HOW I ATE CACTUSES AND GRASSHOPPERS FOR HALF A YEAR - MY MEXICAN QUARANTINE (EN)
In my Mexican covid-19 quarantine diary written ex post , you can read my experiences from the Mexican state of Oaxaca (and partly from Guatemala) during 2020…
If you lived through it at the same time in Central America or somewhere nearby, take it with a grain of salt. Everything is, of course, subjective. Plus, the LatAm countries are huge. There are big differences not only between individual republics, but also between their states and regions within them. It depends on what place and city, but also the neighborhood and the type of accommodation experienced. Someone living in a house with a garden and receiving income from work that s/he did not have to go to probably felt quite different from someone locked in a mini-apartment with one window after a few days without income. Of course, impressions and a retrospective view of the situation will be greatly affected by how much money his family has. Of course, this determines your life everywhere, but it simply applies much more significantly in countries outside Europe: the rich are in fact much richer, the poor are much poorer…
There is a middle class here, just smaller. Most of my friends and acquaintances are on this level (many professorial intellectuals, researchers, lecturers, people in tourism, people in IT and marketing and graphics, event planners, journalists, smaller entrepreneurs,…). But I also have acquaintances from the really very poor and also very, very rich. The point is that, of course, everyone will have different memories of the special situation of this year (probably with an overlap to 2021), for which no one was ready, often considering how much s/he had to fight to survive not only quarantine, but also what to do when it's over… so don't take it as an exact description of how all the expats perceived it, or all the locals for that matter. I’m certainly not describing it as a journalist or anthropologist.
Of course, I also mix my personal experiences and impressions with impressions of friends I talked with for hours who were living in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, a Czech friend in Ecuador, and friends with families in neighboring states of the region… In any case, the notes are very subjective and in the words of my field of sociology: it is a reflection of "participant observation" with no attempt at remaining neutral. The notes helped me settle my memories ex post and somehow close this unexpected story for myself.
PS - Yes, and maybe to get an idea (for Czech speaking people) of where I was, take a look at the Czech Television documentary about Oaxaca, available at: https://www.ceskatelevize.cz/porady/1185966822-na-ceste/212562260120030-na-ceste- after-oaxation/ and possibly take a look at my "quarantine photos" here:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/2WggQJxm9bXZWdEN8> in the album there is not much touristy, just our bare apartment and then a trip at the end… but that’s just how the quarantine was… Albums from the pre-covid era can be found here: https://pietradr.rajce.idnes.cz/
Maybe then your imagination will be a little more colorful when reading my memories. This is because the whole region of Central America is simply gorgeous.
02 - Guatemalan volcanoes, the last views of nature for a long half a year, but at that time I had no idea
In the last days of February I leave Mexican friends in the beautiful state, and town of the same name, Oaxaca, with a sufficient winter dose of salsa, bachata and cumbia dancing, two small trips to friends in Puerta at the Pacific, financially satisfied with tax returns and culturally satisfied with many beautiful local galleries and looking forward to a great month in Guatemala, where I would be able to show the beauties of Guate during a career retreat (https://www.careerdesigner.cz/karierovy-inspiracni-retreat) and then calmly create new work products in the local Impact HUB before the spring training season in the Czech Republic… simply my Q1 classic for several years now ...
Well, this year everything would obviously be different… and from the original plans in Guate, basically only the trip there from Mexico took place and the first less than a week. Events took a relatively fast and unexpected turn in early March.
5th March 2020 Cognitive activities of a career retreat are still running. I successfully meet Peta, who came to me from Ecuador for a retreat… and in the evening I send photos from Guatemalan shops to the Czech Republic , where everything is still selling well - especially pasta and disinfectant gel, which are fast-moving goods there… because in the Czech Republic, the purchase of toilet paper and durable foodstuffs is currently underway. I watch what is happening from a distance, and I am not surprised.
7th March 2020 We party-cook during a Career Retreat with Peta, Rafael and Gorett,… Explanation = we cook by taking Rafa, an almost local artist and chef (a Venezuelan currently living in Guatemala) to local markets and demonstrating about 10 fusion recipes connecting his practice from cuisines from all over the world with what is offered locally. A bottle of wine has to be opened creatively with a drill :) In the evening we look at the net for news and still hope that the pre-covid madness will remain only in Europe.
9th March 2020 I still manage to go to the beach in Monterrico, ride in the mangroves at sunrise with my friend Luis, meet local people wearing their hearts on their sleeves, as well as drug dealers - so there’s a classic colorful mix… I'm seriously considering waiting out the European corona here. I am waiting to see how much work can be done online in the spring… they say not much, everyone still hopes that there will be no lock down in Europe… However, gradually (and very quickly) the number of people per event in the Czech Republic is decreasing, 500 to 50 to 5 to 0… Which really contributes to my plan B - not to hurry with the return to the Czech Republic,and start thinking about how and where I will train online.
10th March 2020 The feeling that I won’t be flying home at the end of March is becoming more realistic - people are already preparing to work from home for a few days (?) - online cooperation seems possible.
11th March 2020 We return from the Pacific coast to Antigua… tourists have almost entirely deserted the town (Antigua is the most touristy place in Guatemala, the hub for backpackers, expats and hipsters in Central America) - in the Peta’s dorm in the Adra hostel, where there was about 40 people, only 4 remain. From one day to the next, people simply disappeared.
12th March 2020 I have my last coffee tasting and talk with Tito in Fat Cat Coffee, take a look at the Impact Hub, see the jeweler in Xibalba… unfortunately I indefinitely postpone the production of my own chocolate with Fernando and quickly make some English and Czech infographics in Canva calling for any work online for the next few months… I have no idea yet that the whole world needs the same, not just me… I decide to quickly leave the paid monthly rent in Guatemala and return to Oaxaca, Mexico - my theory: bigger country, more possibilities for departure in case of possible problems (I had good intuition) ... and I persuade Peta to return to Ecuador (to work at the hostel and has most things) tomorrow… don't wait until Monday (also good intuition) ...
On the same day, I find out from my Mexican contacts if I have a place to return and I will not be bedless in Oaxaca.
We do what we can… we both leave in a hurry on the night from Thursday to Friday… Peta to the capital to the airport, I through the capital to the bus, back to Tapachula on the Mexican-Guatemalan border …
The tension from the strange unknown situation is already beginning to be felt here as well. Tourists pack out of the country in a number of hours. I'm a little afraid of what's going on at the border. But good. There are policemen standing by the volunteers having us fill out forms stating whether we have a fever… I wonder if anyone there ever voluntarily marked “yes”. And then what happened… hmmm? So there was only an outgoing stamp in Guate and an incoming in Mex, a wish for a nice stay and ok… so bienvenida after a few days back again. I'm going to the bus to find out how to get to Oaxaca (I'll shorten it to “Oax”).
I find that the buses to Oax are sold out at the border. And also to Puerto Escondido, which is part of the state of Oaxaca, but on the coast. I have acquaintances there and somewhere to sleep. No luck.
So I'm homeless for 12 hours at the station in Tapachula… A white priest (probably a missionary) really wants to talk to me here and then really wants to shake my hand goodbye. So I then go to disinfect it, I've probably already caught the global panic…? But the normal disinfectant gels in little Tapachula (and even smaller two local pharmacies) are no longer there. So I'm buying the last ones for kids with pictures of Hello Kitty and Transformers :) They say there (according to info from Europe) will soon be a shortage of goods… Ex post edit: it didn't happen in the end and after a few days (a week max) you can buy liters of disinfection here on every corner. In case you want to bathe in it ... The only stupid thing is that I feel I should wash myself after using the gels in some shops and I’m not sure they really serve a disinfecting function. Well, then again, the virus might die by putting a gel "sauce" on your hands, who knows...
We talk to taxi drivers about the beginning of global hysteria. So far, people here really think (or rather hope) that it won't happen here. And if so, it will pass quickly.
On the way from Tapa, I take a little forced stop-over in Puerto. It took many more hours to get to Oax, so I chose this variant). Pepe, the owner of the Casa Kei hostel, gives me a discount - says it’s for refugees :)… and I go to surf, yup, at least I can see it this year, but there are no waves, so I just swim. It's still quite optimistic, but not for long.
In Guate, the suspicion of such rapid depopulation by tourists was probably more sinister; in Mexico everyone hopes (at least here on the beach) that it will not be so terrible, because Mexico and Mexicans have already survived worse things… ex post edit: still in August Pepe sells local food to survive, the hostel is empty, so at least they started to cook various fish specialties and delivering orders…
After about two days of dragging long distances, Peta and I confirm "good has come" ...
Short summary: Guatemala closes borders 21st March bilaterally and it continues through August, Ecuador announced border closure on March 14 effective from March 15. Peťa managed to fly back to work with a postponed ticket…. One week longer in deliberation and I'd still be in Guate.
03 - empty streets of historic center of Oaxaca, this pedestrian zone is usually full of people at all times of day… not this year :(
The first days in Oaxaca just after the introduction of quarantine
16th March 2020. I'm going to room with my friend Carlos in at a new address in the center. I had arranged it for my return in June, so it sped up a little. I have known Carlos from my original roommate a few streets over for the last two years.
Because Carlos has also moved to the new address a few days before, he has nicely painted walls and aesthetically placed rooms (he’s an esthete and a designer and his priorities are a little different :), but that's about it from a practical point of view. He also has half his things in boxes, and I’ve got my sack and backpack.
16th March 2020. Here, too, the preventive measures of the "jornada nacional de sana distancia" begin, schooling, events, and any non-essential activities are cancelled.
Carlos wonders a bit why I am coming back (after all, Guate still has 3 days before closure and the quarantine in Mexico is announced today, but still hopes it will not be too bad (fyi: the first infected in Mexico was identified on February 28th, after a trip from Italy).
It is rumored to be a disease of rich whites, which we brought to them from Europe (despite the Chinese origin, it is believed the problem came here from Europe)… fortunately the Mexicans here in Oax are quite used to tourists, so I take it quite ok and they don't lynch me :)
Gradually, all shops except groceries and pharmacies are closing, sometimes it is possible to see someone with a mask, but not many yet. There are still a few days left before the mandatory mask wearing for another infinity of months ...
Sometimes we hear news from neighboring countries that there has been shopping hysteria and buying goods in bulk (and maybe a few cases in Mexico), but there were and are always enough disinfectant gels and food. Based on the few local cases and experiences from foreign stores, shops preventively introduce the maximum number of units for each purchase… new prices and limits appear, especially on basic foods. That was reasonable, in my opinion, because it calmed people down a bit.
The original outlook for the quarantine deadline is 19th April ex post edit: the duration of the strictest measures lasted until the end of July, but that does not mean that from August 1st everything worked normally (certainly not like the summer regime in the Czech Republic) ... only a few restaurants and all shops could open under strict conditions, masks were required everywhere, etc.… but more about that later.
In April, "ley seca" is introduced for quarantine in most places in Mexico, i.e. restrictions on the sale of alcohol during quarantine. Like no alcohol or beer. You can buy something during the specified hours. Something, of course, in small shops, when you know a local saleswoman and tell her not to tell anyone (see, Bara:) ... But it's certainly not possible to stock up on hectoliters of booze and just drink through the quarantine… Every state in Mexico (31 states + the capital of CDMX > read Ciudad México) has, of course, its own modifications. Sometimes even sub-municipalities. So what you're reading here was true in the state of Oaxaca, and moreover, specifically in the capital of the same name, where I was.
