29 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 16 - potty laughs

The Spanish government has officially locked us down even further by reducing the number of businesses / industry that can still be open, sending more people home on furlough with the aims to get more people off the streets because the numbers are still going up and many hospitals (particularly in Madrid) aren't able to cope... 😢

Time to look back a few weeks to when this all started and lots of laughs were being passed around on social media, many of which about the great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020!💩 

Here, have some smiles... 😆 (sadly I cannot link to sources, these have been circulating widely on Facebook & WhatsApp)

"Thank goodness I had paper at home"

"When we lived above our means"
"My precioussss"

Of course you've heard why the rush to buy TP, right? 
For every person who sneezes, ten shit themselves! 😈

Next time: canine edition! 😜

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

28 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 15 - Movie night!

What a lazy Saturday it's been... I can honestly say I have done nothing productive today! Not that I had any specific plans to, but I was hoping to get something done. But it's getting harder to get out of bed in the morning unless work beckons (weekdays). And then of course random stuff happens! Like a 90' FaceTime call involving a 15 month old who wouldn't give up the phone to either his mom or his sister (or at least not for long). Let's just say I am now very familiar with the ceilings in my sister's house! 😂😂😂 

Fortunately one thing I had planned did work out: movie night!!! My frequent cinema companions and I each set up on our TVs or computers the same film, I launched a four-way video call on WhatsApp - first time trying that option, worked like a charm - showed off our snacks (ranging from popcorn to brownies) and chatted for a nice long while. And then THREE - TWO - ONE - PLAY! 2h later and group call again to compare notes. One disadvantage compared to the cinema: one person fell asleep 15' before the end, tsk! tsk! We weren't there to nudge him awake! 😜

I've been told I should check out if Netflix in Spain has the "party" option, apparently you can watch it with friends in different homes and it will start it for everyone at the same time and you can comment or something... Might look into that for next weekend! Low-tech worked just fine this time.

Can I add, Tom Hanks is always a reliable choice for movie night? 😉

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

27 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 14 - Life goes on... online! (cont)

I honestly can't imagine this lockdown going this well, if it weren't for high-speed internet, social media channels, and video-conferencing options! (and I shudder to think what would happen should the internet collapse)

Ok, true that there are quite a few people out there who either don't have internet (don't want / can't afford) or are familiar enough with the options to make the most out of it, but I'd say a majority of the locked-in populations in Europe DO have a decent broadband connection, 4G on their smartphones (for when the wifi doesn't work), and know how to use them (or have someone to explain it) well enough to do video calls using FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber or whatever else is out there. Some of these can also be used for group calls, or people can set up online meeting rooms in Zoom, AdobeConnect, Google Hangout or Meet etc. We've also got text and video messages flying at us from all directions (to the point we've all received a forward that recommends reducing the sending of video messages to not collapse or dramatically slow down the service with heavy files).

Feeling a bit lonely or isolated? Just pull out your device and video call a friend. Video, not voice! Nothing really substitutes the face to face, but "virtual" face to face can help. Since this lockdown started 2 weeks ago I've had a video chat with my mom (who lives 15' away) almost every day (interspersed with regular voice calls), several video calls with my sisters overseas, video calls with individual friends and several group hangouts. In fact in these two weeks I have probably spent more time hanging out and chatting with friends than in the past two months! Were we really all too busy before? Or did we just not make it a priority? Now we are each other's lifelines... Company for when we're feeling lonely, an audience to crack jokes with, therapists when we need to complain or commiserate about whatever... Our second day locked in I had a 5-way Skype call with close friends in Spain, Belgium, France and Austria. Last Sunday I had a 90' FaceTime call with a friend in San Diego. 

