It’s COVID-19 in Peru Day 10.

I sleep til 6 today.

I meditate, as outlined on Day 9. No new email, and I blow off Facebook. The restrictions I put in place yesterday turned out to be very fine ones. I feel a lot better this morning, a light year more calm.

We’re Walking

I’ve gone, according to my phone, from an average of 12,000 steps a day to—wait for it—48! Not 48K, 48. Period. This is at least partly because I’m not carrying my phone around with me in the apartment. But I admit to staring numbly at the screen, depending on SHINE for a daily workout. I remind myself that at home, I try to get close to 10K steps in addition to a daily workout. My usual, non-traveling life is sedentary. I write, I cook, I read, I help Steve with stuff, and I just don’t move that much unless I make a point of it.

Now of course, everything is weird. But I’m done with the sitting-on-my-ass-in-shock phase of this New Era of Mankind. I load up a NYTimes podcast; I’m not particularly in the mood for politics, but I think that maybe, if I allow myself one podcast, it will help me stop checking online news as often. As noted, I curtailed that yesterday. Now I’m just finding the balance.

The Fun Part

My sister Becky has been sending me a lengthy email for about 3 days now. They are funny, newsy, and I am loving them. Now I look for them in the morning, peg them to open later as a treat, then respond after a couple of hours of being awake in case there’s anything interesting to write.

She sends me a picture of a glass jar of jelly beans. I love jelly beans. Not jelly bellies; I love the cheap ones. I mean, it’s all just sugar, right? You’re not fooling me with the “flavored with real fruit” nonsense.

She promises to keep some for me whenever we get back. To Michigan, which is now giving California a run for its money in COVID cases in the US, behind New York, of course.

The Part That Is Getting Old.

The Embassy sends emails every few hours. They’re nearly always repeats. We do learn that some folks got out. At Steve’s suggestion, I have pasted in the text of one of the emails.

Location:  Peru (country-wide) Event:  As of 1:00PM today, two planes carrying approximately 300 Americans from Lima and Cusco are departing for the United States, bringing the total of repatriated Americans from Peru to over 1000 people.

“Senior U.S. officials maintain constant communication with the Government of Peru and are working around the clock to secure authorization for more repatriation flights this week, as well as authorization for U.S. citizens in other parts of Peru to travel to Lima by land or air.

“At this time, only American Citizens, certain Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) such as those accompanying unaccompanied minors, or valid visa holding medical and health professionals working on the COVID19 worldwide response may be manifested on chartered flights to the United States.”

So, that’s that. Let me know if you want more. I get one every few hours.

Another thing I get: text messages from Joe Biden’s campaign asking if I want to talk to Joe. I text back, “Sure, if he wants to call me in Peru, where I’m stranded.” The response is, “Great, Nancy! How much can we count on you for Joe?” I’m pretty sure they mean “count” literally, as in dollars that I will donate.

In what I assume is a joint effort to mix things up and be folksy, I get a particularly tone-deaf communication today that says, “We’re all just sitting at home anyway!” And even though I know that not even a robot is reading my responses, I text back, “Actually, Joe, funny you should say that, because I’m NOT sitting at home. I’m #strandedinperu. Get in touch any time!”

A minute later, my phone pings. “Thank you for being on Team Joe!”

Sure. You bet.

In Which I Experience the Same Tedium as Many, Many Fortunate Souls Right About Now.

I work out.

I sleep.

I go back to the rooftop. I listen to a podcast from the Guardian from August. It is about the canon, as in the English Literature Canon. It is unintentionally hilarious, beginning with that Exciting Dramatic Music that they use for low-budget documentaries on things like Vikings. The first person that the host interviews sounds like what the British classically refer to as a Twat. He can, surprisingly, pronounce his R’s, but otherwise sounds as if he’s about to burst into delighted laughter just to have the opportunity to discuss the scintillating poetry of John Milton.

The Twat is followed by a feminist writer from the US, Elaine Showalter, who’s interesting. She talks about how, when she began graduate school at UC Davis, she was only allowed to do a dissertation on women writers because the graduate program was so new, they didn’t realize they should probably restrict her to Dead White Guys. Which is what would have happened had she gone to Yale or Columbia, where she was accepted.

All too quickly, she is replaced by some guy from the North of England. He pronounces “decade” “decayed,” and sounds as if he knows whereof he speaks, as he reclines on a chaise longue, barely able to lift a bonbon to his mouth, much less be bothered to offer his opinion. Also, his name is Carol something, so I thought he’d be female. I’m annoyed that this discussion on the way the Canon is limited to Dead White Guys is 4/5 made up of White Guys Who Are Not Dead. Give Elaine more mic time!

The air is cool. Lima is entering the period of weather that hits it at the beginning of its autumn—remember, we’re below the equator and the seasons are flipped. Beginning now and continuing ’til about November, a bonnet of fog sits atop the city most hours of the day. We get a little blue sky in the morning, and otherwise a lot of mist. It’s lovely, though. The mist feels like a present, a wonderful, breezy present. And with so few cars and buses, a clean one.

covid-19 in peru day 10

I Miss My Kitchen.

