Lock Down in Italy Days 1 - 4
Day 1 of lock down in Italy: I got up early to go to my appointment at a local school to discuss implementation of online lessons only to find it had been cancelled. I ventured down to the biggest of the four local supermarkets to find a large and motley queue out the front as they limit the number of people inside with a one out and one in policy. Everyone standing out the front is ignoring the 1 metre distancing rule. I abandon that plan and go back to another smaller supermarket run by family friends and walk straight in. I buy fresh milk, UHT milk, ham, tampons, tissues and a 4 pack of toilet paper. I get yelled at by the checkout chick (who is normally friendly but is today hidden behind a mask) for not maintaining the 1 metre distance from the customer in the line in front of me. I want to educate her on what 1 metre looks like but I decide against it.
At home Gigi and I empty the pantry and freezer and assess if we have enough food in case things get difficult over the next few weeks as we've been informed that the WHO may effectively put every country into lock down as of Sunday 15th March if the spread of Coronavirus doesn't abate. We have enough staples to last 2-3 weeks. We need fresh fruit and veg but it's very likely that the local farmer who has a store in the historical centre where we live will continue to harvest and sell. He is an organic 0 km producer and that is where we buy most of our fresh fruit and veg from.
Gigi delivers his first Skype lesson with one of his students while Miss S works through two English lessons for her Australian distance education schooling. We walk down to the local salumeria (like a little deli/grocery store) in the historical centre and buy pasta and realise that the F & V shop is closed on Tuesdays - damn it. It seems that every shopkeeper we meet is cranky and annoyed today. None of them are smiling.
We have a subdued lunch of salad rolls (we usually cook lunch and dinner) and Miss S continues working on an English writing assignment. I deliver my first Skype lesson with a 20 something student using Powerpoint and YouTube and it goes surprisingly well. In the meantime Gig has plowed through the more than 300 (not kidding) messages on WhatsApp to determine Sofia is expected to participate in an Italian lesson at 4pm via WhatsApp.
We talk to the language school with updates on the Skype lessons and confirm more lesson for the rest of the week. Hopefully all of our students will agree to do Skype lessons next week so we don't lose too much income.
I spoke to my mother and father during the day and barely held back the tears. The stress feels overwhelming. On paper it looks like it would be fun - forced time at home, no need to commute to work, no need to get dressed to be at school at 8.30am. But actually the phone is pinging constantly with messages and updates and we are quietly worried. My darling cousin in New York reaches out and offers to send anything we need. My friends and sister have sent messages from around the world.
Gigi is continuing to work on our escape plan in the background. Miss S runs me a bath and I listen to a Wilosophy podcast with Ben Elton. She climbs in and we listen to Fleetwood Mac as she massages my feet and we chat until the water is cool.
We rummage through the fridge and find ingredients for a Chinese stir fry. I bet 100% we are the only family in our village eating Chinese food tonight. Miss S is drawing her dream tree house as part of a Girl Guide badge challenge for her Lone Guide unit in Australia.
I'm drawing up a list of useful, productive things we can continue to do over the next few weeks. Schools and our language school are closed until 3 April. The students will only go back to school for 3 days and then it's Easter holidays.
Day 1. Thanks to everyone who has shown us some love.
Day 2 of lockdown in Italy: Gigi delivered a Skype lesson this morning while I finished the final PowerPoint presentation for primary school science lessons I usually deliver in person. I was up until 1.30am working on them last night. This is the job that helps pay for our groceries and fuel every week.
With the required government form of self certification in hand we ventured out to the language school to quickly pick up some resources. A brief pit stop in aide of Gigi's grand escape plan and then a stop at the local supermarket. With skeleton staff and only 5 shoppers allowed inside at a time it took 20 minutes and 'taking a number' for permission to enter. Home for lunch and more Skype lesson preparation. Miss S did a 2nd WhatsApp lesson with her Italian teacher. She designed her dream treehouse as part of a Girl Guide tree badge and wrote an email update to her Girl Guide leader in Australia.
News came through on the class WhatsApp group (with easily another 300 messages today) that a doctor from our village, and his family, have tested positive for Coronavirus and are in isolation at home. He is a doctor at a hospital in Naples so hopefully he hasn't contaminated many people locally. The church bells have been tolling on and off all afternoon and someone posted a video of a police car parked out the front of the police station in the historical centre with an officer instructing everyone to stay inside their houses through a loud speaker. The only reason to leave is for medical or work purposes.
