The city and the virus

Santiago is quiet. The protest movement interrupted by quarantine.

The city and the virus

Santiago is quiet. The protest movement interrupted by quarantine.

I once asked the owner of an Irish bar why he never opened the bar on Sundays. His response has always stuck with me. He told me that the bar itself needed a rest. The creaking stairs, the slammed doors and the hard-working tables needed a reprise after six days of clientele. The building needs to rest he said. It needs time to compose itself before the coming week.

The curfew and quarantine that have been enforced over the last ten days has had a similar effect on Santiago. Things have well and truly calmed down for the very first time since last October. The city gets a break from endless clouds of tear gas and the rain of Molotov cocktails. The plazas and the parks are empty and the nights are quiet. The social movement will surely return once the threat of the virus has passed but for now, the city is composing itself for what is to come.

In terms of the amount of cases of Covid-19, Chile seems to have things under control for the time being. They have carrying out lots of daily tests, by far the most in the region. The curve has been edging towards a flatter projection. Although you wouldn’t know that from public opinion. It has been somewhat heartening to observe that people in Ireland seem to be rallying around Varadkar and Harris despite their faults. This hasn’t exactly been the case in Chile.

There is a childishness that seems to exist at the core of the Chilean psyche and it often brings out the worst in them. They seem unaware that we are facing a planetary scale challenge. The opposition, local mayors and much of the public at large has decided that the government is actually doing a bad job of managing the virus despite the figures that seem to refute this. They take any available opportunity to criticize and to try and get one over on the government.

It is almost like they want the government to fail (i.e. thousands of deaths) in order to confirm their hypothesis.  It must be said that the Minister for Health is contrary little so and so who has given up any pretense of pandering to the public. This doesn’t really help matters but it does seem like he is keeping things under control. For now, at least.

I have been trying to keep to a daily routine that involves work, exercise and naps. It has been going relatively well so far and I will need to have a nap at around 2pm every day for the rest of my life. Chile has not included a daily exercise allowance in the lockdown rules so I have really had to stretch out my trips to the supermarket.

The media business, already struggling, has been turned on its head. You are all consuming more news but nobody is buying advertising. As such, I have been working harder than ever trying to pivot the company’s business model to something that will generate cash flow over the next few months. The initial signs are good but literally nobody knows what the world will look like in a months time.

I have noticed that there are lots of posts going around on social media claiming that you either have to be super productive or super unproductive during quarantine. The grind or self-care. In my own case there are only so many games of FIFA that I can stomach losing in a day so I have been trying to move forward with some productive projects. One of those was to build this website (done) and another one was to record a podcast. Cliché I know, but too many of you are listening to Joe Rogan right now rather than reading this. I think I will give it a go. I want to try out as many different ways to share my brain’s good and bad ideas.

The other project that has been floating around is learning Japanese. When I went to Tokyo last September it was king of a surreal experience not being able to understand anything. Not to be able to read or communicate at all was a bit of a shock. For years I have been able to feel comfortable and confident about my language skills in almost every country I visited. Japan was different. I became one of those hand gesture dependent tourists that I always, smugly, looked down upon. Embarrassed, I decided that I would try to master the language. There and then I bought some textbooks, ready to jump in once I arrived back in Chile.

"Easy and Fun" 

So, six months later those books are sitting untouched on my desk. Facing in to what looks like an Easter indoors, it might be a good time to open them.


Nicholas O'Connor

I am addicted to all things media related and I also try my hand at writing from time to time. Other interests include language learning, football and watches.

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