It’s COVID-19 in Peru Day 23.
I sleep deeply with odd dreams. One involves rowing a boat, and I know, even while I am dreaming, that it has been inspired by a breathtaking sequence at the end of the first episode of The Crown.
And the dream I have every time we travel recurs. It involves having to leave the house in a rush, not sure whether I packed everything, not sure I will catch my plane or cab or whatever.
Before bed, we received an email from the Embassy with a link to sign up for a charter to go home. Steve is convinced we will be leaving on Wednesday, tomorrow. I’m not. But it is the first link we’ve received from the Embassy that positively states “a plane is accepting requests for seats.”
I’ll probably have that packing dream again. But I have my list. So it will just be a dream.
Meditations Old and New
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius has come up more than once lately. (Marcus Aurelius is the nice emperor who dies early in Gladiator, before Joaquin Phoenix becomes the psycho emperor. He was a real guy, and he wrote.)
In stressful situations, I like to read mysteries. So I recently read one by Donna Leon, featuring Inspector Brunetti traipsing through Venice. He’s my kind of guy: meditative, careful, soft-spoken, loves his wife, quotes Dante, and turns to Marcus Aurelius for solace.
Then a recent email from Penguin Classics mentioned The Meditations, calling it a classic we turn to in troubled times. So I saved the book on Scribd. And in the first chapter, which I’m reading slowly, MA says, this is what I learned from my father, from my mother, from this guy, from this other guy.
Maybe the whole thing is like this. As noted, I’m reading it with great care. To quote MA, to “not be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book.”
It strikes me as a good record to leave behind, if only for ourselves and our families, of what we’ve learned, and who we learned it from. I start my list. (If you decide to do the same, please consider adding a comment on this post or drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
From my father, that I am stronger than I think. That language is fun. Humor.
From my mother, to love beauty, to be curious. That stories are important. Humor.
This could take a while. I can see why he needed a whole book.
We Interrupt this Post for a Springtime Quarantine Bonus
If you’ve signed up for notifications, first, thank you. Second, you may have noticed a couple of downloads that, at the time probably seemed a bit random: Links to a couple of documents I created, Know Yourself as a Cook and The Spring Festival planner, have been emailed to you. The Spring dinner is all Greek-inspired food. My friend Callie Floor, 100% Greek, helped me make sure it was as authentic as a non-Greek person can hope to achieve.
So if you like, toddle on over to this post for a super tasty meal suggestion and recipe links, including Greek Easter bread with the eggs in it. It’s all tasty and straightforward to put together, though the mahleb for the bread will be difficult to come by if you don’t have access to a Middle Eastern grocer. Just up the vanilla extract if you can’t find it. And if you’ve signed up and can’t find the download, just drop me a note: email@example.com.
(I have mahleb sitting in my spice drawer at home; it’s crushed pits from sour cherries and it’s amazing. I would GLADLY mail you some of my mahleb, but I’m not there.)
This Lady Day, I decide to venture up to the park. Steve goes for a lengthy walk every day that he possibly can. I tend to want to stay closer to home. As there are no flights leaving today, I feel ok with taking a longer walk.
But not to the grocery store. The line to Plaza Vea has rerouted, down a different street—and extends for a few blocks. Steve didn’t encounter this yesterday, but obviously women would rather be stuck in a line outside than stuck inside. I’ve read, as I’m sure you have, how domestic abuse is going up as people are confined for longer periods. One woman in an article that I read talks about her husband banging down doors, how she can’t even have privacy in the bathroom.
I was in an abusive relationship when I was very young. I remember having a door kicked in once, followed by a beating. Hell on earth. Fortunately, and obviously, I got out.
I say a prayer for the women in line. I hope all of them have just come out to get an apartment break, that they all go home to love.
Quest for Love
Shopping bag over my arm, just in case I get stopped, I head in the other direction, away from the grocery store. There is a park in Lima, Parco de Amor or Love Park. It has some statues that are fun and look, from the pictures, to be pretty tacky. I had hoped to see it at some point, but haven’t so far. So off I go.
A huge city, nearly empty: People continually remark on the eerie beauty of the phenomenon playing out all over the world. In a frightening time, these solitary walks—the ocean pounding below, the breeze fresh, the air soft—are a gift.
Just a few weeks ago, I would have had to brave speeding cars to get close to this hibiscus. Today, I can just leisurely stroll across the street and snap a picture.
Ditto with this wonderfully strange sign. For what? Lady Gaga meets TRex? No idea.
I head to Larcomar. We were there our first day in Peru. Now, completely shuttered.
I am never sad to see a big chain empty. #lovelocal
This sign on the grass makes me smile. It translates to, “Soon, new flowers here!” Or, in my mind and particular mood, Fuck Off, COVID.
As I walk, I don’t listen to a podcast. I don’t think that much; it’s pretty close to a walking meditation. There is a lot to look at, listen to, smell, and most of all feel, that glorious cool air on my apartment-stale skin.
I never do make it to the Parco de Amor. The coastline is too hard to leave behind.
There’s an email with the headline: Urgent. Would we like a flight tomorrow?
Steve was right.
Shortly after sending in the processing info requested in the email, we get a call. Yep. It looks like we’re headed to Miami on a 2 p.m. flight. Directions to come.
We hug, but we hug a lot anyway. We don’t jump around. Steve says he thinks it’s probably not going to feel real until we land in Miami. I text my kids, sibs, our friend Alberto—we have to postpone tomorrow’s Spanish lesson—and Leo, who owns our AirBnB apartment. Everyone is happy for us.
We’re happy for us.
It still feels weird, bittersweet. Despite the uncertainty, this has been a fine and hospitable home for three and a half weeks when the world changed. It won’t be hard to leave. But it won’t be completely easy, either.
But we’re going home. We’ll spend the day packing slowly, cleaning, disposing of the food we’ve bought one way or another.
We’re going home.