Well, I can't fully assess the effectiveness of that decision to limit alcohol sales, but it probably has a rational core… e.g. in connection with Mexico (and I suspect other neighboring countries) having really big problems with a high level of domestic violence. During quarantine, when there is no chance to run away from the aggressor (whoever it is in the family) to work or school, the addition of alcohol is not a good mix. My friend Abigail, who is very involved in activism against domestic violence and cooperates with local non-profits, says that so far the number of deaths from covid cannot be compared to the number of deaths per year in Mex due to domestic violence (murders + suicides with this motive). Minimally during the first wave.
If someone knows how to crack Spanish lyrics, you can, for example, take a look here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OdKgbLL4y335UFZdBxV5cVaXDcQ1K2I1/view?fbclid=IwAR1AjlLYnm5c3Jq_JrHluuuuvvEs0GzWUn it is enough to read only the introduction of the professional work, which was created at UNAM (the most prestigious mex university), on this topic in the context of covid. Btw, in Mexico 10 women die every day from causes associated with domestic violence. From January to July 2020, 123,000+ investigations into domestic violence were launched. The data shows the growth in numbers during the quarantine period. And, of course, this is a huge increase compared to previous years. More than half of the respondents stated that during the quarantine there was some type of violence in the family (against women, children or other weaker family members).
Well, I'm not going to do a full discourse right now… but this topic is really alive in Mex and very often it has been compared with the effects of covid. I hear the argument here all the time - covid: why do we have to stop making money and close our businesses, when so many people die here every year from other diseases and murders and domestic violence, and so far the government has not been interested or done anything right… The fact is that the virus is still quite abstract in comparison. And I'm not very surprised by the local’s questions ...
The turn of March and April: everyone is still dealing with covid. Of course. As everywhere else in the world… They are a little scared, prefer not to hug people or shake hands, no one knows what's coming and no one knows that we’ll be in quarantine for so long. On the other hand, not only Czechs face difficult times with humor. Of course, the memes come and go and sarcastic and educational songs are created… I still have the cumbia “coronavirus” downloaded on my mobile phone ... You can find the clip and the funny collage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXne58Di38A&ab_channel=LosAngelesAzulesVEVO it is surprising that it was uploaded to YT as early as January 2020, when it was so far responding "only" to the situation in China. In short - wash your hands and more text here: https://www.letras.mus.br/mister-cumbia/la-cumbia-del-coronavirus/ … I think Mexicans have Cumbia songs (their favorite genre across generations) really about everything - not only about love and ruin, but about all kinds of food, and about global diseases. The advantage is that you can dance to it with anyone :) And you want to :)
04 - “... where is the cat? /… In quarantine, duh”- loose translation and quarantine variance on the classic meme
There is no quarantine like quarantine
I understand that the perception of quarantine was and is individual. Solitude was hard for some, for others the constant company of the same people. For some it may have seemed long or a relatively short few weeks in Europe.
Of course, as everywhere else in the world, quarantine is harder to tolerate in big cities, where you are almost trapped in a small apartment, as opposed to someone who has a house and at least a small yard.
However, although the most essential quarantine lasted here in Mex from the end of March to the end of July and all mask and hygiene measures continue until the coming autumn, we can be happy because we do not have (unlike in Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru , Bolivia, ..) such strict "toque de queda" i.e. the obligation to stay at home and can leave only to purchase food, medicine, travel to the hospital, often only at a specific time ... even if some parts / states of Mexico are set up like Puebla, Jalisco, etc. So I really think it's pretty cool in Europe.
I have to say for myself that the restricted freedoms in a closed country and closed apartment were psychologically demanding, but at least I could go to the store to buy food when I wanted… and it seems to me, based on statistics, that the strictness of "toque de queda" didn't work in the end and the covid curve grew as fast as in Guate and Salvador, for example, as in Mexico. So I don't know who came up with the idea that it will be a super functional solution :(
However, the new things coming to quarantine in Mexico (as well as in all surrounding countries) (in addition to closed schools, all shops, restaurants) are the following:
closed parks surrounded with tape,
ban on sitting outside on benches and walls,
closure of certain areas in the mountains,
non-functional 95% of intercity connections, ...
I.e. for people in the city zero opportunity to be in nature for the next half year… that's a decent head trip ... So no, I did lie around on the beach during the quarantine - nor did anyone else living here. So I usually live 300 km from the coast (more in the mountains), but the locals who live here were not allowed to go to the beach or the water until the end of July. Then it started to relax a little (for example, swimming and surfing was allowed, but not lying on the beach), and it also depended, of course, on the benevolence of the patrolling officer and the areas. In some places the locals protected themselves and kept the rules, somewhere you even saw strangers lying on the beaches - often in places in front of hotels… Despite being officially forbidden.
I understand the logic that here people like to associate and sit in parks, on beaches, etc. But the fact that you can no longer go or walk anywhere and vent your head in green spaces was really mentally demanding. I could never have imagined how hard it is to be without nature - to have a chance to walk through at least a park with grass, shrubs, trees… Or at least see some greenery… And I'm not talking about any trips at all. It was science fiction, of course. Especially when many villages in the mountains voluntarily closed themselves off from the world, i.e. they put barricades on the roads and it was not possible to go anywhere further into the mountains.
There was also gradually big restrictions and then bans on the operation of local bus connections (the function of city public transport, for example, to get paramedics and salesmen to work), but long-distance buses are final, in Guate also a ban on taxiing or driving a private car if it is not to a family member (i.e. those who have not left Guate by now, no longer have a chance for another six months, in Colombia this ban, for example, is still continuing through August).
Otherwise, it's funny, at the end of March, that all the locals are annoyed not so much by the quarantine at the moment (we're still at the beginning), but how they will spend Semana Santa (Easter period, when family and friends meet and outside the Christian tradition quite a lot of rubbish and people from the cities go to the beaches) ... most people in my area canceled it (without a car they would get nowhere anyway, buses almost no longer run, and my social bubble is so relatively responsible)… nevertheless “they say” that a lot of people just didn't want to lose their holidays and reservations and they still went out and supported the spread (but I kind of think that even without it, the virus would still be happy with us). In addition, not only some beaches, but also some villages have voluntarily closed themselves by already blocking their arrival, and they have not allowed anyone else since the end of March. But of course Mexico has thousands of km of beaches, so the places for "covid holiday" were probably found anyway, when someone had tension despite the ban ...
05 - the first furnishings in my bare flat :) first a bed, a chair in a few days, a table in a few weeks… it went slowly, but in the end I made it quite cozy
Last March purchases
Otherwise, in the last week of March, I arrange things practically: I buy and charge a local SIM card, because since the first day of arrival I’m dealing with the internet, which is quite a superhuman task during quarantine (i.e. outside it), in the end it took me 8 weeks to get into the apartment…
Somehow our bare apartment (or a new apartment? :) is gradually being furnished , I buy saucepans and a few things for cooking, Carlos got me a second-hand bed, shelf and a lamp, I buy a supply of disinfection, various extension cords and I still manage to buy a few pieces of clothes twice in a thrift shop. A few shops are still a bit open on the sly, but for example you are not allowed to be try clothes on and people are not allowed to touch things and they must be handled by the assistant, etc. I don't think it works very well.
As everywhere in the world, illogical measures are chaotically being introduced, where you can touch some things in the store, but not others - well, ok, each country has somehow tried to set it up from the beginning by the "trial and error" method. Specifically, in the local Soriana mall (something like our Tesco) they gradually introduced the system where all "non-essential" departments, i.e. everything except food and medicine, which is normally already closed in small shops, can theoretically be bought in the mall. The section inside the shop is surrounded by tape, however, and you have to call the salesman and explain what you want and they will bring it… Well, if you don't know what they have, you're out of luck because it's sometimes quite badly described (I bothered so long with my slightly vague description of what kind of extension cord I needed, until I finally persuaded the salesman to let me crawl under the tape for a few seconds to grab what I needed…). Otherwise, the hygienic effect of this measure is really zero in my opinion, because everyone who would normally go through quickly, grab something and go pay, gathered in one place at the tape and we waited for the salesman, who of course brought goods to show us at a snail’s pace.
Anyway, it was still crucial for me that I managed to buy the basic equipment for the apartment, a few pieces of clothing to change into, and more markers and a sketchbook for drawing <3… that was well done. Because the stationery store was closed for another 4 months and in the end the markers were barely marking, but better than nothing. And thanks to the quarantine, I finally found a few hours of drawing after x years.
Markets (such as farmer’s markets) are still working, also handing out from a window for now (cafes, pseudo street food, but it's already basically forbidden, the first denunciations appear: just classic - my neighbor can still earn money but I can't, so I'll call the cops on him and they fine him and stick signs "clausurado" in front and he’s finished… if I get nothing, then so do you, but this is probably happening everywhere…
At the time of the biggest peak (in Mex circa April - July 2020, but in fact it was peaking there almost all the time :) the markets were sometimes closed, which I think was quite devastating for the various families who sell there. But as soon as they could sell, as is the market’s custom, they really tried to get hygiene so that they would not be shut down again, i.e. sellers insisted on face masks for all buyers and sellers, classic, like everywhere, hand and shoe disinfection and hands in front of them… There is a man or woman at each entrance to the market and you have to disinfect yourself in front of them. No excuses… Somewhere you have a creative "gallows" with a canister of water on a string + soap on a string… Your temperature has been taken at the entrance of almost all shops and markets since the beginning of the pandemic… Do you have a cold? Bad luck… you can't buy anything, they won't let you in and you won't get anywhere… if you don't have family and friends, you're screwed… Cops even fined people on the street if they caught them without a mask outside no matter how hot it was - masks were mandatory everywhere inside and outside from the end of March indefinitely, or at least until the end of the year… At least …
06 - the first days of sewing masks in our apartment. Carlos sews while his visiting friend Memo is ironing in the back
Carlos "tailor roommate"
From the beginning I show Carlos how people sew face masks in the Czech Republic. I show him what our mothers and others in the country sewed at home… So far (!) the verbal battle has not started yet… but what is not, of course will be … Otherwise my roommate Carlos organized big events in the pre-covid period (about design, or around the LGBT community), he sells in two galleries and sews ties and bow ties for weddings and other events… already at the end of March it is clear that all that is over for him… but like most people, he still hoped to survive those few days at home with a little savings (haha,… we were naive).
And then the masks: because Carlos has a professional machine at home, beautiful fabrics, I tell him to go for it… he doesn't really want to (I understand: it doesn't sound like a sexy product), but then he hears it from another friend and starts examining the cuts and there are the first attempts… I remember mask no.2 (no.1 was a test defect).
Otherwise, we basically talk every night and take it back and forth, what's new, what the restrictions are and the potential danger and possibility of continued quarantine… we all still hope that it will pass in a month… The uncertainty is strange and the Mexicans are surprised that in the end the virus and the quarantine measures actually came here as well. And that the government is really acting, because it usually doesn't do so much when other disasters happen here.
Although overall, even during quarantine and in retrospect, it seems to me that they simply take it less hysterically than we do here in Europe. They are used to various natural disasters, economic disasters, politically strange decisions, and the fact that the state does not care too much in 90% of cases. And even if they don't like it, they are just trying to survive within the limits of the situation and cope with it somehow. And I actually like that. It's not careless. It's not that they take it easy. But it's just the way it is and it's just "tenemos q luchar" (somehow we have to struggle through it).
