INDIAN LOCK-DOWN

If you think there are challenges at home, picture social-distancing in a country with over a billion people.

India has many memories for me, one of the most vivid is what seemed to be a totally eccentric sense of spatial awareness! To the extent that, in my favourite state, a burn on the ankle from a motorbike exhaust is known as a Goan Kiss!

Much of my travel in India was for work. Experiences in Goa, however, were driven by my engagement in the early years of Western yoga.

It may seem bizarre – to travel to India to be taught to salute the sun by someone from, say, Brighton. But western bodies need western sensibilities. Our hips don’t open the same way as most Indians, our backs are stiffer, and so on.

I was brought to memories of India earlier this week. During my shopping mission to the local Waitrose I chanced upon papaya fruit and mangoes. In Goa they used to say (with a wobble of the head) “Mangoes coming, tourists going.” The arrival of these fruits marked the start of the hot season; the beginning of the build-up to the Monsoon; the return of Westerners in time for spring at home.

But this year, many are stuck.

The travelling community in Goa is of course international, but it is dominated by visitors from Israel, Russia, mainland Europe and Britain.

Many have now been airlifted home. Not so the British writes veteran Yoga teacher Jane Sleven on her Facebook page.

“I’m on a small gated compound with pretty gardens and a pool (we’re not swimming, but we’re walking round it for exercise),” she writes. “We’re all helping each other. Many of us are friends with Goan locals.

“We feel safe, we have food, water, and we’re all healthy. I’m on several WhatsApp groups where we exchange advice, updates, support and encouragement. “

But she says that it’s not the case for many British holiday makers, who have been blissfully unaware of the growing global panic about Coronavirus and had therefore not many any plans.

Most are staying in humble guest houses without cooking facilities or fridges, so with the closure of the shops, markets and restaurants they are left very exposed.

“These people have been very ill equipped to cope with the scenario that has developed.” Says Jane, “they are short of food & other essentials and are of course very distressed.

“Humanitarian flights from Israel, Russia, Germany, the US  and other countries have taken many back to their home countries.

“Not so the UK – who’ve done nothing!!”

Stranded UK nationals are firing off emails to Foreign and Commonwealth office and the offices of the politicians in the hope they may be returned home soon.

Jane, however, is happy to stay. She says at her age she would feel safer staying in India than risking long transit delays and self-quarantine on return to the UK.

“After 20 years of annual long stays in India, 12 in Goa, I feel extremely grateful and privileged to be here,” she says. “I’m missing my family and friends but I am hugely reassured to know they’re all safe & well.”

So as I sign off this blog from the global pandemic I am minded to paraphrase some lines from a Buddhist meditation. For all at home and overseas at this time: “May you be well, may you live free from fear, may you be filled with loving kindness”

HG/31/3/20

#underthemask

 

 

 

PANDEMIC IN PERU

If you’re going to be locked down anywhere there may be fewer more interesting places to choose than Peru – but lock-down is lock-down, no matter how breathtaking the scenery and charismatic the people.

I have been watching with interest the journey of drummer and musician Aaron Meli on facebook in recent days.

He is a frequent traveller in the Andes and man of great charm.

He speaks with huge fondness for the Peruvian people and the welcome they generally extend.

But fear is gripping the country and it’s having its effect.

Writing on DAY 9 of the Peruvian lockdown Aaron said that a normally friendly country had become quite hostile.

“Today I cycled from Pisac to Lamay,” he wrote, “which is a 14 km ride one way.

“I sneezed whilst riding my bike and got the stinkeye from the a local couple who started to question where my mask was (it was in my pocket whilst I was riding).”

Then when he got back to town, having done his shopping he sat on the riverbank drinking water and eating cacao as the police walked by.

“We were shouted at by a local couple peering over the fence,” he said, “‘ get out of here, we don’t want your virus’ they hollered.

“I’ve always found Peruvian people very friendly but I’m starting to feel the heat of being a gringo here right now.”

And he’s not alone.

A recent article in the Boston Herald told the story of two 28 year olds, also stuck in Peru.

