Featured

Vaccination Day

March 18, 2021

The past year has been hard on friendships. Some of us decided early on to mask up and avoid group situations, while others became anti-vax and anti-mask evangelists, and began delivering a relentless sermon that lasted all summer, all fall, and all winter. I now know every silly, unscientific theory in existence about vaccines, viruses and mendacious governments. And, of course, all about Bill Gates and his microchips. My social circle has been judiciously pruned as a result.

Finally, just before last weekend, Tepoztlan announced that the Pfizer vaccine would be made available to people over 60 for three days starting on Tuesday, March 16, the day after Benito Juarez Day. Two locations, a school in town and a soccer field, were being used for this.

There was widespread anticipation, and I planned to go in with my friend Ixchel as soon as a long-awaited plumber had turned up to install a water filter. However, by the time he was done and had left with my cash in his pocket, she had messaged and phoned me to tell me that the lines were insanely long, everything was backed up, and she was going home. 

A spontaneous protest by angry people who had waited in the sun with aging relatives closed the day’s operations, I heard. The cult of the abuela, the grandmother, is a strong one here, and protecting family matriarchs, or at least looking like you do, is a significant part of the social structure. 

The line-up on the first afternoon. Cannier people brought chairs for family matriarchs (and patriarchs) to sit on.

We both considered waiting for an opportunity next month, but decided to give it a second try today, Thursday, the last of the three days. So, this morning we put ourselves in the line for the school vaccination centre, and waited.  And waited.

After 20 minutes, the line had not moved. Fortunately, the staff for this operation, which was admittedly a big one for a town this size, were now on top of what was going on, and came to recommend we go down to the soccer field, where there were few people waiting. We did this, and while a couple of hundred people were already there when we arrived, people were moving on through the system. Just getting under the protective awning past the entrance gate felt like hope. We kept having to shift forward one row of seats as people moved through the system, so we finally had the sense of making progress.

Sure enough, around an hour later, we had moved to the fronts of two different lines, and the anticlimactic moment of the actual jab happened. We were asked to wait another 20 minutes to ensure we had no adverse reactions, then left after receiving a basic certificate of vaccination, and a provisional date for the second injection.

We had to play musical chairs under the awning, moving ahead to the next row of seats as others received injections.

The feeling of freedom from anxiety wasn’t what I’d expected. But finally, other than being careful and avoiding the conspiracy-theory crowd entirely, we had a realistic protection against the wretched disease. After just one jab, it’s not the whole deal, but my body now has the tool it needs to build advance resistance to the virus, assuming I’ve not already encountered and defeated it sub-clinically. 

And the day just looked brighter as a result. We walked to a place for lunch, ran into a mutual friend who had also just had her jab and was feeling similarly relieved, and felt more gratitude than we had in months.

I had to go home to wait for a man to deliver a load of water, as I mentioned in my last post, so home I went after finishing my enchiladas. He came when expected, and later so did Jorge, our local blacksmith, who was coming to examine the front gate of the small house I’m fixing so I can rent it out. 

Indeed, if the pump on the water truck hadn’t surged fiercely, making the hose jump so that it bent the inner security gate out of alignment, and soaking the garage area, I’d have had a perfect day. But jump it did, and Jorge has to see if he can fix that gate, too. And Rem, my canine anarchist for whom the inner gate had to be installed in the first place, tried to bite Jorge, though thankfully he only chomped on a mouthful of jeans.

Rem, the canine anarchist.

So, apart from facing a combined 1,300 peso repair bill, and having to apologise for Rem’s over-protectiveness, this was a semi-perfect day. Either way, I have the jab now. If I do run into anti-vax evangelists in town, I can tell them I put my deltoid muscle where my mouth is, and I now consider myself a superior human as a result. Or at least a pandemically insulated one.

Merry Christmask

December 22, 2020

Around two weeks ago, I noticed a significant shift as I went into town on the combi micro-bus. Previously, only around half of the passengers wore face-masks, and even that percentage had been dwindling since the town re-opened in the fall. But suddenly, three-quarters of the people were masking, and even some of our libertarian holdouts with their much touted bulletproof auras and invincible immune systems were wearing them. The police began to stop the unmasked, warning them of fines, and the bus drivers started requesting that people put them on as well.

Some of your author’s collection of face-masks.

As has happened anywhere, we’ve had all sorts of ups and downs, and ons and offs, with the pandemic. Once the town of Tepoztlan put up barricades at its two primary entrances, back in the spring, our village of Amatlan copied it. My friends weren’t allowed in to visit, and when I went out, I needed proof of residency to be allowed back. For once, my gringo face, which always stands out, was a benefit in avoiding repeated checks.

The village barricade was always problematic, and had at least one shooting incident. It wasn’t officially sanctioned, and even the one the town put in place was technically illegal. When first the village reten was cleared, and a week or two after the town began admitting visitors again, everyone breathed sighs of relief.

Then, of course, the pandemic continued and worsened. With 122 recorded cases in the municipality to date (we have over 40,000 people), we’re in much better shape than some nearby communities, where the infection rate has been up to four or five times as high. Why, we don’t know, but we’re dangerously smug about it.

Last week, the governor of this state of Morelos warned about a complete Christmas lockdown. Our town nearly went that route, but our exhausted mayor, who toughed it out for months but couldn’t keep telling desperate, angry people their livelihoods were cancelled, declared on the weekend that he wasn’t closing up again. Christmas visitors are coming in, so I’m trying to avoid the town as much as I can. I miss the friends who live there, but it doesn’t feel that safe with all the outsiders.

If I compare our caseload to Toronto, which as of this writing has tallied around 53,000 people infected, we’re slightly better in our numbers. With minimal hospital facilities for a pandemic, that’s something to appreciate, and it’s far from like this in Mexico taken as a whole. This nation, with three times Canada’s total population, has now reported 1.3-million cases, and 120,000 deaths. And as they are elsewhere, the indicators aren’t good. Even the denialists are suddenly asking when the vaccines will be made available. 

So, I can’t put much of a positive seasonal spin on this post, beyond being grateful I’m in a place where I can at least get out and about, and the risk level has somehow stayed low. All I can do is make sure my face-masks are clean, and that my fingertips stay dry and a little cracked from all the gel and washing with soap they go through.

I hope you all continue to stay as safe. My best wishes for 2021, and thanks for reading my posts.

Edward.