San Diegans in quarantine: Stuck at home, locals look for upsides to social distancing

Babak Forutanpour with his daughter Darya.
(Courtesy of Babak Forutanpour)

As news of sickness, heartbreak and economic catastrophe inundates our lives, these San Diegans looked for blessings in their new day-to-day life


San Diegans are coming to terms with uncertain futures. Life has been turned on its head this week, as workers, roommates and families hunker down during self-imposed quarantines.

The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has created an avalanche of hardship, from death to job loss to crumbling enterprise. To top it off, the rain in San Diego has cast an ever-present gloominess over the city.

While the Union-Tribune does not wish to downplay the seriousness and heartbreak of the COVID-19 spread, we wondered if our readers could use some relief from the difficult news.

So we asked San Diegans to share any unexpected joy they’ve experienced over the past few days, as their lives shifted dramatically into quarantine. Are there any silver linings to being stuck at home?

Readers answered with pictures and stories of cooking with family, singing in their kitchens, spending time with their children and diving into long-lost creative projects.

We hope these silver linings inspire you to consider your small moments of happiness — and dwell on them for just a minute.

Want to share your own upside? Tag us on Twitter with @SDUT and the hashtag #SDquarantinelife.

The bright side of social distancing

Babak Forutanpour with his daughter Darya.
(Courtesy of Babak Forutanpour)

Babak Forutanpour is an engineer and inventor living in La Costa. While his day job is leading Research and Development at EcoATM, he likes to tinker with his own creations at night.

“When she was younger, my daughter Darya inspired me to make a tooth fairy doll so she could use it to keep track of all her baby teeth,” Forutanpour wrote in an email. “While I had 3D-printed a version, for months it was sitting there unfinished.”

When EcoATM asked employees to work from home — and Darya’s school later closed — Forutanpour finally picked the project back up.

“I do my job early in the morning and later in the evening so she and I can invent,” Forutanpour wrote. “We call it the Tooth Diary.”

Julie's husband Chris and her daughter Catherine sing and dance in the kitchen.
Julie’s husband Chris and her daughter Catherine sing and dance in the kitchen.
(Courtesy of Julie Ames)

Julie Ames shared a photo of her 21-year-old daughter Catherine and her husband Chris dancing in the kitchen.

“My daughter created a playlist for the quarantine we play at night,” Ames wrote. “Songs like ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,’ ‘Carry On My Wayward Son,’ ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Baby Light My Fire.’ It’s growing every day.”

They call it “quarantunes.”

Christopher Lee records music at his home in Escondido.
(Courtesy of Christopher Lee)

Christopher Lee, 29, set up a music room last year when he moved to Escondido, but hasn’t made the time to record. Since the quarantines and social distancing went into effect, he’s finally composing again.

“Now is as good a time as any to sit down and record songs I’ve written the past couple years,” Lee wrote in an email.

Trevor McGraw (left) with his son Bodhi.
(Courtesy of Trevor McGraw)

Trevor McGraw, a 34-year-old sales consultant, wrote in about finally taking the time to hike Mount Calavera, a dormant volcanic plug in Carlsbad, with his son Bodhi.

“It was only day two of quarantine,” McGraw wrote. “But as a single dad also trying to work with a 3-year-old running around the house — cabin fever had already started to set in. So we set off for the hills after the spring rain subsided.”

Why is Bodhi covered in mud?

“Having seen a group of more than 10 San Diegans wandering toward us — and having taken my social distancing advice a bit too literally — Bodhi started running away from the group and slipped in the mud.”

Tanya Sawhney reads at her home Monday night.
(Courtesy of Tanya Sawhney)

Tanya Sawhney, a 29-year-old content writer in La Jolla, said self-quarantine has allowed her to finally tackle a long to-read list.

“Reading has always made me happy, but day-to-day life makes it very hard to take out time for things that make you happy,” Sawhney wrote. “Working from home has unexpectedly given me a chance to loosen up my schedule a little. I manage to take out time for my happy reads. Reading feels like escaping from the worries and stresses of the everyday world. For me, it is like promoting inner happiness and opening my mind to newer things. Having chai while reading is the best stress reliever in these worrisome times.” (What’s she reading? “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.)

Alex Goryachev with his son Matthew.
(Courtesy of Alex Goryachev)

Alex Goryachev, 44, is the global innovation leader at tech giant Cisco Systems. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, he’s been asked to work from his home in Carlsbad. Tuesday, he was doing conference calls while his 5-year-old son Matthew drew in his coloring book nearby.

“Running a global team, I am usually on the road and such special moments are rare,” Goryachev wrote. “This crisis gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate what’s truly important in my life. Staying truly connected to my family is what matters. We are here to support each other and share moments of joy.”

Samir Bhavnani with his two children at Annie's Canyon Trail in Encinitas.
(Courtesy of Samir Bhavnani)

Samir Bhavnani, a 43-year-old software sales representative, said he’s normally spending long hours on the road. But now that social distancing is in full swing, he’s been asked to stay local and work from home. He’s used his free time to go hiking with his children at Annie’s Canyon near the San Elijo Lagoon.

“The best part of spending time with the 10-year-old twins is they see the world the way we adults need to see the world — full of wonder and laughter.”

Corinne Lebrun at her home in Carlsbad.
(Courtesy of Corinne Lebrun)

Corinne Lebrun, 55, is a startup coach in Carlsbad. Spending time indoors the past few days has inspired her to get into a hobby she’s always been curious about — PC gaming.

“Usually, I just marvel at these awesome stories and worlds in video games while looking over my son’s or boyfriend’s shoulders while watching them play,” Lebrun wrote. “I’ve always wanted to get more involved. And who knows, maybe even get to be part of a team that develops the stories? It’s such a fascinating world and I was really inspired by learning it has an incredible amount of psychological benefits as well.”

Jennifer Reiswig shared this photo of her "new commute."
(Courtesy of Jennifer Reiswig)

Jennifer Reiswig, a 54-year-old librarian at UC San Diego, lives in North Park and is used to a lengthy commute into work. Now, she’s been asked to work from home for the next few weeks. She sent us a picture of her apartment floorplan, with a green path to mark from one room to the next.

“So far the best thing is no traffic on my extensive 30-second commute. All green, all the time,” Reiswig said.

Chris Parkes (right) with his wife and rescue dogs.
Chris Parkes (right) with his wife and rescue dogs.
(Courtesy of Chris Parkes)

Chris Parkes, a 43-year-old sales director living in La Mesa, said he’s taken up fostering dogs during his self-quarantine.

“I heard once that a society’s civility is best measured by how we treat animals and our natural surroundings,” Parkes wrote. “That sentiment always stuck with me, and we are fortunate to have resources and physical space for many furry friends. In my opinion, there has never been a better time to get involved in providing a foster home for a dog, cat, bird, fish, hamster or opossum. In reality, there will be a spike in the number of animals relinquished given impending job loss, income loss and folks’ inability to care for their animals. Plus… aren’t dogs just the bestest and cutest? Look at those faces.”

Parkes said his preferred rescue is a group is Frosted Faces Foundation in Ramona.