Today is our first taste of freedom and a glimpse of what the “new normal” will be for a while.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spain has been in a state of Alarm for 7 weeks and during that time we’ve all been quarantined to our homes. This wasn’t by choice, it was part of the state of alarm and the rules must be followed. No one was to leave the home unless it was to purchase essential items from the grocery store (maybe 1 or 2 times a week, at the nearest store), go to the pharmacy, or out for medical care. This could only be one individual over 18 out alone.
The police have been out to enforce the rules and at times you would be stopped and questioned if you were on foot or in a car. There were hefty fines if you broke the rules and our town took it very seriously.
Of course, after a few weeks, a few people would try and test the limits and go out for a walk, with a casual stop at the store on the way home to justify their being out. Well, this didn’t always work, as the stories were being shared on social media. Perhaps they weren’t trying to test the limits and were innocently out and about, but the fines were being handed out anyway.
Five Days Shy
Okay, I have to be very honest and remind you that I was actually in the USA when this all started, so for me, it hasn’t been a full 7 weeks of lockdown. I returned home from the USA on March 19th, so just 5 days shy of the full 7 weeks. You can read more about my journey trying to get back to Spain here.
For me personally, it hasn’t been too tough staying home. I am the one in the family who mainly got out a couple of times a week to do the grocery shopping. Alan would go out to refill our butane tanks and take care of the shopping at the store closest to the gas station. So, we’ve been out and about a little bit.
The kids, on the other hand, have not set one foot out of the house from March 14 – May 1st, a full 7 weeks to the day! We have a small balcony and that has been utilized and they are doing great with exercising in their rooms.
Gloomy Ghost Town
Our normal weather includes blue skies and sun. Even in the winter, it is the norm with a sprinkling of rainy gloomy days here and there, sometimes with a stretch of four or five days. I’m not sure if it is just me, but it feels as though it has been completely opposite ever since the lockdown started! It has been overcast and rainy almost every day for weeks and once in a while, we may have had a few hours of sun.
Each trip to the store it seemed as if I was the only one in town. It was very rare to see anyone out walking and only a few cars driving. The paseos were empty, weeds were growing in the flower boxes, without fail the wind would be blowing, and everyone was just staying in their home. Seriously, I was waiting for a tumbleweed to blow across the road.
Of course, in the store, there were plenty of people, all wearing masks and gloves. I never knew how difficult it was to recognize friends just by seeing their eyes and not their full face. It was always such a joy to run into someone at Mercadona and get a few minutes of socialization and chit chat from a distance.
A Little Envious
All of this was a bit challenging to stomach, as each time we would call family in the US it seemed to be a different story. It was self-quarantining, drive-through restaurants were opened, schools were closed, some stores were open. Most people have back yards and were allowed to go out and exercise, walk, hike, all with social distancing in mind. From afar, it appeared to be impactful, but also not a drastic change from normal.
A Typical Day
On an average day, the kids have online schoolwork and plenty of homework. Alan and I have plenty to do with our websites and social media to keep things maintained and up and running. Social media for me is quite the project, as I’ve been trying to keep our local followers informed of rules and what’s going on locally as well. Things can change daily. All of this work is unpaid but needs to be done. I am also part of a local business networking group and we have been meeting virtually a couple of times a week.
So, while all of our businesses came to a halt as of March 14, we’ve still been working for free anyway. We had some clients move to Spain during the lockdown and others who weren’t able to apply for their visa, so helping people through this has been part of the deal too. We are anxious to get our consulting back and running again, but it is likely to be on pause for a good 6 months or a year. Thankfully we can begin to work with our local businesses later this month, so hopefully, that will help.
It isn’t all about work, we’ve all had plenty of time to watch movies and be on the internet too. I have binge-watched a few series and would realize it was 5 am and think, “Oh, maybe I should go to bed now”. Our schedules are all over the place and sometimes we wouldn’t even see each other for a full day. How is that possible in at 1200 square foot apartment? Believe me, it is possible!
Most days there seemed to be a crossover of family time and shifts and it was often between 11 pm and 2 am. This is when the kids would appear from their rooms and head to the kitchen to make some dinner. Often it would turn into family discussion time and I think these are the moments I will forever cherish from the past 7 weeks.
It would almost always start with a simple random question, which would take our conversation on a path we could never have planned. We covered topics about politics, economics, math, sexuality, geography, gender, food, languages, cultures, universities, cooking, dreams, the future, science, and the list goes on. In these moments the maturity and depth of worldly knowledge our kids have astounded me. It was just four adults having sometimes passionate discussions about anything that you could think of. I’ve never been so proud to see what our kids have become.
Phases of Freedom
All of that to say, today I was set free! Today, May 2, 2020, I was allowed to go out for a 1-hour leisurely walk, no more than 1 kilometer from home and during set hours! Yes, Spain is doing a four-phase plan to get to the “new normal”. We won’t quite be back to what we had, but they are doing their best to keep us all safe and be cautious.
Last weekend, kids 14 and under were allowed out for a 1-hour walk with 1 adult parent or guardian. That was the beginning, but our kids are both over 14, so it didn’t impact us.
Phase 0 as of May 2
Everyone can be out and about for exercise or a walk, but within time slots during the day, based on age. You still aren’t supposed to mix and mingle and should keep 2 meters away from others. The distance you are allowed to travel depends on your activity. If you are just out and about, the distance is 1 kilometer from your home and if you are cycling or running you have access to the full municipality (think of it as a county). Starting Monday a few businesses with appointments only can open, (physical therapy, hairdresser, nail salon, and so on).
Phase 1 as of May 11
This is the one we are most excited about, as socialization begins! Some of the cafes and restaurants with terraces are allowed to open. They can only be at 30% occupancy and there are time limits for customers to be seated. More stores will open and more movement allowed.
There are some great infographics out and about which cover the details, so I’ll just share those.
Who knew freedom with restrictions would feel so good?
So today was the day. I even went to bed early (1 am), just to be sure I was up to take advantage of that morning time slot for a walk. I was up by about 8:30 am and Anya was already out for her run. The guys were sleeping and I was rushing around to be sure I could get in my full hour outside.
I walked the entire hour and went to the 1-kilometer boundary in each direction on the paseo, with a little mix of meandering the streets in between. Oddly enough, we have crystal clear blue skies and sun! It was so nice to see people on the paseo (14-69 years old). It was great bumping into a few friends along the way, but no stopping to chat, this was my exercise time!
I appreciated every single thing. I inspected flowers, I even enjoyed the overgrown weeds, the fresh air. I listened to the gentle lap of the sea, heard people chatting, and did I mention seeing people on the paseo. It was magical and actually made my eyes well up from emotion. You just don’t appreciate what you have until you are stripped back to nothing and then given a little taste of normal.
It was like the city had circulation again, there was life, movement, and sounds. It was also the same for me internally. Towards the end of my hour, my mind was flooded with thoughts and ideas. I was inspired to write again, I was motivated to be creative and it was as if someone unclogged the drain in my brain. Everything was circulating in me again too and it was so powerful. I couldn’t wait to get home and write about this day and keep the memory of this time forever.
Looking Back, Looking Foward
I am saddened by this entire experience for all of those who have lost their lives and who have been ill. I feel for everyone and wish this didn’t happen. At the same time, I know it isn’t over and we aren’t out of reach from this pandemic. I have been thankful that our little family of four can tolerate each other for 7 weeks in close quarters and make the most of it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and I am so happy to be able to go outside. I am looking forward to a coffee with friends in the near future too. The simple things in life are appreciated, adored, and desired. I love my family, I love where we live and I love our life in Spain!