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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Pulling the switch

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I didn't know it, but the word for that little lever that makes a train going at 200 miles an hour move from one set of tracks to a new one is appropriately called a switch.

And what a switch it has been.

Our train was chugging along on the UN-Italy track and could have kept on chugging. But the path hadn’t varied in a long time and we decided that rather than settle in for the long haul on a well-known, well-traversed path, we could pull the switch, divert the train and see what happens. Down the road the tracks may meet up again, but at least along the way, we see different scenery.

December 1, we pulled the railroad switch and set ourselves on a different track. We decided to go to Guatemala for a month to learn the Spanish that we would use for the rest of our travels through Central and South America: first Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua to be followed by Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Peru. As our savings dwindle, hopefully our creativity, opportunities and horizons will expand.

Everything else that happens along the way, we cannot predict. For me, this trip is also an important exercise in not having a goal, not having a broader plan, not having a deeper reason for this experience. It is killing me not to analyze and dissect this decision for its greater significance, and not to know whether the end will justify the means. This is an exercise in the letting the means justify the means and I am doing my best to take it as it comes: the journey not the destination. This test of self-defiance and restraint is already a tough one which usually means it is a worthwhile one.

So after dragging out my goodbye to Italy, shipping every possession across the Atlantic and agonizing over leaving my kitty with my parents, I stepped off the Delta aircraft into Guatemala City's small but increasingly busy airport and left my fears behind on the airplane between the in-flight magazine and the safety instructions card. I was here. I was doing it. There is not enough space in our heads to both live life to the fullest and be apprehensive. Living like a tourist-mode. I am after all, a pro at this.

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