COVID-19 Through the Eyes of a Local

A collection of poems from our global network of linguists, each paying homage to the ways in which their communities have come together and adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic of the last few months‎.

Rosario, una ciudad adormecida 

Rosario: 2 millones de habitantes, aunque últimamente parece no haber ninguno. Una ciudad que suele vibrar con los gritos de fanáticos excitados que celebran cada gol de su equipo favorito como si fuera el último, aparenta haber quedado muda; una ciudad con una gastronomía reconocida a nivel nacional, tiene sus canillas de cerveza artesanal esperando ser las protagonistas de otro Happy Hour; una ciudad con frondosos parques, advierte la llegada del invierno sin haber sido siquiera despedida del verano.  

Hoy nos damos cuenta de que Rosario puede no tener los edificios más altos o las playas de agua turquesa más paradisíacas, pero tiene algo que la hace única: su gente. En una cultura que fomenta el contacto físico y las reuniones acompañadas de comida en exceso, sentimos que en estos días nos hace falta esa palmada en la espalda que nos impulsa a seguir adelante. Compartir un mate parece algo utópico; volver a ver a nuestra banda favorita en el Anfiteatro Municipal, un sueño muy lejos de ser cumplido; y compartir un domingo en familia, un recuerdo que pronto queremos volver a vivir gritando bien fuerte: “¡un aplauso para el asador!” 

Rosario se detuvo, pero sabemos que no es para siempre. Queremos volver a vernos, por eso nos distanciamos. Y aunque nuestra economía vaya en decadencia y los pocos pesos que tenemos sean destinados a alcohol en gel y barbijos, sabemos que lo más valioso y preciado que tenemos es el abrazo de ese amigo que nos espera después de la pandemia. 

Rosario, a City Asleep

Rosario: 2 million inhabitants, although recently it seems there is no one left. A city that usually vibrates to the sound of the cheering coming from excited fans who celebrate each goal their favorite team scores as if it was the very last one, seems to be muted; a city that has a nationally recognized cuisine, has its beer taps waiting to lead the next Happy Hour; a city that has lush parks, warns us that winter is coming without even having had the opportunity of a summer farewell. 

Today, we realize that Rosario may not have the tallest buildings or the most dreamy turquoise-water beaches, but it has something that makes it unique: its people. In a culture that promotes physical contact and gatherings accompanied by overeating, we feel that in these days we are lacking that pat on the back that drives us forward. 

Sharing a “mate” seems to be utopian; seeing our favorite band performing at the local Amphitheater, a dream that seems to be far from being fulfilled; and sharing a family gathering on Sunday, a memory that we are looking forward to live again while shouting loudly: “Give it up for the grill man!” 

Rosario stopped, but we know it won’t be forever. We want to see each other again, that’s why we are keeping distance. And even though our economy goes in decline and the few pesos left may be intended to buy facial masks and alcohol gel, we are aware that the most valuable and precious thing we have is a hug from that beloved friend that awaits for us after the pandemic. 

by Evelyn Diaz

Juiz de Fora, Brazil

Uma enorme fila de pessoas – advogados, estudantes, executivos, mendigos, senhores, jovens – aguardam pacientemente em fila ao longo de uma rua repleta de lojas em Juiz de Fora, uma cidade de médio porte a duas horas do Rio de Janeiro, no Brasil. Alguém de fora poderia pensar que algum comerciante estivesse oferecendo de graça algo que valesse a espera ou que talvez um cinema estivesse vendendo ingressos antecipados para um filme espetacular. Não, essas pessoas têm desejo de uma iguaria que só podem encontrar nesse lugar. 

