BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Michelle Phaup planned to return home to Clarkston from her winter getaway in Lima, Peru, on March 17. A national quarantine due to COVID-19 thwarted that idea.
“I was in shock,” said Phaup, who has been there since Feb. 10. “I was surprised there would be that level of change that quickly. I called my friends asking ‘really, they can shut down the whole airport? They can stop people from leaving and coming in?’”
Thousands of Americans were looking for seats, but she didn’t want to take one from someone who needed it.
“I’m looking forward to going home,” Phaup said. “Most of the news stories I see, people are fearful, angry. For some people, I understand what a degree of difficulty it is. My situation is probably much better. For me, the experience is fine – it is very quiet and very peaceful.”
Peru is under a strict quarantine. People are only allowed to leave their homes or hotels to get groceries, gas, money, medical treatment, or help an elderly person. When they do go out, they have to wear masks and gloves. Carryout isn’t allowed, and the city is under curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“I have been spending the time relaxing, meditating and writing. Doing things I have had on my mind I wanted to do, from writing a book to doing webinars,” she said. “Doing things online and reconnecting to people I haven’t talked to in a long time. Sometimes it’s just staring out into the ocean and being appreciative of everything.”
She added one of her concerns is getting COVID-19 because she doesn’t have health insurance in Peru.
During this time, she has witnessed unity between strangers.
“At 8 p.m. everyone goes out to their balcony and they clap for all the police, all the healthcare workers,” Phaup shared. “Sometimes people play music. I am truly amazed at the level of compliance for 13.5 million people. They are taking it seriously and they look at it as we are all in this together.”
Independence Township Trustee Jose Aliaga, who was born in Peru, has been able to help her and others there.
“Jose has family and friends here and knows people in the government,” Phaup said. “He has made phone calls and has been for lifesaver for some of people here.”
“I help by calling people down in Peru and here, because there is a lot of back and forth between our governments,” Aliaga said.
Phaup’s advice to those at home in Clarkston is to stay home.
“I hope people take this seriously,” she added. “Take this time to bond again. Spend time with family, help one another. I have seen people come together, helping those less fortunate and those in need. Call someone – it will make a big difference in someone’s life. We could increase the acts of kindness we all do.”
Aliaga echoed the same sentiments to stay home.
“Stay home is the best we can do right now,” he said. “If you have masks and gloves, donate to local hospital because they really need it.”
If someone in Clarkston has a friend or family in Peru, contact him on Facebook.
“I will be happy to do the best I can. I am here to help,” he said.
UPDATE: Phaup landed in the United States on Thursday night, April 9. Welcome home!