Once I settled in and had things like WiFi, food, and cutlery sorted, the last few days have passed pretty quietly.

I’ve primarily been cooking my meals, partly to reduce exposure and partly because every attempt at ordering something becomes a fun puzzle to solve where the prize is “you don’t go hungry!” and that does things to one’s emotional state.

My symptoms have been improving rapidly; every day I’m less congested and coughing less. Today, I’m barely congested at all and only occasionally need to cough to clear my throat.

Morale was still not great on Monday. Being alone in a strange place, recovering from a potentially debilitating disease, can do a number on your ability to hold your head up. I miss my family. I could really use a hug. I kept having to tell people who want to send me care packages that I have no idea how to receive packages I didn’t directly order because none of the call buttons here are numbered and I don’t know how a carrier gets into the building if I’m not expecting them.

Since I’m rewatching Our Flag Means Death for the third time, of course I immediately named this visitor Karl.

Tuesday was better. A colleague of mine is recovering from his own bout of COVID (unrelated to mine) and has had a much rougher time of it, and potentially a long road a head, and that helped me put things into perspective. I don’t believe in the Pain Olympics, and his worse case of COVID doesn’t make my frustration and bouts of loneliness invalid, but it nonetheless put things into a bit of sharp relief for me.

So now I’m trying to treat the rest of isolation as a retreat: a time to rest, engage in focused quietude, and cultivate creativity. I’ve been taking notes for comedy. Hell, I’m actually writing blog posts.

Today, it was rainy and chilly in Porto, so it seemed like a good day for soup. I still have my package of Cup Noodles from my coworker, but I also had the leftovers of a grilled chicken I had ordered on Sunday, so I set about making stock. I didn’t have everything I’d usually use, but I took it as a making-do challenge; I let the stock simmer for a couple of hours, strained it, and then started adding whatever I had on hand that sounded good: the rest of the leftover chicken meat, the rice left from the same takeout order, the extra sauce from when I tried a Francesinha for dinner last night, some mushrooms, a couple of beaten eggs, stracciatella-style.

Photographs poorly, tastes pretty good. Maybe still needs something. That I no doubt do not have.

It was actually… delicious. These low-and-slow cooking projects always do a lot for me when I’m feeling a lack of control over my circumstances. Jessica Dore describes hope as an insistent focus on the present, on working with our maneuvering space right now, instead of being paralyzed by what’s coming. Cooking with just what I had on hand felt like a very tangible version of that today.

My flight home is scheduled for one week from tomorrow.

I’m not busy; why not try to perfect my selfie game?