Just now I was hanging out on Google Meet in an "After Work" space set up by one of my colleagues so any of us who feel like it can meet up on Friday evenings and just ramble on about whatever with a beer (or alternate beverage) in our hands. My beverage of choice has been a lovely Port that I bought during a work trip to Portugal two years ago and hadn't opened yet and am now reserving for my quarantine Friday evenings. The guys so far seem to be all about the beer. Popcorn has made an appearance. Depending on who joins in we ramble on about our fabulous weekend plans, dissect movies, make armchair politics, share screens and pull up videos on YouTube, play music, or just goof off. Last week we even played a little quizz on the app Kahoot! 🤣 Tonight was 90', last week over 2h... we've been having a blast! Here, let me show you. Last week one of the other did a "boomerang" video of our call on her phone: 

Good times! 🥳 

Humans are social animals. And even those of us who do enjoy alone time, need to have occasions to connect with others.

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

26 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 13 - Life goes on... online!

So nothing for days 11 & 12 simply because I was angry and in a foul mood on Tuesday, and yesterday just so, so tired...

Much better today! I guess we're all going to have our ups and downs while being locked up, more than normal. To be expected.

I wanted something cheerful today... to celebrate that tomorrow's Friday so it's almost the weekend! Need to find ways to mark the different days of the week other than work yes/no. So I'm planning a "movie night" with the friends I usually go to the cinema with. If it works out I'll report back.

We've all be finding ways to do things with other people online. The simplest is work related. I'm spending the mornings all this week (and half of next) in lengthy Skype meetings with my colleagues in Vietnam to see what the situation is like in their universities, and to talk about how our project is going and how we can continue moving forward (within the Covid19 limitations). 

Not everyone can work online... but more and more people are finding ways to at least contribute their knowledge or skills in an online form so other people can benefit from them! I have to say it's terribly distracting for those of us who have to work, but it's absolutely FABULOUS!!! 

There's Yo Yo Ma promoting sharing music 🎶on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram by creating (I think) and promoting the hashtag #songsofcomfort. He uploads videos of himself playing the cello (beautiful!), and many other people are also sharing their music using that hashtag so it can be kind of like a playlist. A trio of roommates in Barcelona (members of 2 different bands) are making music together about the #Coronavirus and #stayhome and are posting it online. They even talked about them on the news the other night! Check them out on Instagram as Stay.Homas (lyrics in Spanish but even if you don't speak the language can enjoy the music). French musician Patrick Bruel has also been doing almost daily live sessions on Facebook and Instagram, playing music, answering questions just chatting in general. And my favorite Starfleet Captain, Sir Patrick Stewart is daily reading a Shakespeare Sonnet! It's great!

Then there are the proponents of physical activities! I don't know how many options of "live" sessions I've come across for different workouts, but I know there's no way I could even try them all! I've been mostly following an account on Instagram that I just discovered is associated with a gym in Madrid, "Yo Entreno en Casa" (I train at home). Four times a day they go live with one of their trainers (so along the lines of group classes in a gym) and do either a session of pilates, yoga, dance, pump, balance, high intensity training etc. (the dance class last night left me too tired to write on the blog... I just wanted shower and bed! 😅). Also the city hall of San Vicente (small town next to Alicante where the University of Alicante campus is located) has been fielding proposals for online activities from its citizens, and publishes a schedule daily on their Instagram account for various live sessions on either their Instagram or Facebook pages (since sometimes their simultaneous) that vary from cooking, baking, to dancing, to crafts, a workout or someone playing music or reciting poetry.

And in the academic arena, I read yesterday about a couple of whale experts based in Seattle who are offering a free online marine biology camp for kids (and older) twice a week (Mon & Thur) live on their Facebook or Instagram account! With extra materials (like coloring pages) and info on their website. Today was about whale poop and parasites. 🐳