Nick Terzian and his friend Stephen Loder are reporting a strict curfew where the police are raiding hostels and confiscating alcohol.

“We all would like to be home and be near our loved ones,” Terzian told the Herald in a series of email exchanges from his hotel in Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes.

“This country, I think, made one of the more aggressive moves quickly.” Terzian told the Herald in a series of emails from his hotel in Cusco. “It went from bars and restaurants open to having the military/police in the street not allowing people outside.”  It’s an approach that has kept the virus’ impact on the country very small so far.

“We’re not on vacation here anymore — we’re just stuck inside the same way a huge portion of the world population is at this exact moment. The biggest difference is that we’re quarantined 4,000 miles from home, without a clear idea of how or when we’ll get back,” said Loder.

Of course, we will come through the pandemic. What is not yet clear os what will have changed.

Some things will have altered for the good. Maybe we will be more reserved and conservative.

But even in the midst of the the biggest social and health challenge in living memory we are still finding some joy. Picture the pleasure behind the photograph of Aaron Melismas, on the back of a Lama with a fellow musician… bizarre, and heart-warming!

If you have experiences of the pandemic to share contact us at hello@griot.co.uk

#underthemask

Africa and the virus

So far the continent of Africa has got off lightly in terms of numbers of cases of  COVID-19 – but how long will it last?

The most recent figures we have seen here at Griot Creative suggest the virus has now been confirmed in 39 of Africa’s 54 countries. There were just over 2,500 cases by this weekend – tiny, compared to the population of 1.2 billion (data from Kasi Insight).

But, imagine the impact if the virus takes hold in the way we have seen in Italy or New York. Africa’s health provision is creaking in most countries. If Coronavirus sweeps across the continent it could be devastating.

So in the first of our blog posts from Africa  we thought we would take a look at the impact so far in Kenya – a country I should have been landing in today, for a conference with the British Ambassador, to discuss the future of media in the country.

Our man in the country is Eric Kimori has a rational view of the pandemic panic that is bubbling. But, he says, leadership is being shown and the population is responding.

“President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy have volunteered to take an 80% drop in salary for the duration of the situation,” writes Eric, “cabinet secretaries, speakers of the National Assembly and governors will take a 30% pay cut

“It may seem like a drop in the ocean, but the savings could purchase valuable drugs and other necessities in the country’s response to the pandemic.”

But it’s more than just political leadership that’s needed. And already the community response is overwhelming. In a sprawling slum on the outskirts of Nairobi a local youth centre Mathare One Stop is setting up public hand-washing areas (pictured below) and is delivering training on best practice for prevention of the spread of the virus

Across the country in Vihiga County the community development NGO Christian Partners Development Association is finding it very difficult to continue to support the most vulnerable members of society.

“Most of our programmes are highly interactive, whereby we meet our target beneficiaries in the field mostly through our advocacy, awareness creation and development implementation work,” says the organisation’s CEO Alice Kirambi.

Although the government has avoided a total lock down of the country, it has warned of such future measures.”

In fact the country has launched a curfew this weekend, restricting movement of people between 7pm and 5am.

As CPDA  works at the heart of gender rights and social inclusion it makes it very difficult to function.

Africa is nothing if not a continent of innovation and resilience. Of course it is hoped that the current low number of incidents will continue, but if there is a significant rise, the spirit of the people will once again rise to meet the challenge.

Under the Mask

 

As a planet we are all experiencing something momentous that will have lasting change.

Griot is used to working and documenting stories from around the world. We now need your help to do this, as we too are having to retreat for the coming weeks.

What is going on for you and your community? What are the positive, emergent aspects of the social isolation we now find ourselves in? Have you a story to tell about community cohesion, family togetherness or acts of human kindness?

We would love to hear from you and share your experience. You can do this

  • in writing (250 words max plus one photograph)
  • with an image
  • a poem
  • a piece of music or
  • in a short video (1min).

‘We are the sum of the stories we tell ourselves’- how would you like your journey through the coronavirus experience to be remembered?

Email us here: hello@griot.co.uk
#underthemask