A month ago today, I stepped out of my apartment block and ran. I ran through the blazing midday heat as fast as my gringa-white legs would carry me, past deserted streets and empty shops. It was my last breath of Santiago air and I don’t plan on venturing beyond my apartment four walls any time soon.
Here in Santiago, six districts have been under total lockdown for nearly two weeks. Yesterday the quarantine lifted in some districts and was introduced to others. Our district remains under lockdown.
To leave your building you need to fill out a police form. You need a form each time you walk the dog, go to the supermarket or the hospital. In reality, it’s very easy to just fill out a form online. Some bad apples abuse the system and meet up without it. But most people I know are respecting the new measures.
Personally, even before the lockdown, I’ve felt too guilty, confused and scared to go out.
Self isolation? Que?
There has been a lot of confusion about what self isolation really means. A couple of weeks ago, local authorities issued a call to action, requesting everyone to stay indoors. This included a ban on all outdoor exercise and even talking your dog for a walk. Yet, malls and cinemas were still open for business.
Angry residents clashed on the definition of self isolation. While some stayed indoors, making their dog poop in their living rooms, others went to get a manicure.
Now, in my district at least, we’re under lockdown. Very soon we’ll have to wear masks in order to go out to public places. Not all of Santiago is under quarantine, but I feel people here are taking more drastic action than in other countries.
A few weeks ago, while my friends in the UK were recounting ‘social distancing’ trips to the seaside, zoo and the park, I was bleaching the undersoles of my husband’s shoes as he returned from collecting our online food deliveries from downstairs.
So far none of my friends here have got sick. But elsewhere in the world my friends are getting sick, very sick. We’re all nervous.
So far I haven’t left my four walls to bask in the autumnal sun of our communal garden (which remains open).
I feel guilty for not taking my kids outdoors, worried that this is taking its toll on their mental health. But now, after weeks of life indoors, of baking and crafts, of yoga and treasure hunts, I’m starting to come to terms with this bizarre, temporary lifestyle.
I appreciate how lucky I am to have food, a spacious apartment and good company. (Even if that does sometimes mean a flute ringing in my ear at 6am).
On the brighter side, Santiago’s ghastly pollution has eased. Pumas, condors and other wildlife have been spotted in the city.
Perhaps I fret too much. I quizzed my six-year-old on how he felt about the quarantine and he seemed quite indifferent. I asked him the first thing he’d like to do when this was all over. His reply? ‘Watch TV’.