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The First Supermarket Trip After 18.5 Days At Home

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We are in a brave new world, and journaling about this pandemic-quarantine experience is helping me get through the long days. Some days we are motivated. Other days, less so.  The only way forward is by going through it. I posted this journal entry on my Facebook wall on April 1, 2020. I wanted to share it here, too. Courage, everyone!

Today, I ventured outside and went to the local supermarket.

Surreal. Weird. Unsettling. Calm. Resilient. Tense. Distant. Communal. Uncertain. All of these sensations hit me at different moments as I walk through the empty streets.

I smile big with my eyes (my face mask covering my real smile) as I push the shopping cart a safe distance around other shoppers, hoping to convey strength and solidarity to my neighbors.

18.5 days at home, respecting the government’s call for self-responsibility and quarantine. So much has happened here–and everywhere–since March 13, when I was last outside. It’s hard to know how to act, what to say, and what to do.

A rush of excitement floods me when I see nearly all of the shelves filled with food. Then, there’s the sudden surprise of spotting a pallet-worth of neatly stacked five-kilo bags of flour; I had hoped to buy two one-kilo packages so I could make pancakes over the weekend and next weekend, too. I gently place one five-kilo bag–one was plenty– into my cart, daydreaming about homemade pizza dough and the smell of fresh baked bread.

I brush aside the moment of disappointment when I see that yeast was missing from store’s current inventory. I recover quickly with the thought of making yeast-free Indian-style rotis and other unleavened treats still worthy of my time and attention.

I switch gears, and land on the sensation of gratitude.

Using my superpower ESP (extra-sensory perception), I send thank yous to everyone who helped keep this supermarket well-stocked––from the people who made and packaged the food to the truck drivers who delivered the cartons to everyone working here so I can feel safe at home with a full fridge.

Struggling to keep my plastic gloves on my sweating hands and talk through the face mask now fogging my glasses, I offer the woman at the cash register a family-size chocolate bar, dark chocolate with hazelnuts. “This is for you. It’s a small thank you for the work you are doing on the front line, for helping us. Thank you for being here,” I say in muffled Catalan.

She smiles big with her eyes. I imagine her smile under her mask. Understandably, she declines the small token of appreciation. The circumstances are too odd to be normal. “Thank you so much. Thank you for thinking of me, for thinking of us,” she says. “It’s okay working here. What I want most is that you and your family stay healthy. That’s my gift to you.”

I bring my hands into prayer position, and slightly bow my head, whispering Namaste in her direction. I add her to the list of people I will forever carry in my heart, and remind myself how we are all in this together, and together is the only way to keep moving forward.

P.S. I don’t have any photos of me masked up or at the supermarket, but here are photos of what we bought and washed before it entered our house.

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Every evening at 8 p.m., many people, us included, in Catalonia open their windows and stand on their balconies. We clap, bang pots and pans, play music or make cheering noises. We are applauding the day’s efforts of the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and all the first-line responders in the pandemic’s quarantine.  It’s our small way of being together, and helping each other get through these uncertain times.

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