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Living in a masked up Rio: Warren graduate Mack Hill is living through the pandemic in Brazil

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WARREN–Famous beaches, remarkable streets, delectable cuisine. Rio has a lot of great places and people. For Warren High School graduate Mack Hill, he’s experienced the past few months as the urban center returned to a “new normal.”

“Life in Rio has assumed a new normal,” said Hill. “As far as the number of COVID infections, things are under control in the sense that the numbers don’t continue to increase, they stay around the same new cases every day. Hill has been living the past four years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with his husband Bruno. Galena Gazette readers were introduced to Hill in an article in March, but things in Brazil have not gotten much easier in the past five months and the country has followed a similar trajectory to that of the United States.

Hill works as a private English instructor and gives classes to people who need to master the language for their work, education or traveling. Prior to the pandemic, Hill typically held these classes in the home of the student, at an office during lunch or before or after the workday. Hill also teaches English classes to Chinese students on Skype through a Chinese company.

“I have lost quite a few of my students either not wanting class online or needing to take a break due to their own salary cuts,” said Hill. “I have kept up with some of my students online. As time passes people are becoming more comfortable with either leaving the house or having class online because they have accepted that quarantining for them is how life is now. I have become more comfortable giving class online as well, but it was an adaptation that was forced upon me and everyone.”

Face masks have also become a norm in Brazil as people return to work.

“Face masks have become a necessary accessory as you leave the house–keys, wallet, phone, mask,” said Hill. “Most businesses have reopened with hand sanitizer available upon entry. A lot of people have switched their lives to a more online format as to avoid leaving the house and exposing themselves.”

Some schools have already gone back to in person classes and others are in the process of returning as students are given options to continue with their online classes or participate in person.”

According to Hill, mask wearing is similar to that in the United States with some people being opposed to wearing the mask while many won’t leave the house without one.

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“More and more people are becoming okay with leaving the house with their masks; however, there are still many people that completely disregard masks altogether and therefore the others still prefer to stay home where they feel safer,” said Hill. “All businesses require employees to wear masks, but don’t always strictly enforce the use of a mask of their customers.”

Hill was one of the many Brazilians infected with COVID over the course of the pandemic. As a young and healthy individual, Hill didn’t have many of the severe symptoms.

“I was sick with COVID back in the beginning of April,” said Hill. “For the most part, it was just the flu. The worst part really being that I had to stay home. I was fortunate to not have severe symptoms and they only lasted a week or so, but I did have a sore throat, slight cough, headaches behind the eyes, body aches and anxiety. The most long-lasting symptom was my loss of olfactory which lasted three months. I was convinced I was never going to be able to smell again. At times I felt like I needed to take just one extra breath as well, but I didn’t see it as anything concerning.”

As the pandemic continues to drag on, Hill said that Brazilians are itching to return to normalcy and that in some aspects of life, that’s happened.

“There is a slight sense of normalcy,” said Hill. “Every weekend the news shows the beaches packed, even though you aren’t allowed to stay on the beach, only if you are doing some sort of exercise on the sand or swimming. Many people have been fined for spending the afternoon on the beach, but this doesn’t stop the majority from going. Many people think that it is still too soon to return to normal as much as people are. There really isn’t much enforcing of new policies.”

The similarities between the U.S. and Brazil are interesting to Hill and other expats in the country.

“Many people see the U.S. just like Brazil as both presidents have reacted the same to the pandemic,” said Hill. “Most Brazilians think the two countries went about it all wrong and think tighter quarantine restrictions should have been enforced. At this point in the pandemic, people see that 100 percent quarantine is no longer an option and do their best to continue with their lives as safely as they can. There are many who still think everything was overly dramatic and never stopped doing things out of the house and don’t even bother wearing masks.”

Hill, like many around the world, is continuing to live his life in a new normal as the pandemic continues to unfold.

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