The new face of the Plaza de Armas Sunday, 17 May, 2020
When the tourists do come back, they'll find that Covid has changed even their postcard photos of the plaza.
63 days down, 7 to go
Yesterday was so much excitement with taking food to the rural communities outside of Yaurisque that I’m exhausted today. After nine weeks of sitting on the couch, getting up early to go to the equivalent of Sam’s Club or Costco, then driving with the mayor of Yaurisque almost two hours from Cusco, then giving out food to over 200 families, then coming all the way back to Cusco, was way more action than I’ve had in nine weeks combined. It was immensely satisfying and truly a privilege to be able to distribute aid to so many people. Tomorrow I’ll start the fundraising for the next village. Today I’m going to watch birds out the windows and maybe sit up on the roof with my book, if the sun comes out later. Monday, 18 May, 2020
Today I’m feeling the post Saturday let down. After the buildup to, and excitement of, taking so much food to so many people, I feel listless and my morale is down. I know that I need to pull myself together and start fundraising again, but I’ve just lost my energy. It’s hard
New signs everywhere
In front of my bank is the permanent first sign I've seen telling people to stay a meter away from each other.
to even convince myself that people are counting on me. Until Henry has found another village or community in need of immediate assistance, I’m having a hard time convincing myself that anything I do today really matters.
I did make myself go to the market after work, since I’m almost entirely out of food. It’s the same handwashing station at the entrance, the same few vendors who brave exposing themselves to the germs of all the customers and the same yellow circles painted on the ground, showing you where you can stand, to be sure that you’re at least a meter from the next customer. The fruit and vegetables are still fresh, so that supply chain is still okay. However, the woman I buy chocolate and coffee from hasn’t gotten any new supply since March. The coffee I buy has an expiration date of January, 2020 and she doesn’t have any new chocolate. All that’s left are the same bars of milk chocolate that I’ve picked over for two months, looking for the last few bars of dark chocolate.
Still, I know that feeling sorry for myself is ludicrous compared to the true desperation I saw on Saturday.
The new face of tourism
The Peruvian president has announced many times that in Peru we will wear masks in public until there is a vaccine available for all Peruvians. Does that mean that all tourists photos will be with masks on?
I have both a job and savings, while there are plenty of people who no longer have either.
I make an apple pie to cheer myself up and listen to El Sonido. Chilly always has an upbeat mix for a solo dance party in the kitchen. Tuesday, 19 May, 2020
Today after work I went out with a friend for lunch. That would have been such a boring statement two months ago. Definitely nothing to write about. Now it feels scandalous. He told me where to meet him, but when I got there, I didn’t see anything. No restaurant signs, no open doors, no signs of life. After a minute of standing there puzzled, I heard voices in one of the buildings. I knocked on an unmarked door, which opened just a crack, and a guy with tattoos on his face asked me what I wanted. I told him I was looking for Steve and the door opened wide.
Inside was a tiny restaurant with only two tables. One table was occupied by a neighbor of mine, who had contributed to the Covid Relief Project and lent me a couple books last week. The restaurant owner
The new purpose of fire hydrants
These are popping up all around town, which I think is ingenious.
seemed surprised that we knew each other, but I’m starting to get the impression that there are so few foreigners left in Cusco that we all know each other. Besides all of the foreign tourists leaving, lots of foreign residents left on the repatriation flights that the Peruvian government allowed up to April 21st.
I found myself in a secret ceviche restaurant that does not currently serve ceviche. Supply chains are apparently only partly working and the menu is now maki. I ordered a California roll and a veggie roll, which were both delicious. I was just so happy to be eating something besides my own cooking for the first time in two months.
Phase 1 of Peru’s plan for economic recovery was supposed to allow for restaurants to open for take out and delivery, although that hasn’t really happened yet. Any restaurants operating on any level are not yet legal. There are still lots of police and military on patrol, but enforcement seems to have relaxed.
Rather than go directly home, I walked across the Plaza de Armas, with the excuse of going to my bank for an atm run. New, since my last time going
Lots of businesses used to feed street dogs, but now with so many businesses closed that people are setting up stations for people to put donated food. I often buy small bags of dog food to have in my bag so that any time I pass one of these that's empty, I can fill it up.
to the bank, is a handwashing station built over a fire hydrant. I’ve seen a couple of these around town now. Not all are built over fire hydrants, but all have directions on how to wash your hands. Also new, outside my bank, is a sign telling people to keep a distance of one meter between each other. When we finally are allowed out of our homes, we are going to find a whole new world out there. Wednesday, 20 May, 2020
I’ve heard from my friends who are guides that the government will be opening Machu Picchu and other tourist attractions starting July 1st. I hope that they’ll stick to this date, even if they haven’t stuck to what they promised for Phase 1 in May.
