Day 25: Preparation
My first impulse is to write that I don't know how it is to live in other parts of the world. But even I am a bit unsure about what I mean because I have lived in either seven or eight countries (depending on how you count). What I mean is that I have a limited understanding of how people live in most parts of the planet. To be sure, my biggest cultural shock was my move from New York to Cambridge, England. I couldn't figure out what things were, taking chocolate squares for brownies and clotted cream for cream cheese (believe me, clotted cream is excellent, but not if you are expecting cream cheese. And why on earth the British insist on having hotel-room sized fridges and separate faucets for the hot and cold water? But I diverge, that's not today's subject.
This morning, I read an article on how poverty prepared people for the pandemic and I had a moment of complete clarity. Until then, I had the hypothesis that many years of reading post-apocalyptic speculative fiction or watching films on similar subjects had prepared me for this pandemic. I wondered where the zombies were and why everything is eerily quiet and unadventurous, but I was ready for the bad things that might come.
The article by Hanna Brooks Olsen highlighted the fact that my upbringing, in a low-income country, was most likely responsible for my cheerful demeanour as the current situation evolved.
When I was about to move from Caracas to Boston in 1996, someone asked me what I thought I would feel when I didn't have to gather water in case of a shortage. We did it regularly. Here is why: the city's population had grown too large for the reservoir that supplies its water so that any mild drought would throw everything off balance. Six months of the year, we had to ration the water. Often, this meant that we had about half an hour of water at 7:00 am and one hour between 8:00 and 9:00 pm. Water! someone would yell, and everyone would run towards their designated collection areas: the bathroom tub (which we could never use for bathing because it was used continuously as a container), the 120 litres plastic bucket in the kitchen, the smaller buckets in the second bathroom and the service area, and the washing machine, which we would fill in case we needed it for something. There was a set of smaller containers in the kitchen that were used to save cleaner, which was collected after everything else and when the pipes had been rinsed thoroughly. And someone flushed the toilets as everyone else took five-minute showers so we all could have a turn. No wonder people think I'm fast at getting ready. I. Am. Fast.
We never drank tap water. The city supply was supposed to be treated and clean, but who knew what was held in the building's cistern. For that, we had mineral water (the kind that in North America is used in water coolers). It came in glass bottles that had to be returned every week. For my family (we were 5), we would have three of those bottles. We used the water also for cooking, but we tried not to make water-heavy meals.
Not so frequently, but often enough, we lost electricity. There was a drawer in which we kept plain white candles (not fancy ones, but ones expressly produced for light rather than decoration) and matches, as well as batteries, a flashlight and a little radio. I don't think there is a household in Caracas that doesn't have those supplies. Each time I move house, even though I have been living in the Global North for 23 years (by the way, that is also how long I lived in Venezuela), I buy candles and matches to be ready in case of emergency.
I don't think we were preppers, but we were prepared for things that happened way more frequently than they should have.
So, to finally answer that question: when you get used to having a flawless water or electricity supply, you don't even think about it. And yet, when people were hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I bought enough water to last us two weeks because I know what it is like not to have it.
Canada cases 20,747
World cases 1,601,984
World deaths 95,735
World recoveries 355,079