Road Trip 2020, Day Seven

there is no escape here.

only evasion.

it’s up this curvy road packed with hill after horse-country hill,

packed with perfect fences and horses whipping their tails,

with cars zooming past, some honking at my hugging-the-shoulder presence as i pedal



past these race-won mansions,

these stacked-limestone walls that can’t trap me in or out,

into the sunny, humid heat of midday Kentucky,

so far from home, so far from home,

so near to everything that is hard and easy, up and down these endless hills

in a circle that isn’t a circle.

Coronatine, Day Seventy-one (Breaking of the Fast)

Just before the rain, we finished planting all the seeds. Pumpkin and yellow squash, red peppers and zucchini, cucumbers and cilantro.

I am so grateful for this downpour because it’s been a dry month, in more ways than one, for me. A year ago, when Muslim students spilled into my room at lunch to be far away from food during Ramadan, I decided to fast with them. I never told them that I rose before dawn to scarf down overnight oatmeal, avocados, and watermelon, that I drank two giant glasses of water to sustain myself for a busy day at school. I never told them, and they never asked, why I wasn’t eating either. But they would sit in my room and talk about the special meals their mothers would be preparing for that night’s Iftar. They would chat with each other, asking about when the next prayer time would be or what math homework they needed to do before that evening’s visit to the mosque.

There was a safety in that space, my classroom at lunch, the lights off, the sun streaming in through the cracks of the shades. There was no space for judgment or smells of others’ meals, and we were like friends, my students and me.

I cannot replicate it now, and I will never be a religious person, and quarantine is hard enough, but I decided to fast for the thirty days of Ramadan this year anyway. Why would I put myself through such torture when no one in my house would, when we’re already giving up so much right now, when I’m surrounded by a kitchen and pantry packed with food?

And what would anyone think, really, this stupid white girl appropriating another’s culture?

I didn’t talk about it with anyone outside of my family, really.  A couple of friends. I wasn’t sure if I should say anything at all, out of respect, but I saw this article in the Washington Post and I felt better, six days into my decision.

Being at home has its benefits. I burn so many more calories at school, walking from desk to desk, from my classroom to the printer to the copier, to the bathroom, to the office for meetings, to chat with colleagues in other rooms. At home, I can sit on my couch with my puppy and listen to an audiobook and cross-stitch for hours. A few times I even took a nap, though I’m terrible at taking naps.

I barely slept for the past thirty days. Too much goes on in my house that is difficult for me to control right now. Everyone is in one mode or another of depression and anxiety because of this virus that is a weight on all of our lives, because of not wanting to or feeling comfortable about being at home with each other (rather than friends), because I was so stressed about my husband losing his job, and even once he miraculously got a new job in the midst of a pandemic, there was a lingering sense of remorse for all the worry I had wasted for three months.

So rising at 4:30 with my alarm barely happened. Most of the time my eyes popped open around 4:00, just when the birds started their pre-dawn chatter. My puppy thought I was so crazy that he didn’t even beg for bits of food or lick my plate, but rather sullenly remained sleeping on the couch until I roused him for our singular long walk, the only time I would have enough energy to walk 2-3 miles.

Because one thing I have learned about not eating or drinking even a sip of water for 14-15 hours is that it is the most exhausting thing I can imagine experiencing. By 6:00pm, I’d be shaky and loopy, trying to fix dinner with one of the kids. By 7:00, I’d be shaky and loopy with anticipation, so excited for the sweet taste of juice that I rarely drink but have enjoyed for the past month, for whatever concoction we were throwing together for that night’s meal, whether it simply be hot dogs and broccoli or fried chicken and fries.

It’s incredible how amazingly cool and refreshing that first sip of ice-cold juice is, that first bite of food that you want to hold in your mouth and allow your whole body to feel its nourishment. And after a few drinks and a few sips, despite being so starving, I’d feel full, yet still so exhausted that it wouldn’t be long before I’d crawl into bed, ready to begin again tomorrow.

It’s funny how the body works. How the mind works. How hard it was, day after day, wishing it would be over, wishing the new moon would come in its crescent beauty, wondering why I would choose to do this.

I saw so many perfect sunrises.

I spoke to my children with tears in my eyes and a shaky voice many times. There was a weakness there, an inability to scream or argue, that didn’t exist before.

I thought about my Muslim students, so isolated, not in my classroom avoiding the cafeteria, but at home in crowded apartments and small houses, avoiding the world.

