Our lives have been turned upside down and we don’t know what’s normal anymore. In fact, we are all having to adapt to a new normal.
In December 2019, Covid -19 and coronavirus were words bandied about in reference to what was going on in China. For many of us, it was a news story from another part of the world, one that didn’t touch us directly unless we were watching the stock market. The facts were unsettling, and people were dying, but like all events that take place thousands of miles away from our first world couches and our 9 to 5 jobs, it wasn’t about us and it probably wouldn’t make it this far. For that moment, it was interesting and gripping, but still just news.
How quickly things change. Today Covid-19 is affecting the entire world and no matter where you live in this great big world of ours, your lives, by now, are in various stages of upheaval. Our normal lives have changed dramatically and most of us are desperately trying to adapt to our new routines.
Today marks 14 days of a government-sanctioned lock-down here in Spain. This meant staying home unless there was an essential or imperative reason to be out: Essentials – having to work; to purchase food, medicine or fuel; transportation to airports to return home or driving home; to walk the dog within a short distance from home. Imperatives – immediate health emergencies; ongoing medical appointments such as dialysis and cancer treatments; country-wide delivery of essentials to stores and medical facilities. Initially, the lock-down was slated for two weeks but has since been extended until April 13th – I won’t be making bets on it. The number of new infections, hospitalizations and fatalities are still rising, and until the curve flattens, I know the lockdown will continue.
Here in Nerja, all levels of the police force and some military have been called upon to monitor peoples’ compliance with the regulations and to help out wherever they are needed. Police cars constantly patrol the streets, loudspeakers are used to tell us (in Spanish, English and German) to stay inside, to not leave our homes unless absolutely necessary. Fines are handed out for breaking the rules. Woe unto to those who slip out to get a pack of smokes, a 6-pack and a bag of chips, go for a walk day after day with the same rock hard loaf of bread in your back-pack or walk your dog 3 kilometres from home because it takes her a while to find the perfect place to relieve herself – it will cost you big bucks or worse. There are few tales of non-compliance and most people in this town of 21,000 are doing their best to keep ‘un bicho (the bug)’ away.
The strict precautions seem to be working in Nerja because as of yesterday, there had not been one reported case of Covid-19, which means no deaths resulting from it either. Such amazing news in light of what’s happening in other parts of Spain.
So, amidst the lockdown procedures, we have adapted to a new normal.
First of all, my partner and I decided that I be the one to venture out into the public spaces for shopping and such, and he would bring out the trash and recycling. I go out every six days to pick up fresh vegetables, buy food and other essentials (including toilet paper we haven’t stockpiled).
This once a week food excursion is my social event of the week. First on the list is to pick up a box of fresh organic vegetables. Money is exchanged in a plastic baggie slipped out through a half-opened car window and the freshly picked vegetables are placed in the trunk. I can smell the onions right away! After a smile, a thank you and a brief conversation, I am off to the supermarket.
Once inside the store, I sanitize my hands, don my plastic gloves, grab a cart and away I go pick up according to my list. I keep my distance from others, step back, move aside and with a grand sweep of my plastic gloved hand, give leeway to others when they venture too close – my Covid-19 waltz of the supermarket aisles.
Supersol is the closest supermarket to my home and their employees are fabulous. Plastic gloves and hand sanitizer are provided upon entering the store. The employees themselves are masked, gloved and aproned, but are still helpful and engaging. The numbers shopping at one time are closely monitored. Lines 1-meter x 1-meter are taped off in front of the meat, cheese and fish counters and at the check-out, making it easy and safe for us shoppers to self-distance and to not subject the employees to unnecessary risk. Employees are constantly sanitizing the carts, trolleys and baskets. Still, they remain kind and helpful and are still laughing and joking with each other- I guess laughter still works in a 1-meter square space.
Groceries are packed when I get out to the car – bags for immediate use and those that can stay in the car until the next day. Packing this way is really an excuse to climb the 180 steps to the car and back. We have to take exercise wherever we can get it. As soon as I get home, I change my shoes and wash my hands. I’m done for another week.
At home, I’ve been cooking up a storm in order to use up the bounty in the veggie box and I now bake all of our bread. Since yeast (fresh or dried) is non-existent, a sour-dough starter is now fermenting, so in 3 days, it will be sourdough bread for us from then on.
I’ve tried to keep my days as close to routine as possible – get up early, shower and dress (no PJ’s allowed), read, write, study Spanish, have online chats with fellow Spanish students (in Spanish), cook, bake, play very competitive games of Scrabble with my partner, keep in touch with friends and family and let’s not forget the never-ending scourge of housework. Oh yes… I do watch TV, particularly Netflix, because I can’t handle the news anymore.
Sounds great hey? Normal even. Not even close. For as mundane and ridiculously ordinary as my life sounds right now, it is damned hard not to feel the weight of what is happening in the world. Just watch news coverage from places like Bergamo, Italy and Madrid and Barcelona, where the number of the sick and dying still rise, where health care workers and political leaders weep at the loss and heartbreak. It is gut-wrenching to think about the numbers of people who are isolated in their suffering, fighting with each shallow breath or taking that final breath alone. It’s difficult knowing that doctors are making real decisions on who can be taken off a ventilator in order to use it to let someone else live.
It makes me angry seeing stories of queues of people hoarding toilet paper and bottled water, Coca Cola and flour; of people treating self-isolation and social distancing as if they were obstacles to overcome, searching for some loophole to enable them to thumb their noses at the system in order to live their lives selfishly, without thought for others. Overcrowded parks and beaches; government leaders who deny or downplay what’s happening before their eyes. Is it ignorance, invincibility, selfishness, the lure of the almighty dollar?
As much as we seek to flood social media with uplifting and positive thoughts, read bedtime stories via Skype or find creative ways to battle boredom, somewhere mixed among it all is the scary reality stemming from this pandemic. We need to do absolutely everything in our power to slow the spread of the virus, to ease the difficulties of those working and fighting on our behalf, to turn our small actions into a massive collective turning point. And if that means simply staying home, then that’s what we need to do.
So, for those of you asking how I am doing? For the most part, I am doing fine – healthy and safe with enough of everything that I need. I fill my hours by keeping busy and doing things I never seem to find time for. I try and keep in touch with others. I feel good in that I am doing my part by following rules and check on our elderly neighbour every day under the guise of sharing a meal or a loaf of bread food. Physically, I can do no more. I do try to maintain a positive outlook, but it’s not easy to observe what’s happening in the world without feeling the hurt and uncertainty of the moment. It’s hard to comprehend what the fall out will be when the tide has turned. I long for simple things – the company of family and friends, freedom to come and go, the physicality of warm hugs and the joys of laughter shared across a table.
The weight of the world does lay heavily on me at the moment- more so regarding the future of our world. It causes me to think and question everything. When this is all over, I will return to a new normal…with gratefulness for people who serve me every day – the shop workers, truck drivers, health workers, and teachers to name a few. I will endeavour to show more patience and kindness to others. I will express thanks, admiration, and love often I will speak and live my truth as best I can. I will use my time wisely and be more circumspect with finances. I won’t take my freedom for granted and most of all, I won’t take this life for granted.
Life has never seemed more precious than it does at this very moment.