Everyday Life in Bogota during Pandemic Times (part II)

Sheltering in place during the quarantine is like a long voyage. A long trip without movement. A journey without clear time of arrival. Some times I have the feeling the quarantine we are experiencing is like a cosmic voyage. An interplanetary expedition. Imagine cruising the universe in a spaceship. The tips of the astronaut Scott Kelly resonate with me during the obligatory isolation we are experiencing. However, this journey is just inside an apartment. Within a cabin bigger than the one of a space station and with windows that provide a view to an open horizon. The city expanding towards the west, drawing the savanna and the altiplano (high land), revealing at the distance the silhouette of big mountains from the Cordillera Oriental (Western Mountain range).

The best moments of this journey are those of dawn and dusk. The end and beginning of the day are full of colors, frequencies, and emotions. Thanks to the decrease in air pollution, the landscape reveals even more mountains than the ones we usually see, including the volcanoes of Ruiz and Tolima. From the window of an apartment-ship these views give me hope. I see the city expanding across what used to be a big lagoon during prehistoric times. Quite and still on the ground, without airplanes crossing the sky, without cars moving, without people. Its quietness makes me think if it is vigil or is dream? What is a city without dwellers moving and circulating? What is a city without urban flows?

Everyday feels like the 1st of January or the day after Christmas. Days and nights characterized by empty streets, closed business, few cars. Everyday is like a quiet holiday. An extended pause in the urban life. The city sleeps. In the between dream and wakefulness bicycles and motorcycles, rode by young delivery workers, circulate the semi-deserted streets. Blurred states of urban consciousness. A ghost town is now dominated by delivery men and women with huge backpacks that move in all directions, many times against the norms, ruling the streets with an unusual freedom.

Nights, particularly, have turned out more quite, silent, with deserted streets and closed businesses and amenities. As soon as the sun vanishes, the darkness of the streets, parks, alleys, sidewalks, becomes enigmatic, mysterious. The emptiness of the streets creates also a feeling of insecurity. The trips that I do to the grocery stores at the end of the afternoo, have become more adventurous. It is strange to find other humans on the streets. In a city with high inequalities, the few that are on the streets during the quarantine are usually the most vulnerable ones. Homeless, immigrants, including displaced Colombians from rural areas and Venezuelan, informal vendors. They roam the streets looking for food and shelter, asking for help.

Social isolation is a privilege. In societies with high levels of inequality, poverty, and informal economies, shelter in place is not viable for many people who live on an everyday earning, who find food with what they can get on the streets. The impact of the quarantine for them is brutal. The vulnerable populations are the most impacted by the lockdown. Not only they struggle with how to find their daily income, but also to access health services. Many of them also brawl to access a roof. Moreover, in several of the marginalized neighborhoods families are living in dense households and buildings where social isolation is impossible to perform. In these impoverished neighborhoods and areas, vulnerable citizens (informal workers, unemployed, immigrants) have started to place red rags on their windows, balconies and terraces to show their need for food. The red flags mean they are hungry and in need of social aid.

Continuing with a post I published two weeks ago at the beginning of the lock-down in Bogotá, below I share the log of my everyday life activities during quarantine times. These activities come from my position of privilege as a knowledge and creative worker affiliated to an academic institution who can adapt to the shelter in place in a sort of easier way, accessing all the basic services and resources for living. This log covers several weeks (day 11 to 31) and completes a month of quarantine activities.

Day 11 – March 23 – Monday (holiday)

  • A gray holiday. A “bridge” (puente) as a is known in Colombia. In times of quarantine a Monday holiday feels weird, without any possibility to explore nature or even the city. Traveling by car in the city and to towns nearby is also prohibited. It rained all day.
  • Air quality should be improving in the city. However, the measures of air pollution continue to be high. Why? It seems the fires in the Amazon, and other wild forests are happening at a massive scale. This process of burning the forests is part of the strategies of colonizers and entrepreneurs that are trying to expand the frontier in some Colombian departments so they can develop mono-culture and open spaces for extensive livestock farming.

Day 12 – March 24 – Tuesday

  • Went to the super market at the end of the afternoon. Walked wearing a mask and struggled with my glasses as they tarnished. At the super market, most of the customers wore masks as well. Looking at other humans with the masks is weird. Our interactions have changed. I made eye contact with some of the people of the supermarket and felt very strange, for just a second, and without any expression of gesture.
  • Worked on research projects and graded assignments. Wrote and sent emails to students and colleagues.
  • I have always enjoyed cooking and the lock down has forced us to have more time to experiment with mixing foods, species, and drinks. One of my earlier memories is being at the kitchen with my grandmother mixing vegetables and roots on a big pan, making a soup. I also remember helping my grandmother to make cakes. Birthday cakes. Although my parents were not really into cooking, I also remember making breakfast with my father, different kinds of omelettes and juice mixes. Later in life I actually enjoyed cooking dishes for my parents and my sister. This passion for cooking, mixing and foods grew with me and I have continued to explored it, learning a lot, and enjoying experimentation with foods and drinks. With my partner we also love to cook and the current situation we have opened and opportunity to do it in a regular way. We are now cooking everyday, every meal. Sheltering-in place has opened an opportunity to explore cooking and flavors, in a way we have never done it before.

