You Are Here: Macquarie in Lockdown

REGULARS|SALIHA REHANAZ


It’s a Monday morning. I wake up to the blaring sound of my alarm and internally scream at myself for the hundredth time for picking a physics lab at 8 am. I scroll through my social media feed to see the latest TikTok trend which went viral overnight. I finally get myself out of bed, shower, and find something suitable to wear for the cold weather. I quickly run down the stairs and shove a toast down my throat as I watch the 292 bus heading to the City from my window. That’s my sign to get out of the house.

I put in my earphones and make my way through the Village walkways thinking about the rave that took place over the weekend. It began as a chill night drinking beers and playing games at Unit 89, and then very soon all the houses in the strip joined, and eventually the whole Village had shown up, including the security. I spot a red mason cup lying in the grass as I walk past the East side greens and wonder if anyone got drunk enough to go jumping on the tarp. A tradition that only few elite Villagers know about.

The sun is slowly climbing out of the clouds as I walk downhill towards the gym. Little children wrapped in towels excitedly make their way inside to start swimming classes. The sign outside the gym café reads, “Special today: Double cheeseburger with sweet potato fries.” It gets me excited to think about what I’ll be eating for lunch; the new Campus Courtyard has created a dent in my bank account that’s for sure. I quickly jog up the stairs to the new University Accommodation and spot the NSW firemen grabbing their morning dose of coffee. I am welcomed by the faint music playing at Ubar and my eyes scan the flock of university students scattered across the courtyard. Everyone walking in different directions huddled in jackets and sweaters of all kinds.

I spot my physics lab partner, Georgia sitting on the bench where she waits for me every Monday. She’s got two cups of coffee in her hands and I hope one of them has gotten cold so I can drink it in the next five minutes we have left before class. I walk up to her smiling face, faintly pink from the cold and as I reach for the coffee in her extended hand, I wake up.

I open my eyes and spot the streak of sunlight sneaking its way through the blinds. It was a dream.

It’s Week 10 of lockdown and I cannot remember the last time I woke up with the intention of getting dressed and going to campus. The vision of Georgia holding a cup of coffee for me has now become a mirage, rather than a memory.

I turn to look at the time on my phone, it’s 12:36 pm.

I grew up in a household where you were never allowed to sleep past 9 in the morning, whether it was a holiday or not. I tried to hold onto the tradition as I moved countries and came to live alone. However, being alone in this second round of lockdown I have lost all sense of time.

On a good day, when I decide to stroll through campus, my eyes will crave for the familiar flock of university students rushing to go to class or standing outside Boost waiting for their jumbo Mango Magic. Now, a different age group of individuals has taken over the Macquarie Campus.

Babies and toddlers.

The glorious Macquarie lake which was once home to university students sunbathing and taking naps (PSA: I do not support taking naps by the lake after Grapeshot Creative Director Kathleen fell ill after her nap), is now populated with the elderly waving their hands around in the air in the name of exercise.

The campus is not completely in lockdown.

The joyous purple light of the Chatime sign still shines on, and the delicious smell of Indian food still lingers around the Courtyard.

Macquarie’s soldiers in red and white still march down Wally’s Walk or zoom around in their golf buggies. However, now they do not have to watch out for students or people causing menace, instead, it is the bin chickens and turkeys. If you thought the number of bin chickens squawking on campus before lockdown was bad, I dare you to come back now.

Previously, the walk from the business school to the Macquarie Centre was a way for me to mentally prepare my speech to politely say no as someone waited to ask if I wanted to join a Bible class, sign up for Fitness First, or donate to Mission Australia. Now, the path remains empty and the shrubs beside the footpath have flourished like never before.

The royal carriage for Macquarie students that live on campus aka the courtesy bus still roams around the streets, however if you thought the schedule was off for the bus before lockdown, now I doubt there is a schedule at all.

One thing that has not changed is the humming from the biology labs opposite the old Ubar. Rain or shine, lockdown or not, science does not stop, and neither does the lab equipment. The bright white lab lights still guide you through the shortcut from the Maths building to the old Ubar, and believe it or not, the deadly owl still haunts the pathway. It seems like the stay-at-home rules don't apply to birds.

While everything is so different and empty now, walking through campus somehow still feels the same.

It reminds me of the first day I arrived at Macquarie. It was dark and cold, and I had no clue how to connect my phone to the Macquarie wi-fi. I had called up the IT desk and they asked me to come down to C5C in the next ten minutes before they closed and I had no clue how to get there. After walking cluelessly around for 40 minutes with no one in sight to ask for help, I was close to tears because I didn’t know where to go or how to go back to the Village. I had no internet to find my way on Google Maps or any friends in this foreign country to call.

I was lost, literally and metaphorically.

And then, I saw the twinkling lights running down Wally’s Walk. For some reason, I decided to follow the lights, to walk straight ahead and find C5C in front of me. Thirty minutes past 5, the person I had called at the IT desk was still magically waiting for me.

Two years and a deadly global pandemic later, I am still lost, just in a different way. Unsure of when I will see my friends or family again, or whether I will fulfil my dreams of seeing a kangaroo or not. While everything has changed and we now live in this ‘new normal,’ at least the fairy lights still illuminate Wally’s Walk and help me find my way.

In the famous lyrics of Coldplay, “lights will guide you home.” And for me, that’s Macquarie.