In the “Through Their Windows” series, presented by TELUS, we are showcasing uplifting and inspiring stories about how the people of Vancouver are spreading kindness and staying connected while maintaining physical distancing in their homes during COVID-19.
It can be a challenge to maintain relationships during a time of social distancing and self isolation. But with some creativity, people can still stay connected with each other and be together during these tough times.
Jess To, Maz Swi, and their group of trivia friends were regulars at a weekly trivia night held at Vancouver’s Moose’s Down Under, having met earlier this year at a fundraiser event for the Australian bushfires. When the pub, and subsequently the trivia night, closed their doors due to the pandemic, the “Team Toaster” team leaders Jess and Maz didn’t hesitate to keep going.
"When Coronavirus started, one of our first thoughts was, “I'm going to miss out on trivia!”, which we were all really enjoying," said Maz.
"I thought to myself, surely there's a way we can do our own trivia in an online format." continues Jess.
Since the start of the stay-at-home orders, Jess and Maz have been running their weekly trivia nights virtually through Zoom and Google Hangouts, and have been connecting with their trivia team members during the week through their Facebook group. Starting initially with 8 members, the number of players continues to grow from week to week, reaching as many as 17 people in one night.
With Jess as the trivia master and Maz as the games wizard, their complementary skills work well together when coming up with the format of the weekly competition, which consists of four rounds of trivia with games in between. They get really creative with the activities, such as one game they call ‘Taskmaster Olympics’.
"We utilize the resources that people have at home. Once, we had everyone running around their house to find five items that start with the letter of the first five letters of their team name," Maz shared.
The games provide much needed relief to the group by reminding everyone involved that they are sharing the heavy load of the current situation together:
"We deliberately try to run games that are pertinent to the situation at the moment. One of the games we did was 'now that you're stuck at home, your home is your own country’. We had people design a motto and a flag for their home as a country. It’s been helpful bringing some levity to the situation and having a laugh at what’s going on in real life so it doesn't feel so heavy. When you come together with people and can share something like that and have a bit of a laugh about it, it all doesn't seem as daunting," says Maz.
Jess & Maz. Photo: Good Side Photo
Trivia night has allowed for their trivia team to come together and stay connected virtually in a more natural way that works for their group.
"The funny thing about doing these trivia nights is that it does actually feel like you're in the room with people. I find with the trivia nights, since we've got the questions and people are chatting about the answers and whatever else, there's none of that kind of stilted awkwardness with interactions that you sometimes get with something like a virtual birthday party," says Maz.
Through their weekly online trivia hangouts, Jess, Maz, and their friends have had a chance to get a glimpse into everyone's home lives and get to know more about each other on a more personal level.
"We've learned a lot about our friends during this, like hidden talents, things people know or are interested in, and personal stories. One night, we had a trivia question about the Chinese Zodiac, and one person knew the answer right away because growing up, she had this story that helps her remember the order of the animals. Of course, we all wanted to know and hear their childhood story. With doing this virtually, we have the time and space in the online format when it's just us to stop and elaborate, whereas when you're in a pub full of 50 other people in the room, you don't always have that,” says Jess.
The “Team Toaster” team members have echoed that these trivia nights have been not only the highlight of their week, but their entire lockdown experience.
“This is the best thing I’ve done in quarantine,” says Nathan, who joined the group from Oregon, “Learning new things, meeting new people, and making friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise”. Christian from Vancouver adds that “[its] entertainment to keep everyone going and smiling” every week.
“They haven’t missed a beat and I’ve noticed how, as silly as the whole thing is, everyone who is involved is just so grateful for the work they put in to keep us all connected and laughing. They are our absolute heroes right now,” Jo from Vancouver shared with gratitude.
Jess and Maz are truly humbled by the positive social impact their games nights are having on their friend group:
"When we initially started this, it was a way to still keep in touch with our friends once a week for a couple hours, and also give us something to do throughout quarantine week to week. It's really great that people have been enjoying and looking forward to trivia night so much," shared Jess.
In these trying times when much has been taken away from our everyday lives, having something to anticipate with your friends every week to is a reminder of what's important that we all still have - each other, as Maz reflects:
"It gives us a feeling that we've gained something in this crisis. Everyone is focused on what was lost and what we can't do anymore. Whereas now that we've got this weekly trivia night that we really love, it gives you something that you gained, that you look forward to, so it's not all negative."
This series has been kindly presented by TELUS. Did you know that they’re waiving home internet overage charges during COVID-19 to help you #stayconnected? Learn more at telus.com/covid19.