In any case, thanks to corona, Carlos finally got down to it (in the style of "necessity is the mother of invention"), expanding his product portfolio. And thanks to the masks, it really took off. He just sent me a photo of women's dresses and he is preparing a shirt, 3 seamstresses have joined him, he sells masks in the USA, Costa Rica and all over Mexico. Through acquaintances. And acquaintances of acquaintances, and it’s booming. So I keep my fingers crossed for him. He's a clever boy :)
07 - “I am so alone ... /… am I really doomed to live in isolation? / Will this loneliness ever end? /… Don’t touch me, a***ole !!!! … One of the jokes describing our mood after several extensions of quarantine… by a month, by two, by three, by four ...
Help across the ocean
From the first shock of the great uncertainty, in which I see no end, online therapeutic meetings with my friend and excellent therapist Šárka help me… thanks to this I try to get out of such a state of emergency ("scout with a backpack always prepared", as Šárka said) and I go buy lipstick ... They say you need to throw yourself in "Barbie mode", relieve stress… well, I’m not sure about that in the bare apartment, things from the second-hand and my uncertain return date,… a kind of homeless Barbie:)
But I'm happy with the lipstick. I bought it almost the last day in a good shop for a great price of about 18 CZK (before they closed it for the next six months or forever…?…).
I also handle important communication with landlords in Prague and it’s a weight off my back that a friend from the USA, Ryan, who is subletting my apartment, does not want to and cannot go anywhere for safety reasons, so at least his help with rent is amazing… he tells me to keep a diary… I say that there is nothing to do when there is nothing to do: just keep talking “coffee + a bunch of work + quarantine”… he tells me to write it anyway… well I don't write anything :D… just monthly summaries of my priorities in my “Career DYARY” (www.CareerDYARY.com).
Um, in the end, Ryan's words came back to me, and I finally decided to write it all down. For myself mainly . But also for the others, who have been asking… Well, I'm writing it now. It's August 2020 and I'm still running a lot of adrenaline as for what will happen and especially for how long, and all at once I’m looking for basic things here in Mex, and securing things remotely, not only about work, apartment, but also tickets, additional insurance for an extended trip, bank cards, which will soon expire… well, I just don't have the energy and time at all (paradox, right) and especially probably not even the mood… so I'll throw it together now, at the end of summer, in my last days here (perhaps) - as a form of farewell, I look at photos, notes in my diary and my “Career DYARY”, calendar, social networks, chats with friends, records of purchases… it's actually quite a lot of extra work, but somehow it probably calms me therapeutically to go through this unexpected half year again from a distance.
Edit: now it's the end of September 2020 and I'm finally getting to write this memorial blog. Every day, those emotions disappear a little and I kind of miss some of it. Not only Mexican friends, Spanish, great food from Oaxaca, private salsa lessons, but also just the Latin mind-set. Here, the complaining about everything and the wait for someone to solve something for us is sometimes overwhelming. I am writing this blog when another quarantine is beginning in the Czech Republic and there may be another lockdown (edit: it started here in October). The Czech Republic is on the blacklist of the whole of Europe. Just like Mexico used to be. My friends make fun of me that I am a covid-tourist and I deliberately choose the destination where it is the worst and I spend quarantine time there: D They say I should go to the Philippines next, it's getting worse there, so it's time :)) )
08 - coffee & biscuits at Caracola, veil, comp ready for video calls
Back to the end of March 2020: it is clear to me that I urgently need to arrange internet for us in our apartment. I am afraid that we will also be told "toque de queda" according to the models of neighboring countries. So I'm trying, quite in vain, to somehow secure it. Of course, companies such as internet providers function, but “function” is probably too strong a word - these people go to work, but as there is total confusion and mess and uncertainty around everything now, they have little reason to lift a finger.
Carlos writes to 3 companies about the internet, one does not answer, the other claims that it will not reach us and the third says yes - it took only 8 weeks of nerves and furnishing and a piece of wall fell out during installation - but gradually.
First the internet promised us everything was fine. Then they came and it wasn’t. They said we had to get the owner’s permission from the neighboring building to stretch the wire for us from the nearest place across his roof… Carlos says that the neighbors do not have to let me do it at all, that it is common and that I have to take my dress and lipstick and go act like a “gringo” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gringo) in trouble and talk a lot with a US accent and hope that they will have mercy on a blonde and give us permission… it took x days to find out who the owner is and then fine-tune the form of the permission (each time the support service claimed that something else was enough: first telephone confirmation, then a scan of handwritten confirmation, then confirmation in person for a change).
Of course, handling something about the internet and some wires on the roof and special permits via the helpline is a big hassle in CZ as well. And I have to say that I outdid myself, that I did it in Spanish as well, and in the end we miraculously got what we needed :) I still don't understand it :D
In the end, I reached even the highest goal, and that was getting myself, the internet technician and the owner in the same place at the same time, during the quarantine… And as I say, except for a piece of collapsed wall when installing a cable, we have internet at home… hurray!
Luckily, the internet in general, once you have it, is pretty fast in Oaxaca, and I've handled all the video calls. You probably understand that if the net is your only way to connect with work, family and friends… and potentially also with food hypothetically if they forbade us to go out, you're annoyed when it takes "a little longer".
09 - our "kitchen" after the first days of moving in, everything second hand… advantage: it's free, disadvantage: very often it does not work (for example, like the microwave, which eventually became a practical cabinet)
For context, a little weather info. The state of Oaxaca has a Pacific coast, where it is permanently around the 22 - 38 °C and either the season is without rain or it is raining in that heat (approximately July - November). But the capital of Oaxaca, where I am, is higher in the mountains (Sierra). So here is more of a constant spring cut with summer… The dry season ends somewhere around May. But from about April it rains from time to time and warm days start and even quite warm nights… I bought a fan quickly right after the pots and pans. And even with that fan, there were a few nights when I had to go take a cold shower twice during the night… of course there is the classic dilemma of whether it is better to choke under the sheets and not be bitten, or to breathe better and let the mosquitoes terrorize. Well, in those few months of quarantine, I spilled a lot of liters of repellent on myself,… then I even started making my own experiments (from cloves, lemon juice, rosemary and so on).
Well, in this context, you probably understand that, without a refrigerator, no food can be stored often even until the next day. And especially in the season just beginning in late March. If no flying insects arrive, then there are sure to be ants… And you can clean the apartment every day and spray with x different chemicals… And the comrades mosquitoes, spiders, ants, cockroaches and others will show up anyway.
Mexico in general, and Oaxaca for sure, has relatively inexpensive food, both on the streets and in restaurants. And especially the local region has super specific excellent recipes… so not only as a tourist but also the locals eat outside a lot. Yes, people cook, but food is simply a part of culture and social life and suddenly, when everything is closed, this must also change… so without a fridge and stove, you would definitely get by for a few weeks before covid, but during quarantine, it really didn't work without it…
We gave it about 14 days, but then it really wasn't working out… but buying a refrigerator for x thousand when you don't know when you will be able to earn more money… Carlos watched fb mercado libre and finally found, maybe there or through someone he knows, a refrigerator for the price of transport (approx. 300 CZK). It felt just like Christmas…
So, we got a kind of fridge found in restaurants. From Coca Cola, I guess at least 30 old…. one that is filled from the top… supposedly we "just” have to replace the wire in the socket and we can cool. So we buy things to change the wire. Carlos somehow hooks it up and: supeeer - we are chilling except that.. the fridge (or cooler more appropriately) is unbelievably loud, like when you start a lawn mower near your head… or when a helicopter flies away from a heliport on your neighbor’s roof. In the morning, the landlady politely asks us if something happened to us in the apartment, that she heard a "very strange" noise all night… maybe something broke… well, actually we fixed something :)…?!?
The next night I'm trying to get used to the new sound. And to the night's dilemma, in addition to the duel, "suffocation under the sheets" vs. "mosquito tyranny" there’s a new challenge: "do you want to cook at home" vs. "learn to sleep at the heliport" ... I don't know whether it’s fortunate or not, but I suddenly wake up at about 4 in the morning - caused a strange silence… the cooler had stopped working… I don't really know if I should be happy or not.
During the week there is an attempt to repair it, then a few more and finally we decided that the refrigerator would become a cabinet for the "dry" food… I complain to friends, I tell this story (poor people, I load them up, first about the flight, then about the net, now the fridge) ... but the groaning has paid off and they lend us the kind of fridge you know from hotel rooms. Not much space when you need to cook and store more portions of pre-cooked food somewhere during the week, plus a few vegetables, and the door of the micro-freezer is missing, so it actually constantly half cools and half freezes but it’s better than nothing… I no longer feel like spending money for any refrigerator. Who knows what will happen… In the end, the fridge I borrowed accompanied me until I left and I was very happy for it.
10 - my regular views, on the roof of our house… I went to look at the tree in the distance, in the upper right you can see our "tinaco" - an important thing!
Water, gas, garbage and other audio mess on the streets
And, because I still haven’t had enough fun, after I bought a fan (as you have already understood, a crucial step to sleep at all), after a few weeks of heat even at night, and then the borrowed mini-fridge, now for a change I am happily pre-preparing ingredients in the kitchen for cooking, so of course… the gas runs out !!! Fck !!!
And if, for example, you happen to have gas, a refrigerator and electricity, then you may run out of water again… And if you have gas and water, then… well and so on… so you have fun every day. Friends are just laughing: what do you expect, we're just not a first world country where you take all this for granted as a human right.
So how do these things work here? Of course, the water is not drinkable. And it’s pretty gross. And it has a lot of minerals or something. It's from the mountains, but it's just about the composition of the soil and so on to give you an idea, in fact, you always have to clean and wash something, because when you just wash something with water, it often stays smudged and a little dirty. So you can wash already washed things indefinitely, and it’s still not completely sparkling with cleanliness.
Each house has its own water reservoirs (tinacos) that the city fills with water about once every 14 days… maybe. It's quite a pitfall. Now I don't want to generalize for the whole of Mexico, but at least in our state it is. And the biggest problem is the center and the wider center of the city, where I also live. Why? Because those old original houses (Oaxaca’s center is historically protected) have no underground reservoirs. In the Czech Republic we have cellars. Here, new houses often have underground water reservoirs. And if you don't have a big tank under the house, you either have to put it behind the house in the garden, and if you don't even have it, just on the roof. But of course there are some limits.
Our house has 4 apartments. 3 are inhabitted by different branches of one family and only we are "foreign". Our apartment, the only one they rent, has only one tank on the roof (the tinaco) and their apartments have two. We also suspect, when we examine the pipes on the roof, that when they run out they take it from us and from our one barrel. And they also wash a lot… Of course we carry things to the laundry outside the house.
So you simply don't have running water here. The city will fill only as much as you have to fill. And sometimes it somehow forgets… So after about 14 days it is standard that you do not have running water in the kitchen or bathroom for 1-2 days . And these are the bright moments… several times it happened that we were without water for 5-8 days. One neighbor even 21 days…
What to do with this? You just have small barrels in the kitchen and bathroom, and you have to fill them quickly the first day the water flows into the tanks. And then, when the water runs out, you use buckets. And then instead of a shower or washing dishes, you have a bowl or a teapot to pour over yourself. Everyone complains about it, but they accept it as a fact. Sometimes the excuse is that there is less water in the mountains after a drought, but the main reason is probably corruption. When someone softens after a few days without water, they simply call a tank, which they pay extra for. The problem is that if, for example, you don't have water for 6 days and you pay extra for the tank on about the 2nd or 3rd day, then you're still living from the purchased water for 3 days… but if you don't estimate it (which really can't be predicted), for example, you will buy more water on the 5th day and, like a demon, the city will start filling your tanks on the 6th day. But less water will fit in your tank because you just bought some… so it's a game of stamina. But it’s kind of clear who’s holding who hostage. And that you can really blackmail anyone through water …
I sometimes spent a couple of weeks without water by showering with my friend Bára (at a time when she was also waiting for her flight) in her accommodation. And about once it worked out in return. So you just drop by and, instead of a coffee, a shower, acquaintances… well, and in time you get a little used to it and say… great! This time “only” 3 days without water…
It's just a "tax" for living in the center. As a tourist you will not experience it (and be grateful :), because of course hotels and hostels have bigger tanks or just buy water, because they can afford it and there is no other way… you always see water tanks in the center of Oaxaca, so… whoever goes in this corrupt water business is sitting high and dry.
