’t want to lose time.

But today I’d rather continue doing the windows. More than ever I need to see clearly.

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