We're dare devils, so at 6pm Gigi and I (Miss S had a date with the TV) walked 200 metres down the main street in the historical centre, past all the closed doors of the shops and businesses that are normally open until 8pm, to the local fruit and veg seller. They've clearly had a quiet day as the shelves were heaving with produce that had been harvested this morning. The whole town is deadly quiet, with the exception of a few people hanging out on balconies talking on phones, or Tv's blaring through open windows.
Without buying heaps of unnecessary food, I'm now satisfied that we have enough food to last us until early April when they expect school children will go back to school.
The language school where we both work is well organised and coordinating our lessons for us through Skype instead of face to face. This is making things much easier. At least we are still doing some work and their brilliant organisational and communication skills and common sense are greatly appreciated. If only the WhatsApp group for Miss S's class was the same. I leave it to Gigi to trawl through the flood of messages and voice recordings, many of them from the kids themselves. The teacher Antonio is a calm voice of reason and patience during the WhatsApp lessons as kids struggle with the technology, disappear to get a snack or just fail to vocally respond to his questions.
Gigi cooked a fabulous penne alla Sciliana with eggplant, tomato, basic and stringy smoked scamorza cheese. I haven't spent as much time reading the news today and I feel a bit better as a result. I think the not knowing what was coming was a big stressor. Of course it's entirely possible that things will continue to escalate here, with police road blocks etc. The police are already driving around the town way more than they usually do. But we are adequately supplied, engaged with work and school and enjoying each others company. Maybe I just need to walk up and down our narrow balcony 100 times instead of my usual walk around the village each day.
Day 2 of denied freedom done.
Day 3 of lockdown in Italy: don't ask me what the weather was like today. I haven't even looked outside.
Today we all did lessons. Skype has been an unexpectedly useful piece of technology. I was only thinking a few weeks ago...'Who still uses Skype?'. Well, it turns out its fantastic for conducting lessons, sharing on screen materials and audio. I've also completely upskilled in PowerPoint in the last couple of days. I was already a reasonably good user, but using if for online lessons that the students run themselves means I've discovered PP has all sorts of extra tools and tricks.
I conducted a group lesson tonight for 5 students that ran for two hours. It's normally a fun, face to face class but I wasn't sure how it would work online. Turns out it was pretty good. Just one glitch with a student who is partially deaf who couldn't properly hear an audio track ... but he has the same problem in the classroom. All of them are stuck at home and either off work or working from home. I wonder if anyone in Italy will be happy to go back to the treadmill of commuting and working in offices? Sure, they'll miss their 9:10am excuse to leave the office for coffee, and then again at 10:
30am, and then again at 1pm for lunch, but if you can gain two extra hours a day and don't have to get out of your PJ's.....
Miss S has had a busy day. She knocked off two spelling lessons, an Australian English lesson, a WhatsApp Italian lesson with the every patient Maestro Antonio, two Maths lessons and a movie with Gigi. She complained that last night she woke up a lot and had some weird dreams. We've just discussed that she must surely been processing all of the negative news about the Coronavirus, lockdown and our feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Being indoors all day without any physical activity is also a change for Miss S.
Tomorrow the plan is to keep chatting to her about what's happening reinforcing that we're fine, safe and secure. And to get her on her scooter riding around in the courtyard inside our building and down into the garage where Gigi has weights and a mini gym set up. I honestly don't know how kids can be inside on devices all day without it affecting them. We are back to the no devices rule although TV is okay for short breaks.
In other news Miss S painted my toe nails and I tidied up the buffet. A load of laundry made its way through the washing machine and some floors got swept. I asked Gigi to sweep the rest of the floors...I think it's on his list for tomorrow.
Some of the mayors in local towns have been posting videos talking about Coronavirus, talking as though they understand the medical ramifications and using English phrases that they really shouldn't use. The school WhatsApp group has been pinging away all day and at 9pm some of the families put a candle on the verandah and clapped loudly as a show of solidarity that we are all going to be okay. Call my cynical, but really it's day three and there are no bombs falling.
I watch my Facebook feed with interest monitoring the updates and responses to COVID-19 from friends living in different countries around the world. Friends from South Africa, England, Denmark, Germany, Austria, USA, Canada, South Korea, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Thailand and of course across Australia have been in touch to check in on us. We talk, text and video call with loved ones each day and it certainly helps knowing that we are metaphorically surrounded by well wishes.