Of course, drinking water is bought here in barrels (garrafones) .... One barrel has 20 liters and is returnable. So the classic: for the first time you pay a deposit for that piece of plastic, but then you just reuse them and pay for water… There are "collection points" at some shops. You can, of course, get a garrafon from the store, but you don't want to ... especially when I threw my back out for a month, for the first time in my life, and I was lucky if I could pick up a cup of coffee. So how it works: there are a lot of companies in the city, smaller or larger, more or less formal, which distribute drinking water. System: they circulate in their cars and after a few tens of meters they stop and roar really loudly "aguaaaaa aguaaaa". I think I recorded it on a couple of Zoom calls, when I was training and this roaring in the background:) Every company already has reserved buildings they deal to. Those shouting guys are truly irritating because you hear them about 15 times a day, but I’m in awe of how many hundreds of kilos a day they carry by hand…
Sometimes I also saw attachments for tap water in LatAm, but they are quite expensive for locals, and here in Oax I haven't seen any - maybe because the non-drinking water is really awful and maybe the attachment would get clogged right away with that concentration of salt and another mess… but that's just my guess.
All right, that’S water. And now gas. Most households and restaurants cook with gas here, but in most places you won't find any sophisticated distribution systems, just a built-in tank. So another car circling around the city all day has tanks of gas. Beep...beep...beeep, ding dong... gas de Oaxaca ... At first I thought it was some milk delivery because of the hum, but it's gas. gas or something else :)
We also have garbage here… well, that's another popular theme of mine :) I don't know how elsewhere in Mexico, but in Oax you have to take the garbage directly to the garbage truck yourself. There are no garbage cans on the street. You have them in the yard. They say the reason is someone would steal your trash can. Again, garbage collectors circle the city and make an audio mess. Specifically, they will come to you in front of the house and thrash for about a minute with an iron bar into a "cow bell" (campanas). It prefers to come to us at 7 am… I’m definitely more a night owl working into the night rather than an early bird and even though I have to get up, I really don't appreciate it the sound of those bells ringing in my ears every x meters running with the garbage to the car. It's great that the role of garbage collectors is then mainly that they make sure you load the garbage into their car well, they greet you nicely and poke the the garbage a bit with a stick to fit more of it… On the other hand, Oaxaca is a really clean city, I don't know if it’s because of or despite this system :) I have to say that I'm really looking forward to the Czech garbage truck with its gentle whistling :)
We also have the favorite jingle of the scrap-metal collectors. They ride through our "barrio" (our neighborhood) about once a day, so it's not so annoying and I still find it funny. Then we have the personalized shouts of sellers of anything: sharpening old knives on a kind of half-wheel, homemade ice cream, homemade hot and cold drinks (here are the typical tejate, atoll, tepache… all of course with a base in corn, how else - a nice overview of typical drinks here, text in Spanish), vegetables and fruits (sometimes a car comes from the farm, sometimes the lady pulls a handful of bags), small household goods, sweets, various cut and potted flowers and herbs, but they even sell e.g. handmade furniture this way. They just send a guy from the carpenter's shop to walk around the city pulling 2 tables, 4 chairs and 2 shelves all day on his back. It is usually sold unfinished, and unpainted, so then you have a nice space to fine-tune it.
In the first apartment I lived in with Carlos, there was a disadvantage (and in some cases an advantage) that we were an address on the main quite busy road leading through the whole center, but our apartment was in the back of the house, so sometimes hearing travelling salespeople there was a problem and we didn't have windows on the street, so I had to go shopping at the market, and at the time of the biggest quarantine, unfortunately also to the supermarket, which was at one time, along with a few smaller shops with junk food, almost the only thing open…
But when I moved to the new building in August, where I also work from the local family cafe (more on that below), it was different… because everything is open directly to the street, so I basically theoretically no longer had to go anywhere, because everything came right to me… then it was good that even the local sellers knew what I usually buy from whom and they had it ready right away (for example, my favorite lady with a giant “arugula” for twenty, a car with fruit, vegetables, nuts and homemade candies, etc.). On the other hand, I somehow didn't get used to the soundscape, which is "quite cute" during vacation, but not even after x visits to Oax, or after six months with a covid here, I never completely got used to it ... Especially not to those garbage men, who I really hear a lot especially after the August move to the newer apartment.
11 - Zooms, Hangouts, Whereby,… a million trainings, career consultations, mostly to the Czech Republic, but also to Germany, Italy, Guatemala and other parts of Mexico
Teleworking - Coffee & online organization gadgets
So what does my work look like here? When I used to go here to work in the pre-covid period, it was always in my trainer's "low seasons". When there are no trainings and if I have online calls, then either with individual clients for career coaching / counseling, or with various networking and business development video meetings. Otherwise, most of the time I write new articles, blogs, update the website and create new products (in El Salvador and Guatemala, www.CareerDYARY.com was created, in Guate and Mexico later www.KarieroveKarTY.cz, etc.). This was also the original intention: not only to flee at the beginning of the year through the muddy winter in Prague, but also through another culture (people, language, food, nature, art, ...) to draw inspiration and a view from somewhere else. Over time, I also added career retreats to www.careerdesigner.cz/career-retreat, where I connect my two favorite worlds (Latin and European) for those who come to see me.
So yes, I've been used to working (especially) online remotely for x years. I also come here precisely because the place allows it (relative safety, mild weather and good internet & coffee :) I don't travel here, I live here, I just have a different regime and a different address for part of the year. I enjoy being able to go more in depth with people and the culture itself and build trust and ties with the locals.… Honestly, I don't know much (yet) of Mexico as a whole huge country. But even most Mexicans - a good ride through this country is a lifelong project. But I gradually try to see a little more in small pieces. Usually I take time off, for example, the first 4-5 days of my stay, when I go through a place I don't know, for example, and I take a little "investigative holiday". This is how I know a piece of Ciudad México, a bit of Yucatan, but only around Merida, a some Chiapas, a little Puebla… and then some places just to drive through… but somehow in recent years I have not needed a great quantity of experiences, places, photos, but rather quality …
Of course, this set-up allowed me to handle this unexpected, somewhat critical covid situation here quite well in the end. If I were here as a tourist with one suitcase and without knowledge of language and contacts, I would be on the embassy helpline every day, trying to get out of here immediately :)
I assumed that when the whole of Europe is closed in quarantine and you can still only work remotely, it is useless to push it financially and buy a reckless new flight. I decided to just wait here until Guatemala reopened, and in a few weeks (well, there were finally a lot more of those weeks than I expected) to go back later. In the meantime, work online. Like the rest of the office world at the moment.
Some orders fell away (unfortunately mostly better paid ones, most often corporate ones), but fortunately especially non-profits and also (surprisingly for some) public administration reacted flexibly and believed me that what I was supposed to train in person from spring (especially April, May, June) I could do interactively and online… thanks for this trust from all of you! Of course, it was gruelling because I had everything ready for on-site training and, as always, the spring is very workshop intensive, so there were really a few weeks when I started training in the morning, then gave a few individuals, processed emails in the evening and at night prepareded the workshop for the next day… Anyone who has spent quarantine with headphones knows it's really upside down… and I was really looking forward to July, when every second day I would have all for writing… but really, thank God, for the opportunity, of course.
Of course, to work online you need: a good computer, good internet, good headphones and a mobile phone in reserve... Fortunately, thanks to many years of remote work, I travel equipped. Always with 2 notebooks, 2 mobile phones, more headphones… after experiences where everything collapses, the cable to the laptop and the headphones are bitten apart by a dog (it happened to me too :), something gets wet, someone steals something… for working remotely you really need to have a backup of everything… And thank God for all online backups and clouds, because without them I would have been without data and without access to money many times …
And as for money: btw in May I had to go to the bank to exchange an expired card… Fortunately for several years, even for such "emergency" reasons, I have carried one classic card and one Revolut… It is always a principle to have one Visa and one Maestro… not all bankers always accept everything… so when my classic card expired in May, my parents sent me info on a new card and I paired it with that Revolut, which, thank God, will expire who knows when… otherwise you pay with WesternUnion or another solution all the time, and it would not be an ideal solution.
12 - Carlita and Dania, baristas from Caracol, where they make the best coffee in Oax, and a foundling kitten who ran away from neighbors - better than TV, we named him Cappuccino, at least for a few hours when it was "ours"
Caracol Púrpura - my second home and surrogate "family"
The crucial thing for me was not only to have the internet, but also a bit of an environment around it so that I wouldn't be bothered… and the family of Abigail and Carlos was absolutely great (but that's Carlos No. 2, the one who lent us a mini fridge and saved me and Carlos No.1 in the first apartment) who run my favorite cafe in Oaxaca, which is the family business Caracol Púrpura with coffee. Both of them work in the café, plus the 3 oldest children help, plus usually about 2 other people… during the quarantine, sales were banned from the window for several weeks. Only "a domicilio" (home delivery) was allowed. But since Caracol is also a chocolate and coffee factory, it roasts, so it could operate with its doors closed. Operations of this type had a limit of maximum 3 people in the room. So it was always: one adult from the family, one child helping + me :) In the shared album you will find a lot of the same photos through the barred window, so it's here where I sat here for almost half a year, really every day Mon-Sat.
After the battle with the installation of the internet at home, I did about 20% of my work from the apartment and it was my back-up, if, for example, Caracol was reported and I was sitting there and seen in that window… but mainly it was cabin-fever prevention so that my roommate Carlos and I didn’t kill each other. And also so that every day I could just go out in the morning and walk at least those 5 minutes from the building, be outside for a while for some reason and spend time with someone other than in the apartment… after all, during the lock down from late March to late July (the worst restrictions) it would really have been psycho only to be in an apartment of a few square meters…
From about the middle of July, coffee was served between the doors… although I think it was still a bit semi-forbidden… no one knew much about it anymore… and from August it was possible to sit down with various restrictions (masks, disinfection of shoes through a special kind of mat, where you first rub your shoes in some vacuum or something and then in the second part of the mat you dry your shoes, hand disinfection, nothing like napkins and table dishes, only QR codes, etc.) ut of course only the same people went around all the time from the neighborhood, so the poor people in Caracol didn't really earn anything for almost half a year. And my two coffees and three biscuits and juice didn’t even cover the cost of turning on the machine and the light… but at least they sold freshly roasted coffee and homemade chocolate…
However, I must say that probably mainly thanks to Abi's family and her husband Carlos (the other Carlos :) I wasn’t bothered. Especially thanks to the fact that their two eldest daughters (16 and 22 years old) did not deal as much as all the adults with the effects of quarantine as much as with their interactions with boys, etc., so it was quite fun to listen and unwind from the stress of what the future held :)
13 - carito = streetcar for street food, Osvaldo and his impro "restaurant" for neighbors in front of the building
Work of the locals during the covid… led by masks and food
Well, as for how the locals handled it… Well, here it is really necessary to divide them into several groups… as it happened, the poorest ones who dig up onions, cactus, etc. in the field and then they go to sell it on the market, they tried to do the same - even in the worst case, when there were efforts to close the "heart of Oaxaca", which is a giant semi-street market - it was a constant dilemma. Stay open or close? Because to close would mean ridiculing the poor if others can sell in shops. On the other hand, there is a huge concentration of people in the center and hygiene is "so so" ... But on the other hand, there are semi-open halls. But on the other hand, the cops didn't want to go on patrol there because they claimed that their employer hadn't provided them with quality protective equipment and a few of them died - and supposedly because they became infected in the center - so there is a constant for and against - until about halfway through the quarantine there was a fire and there is no evidence that it was intentional. However, this has never happened in the past. And since there are a lot of food stalls that cook with gas, it was quite a big fire… So "... coincidence, I don't think so" :)
Then, of course, there were professions, as everywhere, that continued to work physically: salespeople, police, doctors,… and those who continued online: teachers, office people, etc.
