Category Archives: Life in Spain

When a “puente” means a lot more than a bridge

This weekend we have a “puente”, literally translating to a bridge, but it’s much better than that. A “puente” is basically a long holiday weekend, some longer than others depending upon the holiday and the number of days. We always have the “puente of December” which includes Constitution Day on the 6th and the Day of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th. This year we have next Monday and Tuesday off since one of the holidays falls on a Sunday.

Due to Covid restrictions Madrid has a perimetral confinement in place from the 4th until the 14th, so we can’t leave the community of Madrid. However, since the restriction in my town was lifted on Monday I’m not complaining – we can finally cross the frontier to another town!

Happy holidays (weekend)!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow? Good thing the pre-packed turkey at Supercor reminded me.

With all the Covid craziness these days I’ve almost forgotten that Turkey day is tomorrow. Although I’ll admit that the endless amount of Black Friday offers coming my way these days are a hint (by the way offers all in Spanish and with no mention of nor relation to Thanksgiving). Given all the restrictions we have with meeting in groups of up to 6 and curfews, and actually not even being able to leave our town at the moment, we won’t be having much of a celebration this year.

In any case I was pleasantly surprised to see a large selection and display of ready-made stuffed turkey options at the Supercor supermarket today. Granted the idea of throwing a pre-made turkey in the microwave isn’t the same, but it’s something. Actually the brand that they have at Supercor is one from which you can order online and receive a fully-cooked Thanksgiving meal. I had it a few years ago at a friend’s place, and it was actually pretty good. But not cheap – almost 100€ for an 8/10 portion box

In case anyone’s interested it’s Cascajares – https://cascajares.eu/es/

Apparently they also have Black Friday…with Thanksgiving Turkeys.

When a sausage hanging on the wall is normal

It didn’t phase me today when I noticed a half-eaten sausage hanging from a nail on the wall in our kitchen terrace. Keeps it fresh right?

Yes… I think this may be a sign of “spanishization”

There he is, the hanging sausage
Right next to the water heater. Makes sense I guess. He’s not bothering anyone

Still in lockdown in Majadahonda, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I haven’t written a post recently since there hasn’t really been much to tell. Since a week and a half ago my town has been in perimetral lockdown, meaning that we can’t leave the town and no one can enter (unless for justifiable reasons like work or medical appointments). Supposedly these restrictions will continue until Nov. 22nd (just in time to hopefully buy a turkey for Thanksgiving).

To be honest, this isn’t something that’s really too much of a hassle, especially during the week since you usually just work and then are at home. And these days a lot of people are working from home anyway. In my case my office is fully open as it’s a campus and we have courses fully running (with strict security precautions), but my weeks are a mix of WFH/office. Where it’s more noticeable is on the weekends since we can’t go very far or to the Sierra for example. All I have to say is thank goodness we have a great mountain/forest area near where we live. So lucky to have our Monte de Pilar so close by! The best discoveries have been the amazing views (according to my kids) of the cercanías trains that pass by and this cool tree hut that my husband found on a bike ride one day. Hours of entertainment 🙂

On a positive note it seems like things may be working as cases in our town have gone down from 700+ /100,000 habitants to less than 500. Slow and steady wins the race? But on a more positive note there’s this news about the upcoming vaccine of course. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but since it’s already being hyped all over the news I will. I’m hoping that by late next spring/early summer we can really be starting to see big changes here. I’m already looking forward to going home to Boston and going to the beach (without masks). Ojalá (Let’s hope!)

Leadership during times of crisis and Madrid Covid-19 – some thoughts

Does anyone really understand what’s going on in Madrid or the current Covid-19 confinement measures? If so, please fill me in! Literally, every day there are new rules or restrictions, rules that have changed, new confined areas, etc. I have never seen communications and messages change so quickly and be so confusing at the same time. Now I completely understand that this is an unprecedented and very complicated situation, and I know the government is trying to figure out what they think is the best way to handle the escalating crisis, but let’s get back to Leadership 101 and Communication skills for a minute. Maybe I’m influenced by the fact that I work at a business school, but I’m seeing the result of unclear communication in action…

Image: dreamstime.com

Two words: Transparent and Clear

Leaders should be empathetic and honest with people, being transparent in their messages. At the same time the messages should be clear. Otherwise, you’re just adding more confusion and uncertainty to the crisis.

Hey leaders! Here’s an article that might help you!: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joyceearussell/2020/07/26/leading-in-times-of-crisis/?sh=66e4cf116ed2

In general if you listen to any conversation these days around here it’s about how confusing everything is and people not knowing where they can go and not. How can the government expect people to comply with the rules if we don’t even understand them?

One thing I’ve seen happen continuously as well, apart from confusing rules is that the government or towns will announce that there will be some new restrictions and will give a bit of detail, but the restrictions won’t be in effect until a few days from then. Why give so much notice if it’s only going to create more uncertainty? A little time I can understand, but I don’t see the need to wait 3 days, announcing something early Friday that won’t take effect until Monday.

On Monday most of my town, Majadahonda, went under lockdown (you can only go in and out for specific reasons like medical appointements, work, etc.). I say most of my town since specifically the area where I live wasn’t confined. Now, just 4 days later it’s been announced that starting Monday (yes, in 3 days) my area as well will be confined. So now all of Majadahonda is under confinement, but does that mean I can travel freely within the whole town (i.e. can I go to Mercadona that’s in “the other zone”? Some people think yes, some people think no. All I know is that I’m going to run any errands for things I need this weekend since I won’t be able to starting Monday (and this is exactly why they shouldn’t announce restrictions with so much advance notice!)

