Zigzagging around a virus
A stopover in Florence to visit David…
February 12, 2022
A Saint in our midst
March 8, 2022

Amazingly, it appeared the Covid virus simply leap-frogged over our little town and set up camp in other areas.  Since arriving here the end of last summer, I had heard of not a single case of the virus in our town.  Even the numbers in surrounding towns were always so low we were never overly concerned for our safety.  Being fully vaccinated, boosted, and constantly masked, we felt we were relatively safe in both traveling around Italy and going to language school locally.  After all, with Italy’s high vaccination percentage, its rigid mask rule, and strict green pass requirements, it seemed everything that could be done was being done…and with good results.

But that was about to quickly change.

We returned from our Christmas trip to northern Italy to find the virus numbers in our area had skyrocketed in the week we were away.  So much so that daily life took a quick U-turn.  With so many ill, stores, offices, and schools cut hours or simply did not open.  The numbers kept climbing, and when it looked as though our school wouldn’t reopen for a while, they attempted holding online classes, but the results were abysmal.  My husband and I were the only ones who logged on and stayed for the entire class.  One other student logged in for a few minutes but then left.  I applaud the school’s attempt to hold classes online but, I sincerely doubt most of their students have access to computers or the internet.  Our teacher would send me photos of exercises to do, and I would return photos of my completed work for her to grade.  After several weeks, the school reopened with even more rigid daily virus screening in place.  The classroom windows were thrown open every few hours for ventilation and all surfaces were disinfected before class and during break time with a vile smelling concoction that we were seriously concerned would kill us as well as any virus. Even so, we still didn’t think it wise to put our health in jeopardy, so we stayed at home monitoring the numbers until they had dropped significantly.  This meant we didn’t return to school for a month.

There were other disturbing signs of the escalating virus:  stores were open only a few hours or not at all, the price of an N95 face mask dropped like a stone overnight from 1.5 euro to .29 euro, an ambulance appeared in front of our apartment for the elderly lady living next door……

We monitored the virus in our area daily, waiting for the day we would see the numbers start to drop.  To ride a school bus every day and be near so many people was simply ‘playing with fire’.  So, we stayed at home and spent every morning studying our lessons so we wouldn’t fall behind.  It was hard staying at home.  We missed language school, of course, but what we really missed was our daily routine: getting up, having breakfast, walking to the bus stop, riding through the mountain towns, walking a mile to school, spending five hours learning Italian, then reversing all the above.  It’s tiring, yes, but there is a huge feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day.  And at our age, I’m most grateful we can do it day after day.  Our stamina has increased to the point it astounds me, and great stamina is what we most need when we are traveling.

As the numbers start to decline, we observe a slight shift toward recovery in these small towns.  But at the same time, there are somber signs of how this stealth virus has left its mark.  Normally when there is a local death, a notice is posted alongside general information on community bulletin boards located on a city’s main streets.  Since there’s no city newspaper, these boards are a perfect way to keep up on current affairs.  Before this latest surge, you might see one or sometimes two death notices amid all the other info, but now these boards are completely covered with obituary notices and, in some cases, utility boxes, and even the curbstones are used for additional display space.

NEXT UP:  ….A Saint in our midst!

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Ann Kucera is a freelance writer living and enjoying life with her husband in southern Italy