For the 60th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Lena Vi. Lena is an inline skater from Belarus and organizer of the Big Avocado Roll living in Los Angeles, California. She works as a software engineer in the live entertainment industry.

What steps did California take to battle COVID-19 and how are things there now?

Los Angeles was one of the first cities in California to announce a quarantine. My colleagues and I began working from home at the beginning of March, one week before the quarantine was announced. Was it a cold or the flu? None of us were sure what COVID-19 was at that point, so our company decided to play it safe by making us work from home. Now we are on our third month of quarantine, which is crazy to think about! For me, working from home is a pleasure, I never understood why IT companies make people work in an office, all we need is a laptop and the internet!

Overall, I’d say the State of California and Los Angeles County did a great job keeping us all safe. However, all the businesses closures and the rise in unemployment is terrifying. As of recently the city has started to slowly reopen. I hope the pandemic will end soon, so we can return to normal.

Are you still skating?

I was isolated for a very long time, but then one day I couldn’t help myself and met up with my friend to go skate and then met up with them one more time… For the most part however, I’ve been skating solo and have been practicing slalom alone. I do really miss our group skates though!

Where are you going out to skate?

I live in Downtown Los Angeles and have a couple of super secret slalom spots here. I keep them secret because security kicks me out from time to time. It’s a shame they still do that and it’s a very upsetting experience. As far as street skating goes, I do not feel safe in downtown right now, so I try not to venture too far from my place. With most businesses downtown closed, the streets have fewer normal people on them and are filled with many more crazy people on drugs. Downtown now looks very sad, so I go to the West side and skate there.

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What other activities are you doing to occupy your time?

I don’t feel like I have any more free time because of COVID-19. Work still takes up most of my day. I also take hip-hop dance classes online and am taking more classes now then I did before the pandemic. I’ve been learning new technologies for work, I slalom and I read.

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life?

The virus has created a large amount of stress for me. There has been a lot of instability at work and in my life. It was surreal to watch, how all of a sudden, the whole world shut down, how many people got sick and how many people lost their jobs. Sadly, I know a couple of people whose close relatives died from the virus.

I am grateful that I haven’t been too affected by COVID-19 myself. However, the live entertainment industry was hit hard and many people were laid off. It is not easy to see your friends get let go from their jobs and I don’t think it was fair.

In addition, it has been heartbreaking to read the news coming out of my home country of Belarus, where my family and friends live. Belarus did not issue a quarantine, so the number of infected people is growing daily and the doctors have to deal with it all. My mom and one of my friends are doctors, so I cannot just block out the bad news. There is a way to help the doctors there by donating anything you can to Even a little bit helps!

Living without any group gatherings is weird, even for such an introvert as myself. I miss our skates, I miss our dance studio and the people there and I miss skating to the coffee shop and getting things done from there. When the quarantine began I started taking slow walks, something I didn’t do before. Taking online dance classes is a new experience and it helps me a lot. Music has also been a massive help. I just tune in and zone out, be it dance or slalom, it doesn’t really matter. Slalom is a form of dance anyway.

And OMG, shopping for groceries is torture! You have to stand in line to get inside, you have to put on a mask and you can’t touch anything there. The shops don’t stay open as late as they used to, so now you have to plan your trips there when the lines aren’t as long.

What are your major concerns right now and looking into the future?

I really hope the states can reopen soon and that we remain safe. I’m hoping guidelines will be implemented, like social distancing rules, for attendees of live events. I believe scientists will find a vaccine and that we will be able to get back to normal. We will travel again and we will skate together again! However, without a vaccine all the scenarios look truly depressing…

How is your local skate community responding?

We have been socially isolating and all of our group skates were cancelled when the mayor announced a stay-at-home order. We also cancelled our Saturday slalom sessions in Mar Vista. I hope we’ll be able to host our annual Big Avocado Roll skate the first weekend of October. But in a situation like this, nobody can predict what will happen.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

I hope you are safe and sane. If you start feeling anxious – go skate. Worry less, skate more. We will all skate together again!


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