I trust this finds you all fit and well and safe as I report in from Arequipa, southern Peru, with my wife and six year old daughter. We are currently on Day 9 of a national lockdown.
We are all in quarantine, which means that we can only go out for essential items (i,e. food or medicine). For the record: beer, Lego, guinea pigs or Scampi Fries are not classed as essential! Everything happened really quickly here. A brief timeline went as follows:
- 12/03 All schools closed.
- 13/03 Sent home from work. (I am a Teacher. No students = no classes).
- 13/03 A national panic buying flurry (until stocks ran out).
- 15/03 National State of Emergency and Lockdown announced for 15 days.
- 16/03 (A curfew from 8pm-5am is also in place now).
So, that is where we are right now. There is a strong rumour floating around that the lockdown will be extended for a further 15 days until mid April. That will be a game changer, but it is best to focus on the short term right now. As my wife and I are both teachers, we are not working. We have enough stocks and provisions to last us perhaps 2 weeks more. I have been out of the house twice and my wife once, my daughter hasn’t left the building since 14/03.
In situations like this your whole world becomes very, very small, very, very quickly indeed. As humans we adapt - it is in our DNA. You have to make the best from what you have and make the best out of a not-really-ideal situation. There is a phrase here: “Si hay, hay. Si no hay, no hay”, which translates to: “if there is, there is. If there isn’t, there isn’t”. Not very profound, but in a nutshell it sums things up nicely at this moment in time.
Panic buying has happened on a global scale, maybe that is part of human nature - the worry that we won’t have enough toilet roll to last 2 weeks! We missed the boat a bit. By the time we could get to the shops there was not a lot of anything, and most definitely no pasta, rice, sugar, porridge or loo roll.
However, we did have enough stocks in the house to last us a while, even if it means dipping into my camping larder (Wayfayrer’s-style tucker) and my 'only-in-an-absolute-emergency' stash (tinned Steak & Kidney Puddings and Mango Chutney). One could say that this is an emergency! We have been able to get stocks since then, but toilet paper is being rationed!
The supply chain here is still in place, so slowly shops replenished their shelves and right now, during the daytime, one family member can go to the shops for essentials. The military and police are in the streets checking people. Incidentally, the sole brewery here has stopped producing beer, switching to producing bottled water, so if you did want any ale, get it quick-smart!
Food, drink and Kleenex aside, for me the main thing to look after is your family, your health and your sanity. It is a massive change to daily routine to be cooped up in your own 4 walls, all day, every day. My main job right now is keeping my daughter entertained. A six year old can get restless rather quickly.
Although our flat is relatively diddy, one absolute luxury that we do have here is access to the roof, (it is walled off by the way). 15 steps North-South, 9 steps East-West of badly tiled terrace.
Arequipa has nine months of sunshine and a three month wet season. Right now we are in the latter, but when it is not sloshing down in buckets (and it does), we escape to the rooftop for impromptu camping expeditions, Cycling Proficiency lessons or cooking-up-al-fresco-brew. The joy of being outside, even if you are stuck at home.
Time is the single biggest change. How often do you have all the time in the World to spend at home, with no real pressing tasks to do? I am not able to work from home at present. Whilst this is not a problem yet, I will have to work soon. As I said, it is best to take one day at a time at times like these.
It is a real luxury to have so much time available - almost like the clock shows right down. Even the laziest man cannot sleep all day and night, so we are making the most of every waking hour: reading books we never have time to read, writing madcap stories and building things out of cardboard boxes.
Art and craft was never my forte: I am colourblind and neither I nor my Art teacher realised this at school, so painting everything the wrong colour never really paved my future to becoming an artist!
I have been trying to teach myself bass guitar since forever, so when a special offer for the musical app Yousician dropped into my inbox, it was perfect timing. Practice makes perfect apparently, I will be happy with just a bit better than rubbish. Watch this space...
Cooking is different too. Lunchtime is the focus of the day and, despite some odd concoctions, it is great to have time to cook, instead of dashing home from morning classes, rustling up something mediocre and then dashing back to work for afternoon classes. Now I have all morning to rustle up something mediocre! I could live on coffee, toast and bananas. Luckily my two ladies are not picky!
I am a runner and if you run you’ll know that not being able to run is very frustrating. The only time I don’t run is when I am injured. Now when one is crocked, you would generally do anything to be able to run again, but you accept it. I have had a lot of injuries and a lot of comebacks over recent years, but for the last 12 months I have been training differently and have been injury-free.
So what happens when you can’t run but you’re not injured (and you don’t own a treadmill)? You invent 'The Lockdown One Hour Rooftop Challenge'. How many back-and-forths can be shoehorned into 60 minutes? Accompanied by the nipper who heckles me, out-sprints me and/or cuts across my path on her scooter, just missing my toes each time, I plod from north to south, to north to south…
My current record is just over 3 miles, which is pretty pitiful for an hour of running. But it does equate to about 400 'laps', so it's more like an extended Bleep Test - as much turning as running. Obviously it wouldn’t help me a jot in longer events, but sometimes you have to find new goals: a Plan B, C or D. Keep motivated, keep interested and keep (semi) fit!
I have even been doing some core/swiss ball work, something that I never could find time for in the past. It is all about adapting. We are lucky. We are fit, healthy and thinking positively. Nothing is ideal right now, for any of us. We are facing a massive challenge, unlike nothing (m)any of us have ever faced before.
Stay safe, stay calm and stay awesome!
Johnny P, Arequipa, Peru. 24/03/20