It’s COVID-19 in Peru Day 19.

Up early, the first official Man Day. I meditate, then head up to the roof. I can’t walk anywhere else—unless you count pacing around the apartment liked a caged tiger—until tomorrow, which I like to think of as Lady Day, simply because “lady” is both more fun to say and also a ridiculous word, thus befitting this bizarre new reality where different genders take turns owning the streets.

I listen to a podcast from the Daily featuring an interview: two Germans speak English about developing a COVID vaccine. Steve and I spend a lot of time in Germany; he was married for many years to a German native, they built a house there, and after she died in 2010 (on January 1), he kept it. Since January of 2015, I’ve started to go with him.

So I’ve gotten to know Germany better than your typical tourist, and thus have gotten to know a fair amount of Germans, generally and specifically. Listening to these two German women talk, I can visualize them: calm, thoughtful, slightly creasing their brows as they carefully question and answer each other.

Grown-ups, International Version

The podcast continues on a theme that’s come up frequently in the COVID podcasts I’ve listened to. Basically, the US has been outsourcing for years to realize bigger profit margins, and then pretty much depended on being able to buy whatever it wanted when it needed it: masks, respirators, hospital beds, and a bunch of other stuff. Now, caught utterly unprepared to face COVID-19—well, our money’s literally no good anywhere. The places who make all that stuff are saying, sorry, we need it. Still, the Trump administration and China have both, apparently, tried to buy exclusive rights to the vaccine that the German company CureVac is working day and night to develop.

(By the way, will Trump’s anti-vax supporters submit to a COVID vaccine, or will he allow that as an opt out? Just wondering.)

In the end, the scientist Lidia Oostvogels says, “I can understand that individual governments are thinking first about their population, because that is their job. But, I mean, my job is to make a vaccine that can protect people worldwide. I mean, I’m not making a vaccine that can only protect Europeans or Americans. So my job is to get a good vaccine out. So why would I first want to vaccinate somebody in my country, who anyway is a very low risk, versus somebody in another country who is perhaps protecting and trying to cure other people with a risk of his life? So make the decisions based on medical need and common sense and not on political agenda.”

Reasonable, right? That link, including the transcript from which the above quote is lifted if you’d rather read than listen, is here.

That Dude Looks Like a Lady…

I peer down from the rooftop to see what the first Man Day looks like. I see 3 runners in black track suits 11 floors below me. I think, wow. One of those people runs like a girl.

One of those people is definitely a girl, and definitely not a woman; she’s gangly, flippy floppy, like she’s growing too fast for her center of gravity to catch up or the other way around. Long hair comes loose from her cap, her arms flail wildly. I guess that she’s running as fast as she can because she just realized it’s Man Day and she better get inside quick.

Steve returns from the grocery store. He says it’s quite orderly. “More cops?” I ask. “Less,” he replies. “Lots of guys who clearly hadn’t done much grocery shopping. They looked kinda lost.”

Whether or not gender stereotypes are more enforced in Peru, Steve and I obviously have them reinforced pretty firmly in our own US-raised brains.

I wonder if the cops will be gender segregated as well. I guess I’ll find out on Lady Day.

Vitamina C

Steve has brought back 2 tubes of Vitamin C tablets. I love chewable vitamins, because they are like healthy candy.

In many ways, particularly when it comes to food, I am 6.

I pop one in my mouth.

My entire lower face instantly puckers up, like Wile E. Coyote’s when he gets a mouthful of alum from Acme products.* Meanwhile, the tablet is fizzing away, like a volcano of super cheap and terrible champagne has erupted inside my closed lips and teeth.

(*I feel like I vividly remember Wile E. Coyote eating alum, but can’t find the cartoon anywhere. If you can track it down, please leave in the comments.)

I pull the tablet out and drop it in a cup of water. Once it dissolves, it’s still disgusting, producing terrible faces from me. But at least I manage to ingest it. Health is our greatest wealth!! Dilute, dilute!! (These memorable truths and MORE can be found by reading the fine print on the Dr. Bronner’s soap label. The Moral ABC that unites all mankind free.)

Routine, routine, routine

I have only been able to get through the latest Shine workout halfway for two days running. It stops in the middle. Today, I try everything, including killing a bunch of programs and open windows. No luck.

Oh well, I’m sweating, I got my heart rate up, and I resolve to get another podcast walk in this evening. My niece Erin has told me about Hard-Core History. “I don’t get into most of them, but there are 5 episodes on WWI that are amazing.”

She tells me this by FaceTime, an app I typically avoid. I really hate the way I look in video phone apps. But I give it a shot, and it’s good to see her as she gives me a tour of her back yard in Michigan. The sun’s out, she and her husband and my sister Becky, her mom, have built raised beds. We talk about how we are so much happier with less now, that we hope it continues.

“Everybody’s locked inside with all their stuff, and everybody’s miserable because they just want to be with their friends,” she says.

I remember once talking to a Frenchwoman living in Michigan. She was mildly appalled at the fact that US employers gave their workers so little time off, if they gave them any at all. She expressed this in that classic French way, where tremendous disdain is evidenced by the slightest raising of one eyebrow, as if the speaker is so morbidly unimpressed that he or she can’t be bothered to raise the other one. (Stereotypes are today’s theme.)

“I always think Americans buy so much stuff all the time because they don’t have the one thing they want, which is just time to do nothing.”

The rest of the world does do certain stuff better than we do in the US of A, as Archie Bunker used to call it. I am desperately hoping we learn a hell of a lot from this.

I want a new normal. Do you?


Steve gets an email from Peru Repatriations. I don’t get it. It’s confusing, like much of our communication from the Embassy:

The U.S. Embassy is finalizing logistics for bus transportation to bring American travelers from the Chimbote area to Lima for a repatriation flight.  …….In the afternoon of April 5, passengers will be boarded on a flight from Lima to Washington, D.C.  If you can travel to Lima Sunday April 5, by bus for a flight out of Lima on Sunday April 5, please respond to this email as soon as possible.

So….does that mean the flight on April 5 is only for people on the bus from Chimbote, or for anyone who can get to Lima, which we certainly can because we’re here? We fill out the form. Cross our fingers.


Oh, not too long. In an hour, we find out: We got nothin’.

The Rooftop Treadmill

On my second rooftop walk, I start thinking: What if we could get to Mexico City or Sao Paolo somehow? Not, of course, before this set of restrictions is done, but maybe after the 12th, then get to the US from there?

It’s an awful thought, though. I don’t want to traipse around either one of those airports.

Oh, bother. Maybe we should just wait until May. Hell with it.

The giant birds are back, swooping closer—in fact, close enough to tell that they’re not the condors I marveled at the other day, just vultures.

Dumb birds.

Another day in the neighborhood. Honestly, it’s a beautiful neighborhood. I mean, look at those mountains. And the birds are not dumb. I’m just jealous.