And then there is a large group of people who were in any way connected to events, culture and tourism, and they were hit hardest. Again, like everywhere in the world… And many of them are my friends.
For example, Pepe runs 2 hostels on the Pacific coast of Puerto Escondido. One on his land, the other leased - so financially nothing much - he began selling tortillas and delivering them to homes around Puerto. Plus, they used their staff (2 ladies) to cook various things that are not typically offered on site, to diversify people's quarantine making various fish sushi, whatever Pepe caught in the morning and then various spring rolls and so on… and so it continues, because of course international tourism is still almost zero and somehow some of the locals sometimes go somewhere… to visit their family and so on…
And Marianna, for example, is a tourist guide, she speaks several languages, has an overview of history, but not many skills for covid times… So my roommates started cooking fusion Indian cuisine 3 times a week and selling in Oaxaca through acquaintances and using Whatsapp for orders. I generally like that here. People naturally look for quick and easy solutions. A bit like during communism: when something was not available, people repaired, produced, replaced or otherwise simply did handiwork.
I had to laugh here (positively), when our Soriana supermarket (as I said, something like Tesco groceries) saw a drop in people, i.e. sales (whether for fear of going there, or simply because with a temperature of 37.1 you couldn't go shopping anymore because they wouldn't let you go anywhere), they made a giant sign written in marker at the entrance taking orders with a WhatsApp number for home delivery, so no long wait and a huge investment in e-shop development. Events here and now. And I saw a bunch of such examples there…
Of course, there was creativity in the Czech Republic as well (production of disinfectants and masks), but it seemed so hyped up and then nothing… we just acted in a crisis and then we hoped it would be over… Here in Mex I see this approach even outside of covid , only maybe more often than during it.
I think the most common DIY innovations here are any combination of the "holy trinity" during the covid: WhatsApp + QR code + a lot of plastic: D You can find plastic or other variants of plastic stretched anywhere, wrapping anything and adding a "soothing feeling of safety": cash registers, protective shields connected with a cap (fashion hit of the summer 2020 :), plastic stands in the middle of a table beaten together from four slats and stretched plastic with plastic gloves, etc.…
One example for all: at one rather small market on the outskirts of Oax, we went on my last day to have enchiladas de mole negro with my friend Osvaldo and not only did the guy at the entrance almost wash our hands by himself with fragrant soap (great change from the millionth gel), but inside where you eat, during the quarantine various iron structures were welded around the individual tables and a lot of transparent plastic was hung on them. Of course, you have a QR code with a menu for scanning on plastic, you will get a plastic bag for your mask before eating, an irresistible offer of a few drops of gel - simply a plastic paradise! I wasn't sure if I felt like I was sitting in a weird coupe from a 1970s sci-fi movie, or in a Bulgarian brothel VIP parlor… I guess I have to repeat the experience to make it clear :D Anyway again: I appreciated how they simply locked in and tried to fight to improve the hygiene of a tiny market;)
14 - returning to drawing was a good relaxation, maybe I will make time in the future
How not to go crazy over it
As I wrote, everyone bore the quarantine differently. And, of course, experience is not measurable. What helped me was definitely contact with family and friends and closer colleagues via voice messages on WhatsApp… Here in LatAm it's communication method No. 1… because people usually do not have computers, they are not used to writing messages, but 99% record them. I know that when I started with it too many people in the Czech Republic didn't like it. Often, because they sit at the computer at work and they can't let it go…. However, because I was mainly in the spring training season with headphones and with clients online usually 6-7 hours a day six days a week, I really didn't have the strength to plan private chats - but it was great to listen to people. The advantage of this is that it is a bit more personal than a text, and moreover the time shift does not matter … so it was always nice… Thanks to everyone who communicated with me in this way and allowed me to be in the Czech Republic from a distance.
So with the special support and, of course, the support from my family and the already mentioned therapies with Šárka from the organization Saffron for Children, it was very nice to discuss how I managed it. I could show weakness and sometimes cry… after all, when you train most of the time and days and give support to everyone else, it is good to have it for yourself.
What helped me keep my head and body healthy were also private dances with my dance teacher Winnie aka Orlando… we have known each other for over 3 years, but when I wrote to him if he would be willing to come to our apartment (aka mask workshop) a few times a week giving me private salsa and bachata, I wasn't sure if he would be afraid or something… But in the end we clicked and I was really happy for that. I really don't enjoy training alone at home. So we danced on about 4 square meters between living room chairs and fabrics, but better than nothing. Sometimes it was a show for people who went to buy masks… and some variety for the seamstress girls and their children.
But I have to say that when our dance studio opened in mid-August after five months (most of them in the city unfortunately collapsed, and Oaxaca really has a lot of excellent dance studios that collect prizes from various international competitions, and still they just didn't work economically: /), so I was excited. And I really cried with joy (seriously) when I could walk more than 5 minutes from the house to such a large space after such a long time. The dance hall is quite small, but compare to dancing between the chairs at home, it suddenly felt like a mega hall. Unfortunately, most people were still afraid to walk, or did not want to dance in masks, so we started with about five and then before leaving about eight… and Oaxaca really has hundreds of dancers :(( I’m sure it will pick up again, and the clubs where there are dance rooms… but when, no one knows… :((
What further helps to maintain my well-being: I started drawing again again (after years). The pre-quarantine purchase of markers was a good thing. I also regularly went to look at the trees next door from our roof. It seems like bullshit, but it was "the only big green" I could look at in half a year. So a really important thing for me.
I eventually also bought a vase (after buying a fan and a chair) and started buying herbs (mint, rosemary, basil,…) and cut flowers at the market… They’re really cheap here. For twenty or thirty, you can buy a really big bunch of flowers. I also started to soaking rosemary, cloves…in oil and alcohol in various ways, some just for smell, something for mosquito bites, something like home repellent, and when I found out that Abigail is also a Just dealer, and I bought Eucasol, right away it was better… the room gradually didn't look completely empty - flowers to the delight of the eye, good food and coffee and a nice smell… it was already starting to look a bit like normal living at the end of April.
Oh yeah, I also remember seeing a set of vases and glasses made of Bohemia Crystal in our mall. So not only from the Czech Republic, but also my home town in the north… wow… I was really about to buy the vase out of nostalgia, but it cost about 700 CZK and there were always some other expenses,… so I just went to look at it and feel touched in that shop :)
I must say that the advantage of quarantine, despite the lack of exercise and greenery and excess stress, was a more regular regime and the opportunity to finally get quite a bit of sleep… 7-8 hours a night. After x years it was really needed.
15 - A huge amount of graffiti can be found in Oaxaca, often complete works of art, which usually depict a mix of contemporary and pre-Hispanic culture, but many of them also have a political-educational function… You can find graffiti highlighting the problems of domestic violence, the theme of feminism, the importance of education or health (here in the current covid-masks-mode, but also calling for the legalization of abortions)
However, for about a month I had to sleep on the floor. Why? Because at the beginning of May, for the first time in my life, I threw out my back so hard that I could barely crawl, for a whole month. I guess it was a combination of work stress, a quantum of hours at a PC and a million trainings online and plus a switched on fan… Carlos roommate, however, knows everyone in Oaxaca and has acquaintances of all professions, including a physiotherapist. This is Carlos No.3. He arrived, massaged me with various electro tools, by hand, prescribed rehab exercises… but it always only helped for one day and I started eating more and more painkillers… My salsa teacher Orlando aka Winnie then advised me, after three weeks of sleeping on the floor (because of mattress it hurt me even more), to buy a special injection at the pharmacy just for this. He said he used it a lot when he was preparing for competitions and had a lot of workload from trainings
One day, when I really thought I wouldn’t finish training because of the pain, I crawled to the Farmacia Ahorros pharmacy. So let me buy that famous injection… I ask how to inject it. Seller: I don't know, ask the doctor. So I should make a caveat about local pharmacies: they are more like shops with mixed goods. You can buy sweets, cigarettes and deodorants in them and then, among other things, sometimes medicine… and a lot of it is available without a prescription. Even various antibiotics, etc.… so you can relatively easily get yourself addicted to a lot of things… (in Guatemala it's a level further, of course due to the financial situation of people. If you want paracetamol, but you only have ⅓ of the price, they just tear you off ⅓ of the package on the spot) ...
The advantage, however, is that almost every pharmacy has an associated doctor’s office, where doctors do voluntary services on shifts (basic GP services). I don't even have to pay as a foreigner. You can just leave a tip. So I go there, I knock on the door with an injection in my hand, and ask if the doctor can jab me. It's supposed to be stuck in my ass, but if I can't turn even 1 cm, it's a bit of a problem… but the doctor can’t help me because she didn't prescribe it to me, and I either had to go to the hospital or apply it myself…
Well, I don't really want to catch covid in the hospital, so I drag myself home. There I google how the injection is put together, because it has two separated ampoules without lids , I have no idea how they open… but google knows and there is one nice video: an unboxing of exactly this injection, its assembly, proper breaking those ampoules and the proper extracting :)
Well, I replicated the unboxing successfully, I broke the ampoule ok, but I couldn't extract both of them into one injection at once… I couldn't turn around either, so I finally stabbed my ass once, and my stomach twice… well, I hoped that the body would somehow take over… I'm still alive, so good… and it helped for a few hours. It is a mixture of vitamins and painkillers.
But in the end, Carlos No. 3 did my back for the fourth time, when he applied acupuncture to me (I tried it for the first time in my life) and it really helped immediately and permanently - I then exercised out the rest.
My friends laughed at me for walking like a robot and sleeping like a dog on the ground, but they took quite good care of me and I got out of hauling water garrafones for at least a month :)
Btw, semi-selfmedication was also taken up by my friend Bára, who, while waiting for a replacement connection, managed to have tooth inflammation… when her face swelled to twice its size and the news that it was somehow inflamed, so that a local dentist suggested head surgery, so I also felt sorry for her, poor thing… and then we shared the experience with injecting according to YouTube :)
And another "cheerful" story probably belongs in this chapter… and it's about hives… You just have to get used to the fact that some mosquitoes or other biting monsters are eating you here in Mex. And also that you sometimes have an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, sometimes it is difficult to estimate whether it is bacteria from food, or an allergy to unknown spices, fish, vegetables, fruits, or even after being stung by something. It's best not to deal with it too much - Zyrtec, or any antihistamine, will take almost everything. You can buy it on every corner at the pharmacy.