So much to do... Damn it's a shame I have to work!!! 😝

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

23 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 10 - A shopping spree


Well, not quite. Walked about 3' to the trash containers to deposit my paper/cardboard, glass and reclyclables. Then walked around the block to the pharmacy, 5' tops, to pick up FOUR pair of disposable gloves (I put in an order last week, but since stocks are almost non-existent and the big numbers reserved for health care professionals and people working with the public - as they should be - they're only handing out a few pair at a time to individuals, at €0.50/pair), then another 1' to the grocery store, spent maybe half an hour in there, and then 5' walk home. So less than an hour out of the apartment, but still felt good to stretch my legs! Wind and rain be damned! 😜 (we've had foul weather since Saturday afternoon)

Social distancing measures are now fully in place (as opposed to last week when some places did, others depended on people following the guidelines). 😷 The pharmacy has marks on the sidewalk indicating how far apart people should be from each other while waiting, and only one person is allowed in at a time.

Cold and windy waiting at the pharmacy

The grocery store also has a limited occupancy, and the automatic sliding glass doors won't open for you if that limit has been reached, so again waiting outside while keeping a distance. And hand sanitizer / alcolgel is being dosed as needed. The pharmacist put some on my hands and then told me to pick the gloves out of the box. The supermarket security guard ditto, and then pointed me to a box of supermarket plastic gloves that you usually use just in the produce section. The tellers at the check-out stands are separated from the public by a transparent plastic screen, and the customers themselves have markings on the ground indicating how far apart they should stand while queueing. And speaking of the produce section, when you weigh your fruit and veg it's almost impossible to place the price sticker on the bag without it completely sticking to those shitty gloves, which ends up tearing them! Ahhh!!! Note to self: next time just buy the fruit and veg at the local vegetable shop 10' away. No sticky labels and added bonus of extra walking.

Thing is... I was so excited about going out that I forgot to take out the regular non-recyclable trash.  Guess I'll just wait until Wednesday when I'm planning to do a shopping spree to take food to my mom. 🤔

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

22 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 9 - Let's extend this shall we?

So President Sánchez announced today that he's going to ask Congress to extend the State of Alarm an additional two weeks, until April 11th.

No surprise there. And I wouldn't be surprised if it was later extended one or two weeks past that! One of the reasons he mentioned for the two week time frame, is to make sure the country is still locked down for Holy Week, one of the key holiday weeks in Spain with millions of people on the road to holiday homes, hotels, grandparents' etc. The last thing they want is to have paralyzed the country for several weeks, let people out and then have a new spike in infections and have it all been for nothing. And by Easter there will still be contagious people. And sadly enough people have proven they can't even follow the rules when it's the law and they're at risk of paying a hefty fine, so there's no reason to believe they would follow simple "recommendations" to stay home, especially after having been locked up for so long. 😔 One of the reasons I think it might go on past the announced extra two weeks (at least one more) is that about a third of the country (including us in Alicante and the rest of the Valencian Community) has its Easter break the week after Easter Sunday... so the same reasoning applies. 

This situation is going to get worse before it gets better... The president has been warning of that in recent speeches, asking people to be disciplined and do their civic duty. He's been saying that new resources are coming (financial, medical material, emergency field hospitals). I wonderful if it will be enough? If people will see it as enough? Because of course people are angry at the government. Some for political reasons (leftwing coalition governing, so all the supporters of the rightwing parties are like "the others could have done it better"). Some because they're fed up with the restrictions. Others because they feel those same restrictions were too little too late! Last night after the 8pm balcony applause session for the health services, at 9pm there was a "cacerolada" (clanging of pots and pans) to protest the government. Caught me by surprise! I guess none of the WhatsApp groups I'm in are very political 'cause I didn't get that message (and wouldn't have contributed to it if I had).

The cracks in the "unity" front are starting to show along political lines. Shouldn't this be a time to put politics aside and just support the government any way possible? Especially when they're taking this seriously and taking strong measures, unlike some other countries and governments I will refrain from mentioning... 😬 Some measures are a bit slower or not as strong as many people would like, agreed, but we are talking about a country with a hefty bureaucracy and a coalition government, neither of those facilitates speedy action and smooth sailing. There is no solution that is going to make everyone happy, so just buckle down and follow the rules people! If you disagree, vote in a different government next time around.