Today, after work emails, I did a little research on the details of this plan. Not only Machu Picchu, but dozens of archeological sites, museums and nature reserves will be free. Children under 18, seniors over 65 and public servants will all get free entry through the end of 2020 - regardless of nationality. That’s good news for Peruvians who want to see these places and for those of us
Not all are street dogs
Sometimes I see dogs that look hungry, but aren't near any of the places that people usually leave food for street dogs. I went into a shop next to this dog to buy some food for it, but the shop owners told me that it was their dog and really not hungry.
who hope that foreign tourists will come back. All of the archeological sites on the normal Sacred Valley tour will be free, as will all of the museums in Cusco.
Those places are already free for me, as a legal resident of Cusco. I didn’t actually know about this added benefit of being officially Cusqueña until my friend Amanda visited in February. I could hardly believe that I was allowed entrance to all of the government owned places in the Sacred Valley for free. I still had to pay for Machu Picchu, although I got the reduced rate for locals. Not only was it an unexpected financial benefit, it also made me feel even more like I belong here.
I moved to Cusco because I love the city and want to live here. Getting a job and having an address make me feel like I belong, but not as much as realizing that I get free entrance to all museums and archeological areas. Not every Peruvian gets that benefit, only residents of the region of Cusco - including me! Thursday, 21 May, 2020
My fundraising skills need a lot of work. I have been posting on
The army is still here
After ten weeks, I thought that the army would get bored with the empty streets of Cusco and leave. Maybe they like being stationed here. It must be a lot nicer than being sent to Lima where they actually do have an outbreak on their hands.
the Facebook page and Instagram account for the Covid Relief Project, but only have received two donations this week. I need to pull myself together and figure out how to pull in more donations.
The hurry is not that we need to get this done before the quarantine ends. The economic disaster here will be all of 2020, because we are so dependent on international tourism in the Cusco region and tourists will not be traveling internationally this year. Or very few. It won’t be enough to employ all of the people here who are out of work.
The hurry is that people are running out of savings.
The government has announced a new financial assistance package which will give s/760 per family. The first financial assistance was almost two months ago, was only s/380 and fewer families were eligible. The new s/760 per family sounds like it will go to more families than the first s/380.
This will certainly help, but it won’t last until the tourists come back. Friday, 22 May
I unplugged as much as possible this week. Except for the emails and website editing for work every morning, I have
Military and Police
Usually I see groups of police or military on patrol, but rarely the two together.
stayed offline and haven’t even checked CNN all week. However, today was another Presidential address, which I watched live streamed on Youtube.
Every two weeks our quarantine gets extended, but considering the 4 phase plan announced two weeks ago, I was really expecting the president to expand on how these phases would be carried out. I was expecting an explanation of why Phase 1, which was slated for May, had not really started yet. Instead, what I heard was that the quarantine is extended through the end of June. We didn’t get the usual two week extension. We got a 35 day extension this time.
The president did promise some modifications, starting Monday. He said that curfew for most of the country has now been pushed back to 9pm. The full list of modifications and explanations will be released tomorrow. Saturday, 23 May
69 days down, 36 to go
The salvation, rather than the devil, is in the details today. News stations have published the short and sweet of the lengthy legalese of yesterday’s decree. The news I have been hoping for is finally out! I can go for a walk by myself, as long
Golden Billed Saltator
It took ten weeks to get this photo because the Saltator comes through after the sun goes down and hides in the middle of the tree. This is the first time it sat out in the open for more than half a second.
as I am wearing a mask and am alone. I am honestly so relieved. I can’t wait for Monday so I can go for a walk up to the Temple of the Moon!
There are also more businesses allowed to open: hair salons, laundromats, plumbing and hardware shops. There will also be home delivery of all sorts of things. Some of that has already started. Every day now I hear people in the streets selling food, announcing what they have on cheap megaphones. On the list of allowed delivery, besides food, is now clothes, shoes, electronics, and books.
More important for many Peruvians is that professional soccer will be allowed again. Normal people still can’t play team sports, but at least we’ll be able to watch the pros on tv again. I’m not a big soccer fan, but exercise is allowed again and that’s all I really care about at this point.
This blog and more information about the Covid Relief Project are on www.heatherjasper.com
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