Steve has been craving chicken. It turns out the only way he could buy it was to buy a pretty large pack. We have a small stove, inadequate burners, and not great pans. Still, after marinading it and stir-frying it in batches, he says it’s decent.

It’s a bad sign when I don’t want to eat anything but junk. Nothing sounds good, except maybe those jelly beans, which I can’t get. When the Embassy does get you on a flight, they tell you to bring food and water, as there won’t be any. So we have a lot of chicken to take on the plane. I would rather eat almost anything else. But if the Embassy gets in touch at 7, telling us to get to them by 8—it’s a 20 minute cab ride—well, chicken it is.

I know I’m acting like a giant, spoiled toddler. Reading, however briefly, about India, which began a 21-day lockdown today, about Syrian refugee camps where there is no running water—in which case, how the hell do you wash your hands for 20 seconds?—scares me. The hellishness of it. Then the guilt that I’m bitching about eating chicken.

Reading puts me on edge. So does avoiding the news.

That In This Moment Thing….?

I have had a couple of exciting things happen to me since I started practicing the “In the moment, no lack/nothing to fear/much to be grateful for” where I could easily contradict the “no lack” statement. I can admit that there IS always something to be grateful for, although sometimes the fact that I have things to be grateful for makes me feel guilty (a first world luxury). I can usually remember that, at least for the moment, there is no fear.

But in those moments, I have thought, but I do lack. One time it was my wedding ring, which I managed to get back through staying calm and a lot of good coincidences. One time, I was in Berlin, without Steve, having a really bad day.

But if you work even a little, you can always find lack, and fear. I just have to work harder at realizing the things I can easily count as lacking are not, apparently, the things I get to bitch about in the moment.

So right now, while I lack my kitchen, I do have a kitchen, and there is food in it. I lack any kind of knowledge about the future, but who doesn’t? Always, not just now.

Everybody’s in the same boat.

Everybody’s always been in the same boat.

Outside the window, the sun breaks through the dusky haze. A brief bit of color.

covid-19 in peru day 10

A Little Story About a Small Mountain

Before this started, Steve and I went on a trip here in Lima with a young man named George—not Jorge, but George. We seem to have crossed paths with a preponderence of men in Peru whose parents gave them non-Spanish names. (So far, every woman we’ve been in touch with does have a Spanish name.) We’ve met George, Jean-Paul, Whilder, and two Franklins (and Claudia, Giuliana, Rosa, and Maria Eugenia).

George took us to a neighborhood where no tourists would ever go without a guide. We have real-deal ceviche on the street. It comes with a broth that tastes amazing, like the sea; in fact, I’m pretty sure they boiled seaweed in it. This was followed by a plate of spectacular, freshly made ceviche.

We then took a jammed bus followed by a tuk-tuk up to what in Colombia would be called a communa, a neighborhood that snakes up the hillside.

In Peru, these start as shantytowns, but eventually, when enough people settle in, electricity and running water make their way there as well. The inhabitants are obviously poor, but we felt safe, because George was there. Though we would’ve been dead stupid to try it on our own.

covid-19 in peru day 10

The place where we ended up is a gateway to a protected area, and stairs lead up a hill. We climbed a few stairs, then George said, “That’s the boring way.” He led us—me, Steve, and two young women, one who was absolutely terrified and had no idea what she’d gotten herself into—pretty much straight up some steep rocks interspersed with dirt that wasn’t exactly solid under our feet, as it was the end of the hot, dry summer. Luna, a local dog, bolted up with us.

covid-19 in peru day 10

After a rough patch of beginner level rock climbing, we continued to ascend—a steep path, but definitely a path. George walked next to me for a while. I’d been sick the day before—I’d apparently gotten a pisco drink that didn’t agree me (not with a guide, this was on a day where S and I were just hanging out)—but the ceviche broth seemed to have restorative powers. I told George I’d been working out a lot, but had been interrupted in the US by getting sick for 2 weeks, then having a bad day the day before. “I’m feeling this in my legs,” I said.

“Oh, I feel it, too,” he said. “I climb up here a few times a week, and I’m still breathing hard.”
“You know, even when I work out a lot, I still hate the gym,” I said.
He laughed. “I think you always hate it. It never feels good. But the thing is, you’re doing it. And because you do it, you make it up the mountain.”

We kept on, one foot in front of the other. We made it to the top. Lima lay far below us, the sun dropping into the sea.

That’s what this is, I’m realizing. Just put one foot in front of the other. Fun? Ha.

But that’s ok. Even if it’s not worth the climb, the climb will, at some point, be over. I don’t know if I’m excited or dreading the view; a little of both.

But. Well. There will be one. Whether or not I get to the very top.