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

21 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 8 - seriously people?!

Yesterday I talked about the mostly empty streets... today I want to rant about that "mostly".

Seriously people! How hard is it to STAY HOME!!! 😡

The police officer I talked to yesterday mentioned stopping and fining people out in the streets on Thursday with bogus excuses (bogus because all the grocery stores, pharmacies etc were closed because of the holiday). I keep seeing people sharing on Facebook articles from our local paper, or national newspapers, about the police in Alicante and elsewhere having to hand out fines for people disobeying the quarantine and not following the instructions of the State of Alarm. In Alicante alone the local police in one week have handed out over 100 fines to people and vehicles. Police yesterday also broke up 3 different house parties and in Barcelona the police apparently had to interrupt an orgy! In Madrid the local government has decided to take a page out of France's playbook and ask people for an sworn written justification of where they live, where they're going and why. The idea is to check the information later when they have time, because the police have been stopping so many people they don't have time to check people's data in the moment and decide whether a fin is required or not.

Tensions are definitely up all around. People are angry at those who are breaking the rules because they see them as a potential cause for this lock-down to go on longer. People who have to work are upset because (1) in many cases they don't have the proper safety gear (masks, gloves, suits etc.) and (2) they feel like their efforts might be for naught if people ignore the quarantine. Self-employed are upset because the government measures to support jobs etc don't cover them and they're asking that the self-employment tax be suspended for the month of March (in Spain it's a fixed monthly quota to social security, independent of how much you have invoiced).

What was cute last weekend as people tried to play games in the first days to get around the rules, is no longer so in a country where the numbers of infected and dead keep increasing daily. We haven't reached the peak infection point yet, and the more people break out, the longer this will take. 😓

There's very good graph in GIF format here that makes it pretty clear.

*end rant*

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

20 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 7 - empty streets?

Hard to believe it's been a week already. We seem to have lost all sense of time. There's before. And there's after. How long? No idea... I was talking to a colleague this evening, asking about her 2 week vacation in Mexico. She landed back in Spain just as all this craziness was starting. She said she could barely remember her trip, seemed like another life.

Although most people are starting to take the "not going out" more seriously, many others are still looking for ways to game the system. The police were more flexible last weekend and earlier in the week (another day I'll write about the dinosaur incident), but as of a few days ago they're starting to crack down on rule breakers, by for example asking "shoppers" to show the receipt for their purchases, or asking dog walkers for their ID and legal residence to check they aren't more than 2km away from their homes.

Today I had to go out (drive my mom to a doctor's appointment), and although there weren't many cars on the streets, there were quite a few more than I had expected (particularly since it was past time that anyone who still has to go to work would be on the road). On the way home I saw a policeman parked and monitoring a street. I stopped to talk to him because I was wondering if going to the Post Office was a "valid" reason to be out (mail for my mom). He wasn't too keen on it but finally said "yeah sure, if you must, just not on Sunday" and I was like "well yeah! Sunday it's closed!". He laughed. Apparently yesterday (which as I mentioned was a holiday here) he (and the police in general) stopped several people who were out walking. They would justify being out by saying they were "going to buy food" or to the Pharmacy, or the Post Office... except as it was a holiday all those places were closed!!! They also had to pull out a surfer who was trying to catch some waves, close down three different house parties, and overall give fines to 43 people out and about - including several people who were taking turns walking the same dog!!! 🤦

But like I said, in general people have been playing by the rules. Friends who live downtown talk about empty streets in their neighborhoods. And one of the videos that has been making the rounds on social media today (at least in Alicante groups) is called "Alicante without you", showcasing emblematic places around the city, without a soul to be seen. 

It's a bit eerie seeing those empty streets! Some of those I've never seen empty (even in the wee morning hours after a night partying). I wish I could link to the original, but I first saw it on a random Facebook page and looking a bit more closely realized it wasn't theirs. And I have received it on my phone via three different WhatsApp groups... so I guess it's out in the public domain now! But the credit at the end says it's by Rafa Arjones at the Diaro Información (local paper).