No último ano, tenho sido um desses que aguarda pacientemente na fila para deleitar o paladar de toda a minha família. Minha esposa, antes de ir para a faculdade, geralmente passa lá e compra uma porção para ela. “É uma delícia inigualável”, relata volta e meia. Quando trago minha filha da escola, ela espontaneamente diz: “Papai, estou com muita vontade de comer um pacotão hoje”. Então, não me restam escolhas. Por alguns trocados, não posso negar esses pequenos prazeres, que acabam se tornando grandes prazeres, a minha garota, que tem apenas seis anos de idade. Quando nos aproximamos do carrinho, uma mistura única de aromas de queijo, açúcar e milho paira no ar: o cheiro incomparável dessa pipoca de água na boca já vale a experiência. Em Juiz de Fora, as barracas de pipoca são muito comuns, mas esse pipoqueiro especifico na Rua Marechal vende uma pipoca maravilhosa com crosta de caramelo e cubinhos de queijo parmesão fritos.

Semana passada, enquanto eu caminhava em uma tarde fria de segunda-feira, quando a fila da pipoca teria dezenas de metros, o carrinho não estava lá, a rua estava vazia e silenciosa, e o único cheiro no ar era o da chuva, que parecia estar lavando o passeio para dar as boas-vindas ao carrinho de pipoca algum dia ainda desconhecido, mas que, espero, seja em breve. 

 

A huge line of patient people – lawyers, students, businesspeople, beggars, the elderly and the young –forms along the sidewalk of a store-packed street in Juiz de Fora, a medium-size town 2 hours from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An outsider would think a merchant might be giving away something worth the wait or maybe a movie theater is showing a box office hit and tickets are being sold in advance? No. These people are yearning for a treat that they can only get at that place.  

For the last year or so, I have been of those people who patiently wait in line just to impress the taste buds of my whole family. My wife, before going to college, usually drops by and grabs a portion for her. “It’s a unique delight,” she tells me every now and then. When I bring my daughter home from school, she frequently confesses: “Daddy, I really feel like having a big bag today.” Then I have no choice – for a few bucks, there is no way I can deny these little pleasures, which end up being great pleasures, to my six-year-old girl.

When we approach the stand, we can smell a unique combination of cheese, sugar and corn in the air – the incomparable smell of that mouthwatering popcorn is already a worthy experience. In Juiz de Fora, popcorn stands are very common, but that specific vendor on Marechal Street sells exquisite popcorn with caramel crunch and small cubes of fried parmesan cheese.  

Last week, while I was jogging on a chilly Monday afternoon, when the popcorn line would usually grow dozens of feet long, the cart was not there. Instead, the street was empty and silent, and the only thing I could smell was the rain, which looked like it was washing the sidewalk down to welcome the popcorn stand back one day. We don’t know when that will be, but we hope it will be soon! 

by William Bosich

 

Santa Fe Province, Argentina

—Hija, te llamo para decirte que no vamos a viajar. Papá anoche tuvo tos. 

Era 29 de febrero y mis padres tuvieron una corazonada. Cancelaron un viaje desde Argentina a Turquía con las valijas ya hechas 24 horas antes. Por miedo, por incertidumbre, por ser pacientes de riesgo. La noche anterior había cenado con ellos para despedirlos. Fue la última vez que los abracé. Desde entonces, todo cambió, para todos. En Turquía, Argentina y el mundo entero.  

Vivo en una zona residencial, tranquila, intrascendente. No hay almacenes, casi no circulan vehículos. No suceden cosas. El viento sopla fuerte del sur, las cotorras chirrían, los álamos se mecen en silencio y el atardecer se dilata en un horizonte vasto, sin recortes. Esa era la vida antes y la de ahora.  

Pero hoy rige un aislamiento social, preventivo y obligatorio desde hace ocho semanas. La gente no puede salir a caminar, los niños no pueden pasear en bicicleta, no hay asados los domingos. No compartimos más el mate y no nos saludamos con un beso. Hasta los perros perdieron las ganas de ladrar. 

Pero el esfuerzo valió lo perdido. Hoy 13 de mayo es mi cumpleaños, aunque tengo otro motivo de festejo: es el sexto día sin casos positivos en mi provincia, una planicie extensa de 133000km cuadrados, casi la superficie de Grecia. Extraño las caminatas largas, jugar con mis sobrinas, salir con amigos, pero cada día es una victoria y saldremos airosos.

