A Semi-Charmed Life

I want to describe today how Ecuador has reacted in response to the corona virus and how that has affected us as a family.  The response to covid-19 in Ecuador has been very aggressive and quick-reacting.  When the first cases hit Guayaquil in early March, the government responded promptly.  While there have been many failures and shortcomings, the efforts of this relatively impoverished country have been laudable.  But this essay isn’t about the government response.  Instead, I want to talk about the effects of their response and the mindset of quarantine here, as it seems quite different to what our friends and family are describing in the US, Europe, and many other places.

We have been in quarantine since March 13th, and our kids’ last day of school was the 12th.  Quarantine here has meant that we have curfew from 2 PM – 5 AM, that we can only drive 1 day a week based on our license plate number (with no one driving on Sundays), that all outdoor activity is off limits other than trips for food or other essentials, and that these trips are done by only 1 member of the family.  Trips out require a mask and gloves.  As a result, my kids have been in our apartment for 57 straight days (and counting).

Last weekend, I had a wonderful zoom happy hour with several friends that I grew up with.  Friends were surprised by the rough experience that we confront here in Ecuador.  However, the thing is – it’s not so bad.  I’m not viewing this with rose-tinted glasses.  It isn’t always easy.  We’ve all – parents and kids – had our share of melt-downs and frustrations.  But it’s really not that bad.  Our kids (10 and 7) have zoom class calls most of their weekday mornings and have activities around the apartment to keep them busy and content most of the time.  Lyrna is busy with her photography, and I’m occupied with my work.  And Lyrna and I are both running around trying to keep up with the kids’ school work.  We are blessed that our work continues without any interruption.  We are blessed that we are financially secure.  We are blessed that we are healthy.

With apologies to old 90s alt rock, I labeled this a semi-charmed life.  We are living in a comfortable apartment, but we don’t have a yard.  This wouldn’t be our dream vacation spot (being inside, under quarantine).  And clearly, it’s more restrictive than our friends and family back in the US.  But life is mostly good.  The family has time (loads of it) together.  We have time to read and reflect, watching movies together, and teach the kids how to cook.  We have played games together, made artwork and created crafts (OK – those did not involve me at all), and made all kinds of mini adventures for ourselves.  Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s not that bad.  And I’m also not trying to humble brag about the family, or that anything less means that someone else is failing.

So after the happy hour call with friends, I guess what surprised me most was the complaints and angst (not from my friends on the call) that I see in the news and social media coming out of the US with restrictions far more lenient than here.  Suffering is losing your employment, your business, or your home.  Suffering is struggling with life in ICU.  Suffering is losing a loved one.  I lost a dear uncle this week, though not to covid.  Suffering is NOT from having to wear a mask outside, having to maintain physical distance, or not being able to eat in a restaurant.  Seriously, we often talk about sacrificing for our freedom and for our country, but we’re not willing to make these sacrifices for our neighbors and our community.

I guess to close, I would just say that I’m grateful for what we have, especially our health, meaningful employment, and security.  I hope the same for you and yours.

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