We went to the grocery store today, after having tried to go yesterday only
to find most closed. While driving around, I noticed an air of panic as thick as the smog in this city. I feel that those who can remember the days of Salvador
Allende’s socialist government are acting out of memorial habit; people are
waiting in winding lines to obtain things—anything—to feel safe. Back then
people waited in line outside of stores or vendor’s houses for hours yet often
didn’t even know what they were waiting to buy. Walking into the local
convenience store (abarrote) and seeing the shelves empty first revealed this
comparison to me. These kind of things that people are buying like mad for the
most part do not carry life’s necessities, but are only little extras: candies,
crackers, cookies, randomness… Waiting for the essentials like bread, eggs,
bottled water, or milk seemed to be obviously worth it to me, but most stores
have plenty of these items left. It’s the other stuff that fills the abarrotes, and it is all this little stuff that most people are waiting and waiting to buy out of fear that it’s better than nothing. Of course I do not blame them or say that this is foolish to stock up on off-brand tuna spread, pickled olives or cracker bread. But the type of panic it takes for someone to buy tuna when they’re allergic to it, or olives when they hate olives, or cracker bread when they already have a life’s supply at home is immense, and this is exactly what happened in the early 70’s in Chile. And it is what is happening now.
The grocery store in the local mall was packed. Some boxes were still
disheveled and unorganized from the earthquake, many empty shelves again, and a massive chaotic bunch at the bakery waiting for bread. Everyone is going crazy for bread. In fact, last night for dinner all we ate was bread. Bread and cake. My mom dived into the frenzied crowd at the store while I watched with the cart, and I kid you not I lost track of the top of her head among the people. She emerged triumphantly with a bad of warm pancito. Guess what we’re having for dinner tonight?
Another thing I noticed while driving around is that all of the billboards
and signs now seem so ironic: the advertisement for the expensive fashionable
leather jacket, the promotion for a cell phone using the line, “don’t worry be
happy,” the Red Cross ad pleading for donations to Haiti… irony!
I got a call from all the way from Israel today, from a Chilean woman living
there looking for her son who is in Concepción. She obviously had the wrong
number, but she asked me how I was and how my family was before she hung up. This is so very Chilean of her, to ask a complete stranger how I am and how my family is. It reflects the other sentiment in the air: one of patriotic compassion, similar to the union that was felt after the terrorist attacks in the US. Yes it is dog eat dog when it comes to who gets to buy the last little random thing at the abarrote or who gets their bread first in the mob. But people are still being respectful, caring and helpful to others.
School will begin next Monday, March 8th according to the government.
Watching the news a lot gives me such a perspective on how lucky we are in
Santiago, even if some are without running water still or have damaged homes.
We are still standing!
As usual, sigue orando.