As most world travellers and bloggers – due to the world pandemic panic – headed back to their home countries and the safety nets of their comfortable housings and loving family arms, I became a castaway in a country whose language I still barely speak and where the quarantine rules are so strict I sometimes find it hard to understand what are e.g. people from Central Europe, who can still (even during the lockdown) use their cars and go to the countryside, woods and parks to connect with the nature, complaining about…
I don’t want to brag, complain, moralize, be pathetic or ask for your sympathy. I made my decision of staying in Peru. I left my place in the only repatriation flight organized by the Czech Republic to those who were in real trouble here, as food and hotel prices shot up dramatically, and not everyone has someone in this country who they could ask for help – which I was lucky enough to get. I am ready to bear the consequences of my decision.
This article is merely a description of things as they are in Peru. I am living through the very yogic “right here, right now” which has no longer got anything to do with fancy Instagram and Facebook pictures and sheer happiness of exploring new landscapes, dallying away nights out with international amigos and generally enjoying the free-spirited life of a person, who, two years ago, decided to follow the dream of: Not “holiday making” but real “travelling”! – In good times and in bad…
Yes, I decided to marry LIFE, letting go of, selling and giving out all my possessions, excluding several personal things, and living out of my savings. The plan was originally just one year… but then – my shoes are made for walking… So, I ended up in Peru once again, and the original plan of leaving after a quarter of a year or four months changed to “God knows when I will be leaving now”…
But then, as Milan, a man who has known me since I was nineteen, always says: “That’s how you wanted it. That’s how you get it. And you will play the game till the very end. You will dance even in the dark. Despite all the physical and mental pain (that nobody will know about as you will keep it top secret) you will complete your mission.”
On March 16th, Martín Vizcarra, the president of Peru, declared, obviously due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a quarantine for the whole country which was preceded by all schools closing down on March 11th. The following day, Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima closed to the public. Currently, all cruise ships docking is suspended, and all flights to and from Peru cancelled, except for repatriation flights of which there are fewer and fewer.
As the population of Peru is generally not as disciplined as e.g. the population of my native country, the lockdown has been prolonged twice already, currently till April 26th, and the rules are becoming stricter every week. From the very beginning, the quarantine policy severely restricted all movement except for traveling to the supermarket, bank, gas stations, pharmacy or to emergency medical clinics. Thus also privately registered vehicles had been restricted from use right at the beginning of this situation, except for those needed e.g. in food and medicine supply professions. I was very lucky to make my way back to Chimbote from Huaraz before all the bus services stopped operating. If it wasn´t for the kind soul of my companion, I would be stuck in a guesthouse in Huaraz, without my laptop, with my trekking shoes, trekking clothes, and a tiny backpack with supplies for several days.
Additional rules and movement restrictions as part of the current national quarantine strategy include a mandatory daily curfew from 6:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m. for most of Peru (including Lima and Cusco), and a mandatory daily curfew from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m. for Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad and Loreto regions.
Use of facemasks in public is mandatory, though – like in many other countries – they were basically nowhere to be bought since the beginning of March. In the Czech Republic, people have their sewing machines and all kinds of textiles and threads at home. This is not the case in Peru, where you normally pay little money at a mercado to get all your stuff fixed and done.
Thus, on the tenth day of the quarantine, after not having left the tiny weeny apartment where I am staying even once, when I failed trying to get a tailor’s number (of which there are normally hundreds here in Chimbote at the local market) to make a commission of several face masks, I decided to be the castaway in a country which has been my home now for a while and whose culture and customs are still in many ways new to me. Castaways are self-sufficient and resourceful! So having only boxers and a puller to use, none of which were mine, I created my own face mask, without a sewing machine, with leftover threads I found in my suitcase.
Now – This is Really Something
Recently, a new gender-based alternating schedule has been introduced: only one person per family is allowed to leave their residence for routine business (food, medicine, banks). Men are allowed to leave their homes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Women on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. No one is allowed to conduct routine business on Sundays. Allegedly, security forces have been instructed to respect the rights of transgender and non-gender binary individuals, but I don’t think it can work out, there is still too much prejudice concerning homosexuality and trans-gender in Peru, it is more likely that the president will need to denounce the restriction.