Day 13- March 25 – Wednesday.

  • Went out for groceries and thought about the emptiness of the streets, and how they resemble the 1st of January. A day of pause. The beginning of the year. Usually slow in Bogota as most of the people is on vacation.
  • Cooked all meals.
  • Had a marathon of virtual meetings for work and projects. Ended exhausted. Virtual meeting interactions, with live video are demanding and require lots of concentration and coordination.

Day 14 – March 26 – Thursday

  • Worked on research projects and prepared classes.
  • Had a virtual meeting in the morning with colleagues researching disinformation and elections in Colombia.
  • At the end of the afternoon had a virtual meeting with friends of Mexico and Argentina. We discussed how to advance collaboration south-south and working on projects about decolonization, data justice, and governance of technology infrastructures.

Day 15 – March 27 – Friday

  • First virtual class with a big group of students (30). Most of them turned camera off. More attendance and participation than in-person class.
  • Virtual meetings with colleagues in the morning.
  • Attended a webinar organized by Shorenstein center on the theme of infodemic.
  • Realized the policy that Universidad Javeriana is implementing for monitoring the activities of professors during the quarantine, and that requires a weekly report of the daily activities, is a mode of surveillance. It reveals a desire for monitoring the workers while they are doing their activities at home. However, this create an extra pressure for the professors who are already working hard to virtualize all the content of the classes and coordinate a smooth transition to online teaching and learning.
  • Joined friends for a virtual dinner at night. We normally have biweekly meetings with a small group of friends (our food community) in which we cook for each other. Since the lock-down started we have not been able to meet so we decided to do a sort of virtual dinner using a video conference service. It was nice to hang out with them, and to share dinner at distance.

Day 16 – March 28 – Saturday

  • Watched films: Wim Wenders’ My American Friend.
  • Read Bruno Latour’s essay “Is this a rehearsal?” Thought about the meaning of the hypothesis that the pandemic and the health crisis are just a rehearsal of what is to come when the environmental crisis hits us.
  • Went to the fruit and vegetable market. It was closed.
  • Walked through empty streets and parks. Encountering other humans has become weird. Trying to avoid them if I see the presence of another person on the street.
  • Cocktails and dance at night. Pre-celebration of my partners birthday.
  • It feels we are on a trip, an interplanetary journey, traveling inside of a vessel or ship that is our apartment.

Day 17 – March 29 – Sunday

  • It was my partners birthday and we celebrated it at home. We had a video party with family members.
  • Cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Went to the market to by candles, foods and drinks.
  • Had a domestic accident while taking out groceries from backpack. Hit my back with a table surface at our kitchen.

Day 18 – March 30 – Monday

  • Week began. It has become difficult to distinguish which day we are. As the rhythms of the city are disrupted with the lock-down measures, weekdays and weekend days seem to be the same. Empty streets, quietness, silence.
  • Dealt with a pain in one hand for over use. Too much time typing and doing things with computers. Living in the current state of pandemic has pushed many of us, even more, to live inside of computers. Although I am use to it, computer, screen, and typing time has increased considerably. The pain on my left hand started to appear by the past week. The nerves of my wrist seem to be tense because the intense typing and I have realized I need to take more breaks for stretching and relaxing my hands and fingers.

Day 19 – March 31 – Tuesday

  • Went to the super market at the end of the afternoon. Kitchen paper remains difficult to find. There is a shortage.
  • Swarms of delivery workers circulate on empty streets and gather around super markets and parks. They distinctive orange bags, most of them from the company Rappi, paint of color the urban space. They move frenetically, crossing the streets, jumping on sidewalks and have disrupted the usual norms of circulation, doing wrong-ways all the time and ignoring street lights and stops.

Day 21 – April 1 – Wednesday

  • Discussed conspiracy theories about the virus with my partner. What about if the covid-19 is an aliens strategy to come to earth and capture some humans. A virus generated by aliens from another planet, spread through earth by humans.What if they come and offer an ark to save a group of humans taking them to other galaxy?
  • Had meetings the whole day. It was exahusting to jump from one to another. Too many virtual meetings.
  • However, in the middle of a transition to one of the meetings, decided to take a nap. A 10 minute nap. It worked well and gave me energy.
  • Listened to Elis Regina at the end of the afternoon. Cooked dinner at the rhythm of her music.
  • Watched a short films by Agnes Varda : Black Panthers.

