Monday, October 5, 2020

Filipinos #CopingWithCovid - Tony Robles, North Carolina


The following is part of Cecilia Brainard's series, Filipinos Coping with Covid.

As of October 9, 2020, there are 36,625,213 confirmed Covid 19 cases worldwide, with 1.056,186 deaths. The US has 7,611,722 confirmed cases and 212,840 deaths. (source: John Hopkins University of Medicine).

Filipino American poet, Tony Robles shares with us the following. He had lived in San Francisco for decades but now lives in North Carolina. 

Covid-19:  An Encounter with a Bee during Quarantine

by Tony Robles

Copyright 2020 by Tony Robles.

It’s quarantine, shelter in place--the stay at home order. I am blessed to have a home as many do not. Don’t go outside we are warned, do not gather in large groups so as not to spread Covid-19, aka the Coronavirus. With this diktat comes an assortment of mixed messages. We are told not to wear protective masks then we are told to wear them. We are told that the droplets from a cough or sneeze can travel 6 feet and to give others that amount of "social distance" upon encountering them. Then I read in the Washington Post that the droplets can travel as far as 8 feet while other reports indicate the possibility that Covid-19 can be spread by particles emitted via the mouth during normal conversation. Regarding the spread via sneezing and coughing, I came across the term cough droplet ballistics, used to describe the endeavor of observing and measuring the length and trajectory of droplets emanating from a cough or sneeze. I also came across a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that referred to the very phenomenon of coughs and sneezes as violent expiratory events and the issuance of fluids thereof as multiphase turbulent buoyant clouds with suspended droplets of various sizes. I have always been cognizant of my coughing and sneezing in public, but not all people are. Given our pandemic and the careless coughers and sneezers among us, studies such as these should not go unnoticed. 

I try to use common sense, keeping my distance, not coughing or sneezing on or near my fellow human. I recently saw a video clip of a well known televangelist giving a sermon. He rebuked Covid-19, issuing a very strong and impassioned puff of air through puckered lips, asserting, "Covid-19, I blow the wind of God on you." What trajectory the wind travelled is not yet known; however, it has since been advised that particles from the mouth and/or nose can travel farther than the 6 feet that had been previously indicated by the CDC; that particles could perhaps travel 4 times that distance. As I watched the clip of the pastor, I felt a vague gush of air pass across my face . Not possible, I thought, as this was a video clip. But the winds of paranoia accrue in crisis and manifest itself in many ways. I hope someone can inform the good pastor of this before the next service. With information flying around—6 feet away and beyond-- I did the only sensible thing; I washed my hands at least 7-8 times using the CDC method. Handsanity informed by fear.

I listen to news reports at home. Yesterday’s news seems a lifetime away. News articles pop off like firecrackers as well as video clips claiming a cure and, of course, the belief that this is being caused by radiation from 5G towers A few weeks ago the situation seemed far away. People contracted the virus in Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain and other countries. The numbers of positive Covid-19 cases in the US grew and surpassed all countries. But somehow, in this corner of Western North Carolina it seemed as if that reality was over there, while we were over here. My morning routine is checking the news, checking the numbers of positive cases in my county. Not long ago we had less than 10 positive cases with no deaths. That number is climbing. As of today there are 99 positive cases and 6 deaths. This is small compared to New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US with 6 thousand new cases in the last 24 hours and over 104,000 confirmed cases. Detroit bus driver, Jason Hargrove was coughed on by a passenger and died the following week but not before posting an impassioned plea in a video clip lamenting that some among us--in spite of the pandemic--do not seem to care and implored people to be mindful. Grocery clerk Leilani Jordan of Maryland died after contracting the virus. Her shift involved serving seniors in their designated shopping hours. Leilani stayed on the job in order to serve the elderly customers despite the Covid-19 virus and despite having cerebral palsy. 2,200 people have died in nursing homes. This virus is hitting African Americans and Latinos disproportionately in many cities including New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit. People in detention centers and in correctional facilities have contracted the virus in crowded conditions with little or no protective gear. I sit at home and think of the virus as over there. I look outside at the red bud tree near my house. For the first time I notice it--really see it. I turn on the radio and hear the announcer’s voice say: Stay home, stay updated, stay isolated. The pandemic is happening over there and I realize that over there is over here.

