COVID frontline: Ecuador and Canada

Cosmos Magazine


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By Cosmos

From Monika Silva: Montañita, Ecuador

Ecuador: First case reported 29 February

Cases 1925; deaths 58

(At Sunday 29 March)

Every day I wake up to the sound of hummingbirds’ wings flapping by my window (actually there are no windows, only half height walls, where I sleep). The sun shines and the sky is blue every day. Magnificent birds’ concerts, omnipresent greenery and giant butterflies fluttering about surround me. Every morning, every single plant-baby of mine in my garden shines with vitality and puts a smile on my face.

In the times of coronavirus nothing interrupts this magical spectacle of nature.

Except that, in the other, pre-corona dimension, nothing ever interrupted it either. It has simply been my family’s way of life since we moved to the coast of Ecuador six years ago.

With one difference. A fundamental one in our case. 

There is no one we can share this natural beauty, the tranquility of our green oasis, with. Instead of hosting travellers from all over the world and by so doing, winning our daily bread, I’ve spent the last two weeks evacuating our guests back to their home countries. 

Coronavirus this, coronavirus that; people somewhere out there where material belongings seem to matter more than they matter in our tiny Montañita universe fighting each other for the last roll of toilet paper. Ridiculous. Thank goodness we’re in Ecuador, in our coastal, tropical bubble, distanced from the madness of the other world. Corona will never get us here, ha ha!

And it hasn’t so far. 

Maybe it hasn’t thanks to the measures taken by our government. The very same measures that have imprisoned us in our green slice of heaven.

On 30 March, my Duracell-bunny-like daughter will turn four. That day will also mark over two weeks since she’d seen the world outside the bamboo and adobe walls of our property. Over two weeks since she’d seen a friend outside a phone screen. 

I wonder if she’ll remember it. I certainly will. 

At times I wonder if this will ever end. 

Every now and then I enter panic at the realisation that we are and will be left with no income for a very, very long time to come. And then I catch myself thinking that it’s just a matter of waking up from this bad dream.

I can’t allow myself to complain. The thought of families stuck in their provisional, aluminium-made shelters on the outskirts of Guayaquil in this unbearable heat, with hungry children and no electricity, makes my agnostic self feel too sinful. 

 For now, we will just plant some seeds. Wait for the veggies to grow. Watch the caterpillars turn into giant butterflies. Pick passionfruit and peppermint. Brew another cup of tea. Wash, wash, wash. Maybe, finally take that long, long overdue rest. Keep the little Duracell occupied. Panic and then refuse to believe it. 

Until someone wakes us up from this dream.

From Marty Hansen: Alberta, Canada

Canada: First case reported 25 January

Cases 6258 (621 in Alberta); deaths 66

(At Sunday 29 March)

Calgary is an oil city. We have a great big stampede each year in July – you might have heard about it. It’s a city where people are proud to work so they can play, so it’s perfect that we’re located some 120km from mountains for skiing and hiking.

We seem to have taken COVID-19 seriously all at once, around the time that the Prime Minister’s wife tested positive. It also seems that we were watching the virus approach and responding as it took each step closer. Now, our focus is flattening the curve of new cases.

In middle of February, I took part in an online live gathering being held in India. This brought the virus into view for me, with well wishes going out to China. I could see from evening to evening in the three-week event the concern the organisers had with increasing compliance to social distancing. They were asking people who were showing any symptoms to stay home in the second week. 

Over the past two weeks in Calgary we’ve gone from going out for coffee in crowded shops, to being managed in essential service stores to keep our distance and move with purpose. We’re now being informed that fines will be imposed for violations.

I’m an agreeable, friendly kind that enjoys engaging with people. I like conversation to rise just slightly beyond small talk – but with safe boundaries on personal stuff.

I find myself now steering away from any detail or opinion surrounding this pandemic or government response and how can we help or do better. As opportunities to connect in person become more limited, I’m taking the opportunity in any exchange to ask about how are people are handling being alone, or around family all day etc. I have noticed that connection through the exchange of words has a greater consequential benefit for me and those I talk to. 

My life has been privileged by skiing – I worked as a coach for 23 years before transitioning off snow and into fitness training in 2006. So for most of my life I have been involved in supporting the wellbeing and performance of others. 

Yoga entered my life in 2013, but not by plan. It has brought an understanding of self-reliance. Being isolated or alone has become more my practice as my knowledge from yoga develops. 

When all the nearby fitness studios, gyms and ski resorts closed promptly it was for the right reasons: to not give the virus more opportunity. But it’s also allowed people to understand the strength they have. 

Many people engaged in services related to fitness or yoga went online, including my business. To be able to remain in contact with my clients through this time is all about community. I’m happy that yoga has added to my skills as a coach. Being able to connect with others, not just family and friends, will help us get through this.

My son recently graduated from university to start work in Vancouver, which is 11 hours’ drive away. My mother and brother live in a beautiful tourist and fruit-growing area about halfway between Vancouver and Calgary. My father lives 9-10 hours from all of us in northern British Columbia. If I’m lucky, I see my family members a few times a year. 

Talking on the phone is our main source of contact. Through many exchanges on the phone with them, we all realise that this virus has brought us quickly and abruptly to how fragile life is, and fear surrounds this. How we adjust and what we’re holding on to that slows our response are questions that we wouldn’t have asked only months back.

My routine has relaxed and softened through the isolation. We all have more time to spare. Cooking and eating has a steady calmness, with time to adjust schedule, spice or prepare differently, or simmer longer. To eat with more presence has a different energy benefit. Conversations around food or wellbeing have a different tone. We share how we are doing things rather than just talking about entertaining. My kitchen has never been cleaner, which brings a different energy to the place. 

I have friends who have friends on the frontline. One friend dropped out of sight when he self-quarantined after being exposed to a physician friend at a party. The physician showed symptoms after the party and tested positive. One of my clients has two daughters who are doctors, both of whom have husbands who are doctors. My client doesn’t think he’ll see his family for quite some time. In the case of both friend and client, I see that the responsibility to do what is right and support tough decisions is in their movements and thoughts. Then I see others think of others, I become more discerning instead of selfish. I see how my community benefits. I have more opportunity to feel happiness this way. 

Read more in our “COVID frontline” series

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