Diary: El Cajón de Grecia, July 11 2020: Locked Down Again

The coronavirus has  been raging in Costa Rica this past week, averaging almost 400 new cases daily with one day peaking at 649. Something had to be done if the country was to be able to trace contacts and test for infections.

So the government once again is locking the country down, hard. At least parts of it, areas where the new cases have been erupting, the “orange alert” cantons, which includes ours. All non-essential businesses are to be closed, the government has issued a list of those businesses it has deemed to be essential and able to operate, the list more restricted on weekends than on during the week. Driving is restricted based on the last number of vehicle license plates and allowed only two days a week, one weekend day and one week day. Trips are permitted solely to visit the specified essential services, and only between 5 in the morning to 5 in the evening. In “yellow alert” cantons, the rules are a bit less restrictive. Everywhere, face masks are required to be worn in public places.

Friday morning we drove to the feria. Safety precautions are in effect.  Early in the morning, a time set aside exclusively for old folks like us, I drop Irina off to enter at the exit, as only one person per car is allowed. I drive around to the entrance to the parking area where Eddie, who lives across from us in El Cajón, is manning the entrance and takes my temperature as I drive in. I put on my mandatory mask and wash my hands before entering the open air but covered market. Followed the arrows directing foot traffic, one way only, I make my rounds, people respectfully keeping their distance. Irina meets me at the car and we drive out. A young man is at the exit where we usually pay our five hundred colones parking fee, but he’s busy with incoming people and waves us through.

We stop at Rosvil on the way home for grocery shopping. Wash hands on the way in. A man standing at the door takes our temperature one by one, sprays hands with sanitizer, sanitizes the cart handle. Shopping done, stand in the check-out line a meter and a half apart. Our checker speaks English, explains he married an American woman, his father-in-law lives in Portland. Biggest city in Oregon, I say, he smiles. Small world.

Driving home from the feria and grocery shopping – which we won’t be able to do next Friday – we are reminded of how thankful we are to be here. Up the road to Cajón cars flash their lights or honk, and wave as they go by. We mostly doen’t know if we should know who they are, it hard to see through a glaring windshield. People walk along the street, stand at the bus stops, , talking to each other, wearing masks but smiling with their eyes. We stop at the Granja to pick up a dozen eggs, still chicken-warm, then at La Pacifica where customers wear masks and sanitize their hands  on the way in, no fuss. Workers at construction sites – lots of new houses going up in Cajón – look up and wave as we pass. Many people out and about that we recognize smile and wave without fail. During these trying times, we are blessed to be living in such a warm and friendly place

Next Friday we’ll take the bus down and a taxi back up the hill. We’ll find a way.

Pura vida.

Diary: El Cajón de Grecia, July 5, 2020

Yesterday, July 4th. Over 300 new cases of Covid-19 – 310, to be exact. The first day ever of more than 300 new cases. The situation here is getting worse. But still, far better than in the States. We’re hoping the stricter guidelines will kick in soon. Costa Rica, a few weeks ago, was so close to having the virus under control. It was far too soon to relax.

Here, at least,  everyone is taking the disease seriously and the government is actively taking steps to better the situation. And people are cooperative, no fuss about wearing masks, obeying the restrictions on moving about and gatherings, washing hands – whatever is necessary. Nobody is screaming nonsense about “freedom” to go about endangering themselves and others. Much less carrying automatic rifles while they do so.

When I was picking up our dinner order at Isabel’s on Friday night she walked outside with me and said, “you know, they are going to make me close again.” We talked about that a bit, she’ll still be open for takeaway. Then she shrugged her shoulders and said, “At least we’re alive and healthy. And thanks so much for all your help, I couldn’t make it without you.” She’s got her head on straight, as people here seem to do. Ticos, anyway. Can’t say as much for about half of the expat community. Expats from the States, that is. Those from other countries are mostly sane.

We had a little dinner party last night – the 4th – to celebrate our independence from the States. Actually, it was a big party for us, for these days – six people. We set up a big table, two banquet tables pushed together, so we would not be sitting too close together. No hugs, no handshakes, no kisses. It was so good to be together again, these are all people we love. Paul and Marilyn, Jane, Jim Shamroe – and ourselves, of course. Pasta with a  tomato sauce with oyster mushrooms (meatless, Marilyn is suffering from alpha-gal syndrome and can’t eat meat or cheese) and a separate serving of braised meatballs made from ground lamb in a silky brown sauce. We managed to eat just a small portion of what was served. Old people don’t need to eat so much any more.

And this morning is glorious, warm and sunny. It will cloud up and rain again this afternoon, as it does in the rainy season. The rain keeps things moist, green and growing. We’re fortunate to be here.

Oh, and one bit of good news. I heard from the publisher (the University of Costa Rica press) last week, asking for my “curiculum.” The publication of my translation of Rosibel Morera’s book of poetry (Yo solo sé decirme a los amantes, loosely translated as I Only Sing of Lovers) is apparently imminent. Woo hoo!

Keep safe and stay healthy.