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“Quarantine Diaries,” by David Garyan (Day 6)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 6 March 20th, 2020

Trento, Italy

Patience and Time

It’s official—almost every major network like CNN, The NY Times, NPR, and The Guardian announced yesterday that Italy has surpassed China in the number of coronavirus deaths.

The most alarming thing in all this is probably the fact that Italy has about half the number of cases compared to China. Things are indeed getting worse and I don’t simply sense the tightening of restrictions by the sharp decrease in the number of people I encounter outside—no, the feeling that things aren’t taking a turn for the better was one I experienced first-hand last night, just after posting the latest diary entry.

Around 11:30 pm my brother and I decided to step out and take a short walk around our neighborhood, which is essentially a village—dead quiet. Less than a minute into our stroll, a police car approached and requested our documents; this time they let us go, but in a couple weeks or so I highly doubt that same scenario will have a similar ending. Suffice it to say—I’ve never seen a police car drive so far up Trento.

By now it’s become clear that running out of food is a blessing here because it means having to go outside. Today we needed more tomato sauce, chocolate, and vegetables so I left the house to get all these things; in the interest of taking a walk, I didn’t go to the small store near our house—no, I went to a big store in the city, and this is what I saw.

The picture doesn’t capture the entire line and there are at least fifteen people waiting to get in. Remember the one out one in policy mentioned in the last entry? I don’t know what the policy was here but it most likely would’ve taken forever to get in. Thus, I went to a smaller, less desirable store and luckily the coast was clear—a great sign that things still haven’t reached a crisis. No, people aren’t willing to eat anything just yet. Unlike in a war, demand for quality is still possible—not just demand for food.

Having picked up my average groceries, I headed to the counter. Sitting here, I still can’t quite tell whether this person is a cashier or a doctor. Let’s just call him a man I paid around thirty euros for decent groceries.

I left the store and began climbing the stairs towards Cavalcavia S. Lorenzo. On my way up, I saw what could only be a homeless man, arranging his dinner on a plastic bag and preparing to eat it. “Have a quarantine,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. Ah, to hell with it all for the thousandth time.

Just when things couldn’t get any stranger, I see the following while crossing the Adige at Ponte San Lorenzo. Forgive the poor directorial quality of this bad movie—I was holding two heavy bags full of groceries plus a backpack loaded with more groceries when I found myself right in the middle of 1984.

You don’t need much Italian to understand what’s being said, which basically amounts to: Stay inside—coronavirus. The bags in my hand are probably the reason I wasn’t stopped.

The realization that I can quit this country anytime and run back into the arms of Cheeto Jesus hit me right then; it didn’t last long, however. As the strange car departed and I put my phone away, I looked around and remembered just how much I love this country. Although Italians can be a touch conservative and judgmental at times, the people here have a zest for life that’s really only equaled by individuals from Central and South America—I miss the Mexicans, Brazilians, Guatemalans, and Salvadorians I knew in Los Angeles.

Yes, I miss the Americans from the neighboring continent—their food and their love of family, but most of all I’m nostalgic for their openness and generosity; that’s really the only thing pulling me back home—that and my own family. Everything else was smog, traffic, stress, and work; out of the four, the last is, unfortunately, something I couldn’t find much of back in the States. What I really regret from my time in the US is having had only the chance to visit Mexico, a land full of the most hospitable, friendly people. Yes, it’s a shame that I lived in the US without having really seen America.

I realized then: I am in Italy; here the people have the same passion for life and they’re capable of the same generosity. In terms of temperament, they’re not that different from Armenians—many even look so much alike that I want to approach them and speak in my native tongue, which I really know only a little better than Italian.

No, this is home and I’ll do whatever I can to stay here. Things will get better. Italy will recover; it’s only a question of whether I’m willing to wait for it. As Tolstoy said in War and Peace: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” I’m sure that Italy has both.

All the way from quarantined Italy: What I’ve said about Italy isn’t crazy, and after some time everyone will think like me.

Until next time.


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