But when you can't eat for almost two weeks, you sometimes vomit and / or have diarrhea, it's probably bacteria. Then it is good to hop over to the doctor who is sitting in the pharmacy… #triedoutforyou
However, back to allergies, etc. One morning I woke up really with a pretty swollen hand with a "path" of stings. My hand was burning up… all my friends around (about the 10 people in my quarantine area) had a different theory, of course. And so I learned new practical words in Spanish: bedbugs, venomous spider, lice, fleas, smoking out insects, hand inflammation, and so on.… When my hand hurt and the swelling didn't go down for the third day and Zyrtec didn't work, I went to my "favorite" pharmacy GP who was just volunteering - the doctor told me “something must have bitten you. Take Zyrtec" and slammed the door… ok, thank you captain obvious. Well ok, sometimes it's not completely ideal…
I hardly slept for another 3 nights. On the one hand, my hand hurt and itched, but I was also nervous that I had bugs attracted to something in the bed from outside, or something worse (I also killed a spider in the corner that looked exactly like the venomous one from the internet - of course!) ... at night any micro-sound woke me up and I immediately jumped out of bed, started to shine my light and look for insects… there was never anything. I was quite happy about that because I didn't want to pay three thousand for fumigating the apartment.
Anyway, it went away in time… and sometimes other fun things came up like crazy itchy palms that wake you up several times a night. Sometimes red spots on my legs… I didn't understand what it was at all, but over time I started to ignore it and increased the dose of Zyrtec… near the end I somehow accidentally googled and finally (!) found out that all this is together… "hives" or “utricaria”. Which at least helped me to buy an adequate ointment at the end of my "quarantine mex vacation", which is quite relieving… sometimes self-medication is tricky when you have no idea what is wrong with you, it’s very hard to google the treatment :)
16 - Face mask and agave cacti, everyday classics
Embassies et al.
When I mentioned Bara, who was also waiting for a flight in Oaxaca - just a small note about embassies. Many of you have asked: D but because I don’t want to be mean, I won’t go into detail…. however, sometimes Bára and I compared what the same lady wrote to us at the same hour for the same question with two different answers, and then we just laughed desperately… I would rather not talk about distorted news and the exaggerated PR of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We compared PR vs. the approach of embassies of different countries with other foreigners in the same situation. So the few sentences below only apply to the spring covid situation in an international context.
Here goes: the embassy may help you if you end up in jail or you or a fellow passenger are dead… but otherwise no. Now, of course, I'm exaggerating and generalizing a bit, so please don't take my word for it if you’ve worked at an embassy or you’ve been on holiday in country xy and our embassy helped with some other little thing.
But if I just omit (rather) the current covid era, then in general we are a small country and we do not have a budget for embassies to pull all Czechs out of every little foreign trouble… Which I think is really ok. As my friend Olga described to me, each country is set up differently: it depends on the size, whether it is / is not a priority and how much money it has ... so as Czechs, of course, in average situations (if I really omit the extremes of prison, death), 99% of the time you have to help yourself. Which, of course, you know if you travel often. But for those who don’t, do not rely on the embassy, but mainly on yourself and the support of family and friends.
17 - delicious seasonal dish "chiles en nogada" - stuffed peppers with minced meat with various nuts and special spices, topped with white cold hazelnut sauce, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and on top a parsley leaf
Food, an eternal theme…
So something more positive: food! Mexicans can talk (and have fun :) about food all the time. And that’s double in Oaxaca. It's a lifestyle for them, time is always spent with family and friends at food, it's part of their history and culture… I definitely recommend watching:
Kamu in Mexico, part dedicated to Oaxaca, on ivysilani Czech Television: https://www.ceskatelevize.cz/ivysilani/12021754333-kamu-v-mexiku/218562260190007-oaxaca (but look at the others, this girl’s stuff is really well-done)
StreetFood, part 3 dedicated to Oaxaca, on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/en/title/81249660
and I found another article about typical dishes in Oaxaca, it's just translated (from English to Czech) by machine, so it's quite funny, because the first typical dish "mole" is of course not translated from Spanish, but the algorithm identified it as an English word, and translated it like the underground mammal :)))… so please, moles aren't eaten in Oaxaca, but the rest is quite accurate: https://en.thpanorama.com/articles/cultura-general/comidas-tpicas-de-oaxaca-los-5 -platos-ms-populares.html
Mexico is a giant country (130+ million people) and Oaxaca as the capital of the state of Oaxaca is a small town for them (it has "only" 1 million inhabitants) ... And of course each region has a different climate, a slightly different historical context, and thus also slightly different food. The history of the period before and after the conquista, trade with Europe, all this, of course, influenced the cultivation of crops and, consequently, what people cook, everywhere. Here in Oax, however, there is also a strong influence from indigenous cultures… just to give you an idea, on the streets, mostly from street vendors, you often do not hear Spanish, but Native American languages (Mixtec - and there are 57 variants, Náhuatl, Zapoteca, and another 29 dialects, ...).
Leaving aside the classic seafood on the coast, the typical ingredients are of course corn (hundreds of species and hundreds of processing methods), chili / peppers (again hundreds of species and other names for fresh vs. dried versions), beans and various types of tomatoes, essential seasonings are coriander, limes, chapulines (fried grasshoppers). Mexicans are really good at meat, but in Oax you will also find super cheeses (most queso fresco and quesillo). I have the only cookbook from Kam (the Mexican one) at home and it's really well done (on the one hand, it has meat and vege versions, but it also has a lot of context in culture and history - which is really inseparable from Mexican food).
So if you follow me sometime in the future, a small glossary:
queso = fresh cheese, a little like cream cheese
quesillo = something like unsmoked parenica
tlayudas = pancake with bean paste and quesillo and then various salsa, loaded with radish, brine and herbs (they call it local "pizza")
mole = sweet and salty, various hot sauces, faintly reminiscent of goulash, but much more pronounced (there is mole negro, verde, rojo, amarillo,… just any color, depending on the part of the changed vegetables)
caldo de piedra = broth that is cooked in a bowl with inserted hot stones
entomatadas = pancakes / tortillas in tomato sauce, with or without meat, with egg, can be with cheese… a meal for children, quite quick and simple, at one time I ate this almost daily
enfrijoladas = almost the same as entomatadas, but only the pancakes are in bean salsa
memelas = pancakes with greaves and beans and possibly with hot meat and salsa… a variant of tacos, but typical for Oax
pozole = corn soup, I love it… excellent and rich
sopa azteca / sopa de tortillas = the base is a tomato soup cut with a broth, with baked pieces of tortilla, queso fresco cheese and avocado
of course there are other classics such as tacos and empanadas, but the above is very typical for this region and you can buy them on any corner on almost every street - quite nice English overview for example here: https://uncorneredmarket.com/oaxaca-food/
season with fried grasshoppers or salsa, which I liked and learned to prepare salsa matcha (from chili, garlic and sesame seeds) ... you drink mezcal (in the document from Kamu there is one part about mezcal) or pulque (like Czech burčák)
Street food is really, on average, excellent and cheap almost everywhere (for example, one memela pancake for 10 CZK (approx. 0,4 USD) meatless version, I ate 2-3) ... During the quarantine, of course, we all cook more at home… and for a while nothing could be sold on the street. But how it works is (normally, but even more during quarantine) that you usually choose one thing to cook/bake/fry… and write a descriptive note and stick it on the door and whoever wants to buy it just knocks or rings ... So I went to one of my neighbors for memelas, to another for tortas (something like panini), another for homemade ice cream… everyone just does what they can. The malls, of course, destroy small business owners here, but people here are still happy to support neighbors or a favorite lady in the market who cooks… Because it's really cheap, so even if she cooks at home, I estimate that maybe ⅓ - ½ of everyone and even big families often eat outside… it's just lifestyle :)
And if you can't have a stall in the quarantine outside, at least you have a sign on the door at home and you cook in the corridor or you sell directly from your private kitchen… or you just walk around town with a basket of food on your head and sell while walking…
During this year here, I learned to prepare:
those mentioned enchiladas (tomato sauce)
bean paste (it’s eaten with everything)
the mentioned salsa matcha
tlayudas with and without grasshoppers
cactus salad (nopal or prickly pear)
I would still like to learn pozole, the soup, but it's for longer cooking and I don't have a good kitchen in Mex now and in the Czech Republic it's not available (at a reasonable price) with specially prepared corn in it… so maybe next time… And I know that there are still about 100 foods and drinks that I haven't tested yet …
18 - my daily view from Caracol Purpura… the papers on the door opposite the neighbors are the current flavors of homemade ice cream, drunken neighbors are sometimes standing next to it (ley seca did not work 100%)
Even in Mexico, the state and possibly the municipality are trying to provide some support. I didn't map everything… but of course there are no benefits or allowances for parents taking care of their children who are not in school. There's not much of that here… or any at all… Every family usually relies on someone who has a little savings and will help them … But that is purely my observation. However, as far as I know, "twenty-five for the self-employed" took place in Mex. And literally. One mex peso is now about equal to one Czech crown. Of course, the purchasing power is different. Food in the mall is about ¼ cheaper, vegetables on the market are about ⅕ cheaper… and services are radically cheaper: from rents, which are here about a tenth the level in our country, from barbers (I usually paid 30 CZK (approx. 1,15 USD) for cutting my half short-haired head :), language or dance courses, physiotherapy… And people also earn a lot less.
The average salary in the city of Oax for 2020 is 33 thousand. CZK (or even pesos, when it's 1: 1), but in my opinion it is very very distorted. This is mainly due to the fact that a huge part of people are in the gray (or black) zone of the economy. A lot of people around me earned around 5-10 thousand CZK or pesos per month, of course without a contract or any social security and benefits. But even if I took the optimistic 33 thou per month, we must realize that on the one hand the breadwinner feeds on average 3 - 10 children, elderly parents, pays most of the health care, pays for education (because public schools are often really miserable) ... etc.
As in other countries of the Second and Third Worlds: the poor are really poor, the rich are really fabulously rich, and the middle class somehow holds on tooth and nail… nevertheless, the current president of AMLO (which is an abbreviation of his names and who otherwise won elections due to his political involvement in Oaxaca and connection to the teachers' unions, which are incredibly strong here) is relatively socially (even for some socialists) oriented and thus supported the distribution of money during the covid crisis to the self-employed…
Surprisingly, they could also ask for twenty-five or 25,000. CZK, like Czech self-employed. My friends Mariana (with the gallery closed) and Carlos and his mother went to ask. However, there was only a limited budget and in about 1.5 days it was gone… so whoever did not accidentally find out about it in time through an acquaintance was unlucky, incl. my friends who came late.
The rest of the support was mainly of the type: do it yourself.
On the other hand, I must say that especially at the beginning of the pandemic, when the whole world knew nothing and was nervous, so all of us every day on mex phone numbers got sms from the government about what stage of the epidemic we are in and the development of the numbers we will be in the next, etc. I think it gave people a certain sense of certainty that someone was in control. Also the traffic light and the conditions under which a region switches to which color was given from the beginning. Of course, we can talk about the methodology of data collection, etc.… but it is being discussed all over the world. Here, of course, it concerned corruption and political quarrels (but it's always here, so actually normal:) ... but it just occurred to me that at least the rules did not change twice a day as in the Czech Republic, even though it was annoying and tired people, they just kept to it somehow as far as possible.
You can check out the data development in my favorite government dashboard here:
For Guatemala, I watched these numbers https://www.soy502.com/covid19 (when I still naively thought that I would eventually be able to return to Guate and fly with my original, just shifted ticket).
