Still waiting for the “nueva normalidad”. And what is going on with schools? … Post-summer, but not post-covid in Spain.

The last time I wrote here was a few months ago. To be honest I thought by the time September rolled around everything with Covid would already seem like a semi-nightmare of the past and we would be wading through the consequences. Unfortunately, however, we’re still pretty much in the same boat as June and still with high levels of uncertainty. The only “positive” side is that we seem to be somewhat better prepared (in the sense that we are aware of the potential risk and results and have more access to personal protection materials) and there do not seem to be as many casualties, as of now.

What’s amazing to me is how quickly Spain has landslided as a country, in comparison to other European countries. Now that vacation is over (yes, vacation definitely still happened here in August, including for the government) everyone is scrambling to figure out how to contain the growing virus, how to make school work for kids (rules are changing by the day) and how to get back to some level of normalcy without resulting in a 2nd lockdown.

Personally, we spent the summer at the beach in Cadiz. I can’t complain as this is a great vacation spot, and it wasn’t a bad Plan B since my trip to Boston with the kids had been cancelled. Here are a few thoughts after my month in Cadiz:

  • You can get used to wearing masks, even to the beach. Months ago I couldn’t even imagine wearing a mask at all, let alone in the heat or to the beach. Whether I wanted to or not, in August it just became part of the routine, not to say that it’s comfortable though – mask on to leave the house, mask on until you get to your spot on the beach, mask on if you’re going to walk anywhere on the beach, and mask on to go back home. At the beach there were “beach mask police” constantly patrolling the shores to make sure people were complying with covid rules. Apart from getting in trouble for not wearing masks, I also saw people who had to put away games or toys like paddle ball since was not complying with rules.
  • Spain’s culture and social scene won’t change over night. Asking people in Spain to stop going out and gathering together is like…well, it’s not even comparable to anything else; it won’t change overnight. I was surprised to see large gatherings of people in small spaces in some pueblos in the south of Spain, like in Chipiona and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. People were wearing masks (in general) as this is the law, but social distancing was sometimes negative. Don’t get me wrong – one of the things I’ve always loved about Spain is the friendly, open culture and intense social scene. But I was a bit surprised to see such large crowds of people with everything going on. Actually I just read an article now saying that one of the reasons people believe things have gone downhill so quickly is that people just “relaxed” after the lockdown, and quickly.

Now it’s September and we’re trying to get back to reality and trying to figure out what is going on with schools. My children go to a public school in Majadahonda. In the last few days the schools have been scrambling to try to establish protocols, arrange classes, teachers, etc. For parents it’s creating a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. And for the schools, from what I gather, it’s also creating a lot of stress. What amazes me is that this pandemic is nothing new, but now everything is last minute as the government has come back from vacation and now are setting guidelines for the schools a few days before opening… at this point it seems to me that schools generally have similar protocols, but there are still a lot of fine points to work out. For example, in our school they’ve just announced that we will have a “jornada intensiva” with classes straight from 9-14h (instead of the usual from 9.30-13:30 and then class after lunch in the afternoon until 16:30h), but in another semi-private school right down the street they won’t have this intense schedule and will have class until 17h as usual. The kids in our classes won’t have any furniture in the classrooms, just tables and chairs, and they won’t be able to even bring school books home at the end of the day.

Will these protocols work? I guess time will tell. What I wonder is really how all of these protocols will work when the same kids who are kept in “bubble classrooms” and separated so tightly at school come home and then mix and run around in the parks outside…

It seems this is the “new normality” for now!

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