• Liz Lopez

Lockdown in Barbados

The streets are quiet like they were in March, an eerie silence blanketing the neighborhood. Barely any cars on the road, empty parking lots, no hustle and bustle, and no playdates with friends at the beach until at least March 1st. We’re 14 days into the lockdown that began February 3rd and it was just extended through the 28th as opposed to the initial two weeks. Prime Minister Mia Mottley indicated the country is financially strong enough to remain locked down for the time being, so who knows what our COVID-y future holds. With school open at home, our patience is respectful but running thin. Many of us on New Year's Eve hoped they’d do a full lockdown sooner, on January 1st when our initial curfew was introduced, and avoid this predictable set of increased restrictions over the winter months.

Instead, we’ll have spent 8 weeks with no evenings past 9 or 7 pm, no karaoke with Jerry and Blossom, no birthday party for Penny, no celebrating Lopez’s birthday with dinner or friends. What I wouldn't give to enjoy karaoke with our friends on the beach, enjoying the amazing winter breeze we get every night now!

The babies have been out of school for longer than they were in at Wills Primary, their Christmas break beginning December 10th after just 5 weeks of school there. They participated in online learning for about a week before we pulled the plug, first 'taking a break from class' until we officially unenrolled them in school. Their places may be taken, but we’re hedging our bets that parents aren’t suddenly interested in enrollment during a lockdown. I straight up asked for some of my money back from the Capital Contribution. I understand they’re a business and need to make money; but on the flip side, as Welcome Stampers, our sole purpose was for kid socialization and those needs simply weren't being met. If we were permanent residents, I’d happily be contributing to my community and investing in my kid's future; but as it stands, we paid $3200+ USD for their school year which lasted approximately 5 weeks. Wills is one of the most expensive Primary Schools on the island (so I hear).

Miss Mendes, the secretary, didn’t address my request for a refund but did offer to reduce our tuition to that of locals. I politely declined and have heard nothing since, which is ok; I know we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have.

The transition was rough at first when we learned that they wouldn’t be returning to class on January 4th. Over the past six weeks, the days have mostly gotten easier. Callen has stopped asking me to play with him every fifteen minutes as they acclimate to life at home while mommy and daddy work. The routine is nearly set, with breakfast and morning tv followed by getting dressed, brushing their teeth, making their bed, and opening their curtains. After that their time is spent either playing games together, doing crafts or an activity book we brought from home, some ABC Mouse, or Epic read-aloud books. They also get scheduled ‘gym time’, which is either riding their new skateboards around the house, the back porch, the street behind us, or more often, just climbing the mango tree in the back, playing monkey vs jaguar.

They know what to do when I say I’m on a call for the next hour and consistently find a way to have fun. Most of their Christmas gifts were things to do together, intentionally independent of adult intervention, like Paw Patrol Trouble and Snakes and Ladders. I didn’t anticipate Callen playing these games alone every day, taking turns playing for himself and whoever it is he’s decided to 'play against’, but such is life. I’ve given up suggesting solo activities, as he politely declines "No thank you Mommy" and insists he prefers Paw Patrol Trouble by himself.

PS - this schedule works about 70% of the time, and the rest is hour to hour with so much coffee and a parental rotation.

Since the latest round of lockdown, Lopez has been taking them to the beach in the morning since it’s open for exercise, with immediate family, from 6-9. Since he can start as late as 10, it’s a nice way for them to spend their mornings together and I get a good chunk of my day completed in peace while sipping my coffee in the quiet house. When they arrive home, they always need to do an extra dry/rinse/dry because White Sands' sand literally sticks to our bodies (this is not the case at every beach). From scalp to toes, there is always a pile of sand that needs to be swept after. I thought I swept our kitchen at home a lot, but I’ll never complain about it again after sweeping up sand day in, day out.

My head was in a weird place the first few days of lockdown and it’s been a solid mix of positivity, frustration, crying, and enjoyment since (to name just a few). We left our family, literally our entire network and life, to live amongst people in relative safety from COVID- but it feels like March all over again. Except for this time, after shedding those tears and hugging our loved ones goodbye in Wisconsin, we had to do it all over again with our new friends, who are on the same journey as we are and now mean so much to us.

Like March, there are many games, more baking, plus baseball, soccer, and freeze tag outside. We walk Bow nearly every day as well, which is nice although her leash skills are lacking here, in particular, always smelling after chickens or cats. We ‘brought the beach to the house’ to even out the pool on the driveway and enjoy the front yard breeze while the kids played. Lopez and I filled up Jerry’s construction buckets 3 times, driving back and forth from White Sands, stealing their sand for our pool extravaganza (PS - we spoke with a White Sands employee who knew we were stealing, so calm down if you were thinking we're real thieves.)

Lopez also got a hammock! Our hammock has brought immense amounts of joy throughout its tenure in our home, with Lopez calling it his only savior in this lockdown. He takes every team call from that thing just to be an asshole, and it's working. He also purchased a machete, so that he can cut down coconuts and make his own water. I wish I was kidding, but I'm obviously not.

Callen and Penny are growing so fast, I’m afraid my mom will lose it when she sees them. My parents hadn’t gone more than a week without seeing those kids before COVID, ever in their life, and they’re over four months now. Since we left, Callen learned to swim, Penny lost her first tooth, they can ride skateboards and play real people games, Callen learned to tie his towel around his waist after showers and Penny does her own ponytails (and well). Callen can legitimately beat daddy in Dominoes and yell at him to ‘Wash the Rice’ when Lopez loses, plus he can whistle! Penny can't wear half the clothes we brought and also her alter-ego Twyla the stylist still hasn't had her baby, in case you were wondering.

