Archive for March 18th, 2020

Handling crises in Ecuador

My family and I moved to Cuenca, Ecuador last June for a year sabbatical.  Over the course of the year, we have had our share of wonderful adventures and travels – to Macchu Pichu, to the Galápagos, to the Amazon, and to other areas around Ecuador.  We have had canopy tours that soar above the treetops; swam with sharks, rays, and sea lions; learned how to work with Ecuadorian bureaucracies to enroll in school; and hiked Incan ruins.

What we hadn’t fully planned for were the unplanned “adventures”.  In October 2019, civil unrest broke out nationwide in this peaceful country, leading to a couple weeks of strikes.  The strike closed the schools, halted supply chains and limited commodity shipments, and stopped all transportation.

Civil unrest (from NY Times)

In December 2019, we had a small volcanic eruption, which made for a few days of difficult breathing. Otherwise, there was no risk and we weren’t threatened by the volcano.

Sangay

We got past both of these mini-challenges without any issues.  We also weren’t affected by the earthquake last week that hit the coast of Ecuador or earlier ones last fall.

But now we, as everyone in the world, are now confronting a new threat – coronavirus.

corona

Ecuador has been very aggressive in its response.  I think that this is, in part because of the experience with all of the turmoil over the past several months.  A few weeks ago they appointed several regional hospitals as centers for covid-19 – one in our town of Cuenca.  Last Thursday, the 12th, schools stopped for 2 weeks.  This has already been extended.  Welcome to distance learning with videos and assignments coming daily from the school.  The government also started a self-quarantine on the 14th.  They have been increasing the vigilance of this since then.  Now there is a 9 PM – 5 AM curfew.  Non essential trips (food, medicine, employment) are not allowed.  Social gatherings over 50 were stopped on Sunday.  We are not even supposed to walk on the streets or use the parks.  Supply chains still seem to be functioning well.  Even during the Thursday announcements, I went to the store.  They were out of fresh meats and bananas.  There was 10 times the number of people there, but the shelves remained stocked.  My favorite was the “hoarding” behavior that I witnessed – a cart with 5 boxes of Frosted Flakes, several carts with multiple packages of liver, another cart with 7 large tubes of toothpaste.  Interesting.

Yes, these are interesting times indeed.  We are trying to enjoy our time together as a family, keep everyone active in our apartment and avoiding unnecessary social engagement.  We will keep you updated as we deal with the current “normal”.