Visiting Alicia

I had tried calling Alicia Thursday to check up on her, but I couldn’t reach her. I talked with her son Walter, and he said he had heard from her a day or two earlier and knew she was out of some things. I told him I’d try to collect some stuff for her.

Walking out to the road Friday morning, I saw two different combis going by. That was nice because I knew I’d be able to catch a ride into town. However, the two combis I missed were the last combis I saw on the way in. I walked about halfway into Izcuchaca, about three miles, before I caught a taxi.

The lower end of town by the municipio was rather empty and slow. I heard from someone that the Sunday market was open for today only, so maybe I’d be able to find stuff there. The new restrictions for quarantine are that only women may be out on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; men may be out on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday; no one may be out on Sunday. Also, the curfew is now from 6:00 to 6:00.

Peru has fewer than two thousand reported cases, but everyone says that many more are sick than are reporting, and few of the ones reporting are being tested. It’s very hard to know how widespread the virus is here. We found out that someone in our neighbor Celso Pacheco’s house has been tested for the virus in Cusco; the test was positive, and they have remained in Cusco. We’ve been warned to stay away from all our neighbors because they are mostly related to one another and are likely all infected.

I walked up to Rafael’s store, which is across from the Sunday market. There were long, long lines of people out. Although the new restrictions on men and women didn’t take effect until Saturday, the military were out and allowing only men to enter the market. One fellow said he had stood in line for hours, but the military is allowing them only fifteen minutes within the market. He had to run through the market, but couldn’t buy all he wanted. Things are heavily enforced here.

Rafael and Elisabet came out to talk, both wearing masks. In fact, everyone in town was wearing masks. I took my mask down to talk with Rafael, and a soldier came up and barked at me to put it back on and keep it on or go home. Rafael said they are doing okay. He has lost a significant amount of weight, apparently mostly from stress. Like many, they are struggling to know how to make ends meet for their business.

Wishing them farewell, I headed back downtown. I was not going to stand in line for the market. I found several ladies selling fruit and vegetables down some side streets and collected everything I needed that way. I also picked up several kilos of chicken from a vendor for us and a whole chicken for Alicia. Rafael had called Elisabet’s cousin who owns a veterinary store; she met me there, and I was able to buy the nipples I need for the kids.

I stopped in to chat with Victoria and her husband a little while. They keep asking when we’ll leave; they don’t think we’ll stay around, “Levi’s and Lamar’s both left,” they say. I told them we’ll stay as long as God allows. They seemed content with that. Anyway, the virus will be getting worse, and we’ll be stuck here for at least six months. That’s the logic they comforted themselves with.

I found a combi and caught a ride out to Alicia’s. She was in good health and good spirits. She said she’s been staying home except for when she walked to Ancahuasi to get a flu vaccine one day and a pneumonia vaccine another day. She said it was quite the ordeal because they will not allow patients into the clinic. The nurse has to come out and administer everything outside with no one being close to anyone else.

Alicia was very pleased that I had collected stuff for her. She has no saldo on her phone, so she can’t call out. There’s no one nearby to put time on for her. She was happy that her neighbor is buying all her milk now, so she has some money coming in. Her apple trees are loaded with beautiful apples, and she’s starting to collect them to sell. She’ll be getting a tremendous number of bushels from them.

She gave me ten kilos of apples and a few kilos of corn and oatmeal to take home as a thank you for the groceries and such. I started home. By now it was 12:30 in the afternoon. Businesses are to close by 1:00. I walked for about two miles before realizing that this must also mean the combis are not allowed to run in the afternoon either.

With the chicken in my backpack, the corn in one bag in my hand, and the apples in a sack on my shoulders, I was carrying over fifty pounds of stuff. After a couple of miles, that was pretty heavy. I had six miles to go yet before I got home. I thought about having Steph bring out Lamar’s car, but I had the key in my backpack.

A lady at a roadside tienda saw me walking and asked where I was headed. I told her. She said she knew me from seeing me at market in Inquilpata. She said I’d never make it that far with all that weight; she told me to leave my stuff in her store and go find a car to come back for it. I thought this could be risky with the restriction on vehicles: No vehicle is allowed out without a permit now. But I figured she was right.

Two hours later, I made it to Lamar’s. Anne met me with pizza and a drink, which I scarfed down. Steph sent up some freshly baked bars to take to the lady at the tienda. I hopped into the car and crawled out the lane. I had to wait for Celso to pull into his driveway; apparently, he had just returned from town himself. I made it to the end of the lane, when I heard a very slight sound and felt the front tire go flat. It was the mildest blowout I’ve ever experienced.

Thankfully, God had allowed it to happen on the lane and not before. And thankfully it had happened to me, not to Steph. I pulled out onto the road and turned around, headed back to the house. Now what?

I sent a message to our neighbor Oscar, asking if he could take me back out to the store. He didn’t answer. I called Rafael to ask for advice; he said he couldn’t come because all trucks are getting pulled over and fined. He thought maybe he could find a car the next day. I didn’t try Fernando’s because I knew they are not leaving the house for any reason. I figured the lady could just inherit some extra groceries for her thoughfulness.

I walked down to the house, taking my shoes off in the grass to give some relief to my blistered feet. Crocs were not designed for many miles of walking. At the house, I crashed onto a chair and began rehydrating, but I had only rested a few minutes when Oscar reached me and said he could take me to the store. Back up the field I walked. When I got to his driveway, I could hear his car spinning. He had gotten it stuck in the mud. I rejoiced that it took only my pushing to get him out. I grabbed the horse’s rope and pulled him out of the lane because he wouldn’t listen to Oscar’s shouts or honking, then we were on our way.

Oscar kept saying, “You walked this far?!” It was far enough, but I was glad all I was hauling was several kilos of chicken and not all those apples and corn. The lady was thrilled with the freshly baked blondie bars. Steph had made them especially for me because they are my favorite bars, but I was happy to give them away. I had another platter of them to give to Oscar for the ride; he was quite happy and said his family would love them.

Oscar warned me to stay away from the neighbors, even from his house, since Celso’s have been exposed to the virus. He doesn’t want us to get sick and to leave for the States. I called Rafael and told him about how things had turned out and about the sick fellow from Celso’s. He was rather agitated about it.

He said he figures Celso is waiting for us to get scared or to get sick so we will leave for the States; then he’ll take the houses back and steal all of our things. Rafael said I should call the police and tell them Celso is trying to scare us away with the sickness. I told him we are not afraid, and we can be sick in Peru as easily as we can in the States. We’ll be staying.

“Will you stay forever, David?” he asked in his heavily accented English.

I told him, “No se por cuanto tiempo. Solo como Dios quiere. I don’t know for how long. Only as God wants.”

“Entonces forever,” he replied.

“Vamos a ver,” I told him. “We’ll see.”

Dearly beloved, it was a long day. I didn’t quite walk fifteen miles, but it was getting close. I was sore and tired, but I felt blessed. It was a comfort to know that there are people here who care about us and want us to stay. Why? What do they see in us? Hopefully, we are showing them Jesus and His love.

Now I’ve got to figure out how to get a new tire for Lamar.

Long line outside the Sunday market
Walking home from Alicia’s. No traffic.

The sunset

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