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

19 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 6 - not celebrating

A year ago today we were having a great lunch at the beach, happy a successful surgery was behind us, and hopeful about the radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions that were about to start. We were celebrating Father's Day (March 19th in Spain, coinciding with the Feast of Saint Joseph). I took my dad to the movies (Stan & Ollie) like I always did for Father's Day if I was home...

Today is still Father's Day. And in most of Spain it's actually a holiday (religious, not because of Father's Day). So no work! Yay!? If it were a normal year in Valencia they'd be getting ready to burn down the Fallas (postponed to July). People are celebrating however they can during the lock down. All together or online if far apart. I see friends passing messages and photos around on Whatsapp or Facebook. Wishes for anyone who's a dad or anyone called Pepe or Pepa (common nicknames for José and Josefa). Showing off cards their kids drew (good thing to keep them busy for a few hours during quarantine!). But for those of without our dads, it just sucks. The only thing I can be even slightly positive about today is being thankful that this bloody virus didn't declare itself a year ago, so my dad didn't have to spend the last 6 months of his life locked away at home, scared of catching his death from anyone coming to close. Instead he got to play music. Go to the movies. Hang out with his family. Throw a badass 72nd birthday bash for 100 people with half a dozen lasagnas (among other foods). Have hope that he was going to come through the other end...

Today my mom and I were going to meet up with family in Valencia to celebrate the saint's day (we have several Jose & Josefa in the group), stopping along the way at the cemetery in Altea for a few minutes with my dad. Instead we're each in our home with eyes that aren't dry.

Today sucks. Cancer sucks. The bloody coronavirus sucks. 😡💔😢

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

18 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 5 - still clapping

We're slowly developing new routines (well some of us... I haven't figured that part of the quarantine yet). Get up. Work (if you can). Plan /cook /eat meals. Some R&R. Some kind of physical activity. Maybe go out if you need something from the pharmacy, or the grocery store, or to take out the trash, or to take the dog for a short walk (just you alone, not other family members, no meeting up with other dog walkers). And at 8pm go out to the window or balcony and make some noise. 🔊

The evening applauses are still going on. No longer any need for chains of WhatsApp messages telling people, it's now part of the daily routine. It's just there are mixed sounds going out! There have been several message chains over the days, but none as clear or followed as the first (go out and clap for our health services and staff). There have been suggestions to go out and bang on pots and pans to thank the people who are working every day in the supermarkets. Or clap for the truckers who are keeping the supermarkets stocked. Suggestions to turn off the lights and use your cell phone's flash light as a way to commemorate the victims of the coronavirus (I noticed those for the first time last night)... So in the end it's a little bit of everything. And that's all right. It's just about coming together while staying separate.

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

17 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 4 - Trashy St Paddy's

I wish I could say I woke up this morning, threw on some green, put some Irish music on and decided to party buuuut... well it's a work day! I know, lame excuse, right? 🙈 But at least I did make an effort with the green, and put out a goofy photo to try and cheer people up! And caught Bono's new song dedicated to the Italians on their balconies...

Funny thing is, today I was actually more excited about the TRASH!!! No, it's not weird! Not when it's one of the few "legitimate" reasons for one to be out walking in the street during this lockdown and state of alarm. 😉 
We get to head down, go out on to the street, walk to the trash containers and deposit our bags. And <i>supposedly</i> walk immediately back home (as opposed to walking home round the block the long way...).