I slowed down. For me, this was the hardest part. Giving up food and water was nothing compared to not being able to pull every weed, plant every seed, ride my bike up and down every last hill, walk the dog until blisters appeared on my toes. But sometimes it’s better to just stop for a moment, to let the world continue its craziness around you, to rest your eyes and your heart, trying to see the spinning from a place that is still.

Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, I made it through thirty of seventy-one days of quarantine without food or drink. And last night’s enchiladas and Libyan honeycomb bread, this morning’s strawberry-rhubarb pie and ice cream, this afternoon’s bike ride with my boys…

They tasted sweeter than you could ever imagine. Like winning the lottery of luck that is my life (because it is). Like putting that first bite in your mouth after a month of fasting, only that bite is Pure. Gratitude.

Because nothing in this life is more precious than what we love, what we long for. A taste. A drink. A relationship with our students, our families, our friends.

And in thirty days, you can truly taste how much joy longing can bring.


Coronatine, Day Forty-eight (Time for Pupusas)

if i just listen

i can gather up his words

thick as pupusas

in between masa

filled with all that he has lost

yet still hopes to gain

(i cannot fill them.

my love will not be enough.

but now we have time.)

quarantined time

to wait for flowers to grow.

to cook together.

it is a gift, life.

(even when the batter breaks

we learn to make more.)

Coronatine, Day Thirty-one (10×5)

Not gonna lie, this is getting harder day by day. But here are today’s ten things I love about you, Coronatine.

  1. Snow. Say what you will about snow in April, but just listen to this video. All you will hear is… the soft sound of snow and some birds. No traffic. The world is so quiet right now, as if it needed a rest.
  2. With a quiet world in quarantine, it is nice to see reports of how much air pollution has decreased throughout the world. Being able to see the Himalayas. The air quality in Chinese cities improving. Even NYC has much clearer air. Maybe this quarantine will give us an idea of how much we really should cut back; that we can survive on much less and still have a good life. And we can actually try to save the Earth we have been destroying for so long.
  3. Fabian has not been very motivated to learn English or to watch the videos online. But he finally came upstairs and sat with me for an hour, reading a whole passage in English about Ramadan, answering questions, and really understood a lot. It was a major breakthrough, and I hope we can continue this every day.
  4. Even though they bitterly argued with me yesterday about having to do so, all the girls did get up at 8:30 today as I asked. I want to have some semblance of a routine, and sleeping till noon is not working for our family.
  5. Speaking of the girls, I allowed Izzy to take Riona to the pet store to get things from the pet store for her new cat, and Izzy took her to Chik-Fil-A as well. They both agreed to wear the masks (finally!) though I need to encourage Izzy to wear hers the right way.
  6. A friend of mine suggested a Yes Day for each kid to choose something that everyone in the family has to participate in. I met with the kids yesterday, and they agreed. So we’re having our first event tonight, organized by Riona: Monopoly!
  7. My Newcomers have consistently logged into my office hours every day. Almost every student. They love seeing each other’s faces, talking over each other, and just being their crazy selves. My paras have also both been logging on, and I review each day’s work and they help translate. It takes a village!
  8. Bruce didn’t have to work today since he works this Saturday, so he’s making meatloaf tonight, everyone’s favorite!
  9. Social media. Say what you will… but can you imagine being stuck in quarantine during the 80s? With nothing on TV, no internet, and no one to communicate with? Social media allows an escape, but it also allows a connection. I use it for news updates more than anything else (I probably read 20 articles a day from news agencies I follow or that my friends post), I connect with others (even got a phone call from someone I haven’t talked to in ten years based on something I’d posted!), and I think it can add a personal relevance to what is happening. For example, one of my high school friends lives in Queens, so she is at the epicenter of the NYC nightmare right now. It’s good to hear her first-person account. My college roommate lives in Wisconsin and experienced having her ballot not counted in that primary fiasco. Another high school friend lives in Canada and verified the tweet about actually applying for and receiving help, within two days, from the government.  Social media allows you to see the human connection behind the news stories. And… I love the memories feature on Facebook. Since I post every day, I have memories going 10 years back. I love seeing pics of my girls and me on a farm in the Netherlands, skiing, riding bikes, or even a regular old Monday when we made waffle sandwiches! And my girls would feel even lonelier without their social media connections. As much as we hate it, this is a time to be grateful for it.
  10. To go hand in hand with social media, just being able to connect with the world in unique way and to EXPOSE EVERYONE who is not helping us get out of this horrible situation… I think it’s a good thing. Social media has led to an increased awareness of all different types of people in the world, and has allowed people to read more firsthand accounts of their experiences with world events, and I do think change WILL HAPPEN once this is over. So, number ten for today comes back to hope. We just have to have hope.