Like half the rest of the world, Arnold and I have been in quarantine, for five months now. Of course I haven’t had the energy to write anything but I am hoping that now perhaps I will, given everything that is going (or not going) on here. Friends have commented that they are surprised how little energy they actually have for doing all the things they wished they had time for before the lockdown. My answer has been that one cannot overlook the stress level of being confronted with the scary reality of a virus that can kill you in a matter of days after you’ve contracted it, so we are all, at the base of things, terrified for our lives. It is very complicated, because I have found that I’m actually liking the reality of not being able to go out, not being able to travel, at least right now. I have been working in my ceramics studio, doing some fixing up and rearranging in the house, and I seem happy to be cooped up here, as it turns out. Arnold is doing exactly what he always does – stay in his office and listen to opera recordings. So it hasn’t really been too bad.
No one here that we know has gotten sick, we are all taking precautions, wearing masks, washing our hands, trying to be careful. We do miss seeing our friends but we are beginning, after five months of this, to talk about ways to do “healthy, social distancing”, dinner parties or cocktail parties on our terrace. We haven’t actually done anything yet, except for a friend or two coming over occasionally. Sofia has finished college and it’s all very anticlimactic – no graduation for her, nor for any of the other kids who would have graduated from Primaria and Secundaria respectively. I had fantasized about hiring a van to take her entire family and some of our close friends to Guadalajara for her college graduation and then throwing a big party. But….well, it was not to be. And she has decided, given that there are absolutely no jobs available for newly minted lawyers with the pandemic, to stay in school and go on for the Mexican equivalent of an M.B.A.
She has already begun her summer courses, and everything is online now. Classes, meetings, even my workouts with my trainer River have gone online. My outings from our house now are limited to masked runs to get groceries and do banking, and that’s about it. I am grateful to at least be able to go out every week or so, to see what has changed in our little village in the days since my last excursion. There are changes – new construction, they are building what should be a nice bike path linking Chapala to the west end of Ajijic. New houses and developments to make way for the expats and wealthier Mexicans who continue to come here to live.
I think the best thing about the enforced lockdown is that the noise and clatter of what was our everyday lives has now slowed way, way down. We actually have had relatively few cases of the virus here in Chapala, so the restrictions in March were a sort of dress rehearsal for the real lockdown we have now. And it is likely to continue for many months, and no one knows how this is all going to end, of course.
So I walk out on my balcony and listen to the soundscape of the village down below us and it is the usual mix of modernization, madness and occasional echoes of a traditional Mexico that is fast disappearing. Even in the early evening, the construction racket from a new shopping center and a new apartment building mix with the twilight chattering of birds, screaming truck brakes, a band playing somewhere for someone’s birthday (though no one is supposed to be having any parties); dogs barking, radios playing. If you have to be cooped up, this isn’t too bad a place to have it happen to you. Most of our friends are saying the very same thing.
When we do talk, it’s the same themes for all of us – the meltdown in the U.S.A., our Ancestral Homeland, the thousands upon thousands of incomprehensible deaths, the apparent disintegration of so much that we had gotten used to as sort of a baseline. All of that is in play, and no one really knows how this “New Normal” is going to affect us in the long run. All we can do for the moment is do what they tell us, stay home – trucks are going up and down the streets with bullhorns that are blaring, on top of the noises noted above, “Quedate en Casa” == (stay home) – wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, don’t go anywhere you don’t absolutely have to go, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.