I can honestly say I've never been so happy to take out the trash! I'm thinking of starting to use smaller bags... 😜

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

16 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 3 - "back" to work

3rd day... let's see how long I can keep this up, shall we? 😉

First day working from home. Set up the home office (take over half the dining room table), start making a list of all the work pending from the various projects and priorities. Contact partners in other countries and see what the situation is over there. Compare notes (and exchange photos of working conditions) with colleagues and with other friends who are working from home. Commiserate or be jealous of the few friends who still "have to" or "get to" physically go in to work. Continue with coronavirus-related memes on WhatsApp, but at a much lower rate than over the weekend - you can tell we're all at least trying to work. 😜

Happy I brought the big screen and keyboard from the office and not stuck working on a 13'' laptop for 2+ weeks!

Not setting a foot outdoors. Haven't followed any of the "shut in" recommendations to set up some kind of daily routine (getting up, meals, work, physical activity of some kind, housework, R&R), must put that on my "to do list". Maybe. I'm not very good establishing routines...

We're lucky. By "we" I mean most of my colleagues and myself. Our work on international projects means we pretty much live on our laptops anyway, and do so whenever we travel to random places around the world. So working from home or from the office? Same deal. Just with a lower workload since we aren't planning any trips. Or events. Or face-to-face meetings. In fact we spent most of last week wondering if that was the day we'd be sent home to work, but the government of the Valencia Community didn't decide to close down educational institutions until Thursday evening, and that starting just today. Many of our partners in other countries are also working from home due to closed universities (some, like my colleagues in Vietnam, since the coronavirus crisis started during the Lunar New Year festivities -  never reopened!). Working more or less because if you've got kids at home, good luck! So all this means a lower volume of e-mails... And that sure makes a difference on your workload!

So we're just trying to set new targets for ourselves. Start to figure out the best way to have the brainstorming sessions that we had planned for this week. And when. And wondering how long this will last.

The group messages to cheer on the population are still circulating. But it's more confusing that on Saturday. Yesterday there were suggestions for 3 different actions in the evening, two of them the same but at different times! They included banging pots and pans to cheer on the staff keeping the supermarkets running. Another was to put on some party music and dance on your balcony while having a drink. Apparently yet another suggested playing the national anthem! I just listen, and when I hear noise head out to the balcony to see what's going on and join in or not. Tonight there was another round of applause and cheering (shifted to 8pm from Saturday's 10pm so kids could join in). I'm guessing one of our neighbors is a healthcare professional 'cause the cheers got louder as he was entering the building and he started thanking people...

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

15 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 2

2nd day, first full day "locked in". 

I've lost count of the number of times I had to plug my phone in to recharge!!! WhatsApp is on fire. Memes and messages being passed around back and forth. The really good ones you end up seeing half a dozen times in various groups. People commenting that they're already starting to have cabin fever. Parents wondering how they're going to survive 2 weeks (ha! good luck, will definitely be longer) locked in with their kids. Parents sharing tips on just how to do that... Websites with educational or cultural resources. Ideas for games indoors at home (most Spaniards live in apartments, and we're all extremely jealous right now of anyone who has a garden, Or a dog. My kingdom for a dog!!!).

For me? Well I decided to just pretend that it was a "lazy day Sunday" and do NOTHING. I mean really. Zero productivity. One of those Sundays that it feels really good to have once in a blue moon. Get up when I feel like it (11am). Spend the day in PJs. Have a big breakfast. Eat lunch/dinner when the stomach rumbles. Catch up on a show. On some reading. Watch a movie. Talk with my mom, my sisters. Gossip with friends. 

Not face to face of course. Online. Skype group call. But since these were friends in different cities/countries we would have had this meet-up online anyways. Of course the conversation was coronavirus-dominated (friend in France explaining how things were set up for the local elections, the one in Austria about how they were in self-quarantine because a relative had tested positive, in Belgium restaurants and social places are closed, but movements aren't restricted - yet - who was going to be working from home or going to the office on Monday...), but there was also plenty of newborn baby talk and ogling said baby.