Day 22 – April 2 – Thursday

  • Woke up early. Saw the dawn at the living room, looking at the west, drinking a yerba mate tea, reading a book. The sky was clear. Saw telecommunication antennas at the top of one of the western hills. From the living room, the landscape reveals what used to be the lagoon of Bogota, a prehistoric lake, with hills surrounded it. In Chapinero we are perhaps in what used to be the Eastern shore.
  • The air quality in the city was the best in a while in this day. After weeks of air pollution. It was the first day the metrics said it had good quality. Clear skies.
  • Discovered the Sacres Music – France Music mixcloud channel after listening to the Glen Gloud recordings of Bach. Listened to a bunch of mixes from Sacres Music the whole morning. Sacred music seems to go very well with the pandemic times and shelter-in place routines. I enjoy it very much.
  • Domestic accident: fell while exiting my studio room, hit a basket with vinyls on the floor, bite the dust, and threw a bottle of water. The bottle of water ended 1 meter farther, but did not collapse. Stayed on the floor after the hit for some seconds. When falling I also hit a wall with my arm, and almost hit my head. It was a sudden fall. In the middle of a rush. With a cellphone on the left hand that I did not release, despite the crash. On the floor I remained still, thinking about what happened. The fall made a big sound. It was an scandal. My partner asked me what happened. I just fell, spectacularly.
  • Went to a super market at the end of the afternoon. Empty streets. Did not want to see any body. At the super market, saw like 5 people wearing masks. Everybody now wears the masks. It is weird to make eye contact with people wearing masks. There is fear. Lack of trust. Potential contagion.
  • Watched another Agnes Varda film: Cléo de 5 à 7. Loved her approach to film making, blurring the lines of fiction and documentary. Her cinematography is beautiful.

Day 23 – April 3 – Friday

  • Woke up with the sound of birds. A bright and high hubhub. Actually it was the sound of one bird in a solo what called my attention and interrupted my sleep. The bird was improvising a melody I never heard before. I listened from the bed. Then I thought it was so beautiful and unique that deserved being recorded. I woke up and set a sound recorder at a window. The concert was just starting. More birds joined a massive morning gregueria (uproar). The morning concert. The earliest bird song was a solo prelude while the night ended. The fewer cars on the streets changes our appreciation of the early birds concerts. The silence allow us to listen more.
  • How do we call such enhanced perception of of city silence? The amplification of silence? Is that even possible? or is just a paradox?
  • Early clouds are also beautiful. The aural and visual experience of dawn is soft, not as dramatic as de dusk. The beginning of the day is less intense in terms of colors. The frequencies of the beginning of the day bring pinker and whiter colors to the sky. The blue of the sky is also cleaner, like painted with pastel colors. The planet horizon feels cooler, colder.
  • Played videogames with my partner. We set up an X-box and projected the gameplay with a video beam. Realized one of the controls was damaged and makes playing very difficult.

Day 24 – April 4 – Saturday

  • Cook a variation of the BLT sandwich with an egg.
  • Read PDK´s The Hood Maker.
  • We cook a version of Brazilian feijoada, with chorizo santarosano and Italian bacon.
  • Discovered the work of film maker and photographer Abbas Kairostami. Watched 24 Frames experimental film.
  • Had a grocery stroll with several detours. Wanted to enter the 24 hour super market but the long line outside discouraged me.
  • Watched Agnes Varda’s film Vagabond.

