I Will Stay Home

For the babies and the children
For the parents, and siblings, and aunts, and uncles

For the hospital workers
For the recently operated and the soon-to-be operated
For the at-risk with health concerns we cannot see

For the farmers and drivers and supermarket workers
For the families of the farmers and drivers and supermarket workers

For those who can’t work
For those who are still able to work
For those who have to work

For the grandparents who bring joy and tell stories
For the grandparents who support the children and the grandchildren
For the grandparents who carry the collective memories
And for everyone else

I will stay home

This is not about me and what I want
(I want to go out too)
My parents and grandparents and teachers taught me the dangers of being selfish

Together in community we all do better
It matters

I will stay home
You?

Quarantine and Curfew in Peru

It could always be worse.

With the arrival of the coronavirus, Peru is in lockdown.  All schools are closed until Monday, March 30. All people in Peru are in quarantine until the same date.  No one leaves home without official permission, or a very good reason.  Police and the military are stopping people, asking questions, and detaining them if necessary.

If all goes well, schools will resume on that Monday with a flattened coronavirus curve.  Because some people are not following the directive, an overnight curfew will be implemented beginning tonight.  From 8:00 PM until 5:00 AM no one leaves home.  No one.  Starting tomorrow morning, no personal cars can be on the roads.  None.

During this crisis, I am teaching middle school from home.  Thankfully, my students have been wonderfully flexible as we figure out online learning.  Kudos to them, their parents, and the team of adults from school that make this possible!

I remember three years ago when heavy rains caused landslides that filled the rivers and closed the water processing plant for Lima (los huaicos).  At that time, the schools also closed.  If I had to choose (and I don’t want to), I think I prefer being locked down with water to living in Lima with no water.  Maybe a couple of weeks like this will change my mind.  I  will let you know.

For now, Zoom lets us keep classes going and allows for other gatherings, such as a St. Patrick’s Day Zoom with family in Minnesota.  And I am at home, unlike my fellow Minnesotans who are stranded here, waiting for flights home.  With patience and good humor, all will be well.

All will be well.

Closed by Corona

Today Martin Vizcarra, president of Peru, made the decision to close and/or not open schools until March 30, 2020.  Most private schools in Peru had already begun the school year (my school had already begun the second semester); public schools were scheduled to open in Peru on Monday, March 16, 2020.  This is to say that my middle schoolers will not be coming to school tomorrow as the teachers move classes online for the next two weeks.  If the situation warrants it, I am sure that schools could remain closed.

Is this a good idea?  Perhaps an over-reaction?  In Peru there are now 17 cases of coronavirus.  Considering population of almost 33 million, 17 cases seems pretty small.  The problem is that not all schools have the conditions necessary for students to stay virus-free.  According to one article, 10% of the schools in Lima do not have water.  If students cannot wash their hands, the virus spreads more easily.  Such a statistic begins to explain the decision.

While I would much rather have students come to school, I understand the decision.  So, I will look forward to learning more about online teaching as I practice it for the next few weeks.  I completed my M.A. in Teaching Writing from John Hopkins online; I have some experience as an online learner.  Three years ago school was closed because of the huaicos in Peru so I had the chance to get my feet wet in online teaching.  This time I will only get better.

If you have any suggestions for online learning, please let me know.

Work-Required Medical Check-Up

When you live and work in Peru, your company/ organization has the legal obligation to check your health every two years.  It is rather ridiculous.

This morning I arrived Jockey Salud at about 6:50AM and checked in.  The clerk at the counter on the second floor told me to sit down because they were not attending yet.  I sat down.  About five minutes later a different employee told me to go stand in line because they were attending now.  I returned to the first clerk who seemed to not remember telling me to sit down.

First they sent me to get my blood drawn on floor two.  Then they sent me to the sixth floor to have my eyes checked.  The attendant/ doctor/ nurse told me that my glasses are fine for my needs.  I knew this.  What I didn’t know is the name nor title of the person attending me.

Then, still on the 6th floor, I went to be weighed and have my height measured.  This attendant/ doctor/ nurse told me to take off my shoes (very light weight) but keep on the two jackets that I was wearing this chilly morning.  I was told a weight that I have never weighed in my life.  Blood pressure and oxygen saturation also measured, I went to wait in the hall.

The next attendant/ doctor/ nurse listened to my lungs and heart, pressed my stomach, and had me touch my nose with my arms extended.  She made sure I could move my arms and legs.  Then, only looking at the numbers she was handed, told me that my numbers were with in all of the normal ranges.  So far, the only person who looked at me was the eye attendant/ doctor/ nurse.  Ironic?

Then down to the 5th floor to see the psychologist.  I was asked to draw a human figure and copy some figures from another page without erasing.  Before coming to this appointment someone told me to make sure I drew a line for the ground in my picture. Odd.  The psychologist did not tell me his name or title either.  The door said “Psychology.”  When he asked me if I feel stress at work I laughed and said, “I work with 6th graders; it’s part of the job.” He seemed concerned.  We agreed that it was not excessive nor something to be concerned about.

They sent me back to the second floor for a chest X-Ray and told me I could go home.

No names, no titles, very limited eye contact, no explanations about what was going to happen or why we were doing this.

I need to see if I can have my own doctor do this work, look at me, pay attention to me and inform me.   I would be willing to do this on my own time with my own money to not feel like a widget on an assembly line.

The results will be sent to the school.  Will anyone besides me look at the results?  What if I am overweight or need new glasses?  I’m not and I don’t, but what if?  What are the consequences?  Can they fire me for saying no to the tests?  What about for having a fast pulse?  This has never been explained to me.

Maybe we are just going through an assembly line, a legal requirement.

When I returned to school I received an email telling me that I signed in late to work using the fingerprint scanner.  Although that email felt like a real slap in the face from the folks who sent me to this appointment, at least they notice me and noticed I was gone,  unlike the attendants/ doctors/ nurses at Jockey Salud.

Stress- Who’s to blame?

I am going to think out loud for a bit…

Recently, I heard a definition of stress that is new for me: Stress is “when the resources of the individual are not sufficient to cope with the demands and pressures of the situation.”  I am troubled by this definition.

To begin, let’s go to an extreme situation.  Imagine a concentration camp where people are being murdered every day.  Does the definition mean that, if only the prisoners had more internal resources they would not have felt stress in that situation?  How about an abusive family?  If only the children had more resources they could cope with the situation of abuse.  Perhaps through mindfulness practices such as breathing and meditation they could deal with being whipped with a belt. Ommmmmm.

Obviously, that was facetious.

But do you see where I am going with this?  It seems that the definition above puts the onus on the individual.  It seems that this definition comes from an individualistic perspective, perhaps an individualistic society.   If only the individual had more internal resources he or she would not feel the stress.  Organizations, systems, structures can do what they want, ask what they want of their people, and if the people cannot cope it is their own fault.  The individuals need more mindfulness training.  It is a perfect set-up for abuse.

I do believe in mindfulness and the power of positive thinking.  Yoga, TM, retreats are positive practices, my positive practices.  I also believe that some systems continue demanding more and more and then try to blame the individual who cannot keep up with or does not want to keep up with the new, the changing demands.  Does the individual have a choice when the demands change?  There is mutual responsibility.

Sometimes the system needs to change.  Sometimes the individual.  Sometimes both.  Whatever causes the stress, we cannot blame the victim alone without looking at the system in which the individual operates.  Sometimes less is more.  Sometimes individuals need to say, “No, I can’t do any more,” without fear of retribution.  Often the systems should not ask.