11 April 2020
Today I have a super important question to put out into the world. Do you dream? And if you do, are your dreams of times pre-COVID? Do you dream of sitting close to someone on a train or bus? Of a brushed hand with a stranger? Of the greeting of kisses on the cheek? Of a hug or a stolen kiss? Or do you dream of masks? Of 6 feet of personal space? Of shouted greetings across a street, and avoiding strangers on public transportation?
I was scrolling social media recently, and I came across a post where someone said she was actively freaking out when she watched Netflix and saw people shaking hands, or packed into the subway. Someone else said that she had to stop herself from screaming at strangers when she was out walking and someone was walking in her direction. She said that sheer panic rises up in her when she sees someone coming her way and she thinks they might get close.
It made me wonder how long it will be until we trust the touch of one another again.
It is something I have been thinking about, since so much of my work and the work of many of my close friends relies on touch.
One of my besties is a massage therapist, another one is a podiatrist (although she might be OK - she is on the other end of the body), and of course, I spend all day in someone’s mouth (or is used to - been a couple of weeks since I did that too). But the touch for me is more than that. It is my nurse putting her hand on someone’s shoulder to calm them down when they get worked up. It is putting my hand on a child’s forehead and letting them know that I understand their fears. It is the hugs that those children give me when they are so excited with how brave they were. I know I wrote about it before, but touch is so important, and so I just wondered if people are still dreaming about touch.
Here in Barbados, things are changing daily. The government realized it might have been slightly unreasonable to close the supermarkets for 2 weeks, and set up a curbside/delivery which was immediately inundated. I placed an order a few days ago, and will see how long it takes to arrive. In all honesty, I am not going to starve.
But I was listening to a podcast today which reminded me that there are so many people who do a lot of eating out, and so now that they all have to stay in and cook, the demand on the supermarkets will be greater than ever.
In addition, many workers are paid weekly, so stocking up for weeks on end might not even be an option! So I’ll simply wait and see when the groceries arrive.
I have had a number of interesting conversations this week. One thing that has become clear to me is how difficult it is to predict what services are truly essential.
Here almost everywhere was closed including supermarkets, banks, hardware stores etc. And I should say that while we have a bit of online banking here, many transactions are still done using cash and cheques. So once the banks were closed, it meant that it was difficult for some people to carry out certain transactions.
ATM deposits aren’t being processed, so it means that those who have cash or cheque can’t do the transactions they want. Without hardware or other parts stores being open, then the places that are essential are struggling with maintenance.
My mechanic is still not finished with my car, and is struggling to get parts. I am currently non-essential, but it begs the question - what happens when essential vehicles need repairs.
And then I have a bigger philosophical question:
One friend told me that someone who is an essential worker noticed that there are still people on the road, and made the comment that “Bajans don’t like to stay home”. Perhaps that is the truth of it. But it got me thinking about living arrangements.
In truth - different countries have different cultures when it comes to how people live together. And my observation here has been that many people’s living arrangements are ad hoc, or a matter of convenience as opposed to intentional.
People live with other family members in temporary arrangements that have become permanent, and a house might have many more people than it can handle easily if everyone is at home all day and night.
They live with partners long after the relationship has run its course - out of familiarity or necessity. Or they live with someone that they never have to see since work arrangements have meant opposite schedules. All of these people may now be stuck at home with one another, and this may bring tension or lead to a breaking point.
For some people, leaving home might feel like an essential activity too.
It just makes me keep thinking about how we won’t know the true ramifications of this time for a few years to come. There are those who may feel like this time is the worse who may find later on that it was a great experience as it made things possible that they couldn’t see immediately.
And as for our societies, will there be an increase in domestic violence or mental illness? A hangover of unemployment? Will some industries die while others flourish? I suppose only time will tell.
15 April 2020
The Centipede Exception
So I went to sleep the other night alone, and woke up with a hundred legged bedfellow trying to cuddle me. If you don’t live in the Caribbean, you might not be familiar with centipedes, but they are the most horrific pest ever. I can’t decide which I hate worse - roaches or centipedes. I must confess, I screamed and leapt out of the bed.
I have seen centipedes inside the house before but this was the first time one made it as far as my bed. I opened half a can of insecticide spray on that sucker, vaguely remembering my father telling me when I was young that anything that could kill a roach could probably kill me.
I then dumped half a kettle of boiling water on him to ensure he really was dead, put on my sneakers, and went for a walk.
I needed to let the scent of spray clear from my house, and I needed to clear my head as well.
In truth, in this time of quarantine, we are not allowed to go for walks, but I imagine that waking up with a centipede in my bed would be a good enough excuse for the officer. Once I explained what happened, I imagine he would tell me OK Mistress OK, that is covered by the centipede exception. All Caribbean people know that once those crawling scoundrels are involved, then all bets are off. Dates can be cancelled. You can be late for work, or for your own wedding (and lets face it - both of those things are entirely possible) or even your own funeral. Waking up in a bed with a centipede is a good excuse to break any laws, or get away with strange behavior.
Fortunately, I made it back home without encountering the police. I then needed to wash everything including my sheets, and spray around the house, to prevent any further visitors.
I considered what my neighbors might be thinking - first the screams, next me walking quickly away from the house and breaking the quarantine, then me walking around the house muttering and sprinkling. I can only imagine that I look like I am performing some sort of exorcism, and I suppose in some way, I was.
There's a first time for everything.
So after almost two weeks of Barbados being shut down, they reopened to allow every group two 3 hour slots per week to go to the supermarket and carry out their banking, with an extra couple of slots for essential workers.
Cut to the first day of this process (and I should say - we are only on the third day so ask me again next week) and there were lines miles long of people wanting to do their shopping.
This is no exaggeration. I waited over an hour to go into a small pharmacy for a few essentials (and more than a few snacks). The lines were wrapping around the car parks several times.
Many people I know spent up to 6 hours getting their groceries. Needless to say - I think that we need another system, but I have no idea what that would look like except to say that I think we need a hybrid where there is some online shopping and delivery, and maybe some curbside? And maybe some in supermarket shopping.
I don’t know what that would look like, but if the Prime Minister of Barbados happens to stumble across this blog then that is my two cents.
And still… I did manage to pick up a few things that I needed today including bananas - which has made me a bit excited. I feel the writing bug has bitten me again and I am ready to start a new project - most likely going to be a book. I have no idea what it is going to be yet, AND I know exactly what it is going to be about. Good times ahead! And I am even going to set my alarm and wake up early, and see if I actually follow through on that. All is well. Tomorrow is another day.
And until then I send you big love from a small island.
This is part 4 in the diary series by Safiya Robinson. To read her articles inside infoStraight community, go to all her post here. To get notified of her new posts, Follow Safiya's account on infoStraight HERE.
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