Pandemic Diary: Buy from Thy Neighbors

PANDEMIC is lingering. Especially in Indonesia.

People’s energy is drained and I am affected as well.

I’ve been losing my creative mood lately. I can’t explain exactly why this happens but this seems to happen to not only me but a lot of other people.

A friend in Victoria, Australia, complains why the government simply sets another lockdown without considering the loss of income a small business owner (he is a pilates studio owner) has to bear.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, street vendors are raided by police unit for public order (satpol PP) during the so-called lite version of lockdown (PPKM). They are struggling to feed themselves while the government refuses to provide basic needs to survive.

The state is accused of being absent in providing basic needs for its citizens. On Twitter, I saw #WargaBantuWarga hashtag that shows people’s solidarity to help each other in these horrid and tough times. A porridge seller in Jakarta also distributes his product for free for his neighbors during PPKM. In short, Indonesians are trying to save themselves from this pandemic with very very little help from the government.

It’s heartbreaking.

But you can NOT feel brokenhearted every day. At all times.

You can be mentally ill if you should lament and cry for every sad thing or update you see on the timeline. It sucks your life energy slowly but surely.

That’s what happens to me now. I have stopped feeling bad for enjoying my life while some people out there are dying of Covid-19 and some health workers resign after a delay of salary payment from the bureaucracy.

That said, I want to narrow down my span of attention to the world inside my housing complex.

I used to be proud of its serenity. Months ago, every time I went to this suburbia housing complex, I hardly saw a human. I always felt happy and relieved. I could take a long walk in the morning without wearing any mask. Not because I am an irresponsible citizen but because it is sooo scarcely populated I hardly met anyone along my morning walk. Just an ideal getaway from Covid-saturated Jakarta.

But by the beginning of this July, I have seen some cases of Covid in the complex I am living in.

Oh my God, please no.

It started from a different cluster. And gradually some people in my cluster also admit they are self-isolating themselves.

Finally it hit home, I mumble.

But we are not a housing complex with high density so I am a bit relieved.

I can still enjoy fresh air in the morning, the blue easy sky every day, and still have enough space to work out outside.

My life is unshaken thus far.

But my neighbors’ lives may be.

So all the inhabitants of the complex are encouraged to interact on a WhatsApp group.

Being on WhatsApp is just like a must for everyone. It can be a source of anxiety and relief at the same time.

From this group, we now know some people have contracted the virus and isolate themselves from the rest.

Alarmed, the neighborhood association of the mega cluster told us not to go out without wearing a mask.

And they closely observe people. Those who don’t obey the rule will be immediately reprimanded or scorned. Well, slightly.

My point is while being stuck at home, I realize I cannot cook well and ordering foods is the sole talent I have.

So I tried to search some local home businesses that sell foods.

And there are many of them.

Some only sell foods when they have time to cook.

The profit may be small but I guess every rupiah now counts even more.

So I repeatedly order nasi kuning and pastel from a neighbor. She is a house wife, as far as I know.

The other day she announced on the group that she is unable to cook from that day on because her kids start to attend online schooling sessions again. So there’s no way she could cook and sell the foods as usual. Which is why she temporarily quit.

Another neighbor can cook and sell me nasi bakar. Her cooking skills are quite good. I savor every bite of the dish. She is one of my favorite cooks.

But earlier this week, she also announced that she had to go back to her hometown in Lampung because her father passed away. Dying of a natural cause, if you ask whether it is Covid-related or not. It isn’t.

Besides these two, I have another local seller that sell me gado-gado. Probably the taste is not quite extraordinary and the speed of service is disappointingly slow but what makes it special is the price. Worth the price. Three servings of gado-gado only cost me IDR30,000, including delivery cost.

Another one is a neighbor who sells me mushroom satay (sate jamur). Quite a vegan delicacy. But it’s too salty for me but I ate it anyway. It tasted so good.

I also have another favorite of nasi bakar seller. Unfortunately the delivery costs me quite a lot. It is IDR 10,000. Other than that, I have no complaint.

All these are ordered NOT on an online platform because I know they profit very little from the profit sharing scheme and I don’t want to give my money away to a unicorn startup who doesn’t need my money to survive.

These people around me need my money even more.

So I decided to order directly from them.

I help them and they help me eat better.

It’s a symbiotic relationship. (*?)

About akhlis

Writer & yogi
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