Day 25 – April 5- Sunday

  • Woke up late.
  • Cook a “Chapin” breakfast, a typical Guatemalan breakfast. For the first time we did the second and third phase in the cycle of beans. The colado and volteado beans (re-fried) process was successful. The breakfast included re-fried beans (volteados), plantain, cheese, and egg.
  • Listened to Pixinghinha records the whole morning and part of the afternoon while doing some readings for a research project on disinformation and elections in Colombia.
  • Practiced yoga again after several days. The injury on my left hand forced me to pause my daily yoga routine. Returning to the exercises was great. I enjoyed every move and posture. We had a group of 4 flies in the apartment that entered the place during the morning while all the windows remained opened. While doing the yoga exercises I enjoyed contemplating the dance of the flies in the living room.
  • Four flies entered the apartment and randomly moved through the living and dining room. They moved frantically, chaotically, without any giving path. They danced at the living room touching each other, flying in loops, kissing, and bouncing in many directions. They seemed to spend so much energy that at the end of the afternoon they have vanished. Perhaps they were just resting. It was a relief to notice they have stopped their random flights.
  • Cooked chicken “tinga” with a very rich chipotle sauce.
  • The sunset was beautiful. With clouds expanding across the horizon, in layers, as if they were long waves of an ocean, that turned out orange and red as the sun submerged in the Western mountains. Before the sunset we spotted one huge mountain on the West. It turned out that mountain was the Nevado del Ruiz. First time we have seen it from Bogota.
  • Went to the groceries. The closer neighborhood groceries closed early and had to go to the 24 hours super market. The line for entering was not as big as yesterday and I decided to make it. Waited for 20 minutes that seemed to be like an hour. The line didn’t move. Lost of bicycles and motorcycles parked in front of the supermarket. The delivery workers, the majority from Rappi, hanged in front of the story. Many men asking for money and help were also hanging around the entrance of the super market.
  • Watched the animated film J’ai perdu mon corps (I Lost My Body) directed by Jeremy Caplin and based in Guillaume Laurant’s novel Happy Hand. The story and aesthetics have powerful surrealist influences. Taking advantages of the animation medium the film explores absurd and parallel stories, mixing dreams with reality and fantasy.

Day 26 – April 6 – Monday

  • Prepared radish and chile pickles following a Korean recipe.
  • Went outside for buying some groceries.
  • The Holy Week (Easter holidays) just started. A time of rest and reflection disrupted by the quarantine.
  • Watched film The City of Lost Children directed by directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Loved the story and expressionist cinematography.
  • Colombian president announced the quarantine and lock-down that originally were set until April 13 has been extended until April 27.

Day 27 – April 7 – Tuesday

  • Learned about “educomunicación,” the approach from Latin America to media literacies. This approach and movement has a long history that goes back to Paulo Freire and other intellectuals from South America that emphasized the link between critical education, literacy and communication.
  • Worked on research projects.
  • Had a project video conference meeting.
  • Went out to buy groceries.
  • Spotted the Nevado del Tolima from the window of studio, southern than the Nevado del Ruiz we have seen on Sunday. Many Bogotanians shared images of the Nevado del Ruiz on social media, creating lots of discussion about its beauty. The discussion of air quality found with these images and views evidence about the impact of air pollution in the well being of Bogotanians. Air is invisible, difficult to see. Measuring its quality requires sensors and data that opens a microscopic world that is difficult to understand for the everyday person.

Day 28 – April 8 – Wednesday

  • Had 2 video conference meetings.
  • Working on research projects
  • Did yoga routine at home.
  • Bogota’s Major announced new policy for going out, in which depending of the day people from male or female gender can be outside for buying groceries, going to banks, to the doctor, etc. According to the major, this strategy for limiting social distance, even more, is easier to enforce that the policy that restrict mobility according to the number of the national ID.

Day 29 – April 9 – Thursday

  • Woke up late.
  • Lazy day.
  • Finishing reading the Polarization y Posconflicto book. The chapters that explain the role of the Uribismo and Centro Democrático in the political polarization of Colombia in recent times make sense, and provide some useful insights and hypothesis to think about disinformation during election campaigns.
  • Rested, read, listened to music and cook meals.
  • Watched two films by Abbas Kairostami: the documentary “Homework” and the film “Traveler.” Both films are about boys and schools.

Day 30 – April 10 – Friday

  • Worked at home.
  • Listened to Bach passions and Steve Reich music.
  • Wanted to go out but realized that according to the new Bogota’s policy that restrict people from female or male genders I could not go out on an even day.
  • Started to watch Kairostami´s Koker Trilogy. The first film, Where do my friend live? is about a boy that tries to return a notebook to his classmate. It is a story of friendship and struggle for exercising agency in a world dominated by adults.
  • Cooked pizza from scratch, making the dough with yeast and flour, mixing it, and letting grow for a couple of hours. Then kneading the dough, adding tomato sauce and toppings. It was delicious and we enjoyed the pizza making process.
pizza making process

Day 31 – April 11 – Saturday

  • Woke up late and had Colombian tamal tolimense for breakfast. The tamal, in the mini-suculento version that Carulla supermaket sells, is delicious.
  • Experimented with a tea infusion of calendula, anise and cidron. Very soft and comforting drink.
  • Went for a walk in search of groceries. Found several stores and markets closed early because of the holidays. That fact forced me to extend my expedition and explore the neighborhood up the hill until I found an open store. Waited in line until the door man allowed me to enter. There is a policy in stores and markets that limits the number of people inside the business.
  • Watched Kariostami`s second and third film from the Koker Trilogy: And Life Goes On, and Through the Olive Trees.

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