19 - “terremoto / sismo / temblor = earthquake” ... a joke that began to circulate after an earthquake ... or when it is not certain which evil is the lesser evil
Oaxaca, and of course many other areas of Mexico and surrounding states are located in a seismically active area. Volcanic eruptions (two years ago in Guatemala), movements of lithospheric plates (two years ago in Ciudad Méxiko), various tsunamis, etc. This is unfortunately the standard…
In Oaxaca it is perfectly normal to shake a little… sometimes it is not felt even in some parts of the city (it depends on what you have under your feet and in which part you are,…). Very often I woke up with slight tremors at night - probably just because it is calm and you are lying in bed, so you really feel it.
But on June 23, 2020, I experienced a pretty strong earthquake, which was not pleasant. Around ten o'clock I was just about to sit down at the Caracol café for a drink and work on something. Carlos was just about to go out somewhere to buy food or something… We had just met leaving the door of our first floor apartment when it started…
Carlos is a lover of flowers and has really grown giant houseplants in pots with a diameter of half a meter, weighing 20-30 kilos and with flowers and soil even more… so these "pots" began to ride around the room and the whole building was knocking, the walls were shaking and the floor too… I yell at Carlos, “let's run out”, he yells at me, “let’s stay in” :D He called his mom right during the shaking to see if she's okay… he has the experience that if he doesn't call right away, the nets are usually either congested, as people begin to find out who is ok in the family, and / or (often both) the power goes out for a few hours…. #lifehack
A stronger (or probably any) earthquake is disgusting, especially since you don't know how long it will last. This June was quite strong, but on the other hand relatively short (up to 2 min max). But you don't know that at the moment… and you're thinking about where it's better to be at the moment so that something doesn't fall on your head or the house collapses on you… Fortunately we lived in a family house where they didn't cut corners… but the problem is that in the historic center stucco might fall on you, or during the last strong earthquake in CDMX (capital) unfortunately a lot of people died in various buildings where half of the material was stolen during construction, so even though the construction plan was ok and theoretically adapted to the seismically active area, in reality it simply fails… In June, 6 people allegedly died in Oax. Fortunately, none of my friends. And the electricity was back on in about 2 hours…
People then advised me to sleep dressed and ready to run in the following days, because usually after a major quake there are aftershocks for up to 14 days, often at night and sometimes even stronger than the first wave… fortunately, nothing happened in June.
Otherwise, seismological reports are mostly watched by everyone in Mex here: http://www.ssn.unam.mx/ (National Seismological Institute at the Best Mex University UNAM). From the 35th second, the footage is directly from the tremors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zxefy9ZwOzw&ab_channel=NoticierosTelevisa
20 - people I've spent half a year with: Abi, Lucia, Dania, Carlita, Dani, Carlos 1, Carlos 2, Carlos 3, Emilio, Leo, Orlando is still missing
I have already mentioned some of the people I spent the most time with - it was great, of course, that I was in Oax for the fifth time and I know some people. But I didn't really see some of them during the quarantine until departure… a lot of people actually cut ties totally for half a year… even my friends in Guate… but even so, some became infected… You just won't escape fate, because you just sometimes have to go to the pharmacy or for food…
I guess I spent my time near about 30 people and max 50 in more distant contact, especially from the end of March to the end of July, when it was the most severe… Certainly, of course, my roommate Carlos, plus his cousin Yuri and son Santi. Yuri was actually Mon-Sat with us in the apartment, because she was one of the first seamstresses. After Eduardo, that is. And Santi always with her, because the children haven't been going to school since March and the rest of the year… Then there were eventually two ladies plus one child. Then there was a circle of about 10 of Carlos’ friends who stopped by after the fear wore off. Of course also Carlos No. 3, who saved me a blocked back… Then of course Winnie Orlando, my salsa teacher, and sometimes he came with his wife and daughter Mia. Of course, the family of the landlords in the building… and the family from Caracol Púrpura (Abigail and husband Carlos No. 2, daughters Dania, Carla, sons Emilio and Leo) ... from the summer Dani and Cesar started to help out in the cafe, then at the end of July, after a long time, I somehow saw my friend Osvaldo from dancing,… And even so, while my friend Bára was waiting for her departure, I met her once a week to talk…
From the wider area, I always greeted a family in the neighborhood that sells ice cream, a family that sells pancakes, local police officers, local marketers and a family running a laundry… We always waved at a distance and through the curtains (and someone even despite the shields above it) and smiled at each other… and that was all… But it was nice that they got used to me and accepted me into their neighborhood as the "weru" (= girl with fair skin).
The others I know in Oax were afraid and at home - or they met a similarly small circle of people.
Yeah, of course people came to us to buy masks. But they walked in masks, had to "gel" their hands, and Carlos sprayed them with some disinfectant, always from head to toe - literally, even if they were just waiting in the door… The disinfection had the advantage that it didn't stink like bleach, which I really hate and makes me want to throw up. And it didn't even leave stains on clothes. But I just hope that Carlos wasn't tricked by the boy who sold it to him, and that it really was a disinfectant with some effect, and not water…?!?! But hey: I didn't catch covid in Mex, so maybe it probably worked :)
21 - On a trip with the family of Abi and Carlos, camping in a "bearded" forest in the Sierra
Well, maybe the word "loosening" is too strong, but still some positive rays gradually began to flash during the summer… While I was in Oax, we were actually almost always on "semaforo rojo", or on the red traffic light… from August sometimes orange flashed for a week, for example, and when I left, Oax was even yellow… but I think it is already “naranja” or orange... It is logical how some things gradually tightened and some loosened and then to look at what caused it… After all, it had at least a little more logic here than in the Czech Republic.
Anyway, when we were closed from March 20, and from the beginning of April really everything was really closed, also the whole of May, and the whole of June… I therefore bore the extension of all the strictest restrictions for the third time… it started to be really long and completely without some light at the end of the tunnel… At first March and April went by… it was a shock, but relatively expected according to the model of Europe, which was about two or three weeks ahead of us.
April was quite expected to not improve quickly, ... but not May either. And already in Europe, and especially in the Czech Republic, people were mainly dealing with how they would spend the summer… and a completely normal life returned to the Czech Republic… we were still closed, x businesses had already gone bankrupt and I watched the Czech and Prague “summer party life” on instagram… and June and July were an even bigger extreme… in Europe there were gradually topics other than the virus in the news, well-being, holidays,… we had round three… At the end of July, however, people start loosening up, traffic light or not - they actually have nothing to lose. They will either get a huge fine if they open their shop and someone denounces them, or they go bankrupt closed anyway… or they will be lucky and pass… so street vendors gradually starting appearing on the streets at the beginning of August and there are actually not many being expelled… sometimes even a smaller bistro or family restaurant opens… but it is only possible from about August…
With Carla, Dania, Dany… my most common trio of partners in Caracol (they work there, I consume there and do my job:) ... we’re going pretty crazy… sometimes only sayings out of context, sometimes one of us has "bajon "(depression), so we encourage each other… Carlita sometimes pulls some “abandoned” kitten from the street… they are always terribly cute and better than TV… sometimes the kitten is from the neighbors, but sometimes it was really abandoned. Really! :) ... sometimes the “tv program” is provided by our neighbors partying across the street, you probably know them from my instagram stories, where most of the shots are only from my legendary single window :)… sometimes we just roll on the floor in an attempt to stretch our backs , everything is disinfected all the time, I get an infinite number of coffees (the best of Oax, really), baked flans, handmade pralines, delicious cookies that remind me of our Christmas cookies… I usually order the same thing for a month and then I sometimes make a change… It's an advantage that if I don't want to talk, I don't even have to, Dani or Carla already know what I want… Carly (she's 16) is studying art school (or rather it feels like a humanities high school), I sometimes watch what she does for online tasks… but almost none of the children, even those who normally enjoy them personally at school (for example, Carla), can’t really get into it mentally… and I'm not surprised… :( They have no motivation to continue learning on their own they miss friends from school :(
Of course, even though something other than a pharmacy finally opened here and there in August, it is mandatory to close at 10 pm, masks are obligatory everywhere inside and on the street. They can only be taken off when you eat… Everywhere the above-mentioned mandatory disinfection of hands, shoes over the special mats with some vacuum or something, which every little shop now has… school’s still closed… no mass events over 10 people are allowed… Almost every store (even the small shops) is obliged to measure your temperature at the entrance.
It was not until mid-September, i.e. after six months of tough and everlasting measures, that clubs were able to open in addition to restaurants. But also only until 10 pm… well, I don't think anyone goes there much yet…
When I left after half a year, the city was a bit alive, but of course the center not much, because other times it is full of tourists - not only foreign - but also those from other parts of Mex who go to Oax most often for food, mezcal and culture. They appear slowly, but really slowly… Mari's friend, who has a gallery, sometimes sells something, but she is still saved by an eshop (https://mariasarteydiseno.com/) based on things from the gallery just before the corona …
When, after many weeks of being locked up at home, I went for a walk "just like that" on May 31st "to the city", it was really total euphoria for me to go somewhere and sometimes to see something open here and there… and when it was Aug 15th And I went somewhere with a specific goal (because there was "somewhere to go" for the first time) - I went to that reopened dance studio: I'm not kidding, I had tears in my eyes with joy.
Well, I didn’t mention that in August the Abigail family invited me to a traditional campsite with their family in the Sierra… It was the first opportunity to go out of town after half a year, and moreover: to nature !!!! It was really incredible… I had a second Christmas! So actually the first one :)
For one thing, it was a lot of fun to have the experience of going camping with the locals - with almost nothing, even with this Mexicans don't hassle much: you don't have a sleeping bag (like 95% of the large family that got together), never mind, just take a blanket from home,… you don't have a mat, take a cardboard box or find something in the woods and put it under yourself… there are more of us than places in cars, it doesn't matter, we just squeeze onto the hood somehow… The child didn't take what it should have, it doesn't matter, his problem, somehow they’ll just survive those two days… I really like the coolness with them. Even if a large family (about 30 people) has set off, just don't let the event be ruined by reorganizing it and solving every trifle you can’t forget…
Anyway, the trip would be absolutely divine! And it would be, even if for nothing, just for the feeling of being outside. But it was great with everything. Here, camping and excursions have to be done a little carefully… there are sometimes attacks in the mountains, so it is good to be in a larger group and go to a place agreed in advance (here it is directly the land of the family). Even if the forest is overgrown, it is usually someone from the area. And even if you go somewhere in the mountains, someone will always stare at you - if they don't know you, you're not from the village or from a close family, you're already a suspect - and they don't call the police here often (they are slow and often without effect), but they immediately preventatively lynch you… because what if you were some thief or a pervert who wanted to attack them at night… Well, that's also the answer to questions why I sometimes didn't go for a walk in nature during the quarantine alone ...
22 - after covid tests a trip to the campus of the closed UNAM university, with Matias and Yordi
Before the trip home
Of course, a classic - the departure date was already starting to near, but suddenly I didn't want to leave at all - there were several reasons:
First, for the last month, I moved to a building in a cafe owned by my family's aunt, Lucia. The apartment is tiny, but newly renovated. It’s for the same money as rooming with Carlos… but again it's something for something… there is a big tank at the house, so there’s always water (although little flows and slowly, but still hurray 3 times!). But again, the internet (fck) doesn't reach my apartment ... even though the signal is great in the cafe (I had almost all the calls and trainings without a problem), it won't reach the apartment… I was already in the Czech Republic before it was resolved, so...… Well, ok, maybe next time.
