We are Surviving the Corona Virus Lockdown in Bogotá

May 6, 2020
By Michael

One month and half into lockdown and it appears to be working in Bogotá. My home state of Michigan in the USA is currently at over 44,000 cases with the virus. Bogotá has approximately the same population as all of Michigan and is at under 4,000 cases.

There are rules. Like other countries citizens are to be on the street only for medical purposes or shopping for food. But Colombia takes things a step further. Normally my wife and I go everywhere together as we have done for 15 years. Under the current rules only women are suppose to be out on even days of the month and men on odd days of the month. And those age 70 or more are not to leave their house except for medical purposes.

Just because there are rules does not mean everyone obeys them. Speaking with a friend who lives in the Suba area of the city she told my wife that the mall there looks like a normal day with people everywhere. That is in stark contrast to the North of the city. Streets are pretty empty with many fewer cars than normal. Any small grocery, vegetable, bakery and pharmacy stores open usually shut a gate in front and items are passed through the bars to the customer. The large supermarket allows only limited amounts of customers inside and has lines on the floor at the cashier areas to show social distancing requirements.

There are estimates that between 1.8 and 3 million Venezuelans fled their country to Colombia. For the last couple weeks groups roamed our neighborhood ringing doorbells and asking for food. This happens about four to five times a day. Friends of ours in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods told of large groups marching and yelling that they are hungry. More recently videos and photos surfaced on Whatsapp and International news outlets showing large groups of Venezuelans blocking traffic on major roads, throwing rocks at cars and demanding that someone drive them the almost 1,000 miles to Venezuela.

The government received and allocated money to feed those in lower income neighborhoods. Many complain the food is not getting to them as they hang red cloth out their windows to show they have nothing to eat. The explanation of why supplies do not reach them takes two forms. The first is political corruption. However, for another view a government employee charged with distributing the food told us that gangs were stopping her and forbidding her from delivering the groceries.

Life for us is now mostly inside where previously we were out almost every day. I actually enjoy being home more. But for Graciela it is difficult. She is a product of the city seemingly defining her life by its hustle and bustle. While we could pay our bills through a bank app she prefers to travel the city and pay in person.

Previously we took our daily coffee in one of the hundreds of different coffee shops. Fortunately just before the lockdown I purchased a new espresso machine through Amazon. So now at least we can get a descent cup of coffee or cappuccino at home.

Our yard is very small. Every couple weeks a gardener came and cut the grass. However lawn services are not allowed to work at this time. Graciela ordered a push reel lawn mower and had it delivered. I had to explain to her how it worked. Gardeners in Colombia cut the grass with line cutters. Push lawn mowers are rare and a reel mower even more unusual. The funny part was the advertising for the machine. It told potential buyers that cutting the lawn with the machine delivered a “fun” time.

In the first week my wife quickly accessed situation concerning shopping for food. Within days a small freezer ordered online arrived to our home. Soon delivery services brought meat, arepas, frozen fruit juices and empanadas. In that department we are set for a month. Oranges, to make fresh orange juice every morning, and other fruits and vegetables get delivered about every four days from small neighborhood shops.

We still need to make trips out to get money from the ATM. It seems that only the outside less secure machines are available. While people maintain social distancing the lines of up to 40 people or more stretch for a couple blocks. The problem is the ease for thieves to watch who takes out money and follow them. There is a fear among many about the roving bands of Venezuelans.

I spend much of my time with woodworking. My wife has more ideas of things for me to make than I have time to make using hand tools. Graciela communicates with here three children who are located on three different continents. She is also doing more cooking and baking. Our time in front of the television has also increased.

Overall Graciela and I are managing, though we do miss going out for coffee to Juan Valdez.

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