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March 17, 2021
A dash of seasoning. The vibration of the guitar string. One final stitch. Though quarantine may have plagued Whitman students for months, the newly-found free time has also allowed creativity to blossom into new hobbies. Along with keeping us safe from a rampant pandemic, quarantine has also helped foster self-discovery, personal development and a realization that there’s more to life than sitting in a classroom and performing extracurriculars.
Senior Cansu Erkan carefully rolls grape leaves filled with ground beef and short grain rice stuffing, in the notoriously difficult but necessary process to make “sarma,” a traditional Turkish dish that has remained her favorite meal since childhood.
Since the start of the pandemic, Erkan has used her abundance of free time to learn countless recipes, finding herself in the kitchen almost every day. Learning how to make this trying Turkish classic has been the highlight of her cooking journey, she said.
“Wrapping the grape leaves one by one took so much time,” Erkan said. “Right after I cooked it, I felt so productive. After hours of work, eating them was like a reward and they were so yummy.”
Erkan also made an Instagram account, @cansunurthecook, where she posts healthy and economical recipes for all to enjoy. The greatest part of the experience is receiving pictures from followers who tried out her recipes, she said.
Erkan has no plans to quit cooking anytime soon. Now, she says, she can cook for herself at college and beyond, whipping up recipes that would intimidate beginners.
“Cooking made me feel much better whenever I felt
down or unproductive,” Erkan said. Cutting the dough, making the vegetables — it’s like therapy. I totally recommend cooking something extraordinary.”
Junior Karla Stephan ripped open the wrapping on her grandmother’s Christmas gift to her, revealing a shiny pair of knitting needles and a handmade sweater. Since then, her grandmother has taught Stephan how to knit, an activity she’s come to cherish because of its usefulness and for how it has strengthened her bond with her relatives.
Over winter break, the two worked together to weave a little green bag, Stephan’s first knitting project.
“I wanted to learn how to knit because it looked really cool and I wanted to make unique pieces for myself,” she said. “I feel like I also wanted something sentimental that I could make with my grandma and have to keep later.”
Though Stephan’s grandmother has been living with her for a few years, Stephan’s busy schedule limited the hours she spent at home before the pandemic. The quarantine has gifted Stephan the opportunity to get closer with her grandmother and enjoy the simplicity of weaving.
“Quarantine gave me the time and the boredom to do these tasks that I wouldn’t have done in the school year,” Stephan said. “I’m really glad I was able to learn; it’s super relaxing.”
While cleaning her room early last year, senior Paula Gonzalez stumbled upon an untouched embroidery set from fifth grade stacked away between her books. The set had survived four family relocations, but Gonzalez had never noticed it until now. Her mom had embroidered as a young child, and through the boredom of quarantine, Paula felt inspired to learn the art as well.
Gonzalez’s embroidery sets come with a set of directions explaining how to organize and stitch together the different color threads. For Gonzalez, the clear instruction manual allows her to create without having to dream up designs by herself.
“I’ve never been creative,” Gonzalez said. “Over quarantine, I’ve learned that there are different ways to be artistic without necessarily having artistic skills.”
Since Gonzalez works with a multitude of similar thread colors, the fabric she embroiders on is printed with different shapes, which indicate the difference in color that she should use on each spot.
Embroidery is a boredom solver even for people who aren’t necessarily the most artistic, Gonzalez said.
“Anyone can enjoy it,” she said. “It’s very easy, making a cross stitch. I find it really satisfying.”
Junior Jack Sheetz has always wanted to play the guitar, but it wasn’t until recently that he was able to explore it as a hobby. Sheetz started playing through a semester-long beginner guitar class Whitman offers. Though he was on the brink of dropping the course due to online school, he decided to stay the course, learning tunes such as “Jingle Bells” and “House of the Rising Sun” on his school-owned acoustic guitar.
Playing the guitar has entertained Sheetz through quarantine, he said.
“If I wanted to take a break from studying, I would just pick it up and do some little practices,” he said. “I always knew that even if I was staying home, I could at least practice my guitar a little bit.”
Although Sheetz’s school-provided lessons ended weeks ago, his passion for playing burns on. The sheet music he printed from his class sits on his desk, and he won’t hesitate to pick it up whenever he needs a good refresher, he said. Now, though, he’s playing with a different type of guitar.
“I went out today and picked up an electric guitar,” he said. “I’m really hoping some of the skills transfer.”
Sophomore Mira Chenok sewed the last bit of fabric and stepped away to gaze at her new creation. She had transformed what had once been an unattractive dress wasting away at her local thrift store into a trendy red two piece, with a ruffled skirt and a tie-up crop top.
Chenok technically began sewing in elementary school, but she quickly lost interest, and never learned how to make clothes until recently.
Quarantine gave Chenok the chance to take her sewing machine out of retirement and expand on her sewing skills.
“Once I realized that I could actually make clothes, I started to start sewing whenever I wanted to make something fun,” she said.
After buying fabric and more materials from an online sewing store, Chenok started making a new piece every week: making a jean skirt from an old pair of jeans, transforming a thrifted dress and sewing a two-piece set from scratch. Creating new pieces helped her get through quarantine, Chenok said.
“Sewing helped me keep myself busy and gave me something to be excited about while we were all stuck inside,” she said. “I think I’ve definitely gained some skills that I can use in the future and keep making myself cool clothes.”
In March of last year, junior Colin Deltoro watched in shock and awe as the stock market crashed due to the pandemic. Since his childhood, Deltoro had always been interested in learning about and investing in the stock market.
Although Deltoro had previously invested small sums of cash before — in two stocks worth $15 — he had never had the time to fully pursue his passion. This all changed, however, in quarantine.
“Quarantine gave me the opportunity to research stocks that I should invest in,” Deltoro said. “Trading stocks is thrilling; you’re always on your toes.”
Once summer 2020 hit, he had put a couple hundred dollars of his savings in profitable stocks like Tesla and One Medical.
During the past year, Deltoro and fellow junior Sam Parks have learned more about stock trading through TikTok and YouTube. The pair also started one of Whitman’s stock clubs at the start of the year to share their knowledge with other students. The two frequently check their stock market apps to analyze the success of various businesses.
“What we’ve learned is to have a cut off point when buying stocks and not get too greedy about it,” Parks said.
The development of the COVID-19 vaccine affects the value of various stocks. Deltoro saw potential in vaccine companies and invested in Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson once they announced their respective vaccines.
With the stress and the uncertainty the pandemic brings, it’s great to have an escape, Deltoro said.
“Allowing myself to explore a new hobby like trading helps me not only block out all the noise but gives me something to occupy myself with,” Deltoro said. “Quarantine provided me with a great opportunity to discover my interests.”