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the new normal

by Rachel Canouse

“Normal” is a very relative word whose meaning can change from person to person or based on the moment of time and the state of the world. This time last year, things like going to the market for food, giving hugs, making miracles, eating a family lunch at Mama Charo’s house (if you know, you know), and singing worship songs with the Star Kids on Saturdays were all part of my routine. They were all normal for me. Then, two days after I returned from my trip to the states back in March, the President of Peru made the announcement that the entire country would be going into a State of Emergency for two weeks, closing its borders, closing businesses, and ordering everyone to stay in their homes unless absolutely necessary. As a very busy and social person I felt my anxiety surge. I called my mom and had a mini freak out.

14 days in the house?! I don’t know how I’m going to do that!

How are we going to help the communities where we work?!

Waiting in line for 30 minutes to get inside the grocery store?! I can’t do that!

My mom told me to take a breath and told me to give myself more credit. We were going to figure these things out. We have now been in quarantine for 10 weeks and we still have about 5 more weeks to go for a total of 106 days total. This means that Peruvian's quarantine will be longer than Italy, Spain, and even China. It has definitely been hard, but it is crazy to look back at these obstacles that seemed so colossal to “quarantine day 1 Rachel,” because they are things that now seem so normal to “quarantine day 72 Rachel."

14 days in the house? No problem.

Starting soup kitchens in 9 different communities to make sure everyone is fed? Done.

Waiting in line for 30 minutes to get inside the grocery store? The line was so short today!

It is so crazy to think that this has become the new normal, but, I will say, it also makes the once normal things so exciting! Today I went to the market by my apartment to get some food and I saw that my favorite empanada place was open! You guys, not to sound dramatic, but after cooking every day for the past 10 weeks, my jaw dropped to the floor. I ran over to the owner who I have known for almost 3 years now and he said “Look vecina (neighbor)! We are finally open!” I was ecstatic to buy some empanadas and be able to support one of my favorite local businesses. It also made me so excited to see Peru taking its first few steps and making progress to reopen the country. It is crazy to think that the same empanadas that were once so “normal” for me to eat a few times a week had now become one of the most exciting parts of my month of May and also, in a way, represented movement towards a brighter future.

Feeling my joy over something that was once so mundane and routine makes me so eager to re-experience once “normal” things again as if it is the first time. My appreciation for things such as hugging the Star Kids and eating Mama Charo’s Pacha Manca is going to make me giddy with excitement. Thinking about things in that perspective, I could not be more thankful that finding overwhelming joy in the small things of life has become the new normal.

Rachel Canouse is an American who has lived in Peru for 2 1/2 years, the last 10 weeks in lockdown. She works for Make a Miracle as the Director of Global Relations and Program Development.


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