Quarantined and Bad Haircuts...
Updated: May 31, 2020
As it has with the rest of the world, the past few weeks have brought some dramatic changes to our lives. When it became clear what was happening in Italy and then in Spain, Bolivia moved quickly to close it's borders and implement social distancing rules across the country. There's no doubt that our leadership understood that, if the virus were to spread here as it has in other countries, we would get hammered. Our medical system struggles at the best of times and currently our hospitals are still full from an especially bad Dengue season.
Unfortunately, there are many in Bolivian society who are uneducated and quite superstitious. There were (are) people who believed they were immune to the virus because they ate a traditional dish made of fermented potato called chuño. Others (as in many countries) didn't believe in the severity of what was happening. It also didn't help that a minister from our former government made statements that the Coronavirus was a plot and lie by the US to...well, to do something or other. I'm not sure. But the result of all of that was that many people didn't obey the government's rules.
When that became apparent, the government went to a full quarantine, under threat of a 2000 Boliviano fine (a month's pay for many people) or eight hours in jail. Now they're threatening jail sentences of years if you're caught outside. The quarantine was for fifteen days at first and then later that was extended to thirty. We're currently halfway through those thirty days.
What that means in practical terms is that everything, except for essential services, is shut down. Once a week (depending on the last number of your ID card) you're allowed out for a few hours in the morning to shop for groceries. No one can drive, so we're back to walking and biking (as we were during the civil strike in October).
It's a complicated and difficult time. For many people, the little money they had saved is gone and they're struggling to feed their families. We've been helping where we can with the guys we know who have kids to feed. Unfortunately, getting money or groceries to them is difficult when they often live far away, are walking and can only go out on certain days.
For our guys, it's been more of an emotional struggle. They have food and a roof over their heads, but too much time on their hands can be difficult for them. They like to keep their minds occupied when they can, to keep from focusing too deeply on past pain or addictions. As well, many have family they're worried about. We've definitely seen some spiritual battles taking place.
I was able to get over to the house for a few hours on Thursday morning, and we had our Bible study and then were able to laugh and visit for a bit. I made them clean their rooms before I left (Dad moment) and encouraged them to find ways to use this time productively (also a Dad moment, I guess). Many of them got a book to read from our library and those that are musical have been practicing guitar every day. Working out and playing soccer are also big parts of their days.
And of course, being who they are, they found other ways to keep themselves entertained (see the pictures below!). A few guys do have online classes, and their doing their best, but we've found that the internet hasn't been very reliable. Too many people at home trying to use it at the same time I think.
At any rate, that's where we're at. We're still waiting to see what's going to happen next. Our contagion numbers are climbing but are still manageable. I have no doubt, however, that many more people are infected than what is being reported. There's not much we can do except pray and do our part by being careful and staying indoors.
A few pictures (we squeezed Andres' birthday in, just before the quarantine started)...