Also, happy Easter! None of us here can walk out of the house on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Let alone Easter Sunday! We literally cannot step out of the house!
And if this is still not enough of a mirror to some of you who kept bragging e.g. about the Czech government stealing your chance to pray at Easter in a church (Btw, is your faith really that low you think God won´t hear your worship from the premises of your residence? So little you think you cannot connect with your brothers and sisters unless SEEING them?), imagine that in the conditions mentioned above you find out that the borrowed mattress you have been sleeping on is filled with mites which accounts for the pimples and itchiness of your body you have been experiencing lately… you have no washing machine, no hot water in a tap, no drying machine, no vinegar, no vacuum cleaner and no extra beddings, pillows etc. Fun, isn´t it?
Are you seeing now how grateful you might be in your circumstances, or still not?
My goodness, seriously, when I read certain comments on social networks from people living in the Czech Republic or other countries in Central Europe I want to start shouting: “Appreciation, people, appreciation!”
And I don´t mean to be pushing you to anything like saying: “Oh, thank you, Covid-19, for teaching us so much.” I don´t expect you to be gloriously happy about photos that show dolphins returning to the canals of Venezia. No, I am just talking about simple, basic appreciation of being healthy, safe and in relative comfort…
My fellow citizens in the Czech Republic can use their cars normally, go to the countryside, woods, parks, now even do sports in open-air sport centres! I have the sea ten kilometres away from the place of my current residence, with hills and dunes and stunning sceneries, and I have no chance to get there! Nobody here cares about healthy lifestyle and the need for sports or simply walking, because the government knows well its people, who are not as disciplined as the citizens of e.g. Central Europe. If walking in the nature and thus also passing time at the beaches would be allowed, people would just go there to drink beer and have barbeques and the police would have a hell of a hard time to deal with that. And it is one for all, all for one now, so nobody cares you are a yoga instructor and NEED to move and NEED to spend time in the nature…
My fellow citizens in the Czech Republic have the comfort of hot water and washing machines (let alone dishwashers), the supermarkets are open (and kept well-stocked, so things like a kitchen light, Domestos WC disinfection or a mop – all of which I have been lacking badly – are easy to get), and almost every family would have a library at home (unlike here, where books are hard to buy as bookstores are almost non-existing and books expensive, and libraries are only common in the capital and in the tourist or university cities).
And above all this – in Europe, you won´t go to court for buying alcohol during the quarantine! When I heard this was one of the restrictions, I did not want to believe it. Until the day last week when for the first time in my life I saw a Latin-American man crying, because he bought a few bottles of beer and when carrying them home in a bag he got caught by the police, right in front of the house where I am staying. He was begging our landlord to let him in to hide, but of course, there was no point in doing that, the police would get in anyway… The police were deaf to the man’s pleadings and the offer to pay them a fine. He must go to court – because of six bottles of Corona beer…
Anyway – Why Worry
I am about to conclude. I guess you would expect me to offer some cool, motivating and supporting comment to finish with, to lift up our morale, to give some hope of a catharsis, to “say something nice in the end, like in the Shavasana part in the yoga classes”…
Because after all, we are basically all living in a certain degree of uncertainty and heaviness now… some worrying about their financial survival and the world economics, others worrying deeply about the health of theirs and their near and dear ones, and yet others worrying simply because the media is creating so much pressure and it is so hard to stay in a bubble and avoid the news…
Well, they say that if we keep looking on the bright side, we are the winners in all situations. So, I would conclude with a thought coined by Gaur Gopal Das, a former Hewlett Packard engineer who became a lifestyle coach and motivational speaker (and as a matter of fact is a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness):
Do you have a problem in life? – Yes.
Can you do something about it? – Yes.
Then why worry?
Do you have a problem in life. – Yes.
Can you do something about it? – No.
Then why worry?