I'll face the real world tomorrow. We'll figure out the whole work from home thing. Right now I'm going to continue with my Hobbit marathon. It's time to visit the Desolation of Smaug. 🐉

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

14 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown Spanish Edition - Day 1 - and so it begins

So... it's here. The bloody virus that's had the world on edge since January has finally beaten Spain down, and forced our government to declare a "State of Alert" for the next 2 weeks... for now.

We had the situation under control. Or at least we thought we did (like most countries). 😔 The first case was a German tourist in the Canary Islands (who brought it with him) on January 31st. No cases among the people who were repatriated from Wuhan itself. The third case was another import to the Canaries, an Italian tourist, resulting in the quarantine of 1000 people in a hospital in Tenerife for 12 days from February 24th. The next day the first cases on the Peninsula, one each in Madrid, Barcelona, Castellón (just north of Valencia).  February 26th was the first "local" case in Seville, as in someone who got infected here in Spain. Then we find out that we'd already had a coronavirus death but just didn't know it! Autopsy of someone who did from "unknown" pneumonia on February 13th in Valencia... March 7th we learn that 60 people in the Basque Country caught the virus at a funeral...

Slow trickle of cases. It was just two "hotspots" in Madrid and the Basque Country, a few other isolated cases elsewhere but all linked to someone who had either been to China (and later Italy) or been in contact with someone who had. And then there were cases of unknown origin and we learned that there were asymptomatic people (or with very mild symptoms who probably brushed them off) walking around, sharing the virus... We didn't learn from Italy's mistakes... And then the shit hit the fan. First in Madrid last weekend when they told us Monday that the number of cases in the capital and in the Basque Country had double in 24h, and it was clear that it was no longer enough to isolate just the sick. So the regional government shut down schools, restaurants etc. The city of Valencia finally cancelled one of the biggest fiestas of the year in Spain, the Fallas (massive economic hit to the city's economy). Well technically postponed it to mid-July. We had all been scratching our heads as to why that hadn't happened sooner considering the increasing number of cases in Valencia (linked to Milan) and the daily mass-gatherings for the Mascletàs downtown... Why on earth were the March 9th Women's Day parades/gatherings allowed? Especially the one in Madrid considering the numbers there???

But did people pay attention to the #socialdistancing instructions? Yeah, you guessed right. 😡 Not only did many people in Madrid NOT follow instructions, they hopped in their cars and headed to their holiday homes in the mountains, coastal towns (in Alicante it was obvious when the supermarkets started running out of meat on Wednesday, the supermarket butcher told me they only stocked enough for "regular weekday shopping", this was summer-level or weekend-level shopping he was seeing). A few days later the region of Murcia - the last region in Spain with zero cases - reported their first case, someone recently arrived from Madrid. A few days later Murcia had to lock down a few of its coastal towns due to the number of cases (imported from Madrid). In the rest of the country we were like "will you idiots stay the F*#K home?!".

One by one the various regions started announcing closures of educational institutions of all levels (from day care up to university) to #slowthespread. Sports events went from being played behind closed doors to suspended for 2 weeks. One after another (starting with Alicante!) cities announced the cancelation of the Holy Week processions indicating that no one believed this would be over by Easter. Alicante announced they were closing access to all the beaches to stop people (Madrid!) congregating there. WHO finally declared it a global pandemic. Then yesterday the government finally announced the "State of Alarm". Today they spent 7h behind locked doors and drafted the law making it official. At 9pm the president came out and told us what's what. No schools (etc.). No restaurants/bars/cafés. No cultural activities (museums, movies, concerts etc.). No going to friends'/family's homes. No GOING OUT AT ALL! Except to buy food, go to the pharmacy, get gas, walk the dog (that one has generated so many memes!!!), go to work (if your job doesn't allow for remote working), go to the house of an elderly relative to bring provisions ('cause they definitely shouldn't go anywhere).