I have a feeling that while the Australian government declared the situation a pandemic well before the WHO did, and I understand the Aussie medical community is well prepared, the community at large are not ready for the possibility of a lock down as is happening here in Italy. Maybe it's because as Australians we can't imagine being denied the freedom to go outside into the wide space under the vast blue skies. Maybe Australians think that they are sheltered from the full force of the virus due to its isolation from the rest of the world. It's my hope that all of that bulk bought toilet paper and 5 kilo bags of rice bring only buyers remorse and nothing more serious. Each government will be judged by its people for how well it handles this unfolding situation. The governments that handle it well won't get the recognition and praise they deserve but those that make a mess of it will certainly feel it at the next elections (undemocratic nations excluded of course).
The world is watching the world, wondering who's next. China, South Korea, Iran, Italy.....
We had noodle soup for lunch and pasta with cream and peas for dinner. Miss S is attempting to drink all of our milk supplies in a few days.
Day 4 of lock down in Italy: Our lives have slowed down. I woke at 8:30am. By 9am there were 80 messages on the WhatsApp group for Miss S's Italian school class group. One of which informed us that she had a class at 9:50am. Why the teacher can't schedule the class times the day before is a mystery to me?
So the day started with Miss S conjugating verbs in Italian while I prepared PowerPoint presentations for my two Skype classes this afternoon.
Gigi has spent a good part of the day bingeing on a TV series I don't care to watch. Lunch was broccoli with orecchiette and an Australian English lesson for Miss S. She's creating fantasy fictional characters for a chapter assessment she needs to write. Today Brittany the fairy came to life on the page.
My two companions disappeared downstairs to the garage to do some weights and fitness. My Skype class with three 10 year old boys was a success. In fact they behaved better than they ever do in the classroom! I've emailed their mothers all of the extra homework I've set considering they can't leave their apartments and would otherwise spend the time playing video games.
I then had a Skype lesson with a paediatric intern who works at a hospital in Naples. She looked a bit shaky. She told me the children's hospital is almost empty. They have been discharging patients when possible and suspended all regular medical treatments and programs. All of the interns have been advised that they need to be prepared to be transferred to other hospitals to provide support for COVID-19 patients. She is worried. I asked how she's managing her stress because normally she goes to the gym several times a week. But with the gyms all closed she said she's turned to cooking and cleaning instead.
I think most of Italy is focusing even more time and attention on preparing and cooking food at this time. It's said that if Italians aren't thinking about what they will eat at the next meal, they are shopping or cooking for the next meal, or actually sitting down eating. And then the cycle starts again. People will be baking, making pasta, preparing dishes that require a little more time and spending even more time gathered around the dining table. The only thing that will be missing are the extended family members who often join the traditional Sunday lunch.
Evening Maths lessons for Miss S were followed by dinner of meat/protein and three veg and my world famous strudel made from local annurca apples. They are small and sometimes a bit gnarly but they are tasty and perfect for cooking.
Gigi has discovered an Italian reality TV program called 'Celebrity Hunted'. It features 8 Italian celebrities who have to spend 14 days on the run evading a team of private investigators. If nothing else it makes you realise that the country (and probably everywhere) is full of cameras watching our every move.
I'm impatiently waiting for a Danish baby to arrive, occasionally sending tips on how to induce labour naturally. Like I'm some sort of expert, having delivered Miss S 4 weeks earlier than her due date after only 5 hours of labour.
Denmark is closing its borders. Norway has closed its borders. Spain is locking down certain regions.
In the meantime the UK and USA seem to be floundering. Australia is ramping things up cancelling events, advising against all travel while the medical system prepares for an onslaught and the education sector prepares to move to online lessons. It feels like we are watching the world pull down the shutters in slow motion.
I've Face timed with friends in Australia and received an email from a friend in Japan who doesn't do social media. People keep checking in on us and sending messages of support. It's hard to express how lucky we are to have so many caring, connected people in our lives. Literally all around the world. People we may only be in touch with once every few years but still those friendships and connections are genuine and incredibly special.
Miss S has been walking around the house speaking more Italian than she normally does with us. I know she speaks Italian at school and with friends but she usually speaks to us in English. She's doing okay. Some exercise, art, school work, TV, playing with her remote control car, good food and a whole bunch of cheeky back chat with her father have filled her day.
Here's a photo of us in March last year enjoying the sunshine and fresh air on the bridge in front of our village. Ah, the memories of the outside world.