Trivial Pursuit in the Age of Coronavirus

After leaving Hoboken, NJ to shelter-in-place at my parents’ home on eastern Long Island, I found my grandmother’s edition of Trivial Pursuit from 1981—about ten years before I was born. So like a good social distancer stuck inside on a Friday night, I gathered my family around the kitchen table and called my boyfriend on video chat to enjoy a game. 

The rules for Trivial Pursuit are fairly straightforward. Each player receives a round game piece divided into six empty spaces. Players move their piece around the game board, answering trivia questions along the way. They must correctly answer a trivia question in six categories (geography, science & nature, history, entertainment, sports & leisure, and arts & literature), which will earn them a colored wedge for their game piece. To win, players must fill up their game piece with one wedge from each category and answer a final question. 

We set up the yellowing, mothball-scented board and started to play. But within a few questions, the game’s age was starting to show. Some of the particularly outdated questions included:

  1. What board game is banned in the Soviet Union? (Answer: “Monopoly.” This question was written ten years before the collapse of the USSR).
  2. What complex in New York City features 43,600 windows and 40,000 doors? (Answer: “The World Trade Center.” The question was written 20 years before 9/11).
  3. Which actor referred to himself as the “Errol Flynn of B Movies”? (Answer: “Ronald Reagan.” He had just started his presidency when the game was released).

In many ways, Trivial Pursuit was like a time capsule. The question cards captured a lot of “current events” from the late 1970s and early 1980s—events that we would now consider “history.” It piqued my curiosity to see which happenings from the 1970s and 1980s were deemed important enough to make it into the game of general knowledge. 

But not all the questions were about the 70s and 80s. In fact, the question that disturbed me the most took place about 700 years ago: “Which disease caused the Black Death?” 

It was an uncomfortable reminder of why I was sitting in my family’s kitchen that night. New York and Hoboken were in lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. I hadn’t been to the office in weeks. I knew friends and acquaintances who were diagnosed with COVID-19. And there was no clear timeline for a return to normalcy.

As I dropped the colored wedge into my game piece for the correct answer (“the bubonic plague”), it occurred to me that the Black Death–like every other question in the game–was an event that millions of people had lived through. But to me, hundreds of years later, it was just a question on a trivia card. At some point along the way, the Black Death had passed from one of the most traumatic events in world history to a trivia question for my amusement. And the same could be said for the other questions I answered throughout the game about the Roman Empire, World War II, the American Revolution–even that silly question about the Soviet Union. 

I wonder if 10, 20 or 40 years from now, I’ll play a new version of Trivial Pursuit with a question about the coronavirus pandemic. Will it ask about the final death toll, the economic impact, the search for a cure? What will gamemakers consider important enough to be “general knowledge” about this current crisis? What will those who are living through it now think about having their pain and suffering reduced to a few words on a trivia card?

It’s hard to look that far ahead as my own life—and those lives around me—have been so disrupted. It’s hard to be separated from loved ones, to work from home indefinitely, to see friends and strangers falling ill. It’s hard to read the news or scroll through social media every day, only to wonder when will this all end? 

But if the questions from Trivial Pursuit are any indication, even in times of crisis and change the world does go on. The Black Death did end. The Soviet Union did fall. The coronavirus panic that grips the world right now will gradually fade from the horrors of the present day into the annals of history (and into some future edition of Trivial Pursuit).


Life Since Korea

So…it’s been a while. 

After finishing my Fulbright, I felt that I didn’t have much to share on this blog. But since the world is grappling with a pandemic and everyone is forced to stay inside, I figured there’s no time like the present to get this up and running again. Here’s what I’ve been up to since I stopped writing in July 2016.

For the past four years, I’ve lived in Hoboken, New Jersey and worked across the river in NYC. Professionally, my career has continued in the education industry, but in a series of unexpected ways. Immediately after Fulbright, I worked as a marketing/proposal writer for an architecture firm, specializing in education projects (mostly renovations or new construction for schools). Then I transitioned to a marketing role in the continuing education division of a university, where I worked for two years. Now I am a marketing manager for an edtech startup that publishes daily news for children. I may not be at the front of a classroom myself anymore, but I am so grateful that my Fulbright experience inspired me to remain involved in education.

I’ve also continued my relationship with Reach the World through a combination of volunteer and freelance work. I’ve sourced auction items for their annual gala event, and I’ve been a staff editor for current Fulbrighters and Gilman Scholars writing their own travel blogs. I love their mission of globalizing education, especially for underserved communities, and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to be involved in so many different ways. 

Even if I didn’t keep up with this blog, I’m still a writer. For the past few years, I shifted more of my focus to freelance work, especially for companies related to edtech and career development. I took a few journalism classes at Gotham Writers and The New School, but I’ve been fairly quiet about my personal writing. I’d like to get back into the habit of writing for a blog.

Four years out, I don’t suppose I’ll be writing about teaching in Korea anymore. But I would like to use this as a space to share other thoughts and ideas related to education, writing, and life in general.