Of course the moment the news was out on Friday many places just closed early. People rushed to the supermarket to buy toilet paper (?!?! this shall go down in History as the "great global TP crisis of 2020") and stock up on supplies as if they would never be able to leave their houses again (was a shock to see meat, fruit and veg shelves in the supermarket completely empty!). And today wasn't much better. I headed down to my local supermarket and then a local butcher's to get some fresh meat and fruit and veg for myself and to take to my mom. Not much luck with the meat (got her half a kilo of ground beef), no problem with the green stuff (as opposed to yesterday). And scary to see so many people in the supermarket both yesterday and today with laden carts. Hopefully they'll calm down in a few days when this collective psicosis has passed.

Signs of solidarity are emerging, especially with the healthcare professionals. Throughout day messages were passed from group to group via WhatsApp asking people to come out to their windows at 10pm and clap and cheer for the healthcare professionals. Was quite moving! People have been offering to help take care of kids for others who can't stay home from work, or go do shopping for the elderly so they don't take the risk of leaving their homes...

So here we are. At the end of Covid-19 lockdown day 1. Wasn't too bad, I got to do quite a bit of walking (left the car at home) between the supermarket, the butcher's near my mom's, taking food to her and then walking home. Was a nice sunny day today. Made me wish I could have gone for a walk on the beach... We'll see how this goes. This too shall pass. Inch'allah.

#stayhome #quedateencasa #yomequedoencasa #restecheztoi

31 Jan 2020

A year ago today

A month ago I was looking forward to the start of a new year because it meant I could - symbolically at least - start over fresh and hope for a better year than 2019. And it's a very low bar to be better than 2019. Only requirement is my family has to stay alive.

So 2020 should be better (I hope!), but as I'm discovering it's still going to be very painful. Because it's going to be pretty much a whole year of "A year ago today..."

A year ago today my dad had brain surgery. And came out of it unscathed, and with his sense of humor intact - he spent the following weeks talking about the hole in his head and showing off his Frankstein-look with a scary long line of staples along the side of his head!

A year ago on January 9th my dad went in for a brain scan (MRI) at a private clinic (looking into the cause of some symptoms that appeared the previous summer and got progressively worse over the fall), and the next day at doctor friend at that clinic called him and said "go straight to your the ER at your local hospital and have them admit you and get you to see a neurologist". The scan showed something in the brain that shouldn't be there, and the radiologist's expert opinion was tumor. But more studies would be needed to confirm what type exactly (although it was apparently quite clear).

A year ago on January 11th my dad was admitted to hospital and spent several weeks having tests done while neurologists, neurosurgeons and oncologists put together an attack plan. For starters relatively positive: it was in an easy place to access, minor risks for secondary effects, there was a chance it was benign...

A year ago tomorrow (or some day next week, the exact moment the initial suspicion was confirmed is lost in the fog of my mind) the neurosurgeon told us the tumor's name: glioblastoma multiforme, grade 4. Supposedly about as bad as it gets. Composed of various cell types that don't all respond to chemo in the same way. Super-fast growth. Spreads to other parts of the brain no problem... Average survival rate (or until a 2nd tumor appears, which is not always possible to remove through surgery): 2 years if it responds well to chemo/radiotherapy (with the occasional 5 year miracle case). If it doesn't? Less.

9 months later. It was over. The bastard was resistant to the chemo & radio, a scan in July showed new growth in the incision site and two new tumors in the other side of the brain. A strange crisis / tremor / spasm (to this date we still don't know how to describe it) had him back in hospital on July 29th. Home a few days later but unable to walk much without support because apparently one of the new tumors was affecting the right side of his body (hand, leg) and he needed a walker. Then a wheelchair, then no more leaving the house, then no more leaving the bed... And then

On October 23rd we'll be saying a year ago today he left us. On October 24th we said goodbye.

Will our hearts still be broken in October 2020? Oh god I hope not! But it's been 3 months and I feel worse instead of even marginally better.

Maybe one day I'll share about how wonderful everyone was last year. How much love was in our life, pouring in from around the world. But not today. Today I'm just pissed. Because a year ago today I had hope. And a year ago tomorrow I didn't.