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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


Our intimate experience of one of Vulcan Fuego's eruptions, in addition to seeing three volcanoes on the way to pretty much any errand, has made me a little volcano crazy. A volcanophile… if I can use an invented word.

I have researched these Guatemalan volcanoes that I am living with now and, for fun, read about the Italian volcanoes that I lived with before. I have listened with awe to stories from locals and from others who have lived through the eruptions, like the Mount St. Helene's eruption.

For the Guatemalatecos it is just another fact of life, like disease-bearing mosquitoes or 5 months of rain; you give it some thought, but you move on with life. For me, active volcanoes are not just another hill on the horizon. I never get sick of seeing Antigua's three volcanoes. It was like walking by the Colosseum every day. I was still thrilled to see it. I think volcanoes fascinate me so much because you really never know what to expect.

From day to day, they look the same, but there is always something boiling underneath. In my latest research, I learned that an active volcano is one that has erupted at least once in the last 10,000 years. That is not a small amount of time. If it is actively spouting like Fuego or Pacaya its status is considered erupting; if it is quiet like Acatenango or Agua it is considered dormant, but still technically active. A volcano is only called extinct if it hasn’t erupted in 10,000 years. So most volcanoes we see or hear about are dormant, i.e. sleeping.

What a weird thought that any day some of these sleepy giants will wake up and change the world of people around them.

Fuego erupting
My husband mentioned to our Spanish teachers, in his teasing manner, that he doesn’t need to see any volcanoes because he lives with one. I thought about this particular insult/joke and in the end, I agree. I think I am like a volcano. In fact, I kind of relate to Vulcan Fuego. I am quiet for the most part of the year, unassuming, even unremarkable sometimes, but like Fuego, I can become a force to be reckoned with. When I am awakened by something that makes me upset/angry/excited, I erupt and the fireworks can be quite shocking. But just as quickly I can go quiet again.

Observing Fuego's latest largest eruption, Amazing.
My teachers always told me that of the volcanoes in their midst, the one they fear the most is Agua or Acatenango. They reasoned that when volcanoes are always erupting a little, then you know that it is not likely to have a completely devastating eruption. Whereas the ones that are completely quiet for many years, can be devastating when they awaken.

Volcano Agua, hiding
Isn’t this just like humans? The ones that let out their frustration, anger, sadness or emotion a little at a time, even if it is shocking or awe inspiring at the moment, are not as dangerous as the ones who keep quiet for long periods of time, because at some point and some time, there will be an explosion and people around may not be ready for it.

You can’t make water like fire, any more than you can make Volcan Agua like Feugo, but for those people in your life who are dormant, it might be good to give them a small nudge to see if you can awaken the beast before the unexpected eruption changes the landscape for good.