Day 275: Stuck in Lima Peru with the Coronavirus Blues

Yesterday, the coronovirus finally caught up with us in Peru.

Since the virus started in Wuhan in China back in December, the pandemic seemed largely confined to east Asia. Our friends in China and South Korea reported local quarantine procedures, testing and self isolation. Schools that went on holiday back for the lunar new year took an extended holiday of a few extra weeks of distance learning hoping the lockdown would slow the spread of the virus. It appears to have worked and many of our friends who have left these countries have gone back in the hopes of going back to work soon. President Moon of South Korea wants to share how they slowed infections with aggressive testing.

Meanwhile, things in the West have gone batshit crazy. In the last 2 weeks, country after country have reported new cases which has had a cascading affect of denying entry to travelers from infected areas, shutting borders and hoarding supplies. Entire sports franchises are not in operation. Conferences and concerts have been postponed. A trillion dollars of wealth has evaporated from the stock market. Flights have been reduced and Trump’s travel ban from Europe has caused a deluge of incoming US passengers that have inundated airports and now risk infecting one another in these high density areas and taking the virus home to middle America. With layoffs and bankruptcies on the near horizon, coupled with the fact that most Americans have no or unaffordable healthcare and live paycheck to paycheck, economists are forecasting a recession that may decimate the world economy.

For us, these troubles seemed like a world away. Upon landing in Lima just over a week ago, we visited our new school to be while visiting potential apartments and casing our local neighborhood. Our school in Peru was in session as of Monday the 9th, but the edtech department was ramping up its professional development of distance learning tools. The next day, a local school closed in Lima with one infected person, by the end of the week, our school was shut down and would commence online learning. But life would continue as normal. So we thought.

On Wednesday, we took a series of ‘Peru hop’ busses that would take us south from Lima to Paracas, from Huacachina to Nazca and then hopefully from Arequipa to Cuzco to see the famed ruins of Machu Picchu. We thought that the rural setting and hand washing would keep us safe.

Upon boarding an overnight bus from Nazca to Arequipa, our guide, Christian told us that the Peruvian government was starting to set up checkpoints and administer random temperature checks at road side stops so we should be prepared for that. Villagers, normally embracing tourist busses whole hog are now shunning the crowds and their tourist dollars to keep their local communities safe. Upon arriving in Arequipa the next morning, our British traveling companions told us their tour company had cancelled their Machu Picchu tour and the window of getting a flight back to the UK before lockdown was rapidly shrinking. If they didn’t commit, they risked being stranded. That afternoon we got an email from LATAM saying our flights to Colombia had been cancelled and since our flights to the Caribbean were through Bogota, we’d have to conclude a year of travel a little early.

So It Begins for Us

Yesterday morning at 6:00 am, we had a knock at our door. The receptionist from ‘Casa De Avila’ in Arequipa said a representative from our tour company ‘Peru Hop’ was in the lobby asking us if we were ready to leave for Lima.

Not today.” I said. “We’re planning on going to Cusco tomorrow.”

All travel is shutting down today.” He told me. “This is the last bus back to Lima. If you don’t take it, you’ll have to stay here. Where you are at midnight tonight is where you’ll have to be quarantined for 2 weeks as said by the Peruvian government.

Rousing Lisa from her sleep, we had only a minute to debate (while half awake) whether or not to board a long haul bus back to Lima or risk getting stranded in the small mountain town of Arequipa. On top of that, we were battling a touch of food poisoning that gave us diarrhea for the past three days. (Luckily, no fever, cough or cold) In the end, we decided that being in the capital of Lima would offer better access to flights and other services need we be evacuated.

Ten minutes later, we were packed and out the door not even picking up our laundry and boarded a 17 hour bus for Lima with only two five minute stops. The food poisoning kept Ava vomiting all morning in the bus’s bathroom and the diarrhea kept Lisa and I visiting as well. We were hangry and tired when we pulled into Lima at 11:30 pm so we splurged on a nice hotel and booked a room for 3 nights. After some late night room service, we were fast asleep.

Lima Becomes a Ghost Town

This morning, we woke up to a very changed city and things were moving fast. Initially, our hotel told us we could walk the street if we had passports in hand, but by noon today, police were only allowing singles for pedestrian travel. Staff at our hotel have been keeping their distance and we’ve been self-quarantined to our room. On the street, all shops are closed with the exception of pharmacies and grocery stores and the streets are completely empty. It’s kind of creepy.

By mid day, or school in Lima had reached out to us and kindly offered to put us up in a school apartment for 2 weeks until the travel ban lifted and save us a ton of money on hotel fees. By mid-afternoon were getting updates from the embassy, enrolled in STEP and had news trickling in from Whatsapp groups and Twitter hashtags. Multiple nationalities were stranded all over the country with little to no heads up and no way to get to the capital. We were lucky.

Homeschooling Goes Free

One silver lining to this crisis is the number of homeschooling resources that have gone free. Since another casualty of this pandemic is public education and New York and California have joined the growing list of states that have shut down school for online learning, many companies have offered to share their resources.

  • Scholastic– Online catalog of literacy resources. Great books for students and teaching guides for parents.
  • Brainpop– Multiple topics to create a rigorous well-rounded curriculum.
  • RangerRick– This childhood classic goes free.
  • Khanacademy– Sal Khan’s platform for mathematics. Great use of formative assessments.
  • CK-12– Great content platform with readings, videos that you can tailor for any subject.

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