Editor’s note: This is the fifth in an ongoing series that looks at how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of Cuencanos and Cuenca expats.
By Robert Bradley and David Morrill
Jeff Salz, a four-year resident of Cuenca, first visited South America in 1973 to co-lead a ski-mountaineering expedition to the Southern Patagonian ice cap.
His storied adventures detailed in “Quest for the Cloud People,” about the Chachapoya of northern Peru, and “Jesus in the Himalayas,” tracing the legend of Jesus and his lost years across Northern India and Tibet, earned Salz the title, “America’s leading anthropologist / adventurer” by the Discovery Channel.
Salz’s partner, Lisa Jaffe, is a renowned physical and occupational therapist best known for her series, “Meditation and Martinis,” instructing people on the importance of holistic health management. She is currently advising clients worldwide via Zoom.
When asked how the pandemic is affecting their lives, Jaffe and Salz responded that they practice Santosha, or Blissful Acceptance.
“We enjoyed the quiet time of the lockdown,” Jaffe said. “It allowed us to reimagine how to best be of service. Being useful is feeling the presence of others, even at a distance. This inner adventure encouraged us to examine who we are as well as what we do, to ditch the assumptions, to let go of what cannot be controlled and focus on inner energy.”
Most of all, she says: “We stay on track and practice peace.”
Dave Nelson: Giving up human interaction is not an option
Although he acknowledges he is in a group particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, there’s one thing 92-year-old Dave Nelson won’t give up: human interaction. “I’m careful and believe in following the rules but my relationships and friendships are important to me,” he says. “I can’t imagine life without spending time with the people I enjoy being with.”
Getting around is not easy for Nelson, who walks with a cane these days, but he still takes the foot bridge across the Rio Tomebamba outside his apartment to eat at his favorite Barranco restaurants once or twice a week. “I invite friends to join me but I don’t mind eating alone if no one is available,” he says, admitting that he is a lifelong introvert. “The restaurants have outdoor seating, which is safer, but I also enjoy seeing the city lights and the river.”
Once a week, he maneuvers up the escalinata next to the Selina Hotel. “I have friends who help with my grocery shopping and who bring me meals but I still like to take my laundry to the cleaners on Hermano Miguel,” he says, adding, “That’s not something I want to give up.”
An inveterate reader, Nelson keeps up with the news about the virus and is heartened that many of the early predictions of its deadliness have proven untrue. “I’m not sure how I would have fared if things were different so I’m glad that I can get out occasionally, see my friends and get some exercise,” he says. “The news seems to be getting better, especially in terms of the vaccine.”
The good news tends to confirm Nelson’s optimistic outlook on life. “We will survive this and then we can focus on the other big issues we face, such as climate change and improving the human condition,” says Nelson, a retired workers’ comp attorney who makes it clear that he represented the “little guys,” the injured workers.
He adds: “If we love each other and take care of each other, we’ll be able to solve most of our problems, just like we’ll solve Covid-19.”
Michael Geise: Escaping the Covid isolation by helping others
The coronavirus has been rough on Michael Geise (yes, her name is really Michael). Her scheduled breast cancer surgery was delayed for five months, extracting a toll on both her health and forbearance.
“I am less gregarious these days,” she says. “We are not designed to be cooped up and isolated and it can be overwhelming,” she says. “There are times when I feel lost and can’t find my way.”
Geise is searching for a way to break free. Last week she visited, GRACE, a foundation serving Venezuelan refugees and other poor people, and offered to volunteer her time in support of their efforts. “I know that the only way to ‘get out of my head’ is to focus on others and I am hopeful that this will benefit others as well as myself.”
Although she is still on the long and difficult road to recovery from her surgery, she is taking the tentative steps towards a more healthy life by being among those who are working to improve the current situation — both at home and in the community. She is well aware that many are hurting and is finding faith in believing that, in time, perseverance will pay off.
“I never in my wildest nightmares believed this virus would cause such havoc in so many lives,” Geise says. “It is important that we look to the future and the time when we can return to the lives we lived before, to seeing our friends and enjoying the pleasures Cuenca has to offer.”