But I'm really glad that I risked moving to a new tiny flat for the last month. Although it cost me refurnishing. This one was also empty. First, I could keep some things there until my next return, but I also do not have to walk down the street with a computer in the evening… The original apartment with Carlos was only 5 minutes from the cafe, but anyway… Oaxaca is one of the safest states in Mexico, but as people haven't had a job here for a long time, business is closed, and everything is forbidden - mugging begins - even during the day let alone at night… Perhaps it will not get much worse because otherwise I really walked at night alone back from the dance halls and fine… but now is not exactly the ideal time.
It's good that people around me already know me, so maybe they would help me, but sometimes the assault is just very fast… Sometimes they don’t even use a knife or a pistol, but just a poke, you're scared, and you no longer have a bag … This is how the lady in the center, from whom I have my beautiful earrings (https://www.instagram.com/missanga_/), lost her wallet and mobile phone . But it was so fast…
Well, you cannot have a cap or sunglasses in the supermarket (precisely because of these cases, so that they can detect you on security cameras), but you must have a mask, so… And here in Mex and outside… so even though neighbors often install cameras in the streets, they can be robbed well enough in daylight, even under the cameras…
Oh well, back to my departure…
As for the departure, I had several important points in my head. Firstly, a stamp in the mex passport, which allows you to stay in Mexico without a visa, but a maximum of 180 days… and that time was approaching…
I kept watching Guatemalan news and asking friends, and I still hoped that I would just be able to go back to Guate and use my original x-times rescheduled ticket. At the end of July, the Guate government was to announce a new (already postponed several times) opening of the airport. Which would, in essence, also mean opening borders. Well, I listened to the speech… and not a word about the airport… so I started to come to terms with the fact that it will probably be necessary to buy (of course, totally disadvantageous) a new flight, from Mex. I really didn't want to do it. Until mid-August, I waited for another "cancellation" to be sure, and when it arrived, I began to take a quick look at the flight offer… well it was miserable… some flights, according to the experience of acquaintances (and also from what I read in fb groups of expats in Mex / Guate) seemed unrealistic to me from the beginning. Many flights are sold in times of covid, even though airlines know in advance that they will not happen. They just handle your cash for a while, hold you in the belief that the flight will happen, you have a ticket in your email, but gradually one leg of the flight is canceled, then the other, then the third… and you have nothing…
I wanted to avoid that, so I thought I would play it safer - looking for a slightly more expensive flight, but with Lufthansa, where a friend works who can check if the flight really will happen or not - a great idea, I immediately slept more peacefully… but only until the next day when I found out that Lufthansa was planning its first flight from Mex in October at the earliest… hmm… super. There were Turkish Airlines left, who pretended to fly almost every day (which was not realistic), then Finnair, who seemed to sell only one flight a week in advance and then waited and sometimes something from TAP (Portuguese). I quite preferred the Finns, but what happened one day did not apply the next, or just to some other EU countries, where connections would be expensive…
An attempt to buy a straight return Oax-Prg-Oax with a possible return next year (because the return is basically as expensive as one direction) also failed… Mex-Europe at 2021: offer 0. Another option was to fly to Germany, where I could sleep with a friend and then continue by train. Another option was Spain and sleeping with someone and then I don't know what… for example on foot… The days were running and gradually approaching the date when I had to leave Mex in any way… but in the end I just bought something around 19k and "straight" to Prague. Which is crazy, because normally the trip back and forth has been around 22k for several years… and I "won" almost for the same money only return… With the promise that maybe I will get back from the original canceled ticket in 6-8 months (perhaps) less than half :(
My connection looked really "promising":
night in Oaxaca bus - CDMX (capital) approx. 7 hrs
2.5 days in the capital and getting a Covid test (not too early that I would have to pay more due to time zones, but not too late to get the results and possibly arrange otherwise if they were positive)
flight Ciudad México - New York - waiting at the airport for about 11 hours and praying that it will really fly
flight New York - Lisbon
stopover in Portugal - 1 day (first version), then 2 days (second version of the ticket)
flight Lisboa - Prague…
Well, ... so theoretically 6 “weak points” where something can get f..cked. And maybe even nonsense like that I get a cold somewhere, or I'll get a cold sore and I'll have 37.1 degrees Celsius and they won't let me go right in step no.1 or on the bus in Oaxaca…: /
Given that other flights on offer had even more lively variants, this one was actually an "ideal brand" and for 19k - don't take it! So when I finally risked it (there was nothing left with time running out) and bought it, I rested.
For about a day.
Friends from the capital came to visit me (not only for me, but mainly for their family). They came to check the health of their grandparents who they had not seen for half a year due to covid, and vent their heads after half a year of "house arrest". It's a pair of my good friends, a couple: Matias and Jordi. Jordi has just completed a university degree in biochemistry and is working on his doctorate. Mati teaches future nurses at the university and at the same time coaches (and is the author of the translation of my Career Diary into Spanish www.diarYO.info). We always try to meet and talk at least once every six months.
The boys immediately offered me a place to stay at their home in CDMX before my departure and started looking for a laboratory with a good reputation and international certifications. And they connected me with my friend Mariana (we also know each other from an NLP course I took in Mex for two years). Mari works at the airport and has "keys" from all the different parts. Moreover, at the beginning of covid in Europe, she got stuck like I did in Paris. Fortunately, thanks to her connections, only a few days longer. So it didn't ruin her much. But she completely understood the situation and really tried to help me.
The first verification I thought would knock me out was the message that nothing was flying through the USA now, only through Uruguay. WTF? On the one hand, I don't know how to get there through other closed countries of Central America, and moreover, I've never seen this connection in any search engine. It will probably fly… probably… But when will it fly from the USA, that no one really knows…
It is also funny, of course, that as Europeans we have needed ESTA for Europeans for x years, i.e. a kind of "small visa". Just pay about $20 or whatever it is online now and say you're not a terrorist and you'll get a code valid for two years. Even with that, they may throw you out at the border, but it's just a necessary first step. As I fly to the Central American region twice a year lately, I often change in the United States. But this year, my tickets (bought in 2019 for 2020) ended up crossing other countries, which I was happy about… because those interrogations are always a pain and you never know who you will come across, or "what the system won't like". However, even though I didn't need a new ESTA "visa", I preferred to buy it, with some good "what if" intuition, in December 2019. I told myself that one never knows how flight changes can occur and the US is simply a neighbor of Mexico… Well, that's because the US stopped issuing ESTA sometime between summer 2020 and the end of the year - because of the corona!
So I can't imagine what would have happened and where would I have been if I hadn't had ESTA bought from last year thanks to good intuition… because the only way to Europe from Mex was through the USA at the beginning of September…
Another new "tweak" was the requirement for a negative corona test when entering Portugal… If I did not have friends of medics and airport staff, it would not have been possible to get the right answers as to which covid test I must have exactly and how the flights crossing time zones are counted… because the airports, embassies, agencies, airlines and even laboratories refused to give me answers to these questions. Great. No one wants to advise anything but everyone wants to have their ass covered…
Well, as you already know, I arrived in the Czech Republic successfully after an exciting 7-day trip (on Sunday I left Oaxaca and arrived in Prague the next Sunday) ... But I must say that the worst was not the trip in masks and so on, but the fact that no one really knew anything or refused to give advice… Because, they said "the situation changes every day". Well that really "helps a lot".
So Mati and Jordi really helped me the most, they took me for tests, arranged everything, checked all the papers, dates, then a friend Pavel from the Czech Republic, who arranged a "backup apartment" in New York, in case it didn't fly, Mariana, with whom I went through all the checks at the airport at CDMX and smuggled water and snacks through my service entrance, which was important because I had to wait around 11 hours in the hall without toilets and the opportunity to buy anything to eat/drink. Well, at least it was wifi …
Well, what can I say - two weeks before departure, I ate about a kilo of garlic (a natural antibiotic), until I was sick :), a bunch of vitamins, I drank liters of herbal teas and I really prayed that not even a cold would get past me… Then we were already kidding that at least I had a choice to be locked up in Mexico, the US or Portugal, and that I was supposed to watch an online "tutorial" aka a Tom Hanks movie. because they didn't want to let him into the new country or back to the old one :)))
And then I always focused on the closest "next step". Don't miss the lab tests - be negative - don't get infected in the last days - go through the food and drink check - show the completed online form xy - show the completed offline form xy - don't arouse suspicion - look healthy and happy despite all the checks :) - survive the flight crowded in the plane and a trip without food to NYC - pass police check in US No. 1 - answer nonsensical questions - pass police check in US No. 2 in the interrogation room (wut? ... help, I do not want to go to the States, but mainly to get away from here as fast as I can, let me go) - survive the crazy wait in NYC, where no one knows what will ever fly, and hope it flies - survive super disgusting food and fly in a packed mini-plane across the ocean - survive a covid test check in Portugal, they acknowledge it - wait two days in Lisbon with another delayed flight - do not get infected - fly in a full plane to Prague… and get home.
It was great that a friend came for me by car and with a cooked lunch - Lucie is the best :) And then only a week of unpacking and cleaning. And getting used to the fact that here we almost always have (and all of a sudden :) electricity + gas + wifi + water… wow, water. That's the greatest: we always have enough of it. We can drink it from the tap. It flows a lot and almost always. I know you know - but it's not a given. So let's appreciate it, really! ;)
Yeah, and I love Czech garbage men, who can put the trash cans in the truck for us and we don't have to, how divine! :D Today I met some again and they drove in complete silence - they didn't bang anything at all - so I almost wanted to wave to them with joy :)
23 - masks also obligatory outside, masks even on the walls
Lost and found
Such a classic - what it gave you and took away…. sometimes people ask. Hey, I don't really know, and I know… It changes a lot over time. Otherwise, I experienced it in the moment (the bad and the positive moments). Even when I wrote it down in retrospect (my reflections in the Career Diary after months and in the normal diary after weeks), even with this short distance I perceived it a little differently.
And I noticed one thing: I always try to write down the most important points that happened. And even if there were only one or two negative ones (of course fundamental, such as not being free to go somewhere, ubiquitous fear, etc.), it was always balanced by a lot of small positive moments. Which at times when I was very sad or depressed, the little things seemed really almost insignificant to me. But retrospectively, my memory finally prevails… The online support of family and friends, offline support of new local friends, sun, private salsa, endless covid jokes, little joys like when I bought a chair, and then a table and then a flower. And when the water or the internet arrived. Greater joys like an opportunity to go somewhere around the city at all… to be in nature after half a year ...
For me, "freedom" is one of the top values. In many contexts. And the impossibility of being in the country I want and/or need to be in, no freedom to do what I love, the impossibility of going to nature, the impossibility of seeing people I would like to see when I want… it was really hard for me to breathe . And perhaps the worst factor was that there was no "until" outlook. And then the endless prolonging for a month, two, another month…
Yes, one had a problem with basic things like water - but on the other hand, no war or apocalypse drama took place. Fortunately. But even if it sounds really banal, we people from the countries of the First World really don't remember that discomfort and lack of freedom anymore. And scout camps such as "seal training" in childhood have relatively strengthened me :)… but overall, it's simply true that the "full do not believe the hungry" and living in permanent insecurity and with limited resources (and I do not mean only the financial ones) is really far from us. I don't want to moralize here. I think that thanks to travel I have always perceived this, but one thing is to "see it" and another to experience it… I hope that, thanks to this blog diary, I will remember it for a long time.
24 - “Hey, are you on drugs?” … I guess I felt a bit like this after overcoming one airport after another:)