I sit in my living room. I think of a conversation I had with my father the prior week. I never thought I’d experience anything like this in my lifetime, he said, adding, “When I was growing up there was polio but they knocked it out. Eisenhower had that.” “No, dad, It was Roosevelt” I say.

I feel soreness in my throat. Is it the virus? I hyperventilate, boil water for tea. I take a sip. No sore throat, whew! I look around my living room; isolated, knowing that many do not have this luxury. I look at the ceiling counting the specks in the overhead tiles where I see something hovering. I put on my glasses. It’s a bee. I am sheltering in place. How did a bee get in here? I grab a broom, lift it to the ceiling and swat at it. It hovered more eluding my awkward swipes. It spoke.

Bee: Man, put that broom down!

Me: How’d you get in here?

Bee: How do you think?  Through the front door.

Me: what do you want?

Bee: Hey, I’m looking to self isolate

Me: Why?

‘Bee: Have you heard of CCD?

Me: Yeah, that’s when you obsess over details and orderliness and—

Bee: you’re thinking OCD

Me: Sorry

Bee: Keeping talking like that and we’ll both get PTSD

Me: What’s CCD?

Bee: Colony Collapse Disorder.  We just disappear from the hive

Me: How?

Bee: Lots of reasons.  Parasites, pesticides, infections, viruses—the damn pesticides make us weak to survive some diseases.

Me: Tough break

Bee: You know it.  And toss in climate change and you have a train wreck.

As the bee spoke, it was conscientious, mindful to leave an ample amount of social distance between us.  It flew to my kitchen cabinet.

Bee: You got a lot of tuna in here, enough to last a few months.

Me: It’s bumble bee, you want some?

Bee:  Hell no, I ain’t no cannibal but I’m essential

Me: What about some fruit?

Bee: is it ripe?

Me: Yes

I sat while the bee chose a spot on the wall, taking in the surroundings.  The bee was a fan of oldies.  It wanted to hear that old song called “Buzz Buzz Buzz” by the Hollywood Flames.  We must have listened to it a half dozen times. Then I told it that I was passing the time renaming classic songs to give it a social distance twist.  He thought most of the titles were corny but he did take a liking to “Don’t put your hand in the hand of the man (who didn’t wash it)” and “Papa’s got a brand new mask.”  It felt good not to be alone. Then it asked.

Are you scared?

Me: Yes

Bee: I hear you.  I am too.

Me: The president says he wants us to go back to work.  But I think to myself—go back—go back to what?  I don’t want to go back to the same world.  This is an opportunity to change it.  We can’t go back to what it was before.  What it was before is why it is the way it is now, falling apart.

The bee hovered again, bequeathing more buzzes, establishing hovernance over my space to which it now belonged. It landed, this time closer to me.

I hear you, it said.

After a few minutes we put on that old song again and we laughed. We talked about the new world we wanted to go back to: a beautiful crazy new world. 

And the bee hovered towards the ceiling: buzz buzz buzz

© 2020 Tony Robles


 Read also:

Coronavirus: The Beginning, by Cecilia Brainard
How Filipinos Are Coping With Covid, Part One (Cecilia Brainard, Positively Filipino)
How Filipinos Are Coping With Covid, Part Two (C. Brainard, PF
How Filipinos Are Coping With Covid-19, Part Three (C.Brainard, PF)

Covid-19: An Encounter with a Bee During Quarantine

Interviews follow:
Lia Feraren, Germany
Teresa Concepcion, Canada
 Ofelia Gelvezon Tequi, France
Reine Marie Bonnie Melvin, France
New Zealand: Jay Montilla & Monika Tawngdee
Linda Ty-Casper, Massachusetts, USA
Barbara Ann Jacala, San Diego, CAUSA
Brian Ascalon Roley, Ohio, USA
Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino, USA
Interview of Cecilia Brainard by 95.9 Star FM Bacolod (DJ Billie), USA

Interviews of Filipino Americans #CopingWithCovid

All of the above links are part of the Philippine Covid Archive of Filipinas Heritage Library.

tags: #coronavirus #covid19 #covid #Filipinos #copingwithcovid #Paris #France #Europe #FilipinoFrench #FrenchFilipino #FilipinoAmerican #Bacolod #Philippines

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