Our pretty Bow-Bow has also acclimated to life here in Barbados. She can play without fainting now (although that may be more related to the current season being winter vs. her adaptation skills), and she is still just the nicest damn dog in the world. In the year since we’ve had her (just over, Happy Anniversary pup!) she's been nothing but good to all our guests and happily put up with hugs and kisses from so many kids.

She misses Nora, as evidenced by her continued attempts to make friends with Socks and Goldie. As per usual feline behavior, they're coy and elusive and have even found new ways to mess with her, like Sock’s new dugout spot in the back yard, just out of reach of Bow so all she can do is bark at him and then be ignored. There was an exciting moment in Bow's lockdown life last week when I took out the trash and screamed so loud when chickens squawked from the garbage and I felt their wings flutter on my arm! Jerry ran over with a bottle to get them out the garbage, and then called Bow out to run after them! She was happy as a clam, egged on by Jerry to chase 'em down in the parking lot across the street, sassy girl.

In the most wonderful news of the year, my parents got the vaccine! They can officially plan their trip now (provided lockdown ends). In three weeks, they’ll get dose #2, then they’ll hit the road back to home, unpack, catch up on life for a week or two and then be on their way to sunny Barbados! First, I asked my parents to come for a few months of our time here. I would have asked them to come the whole time but that was unrealistic given my dad's lack of interest in leaving home for that long. So I aimed for 3-4 months, initially, but that didn’t seem likely either. So, I lowered the bar to 2-3 months, and then COVID struck everywhere once flu season hit. We left just in time to avoid that, (per Lopez's request), but my parents missed the boat on that one.

Also on the list of quarantine discussions is that we’re not sure how we’re going to get Bow home. All the airlines flying home have banned ESA’s since our arrival in Barbados. Maybe by then, COVID restrictions will have lessened, and we can fly her cargo. Otherwise, we’ll be spending thousands to ship her home privately or maybe sail home with her on a private yacht chartered by some locals. Either way, we’re not leaving without Bow. (Now in all seriousness, Nicolas and Marie-Laure and Lopez and I have broached this topic... anyone know a captain looking to sail two families and a dog to Florida?)

In other news, people are dropping like flies from Dengue. That’s right, we left the States to avoid a deadly disease that created a pandemic, and we’ve come to the f&*king dengue capital of the world.

So maybe it’s not the capital, but you can see it’s in a ‘Frequent or Continuous’ state.. like COVID here! Obviously we're extremely happy with our life decisions right now.

Five of our friends currently have dengue. Marie-Laure recently got an IV, although Eli was still able to attend online school while she had it. Lauren and Sean’s son Flynn currently has it too along with three other houses in Rockley that were hit. We literally left our family and home to avoid disease, and have seen firsthand our friends while they felt the extreme aches and pains of the disease. Lucky for us, once you get (that strain), you’re immune to it and are only able to catch the other three deadly strains. Blossom and Lili also got dengue in the last few years here and agreed (for the first time in their lives, about anything) that dengue is the worst. The rest of my paycheck is going to deet, thank you very much.

We watched the Super Bowl with mozzarella sticks to keep the tradition alive, and although we couldn't host our friends as we'd planned, I managed an eventful night nonetheless. At halftime, I stopped over at Lauren’s house to share an adult treat with her and while I initially refused her offer for a (socially distanced, outdoor) drink, it soon became evident I’d be there awhile. Fast forward to 3:30 am, I made it home, and suffice to say for the first time in years, my head was pounding like I was in college. Lopez was amazing and took the kids the first half of the day, thank the gods and Lauren, you naughty influencer! I know you’ll try to blame me but we were both at fault! A girl's night was something I didn’t realize I’d needed quite so badly and I definitely made up for lost pandemic time.

The latest extension of lockdown was disappointing but expected. There is all sorts of online gossip, predictions, prayers (so many), and friendly and not so friendly debates online on how the situation is being handled. It’s mostly the same as anywhere else, including the argument between the left and the right at home; which is more important, the health of the vulnerable or a stimulated economy with an employed populace. While I appreciate Barbdos's attempts to get the numbers back to zero, I have a newfound respect for the freedoms granted in America. While there's no doubt our former administration could have done better, I appreciate my country's attitude to mental health and personal well-being. At home, outdoor exercise is still encouraged (no matter what time of day) and home improvement stores and craft stores are considered essential because we need more than just food to keep our emotional health in check.

On top of this, I've never been more nervous to catch COVID than I have been in the last ten days. They closed everything but supermarkets (even gas stations are only open to pump gas, the inside’s are closed), and they’re only open for 6-7 hours a day M-F. No more weekend shopping, or shopping after dinner or after work; it all needs to happen during a short window during the week. Not only is this inconvenient for those of us working during the week, but I've also never felt less safe than after rubbing up against three dozen other people when I need a loaf of bread. The lines are out the door, spanning down the streets and around the blocks of stores. In all my time at home, I was never so jammed in small spaces as I am here at Massy’s or Popular. I couldn't stop thinking of all the people up in my space so Lopez has taken over the shopping for now. I've never appreciated or missed Walmart - and online shopping - more in my life than I did last Thursday, seeing the lines down the block and not being able to come back 'at a less busy time.' Do it now or you don't get your groceries!

The days ebb and flow with emotions, a mix of spewing over the top, dramatic lines about how ‘we need to leave right now’ or the reverse, forlorn over the abundance of activities and sights still unseen and how much we’d miss our new life here if we left early.

In other news, my friends in Texas are experiencing frozen water pipes and rolling blackouts, while the rest of my family is freezing as usual. I might get dengue here, and my chances of getting COVID are higher than before, but I'm still able to soak up the sun and spend my evening outside enjoying that Bajan breeze.