In response to David's recent email inquiring as to how Italian co-author Luciana and her family are doing during this pandemic time, Luciana, at home in Taviano, sent us the following email:
"My family is okay, brother and sister-in-law still going to work. Elisa and Gabriele [niece and nephew], at home but very busy with video lessons from their teachers in the morning, exercise, housework and homework in the afternoons. Then, when their parents are at home, they have a nice schedule of table games, card games and contests, huge jigsaws, paint by numbers and, like most people around here, cooking, baking and eating. I don't get to see them much. Sometimes when I have to go out for some necessary errand, I drive by their home, call them and we wave hello from a distance.
For myself, quarantine is not particularly hard to respect. The main difference is I don't go to school. We chose Microsoft Teams as a means to interact with each other and with our classes. I have 15 hours of e-lessons a week, and I must say that it is working pretty fine with me and my students. Before everything was set, I kept in contact with them by setting up class-groups on WhatsApp. But the only way to reach our students in the first week or so was the school website and kids felt very lonely and upset. Students behave surprisingly well when using apps, way better than their usual selves at school. I guess they are suddenly brought (awoken) to realize what a privilege school is....and a lot of other things we all are rediscovering and putting in their right places in the list of priorities in life.
I go out about once a week and only to nearby shops and pharmacies. Here in Taviano, as of today, we are still untouched (0 cases). Other towns near here have a couple each with the exception of clusters originating in and around hospitals and elderly care homes. People here in the South have so far managed to keep contagion at bay, but it's getting increasingly hard as the weather is getting hotter, small farms need to be taken care of (no, we can't go to our gardens, even though they are in the territory of the same town). Moreover, I'm afraid that it won't be long before people who earn their bread doing odd jobs or small farming, or any of the activities which are on lockdown as non-essential, will decide that they'd rather risk dying from the Covid-19 than surely starving with their families.
In our towns, dozens of shops and restaurants manage to work a bit by offering a delivery service, but there are too many businesses which are totally quiet (flower producers, for one). There are a lot of initiatives organized by associations or by the town administration aiming to provide some relief to those in direst need. So far, I have taken some primary goods to an association because the town administration was only available for collecting stuff in the mornings and I was busy with my lessons.
Yesterday (we are on Easter holidays, which feels surreal) I went to the Palazzo Marchesale (right where we gave our book readings three years ago) to hand out some food and some stuff for children and there was a loooooong queue of people (1 meter away from each other, they reached St.Martin's Square...dozens of them, people I know from buying from them, having things fixed by them, hiring them for farming jobs) in line to pick up essential items and food from the room opposite the one where I was to leave my stuff. I swear. one of the ugliest, most heartbreaking things of my life.
On a lighter note, those who can live through the confinement with not much worry, are all dedicating their time to the two most Italian of things: cooking and music, pestering our social networks with photos of their dishes (the most wanted item in shops these days is fresh beer yeast, as everyone is baking their own bread, biscuits, pizza, focaccia, pucce, and cakes of all sorts), their home-made pasta fresca and lately, their typical Easter time food: basket-shaped, doll-shaped, rooster-shaped sweet bread with a hard boiled egg inside; or lambs made of pasta reale, a sort of marzipan, stuffed with grape jam or chocolate cream.
The first two weeks had a lot of music as well: flash mobs where people would stand at their doors, windows or balconies and sing or play any instruments they had (including pan lids).
It was very nice and heartwarming I must say...but then, given the number of casualties, we were advised to keep a more sober attitude.
I hope the sacrifices we are doing all over the world will produce a flattening of the curve soon....and that we are given back our old lives, which, I'm sure, we are all learning to value in a novel way. Hugs and kisses, Luciana
PS Here's some music from Italy too: Europa In Canto (700 school children performing via WhatsApp) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSWmikiJVIQ"