Some people have asked how we are, since we’ve not posted anything after the beginning of the plague…oops I mean the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are fine and healthy, and actually enjoying our days during the “lockdown”. We walk Star the dog daily, stroll our street with Maya the cat, play in our small flower/veggie garden, and bike to the bakery that makes the really spectacular gluten free breads and cake. We walk to the grocery and department store when needed. We run into neighbors and expat friends during our walks or when standing out on our street, so there’s a little social life still happening. Occasionally we foray farther afield to buy something else we need, across the nearly empty town. We finally found some breathable masks to wear, so it’s less of a giant hassle to try to breathe through them! Gloves don’t seem to be available any more here, so when ours run out we will probably go glove-less. I don’t mind, because we have a great assortment of spray soaps and things to wash up with after a foray into the great outdoors.
Ecuador was very proactive regarding the virus, and put the country into limitations (or lockdown) way earlier than most other countries. That probably kept the virus in Guayas province where it originated in in this country, from spreading much. Visitors from Italy and Spain brought it over in March and went sightseeing all over the city of Guayaquil, spreading the virus before their symptoms appeared. As a result, there are quadruple the number of cases in that one province than anywhere else in the country. They swiftly closed the borders between provinces here, mostly containing the virus in Guayaquil and vicinity. So far we only have a few classes in our whole province, and very few deaths. People are being pretty good about wearing masks and sticking to the curfews and not spreading germs.
You may have read about Guayaquil in the papers or seen something on the news. That very hot oceanside city struggled with what to do with the normal quantity of bodies of people who die daily, after all the businesses (including funeral homes, lumber supply stores for building coffins and the death-certificate-processing offices) closed and people weren’t allowed to drive. That meant the regular quantity of bodies of people who died couldn’t be transported anywhere, in addition to the new deaths from COVID. As it’s a hot region and houses don’t have air conditioning, people were putting the bodies of relatives who died out onto the street in front of their houses to await pickup. There were not enough trucks to take the bodies to the graveyards, and the bodies wouldn’t be accepted there anyway without a death certificate. That’s what was in the news. Very soon they got it figured out though, and the problems were solved.
With all the businesses closed, many locals, elderly people, and indigenous families who already lived day-to-day on whatever they could earn in one day, are literally starving. Our neighborhood – lots of expats and lots of more well to do locals – are joining forces monthly to donate money and buy bulk food and make bags of food for the starving families. We plan to continue that monthly until this situation ends and people can open their businesses again. We provided 50 bags the first month and 60 bags the second. Formerly we saw a person begging for money on our streets maybe once every other week. Now we have about 3 beggars per day at our gate, clearly in genuine need.
Gary and I have found plenty to do in our time at home. I’m still working, so I see clients and students on Zoom. I continue my Spanish classes on Skype, although that’s on hold for the moment because my teacher and her brother are at home sick with COVID, trying to keep their elderly dad from catching anything. Gary has exercise days and I have extra-long-walk days. I run up and down our stairs to try to keep in shape for walking up and down the incredibly huge stairways in downtown Cuenca. Those giant and ancient stone stairways have 90-100 steps each! So I’m in training to be able to get up and down those still. I have been a professional travel writer for the past two years, and am continuing that now with a new gig for the same company. I’m not retired at all. I have several books I”m reading, when I do find some down time. We are trying to learn Backgammon, but that’s slow going so far.
Here’s an interesting tidbit of info: We didn’t buy a washing machine when we moved to this townhouse, because there’s a wonderful family-run laundromat up the street. For $3 they clean a week’s worth of clothing and towels and return it to us folded beautifully. However, they closed when all the businesses closed. We’re stuck without a washing machine and without a laundromat. Every other day we do a big load of laundry by hand. Sheets are the least fun. We do have clothes lines up in our sun room, so laundry dries within 2 days. We both just do it without complaint because we have to.
Because the garden centers are closed, we were unable to buy soil and supplies to make the garden we had planned in our new townhouse. Theres a nice patch that’s a good size for growing some salad greens, garlic, spinach, herbs, squash and tomatoes. We had some going in big pots on the patio, but really wanted the garden. We hired a wonderful young indigenous man to bring the soil and supplies we needed, and transplant a few things. He and his brother brought 18 bags of soil and compost to our door on a little motorcycle! The brother’s motorcycle had about 4 bags stacked on the back, and our gardener sat on top of those. While Jorge the gardener set up the garden, his brother Manuel went back and forth getting the rest of the bags for us, plus additional bags for a neighbor of ours. We hired Manuel to fix the gutter, which required a 15 foot tall ladder. Manuel showed up riding a regular bicycle, with a long ladder tied to the side of it with cord! I’m so impressed by the ability to do what needs to be done, with whatever materials they have.
Til our garden produces, food is not a problem for us. We keep the motorcycle food delivery guys in business. Today we had an apple pie delivered, and will have fish dinners delivered tonight. The organic permaculture farm delivery comes once per week, for organic eggs, meats, fruits and herbs. On Fridays the fruit and veggie man taps on our gate and calls out “Bonnie!” so I’ll come shopping at their station wagon full of fresh produce grown on indigenous peoples’ farms.
That’s the state of our lives in April. We are enjoying our days immensely, strangely enough, although we both miss being out in nature more. It’s great to see that we are not getting on each others nerves at all, even though we are cooped up together. Maybe the fact that its a two story townhouse helps. We can each have our own space. Life is good, though we eagerly await the resolution of this worldwide situation so we can stop dreaming about hiking in the mountains and get back to actually doing it.