Quarantine in Medellín began on March 20, 2020 at 7pm. As of this writing, it is set to last until April 13th 2020. Exactly one more week. However, as we have seen happen in so many other countries, the likelihood of it being extended is high.
Unlike in the USA, Colombia is handling this pandemic appropriately and taking lockdown seriously. The Colombian borders are closed and all flights have been suspended. Non-essential businesses are shut down. There are police and soldiers in the streets day and night. Only one person per household is allowed to leave at a time and only for food or medicine. There is no walking around the neighborhood, running in the park or going through the fast food drive thru like I see happening on so many American Instagram stories. I have no doubt that I am safer here than I would be in the USA right now.
That doesn’t mean things aren’t weird…
That doesn’t mean things aren’t weird, and even a little scary, here. My street is eerily quiet compared to that city scene I fell in love with a month ago. Seeing police and the military out of my window all the time is unsettling. The grocery store nearest to my house limits the number of people shopping on a given day by only allowing people with certain ID numbers to shop on certain days. (My ID ends in a 2 so I can shop on Thursdays and Saturdays). I recently discovered I can get my groceries delivered and that has been a game changer! To avoid the hoarding of toilet paper, water, eggs and cleaning supplies, stores have set limits for each item.
When I do go to the store, I get strange looks that I didn’t get before. Since the most severe outbreaks of Coronavirus are in Europe and the United States, seeing a gringa elicits fear in locals now. They wonder when I got here, why I haven’t left, and if I have the virus.
This quarantine has highlighted the number of homeless and hungry people living on the streets of Medellín. Whenever I sit out on my balcony at least one person stops, looks up at me, and pleads, “Tengo hambre” (I’m hungry). This didn’t happen before quarantine. I drop down apples, crackers and leftovers to people whenever I can. But it isn’t enough.
Teaching Online During Quarantine
Luckily, I am still able to teach online while I’m here. But, between kids in China being able to go outside again for the first time in over two months and the influx of quarantined Americans and Canadians teaching online, I’m not as busy as I was a month ago. But I am teaching enough to sustain myself during quarantine and that is all I need right now.
Every morning I wake up between 4:30 and 6, whether I am booked or not. I drink a bottle of water, shower, make coffee, and teach- if I have classes. I find that sticking to a schedule keeps me grounded during these unpredictable times.
What about the rest of the day?
I have bouts of boredom, as well as anger, binge watch my fair share of Netflix, and stuff my face with junk food, just like the next person. But when I am feeling up for it, I read, write, study Spanish, cook vegan meals, and meditate. From getting the opportunity to stay in a country safer than the one I’m from, to all this extra time to do things I will not have time to do if a 40 hour work week is still in my future, I am privileged!
Even during the most difficult moments of this worldwide pandemic, I have to acknowledge the privilege of my situation and, more importantly, spend it wisely.
We are all in this together!