“Daughter, I’m calling to let you know that we’re not travelling. Your dad had a cough last night”. 

It was February 29th and my parents had a hunch. They cancelled a trip with just 24-hours’-notice from Argentina to Turkey with their suitcases already packed. Out of fear, out of uncertainty, out of being high-risk patients. The night before, I’d had dinner with them as a goodbye. That was the last time I hugged them. Since then, everything changed, for everyone. In Turkey, Argentina, and the entire world. 

I live in a quiet, uneventful residential area. There are no groceries stores, barely any vehicles. Nothing happens. The wind blows from the South, parrots squeak, poplars sway in silence and the sunset thickens in a vast, unbroken horizon. That was life before and it is now.

But today rules a social, preventative, and mandatory isolation regime. It’s been eight weeks. People can’t go out for a walk; kids can’t ride their bikes and there are no asados on Sundays. We don’t share mate anymore and don’t kiss hello. Even the dogs have lost their will to bark. 

But it was worth the sacrifice. Today May 13th is my birthday, though I have another reason to celebrate: it’s the sixth day without positive cases in my province, an extensive plain of 51,350 square miles, an area almost the size of Greece. I miss my long walks, playing with my nieces, going out with friends, but every day is a victory and we’ll come through. 

by Virginia Casagrande

 

No, ya no es lo mismo el otoño en Mendoza. 

La canción decía que… 

“No es lo mismo el otoño en Mendoza, 
hay que andar con el alma hecha un niño, 
comprenderle el adiós a las hojas 
y acostarse en su sueño amarillo” 

¿Dónde fue a parar todo eso? 

Ya no se oye el canto del agua recorriendo la acequia, 

el chinchín de las copas de Malbec festejando con amigos, 

los arabescos del humo dibujándose sobre el asado  

ni las risas de anécdotas o hitos compartidos. 

Cuarenta y cinco días transcurrieron en encierro, donde creíamos que ningún acorde oiríamos 

aunque fueron los pájaros los que continuaron con sus cantos líricos. 

Luján de Cuyo me sorprende con un multicolor espectáculo 

Sus viñedos encandilan con una paleta de colores entre amarillos, naranjas y rojos. 

La Cordillera de los Andes, imponente, se deja ver con un sol que alumbra todo el escenario. 

De a poco empiezan a rodar las bicicletas y los acordes de lo que solía componer

la melodía cotidiana de Mendoza comienzan a volver a sonar con un tímido ritmo. 

Es cierto, no es lo mismo el otoño en Mendoza, pero como en un cuento

hemos hecho andar el alma hecha un niño. 

El cambio de estación sorprende con belleza y esperanza  

El show nunca terminó… todo esto no fue más que una triste canción  

¡Música maestro!, gritan las almas en alabanza 

¡Demos rienda suelta a los nuevos encuentros y a la esperada reunión! 

No, it’s not the same autumn in Mendoza anymore. 

The song said that… 

“It’s not the same as autumn in Mendoza,
you have to walk with a child’s soul,
to understand the goodbye of the leaves
and lie down in your yellow dream”

Where did all that go? 

You don’t hear the song of the water running through the “acequias” anymore, 

the chin-chin of glasses of Malbec while celebrating with friends, 

the arabesques of smoke drawing over the barbacue 

nor the laughter of shared stories or milestones. 

Forty-five days were spent in confinement, where we thought we would hear no chord 

although it was the birds that continued to perform a new song. 

Luján de Cuyo surprises me with a multicolored show… 

Its vineyards dazzle with a palette of colors between yellow, orange and red. 

The Andes Mountains, breathtaking, are seen with a sun that illuminates the whole scene. 

Little by little, the bicycles start rolling and the chords of what used to be  

Mendoza’s daily melody start to sound again with a shy rhythm. 

It’s true that autumn is not the same in Mendoza, but as in a story  

we have walked with a child’s soul. 

The change of season surprises with beauty and hope 

The show never ended… this was all just a sad song 

Music master! The souls cry out in praise 

Let’s give free rein to the new meetings and surprise! 

by Patricia Verde

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