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.

Will They Be Flowers?

“Will they be flowers? Maybe herbs?” As she asked her fingers played with the new leaves on the young shoots. A new leaf came off in her hand, accidently I supposed. She didn’t seem to notice; I didn’t care to comment.

“Flowers. They are coming along nicely, don’t you think?” I admired the growth, hard won over the course of several weeks.

“Yes, very nicely.”

We turned away from the window box and toward the cozy kitchen table. I poured some coffee. “Cream?”

“No thank you, Maria, I drink my coffee black. How long have the flowers been growing?”  We both sat down.

I added a few drops of cream and watched them bubble back to the top.  “I started a few months ago.” I dribbled a few more drops of cream into my coffee and took a careful sip. “A while back I found that big old window box at a garage sale. I fixed it up and brought it up here to the table by the window. The box is filled with a mixture of potting soil and the extra dirt from the front garden, carried up bag by bag. I bought the seeds and began the nurturing. This third floor apartment has the eastern advantage- fresh sun in the morning yet shaded from the afternoon heat. It took a while to find the right amount of water.” I took another sip.

She looked around. “Yes, you did get one of the better apartments here and you are one of my best tenants. But about the water.” She set down her mug. “That is actually why I stopped by. Next week, well, starting tomorrow, the water will be shut off. I have to re-do the pipes for the radiators and that requires the water to be shut off. There is really no alternative.” She took another sip from her mug.

“Seriously?” I paused, taking in the information. “Couldn’t you have given us more time to make preparations? There are 8 families who live here; no one will have water?”

“I am afraid not. You can gather water in buckets or the bathtub I suppose. You could also move out for a week. I’m not really sure what you’ll do and honestly, it doesn’t matter to me.” She stood up with an air of formalness, brushed off her blouse as if it had been soiled by its presence in my kitchen and walked the 5 steps to the to the door.  Without turning around she said, “I just wanted to let you know.” With one hand on the doorknob she turned her head and added, “Thanks for the coffee.”  She walked out.  The door closed with a click.

Stunned by the news, I took a sip of coffee and stared at her unfinished mug. There on top floated one, delicate leaf.