I spent a good amount of time studying a pdf map of my town with the confined areas marked off to try to figure out where I could go and not. You’re talking to someone who can get lost in a parking garage…now I’m studying pdf maps with a magnifying glass. This can’t end well…

Covid-19 may lead me to a new profession??? – cartographer

Clearly Spain isn’t the only place where things are getting worse – France and Germany just announced tough restrictions. Apart from Australia and New Zealand, it looks like everyone is riding the second wave. In any case, as I always say, I just hope that these measures actually do something and prevent the virus from spreading further. And prevent us being confined inside our homes -again!

Coronavirus Madrid lockdown Day 65: Masks will now be mandatory. Now??…

We’ve been living an a State of Emergency since March 14th, only being able to go out to the supermarket and the pharmacy for the first six weeks. Now, more than two months later we can go out to exercise and to take our kids out for an hour a day. While we’re still in the preliminary phases of recovery (currently Madrid is in Phase 0.5, whatever that exactly means…), it seems that things are moving along positively. In fact, it was announced that there were “only” 59 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, so the situation seems to be getting better. As things are finally starting to seem to improve, the government is now making it mandatory to wear masks in closed spaces and when it can’t be guaranteed that there will be 2 meters of space between yourself and another person. It’s true that the country is slowing starting to open up, but …hmmm… this now, why not before?

Screenshot 2020-05-18 at 22.32.17

Here’s a recent article: https://elpais.com/sociedad/2020-05-18/el-uso-de-mascarilla-sera-obligatorio-en-espacios-cerrados-y-en-la-via-publica-si-no-se-puede-garantizar-la-distancia.html

Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this being mandatory if this is a way to keep the virus under control and to prevent a second phase, but I’d just like someone to explain why this hasn’t been mandatory all along. I can only think of two reasons: 1. The government was incapable of having enough supplies for everyone, which is why they didn’t make this a requirement even if they thought it should be one. or 2. Really, no one knew what was going on or had any idea what to do.

From talking with my family back in Boston I found it interesting that they have not ever been under lockdown to the point where they could get a fine for being outside, yet it has been mandatory to wear face masks for some time now.

Honestly, the government’s advice related to the use of face masks here has been anything but not confusing. We’ve gone through a few phases since the start of the pandemic:  first, face masks were discouraged for asymptomatic people. Then their use was made “recommended”. Next face masks were made required for people using public transportation. And now, over 2 months later face masks will be mandatory in general for the uses/situations I’ve already mentioned. To add to the confusion there’s even doubt over the efficacy of the free masks being handed out in pharmacies by the Community of Madrid (see my recent post: COVID-19 in Madrid: Lockdown Day 63 (possibly to be continued another month)

Given the confusion with the requirements I’m also expecting some confusion with the details about their use, which should be communicated soon. Logically, this poses some questions: how long will this be mandatory and how will it be enforced? What kind of face mask should I wear? (if you’re like me you probably know there are different types but not all the details) Should I be expecting to see officers patrolling the mountain where I go out for my runs?

Just another chapter in the pandemic here in Madrid. Thank goodness Mercadona now sells 10 packs of masks for 6€…

 

COVID-19 in Madrid: Lockdown Day 63 (possibly to be continued another month)

Pedro Sanchez, the President of the government here in Spain, just announced today that they’re planning to ask for an extension of “about a month” to the current state of emergency that’s been underway in Spain for over two months now. (https://www.elmundo.es/espana/2020/05/16/5ebfd22ffc6c83c8318b45d8.html). To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand I think we need to do whatever is necessary to make sure this pandemic gets under control and does not result in a second wave. On the other hand I’m completely anxious, as are a lot of people, to get back to “normal” as soon as possible. Also I’m starting to wonder if this sort of lockdown will really bring about this “normalcy” that we’re seeking.

It’s actually starting to not feel so strange anymore to be living most of our lives from home. Some other things that are feeling normal which would have seemed a bit crazy a few months ago:

  • Wearing face masks everywhere. I can’t imagine these days going to the supermarket or the pharmacy (can’t go anywhere else) without a mask and gloves. This seemed like out of a movie a couple months ago.
  • IMG_6813

Now what seems stranger than this is actually NOT having a mask. When I’m out running I would say about half of the people are wearing masks.

I remember at the beginning of all of this how there was such panic and no one could even find face masks (or gloves, hand gel – or toilet paper for that matter) to purchase. Now less than two months later the largest retailer here, Mercadona, is selling 10 packs of masks for 6€:

IMG_6811

Also, along this same line, just last week the Community of Madrid started distributing free face masks for all citizens (starting at 4 years old) to be picked up at pharmacies. This is the new norm. I picked up my masks the other day (below), only to then go home and read an article saying that the quality of the masks wasn’t clear… So many questions… (See article for more info/doubts: https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2020-05-13/mascarillas-gratuitas-comunidad-madrid-certificado-no-valido_2590463/)

  • “Homeschooling” or lack thereof. Or whatever you want to call it, it’s gotten normal to wake up every morning with my two little kids without trying to rush through breakfast, out of the house and to school, to not arrive late to work. Now it’s trying to get them to do a couple home work sheets a day at most. And with the ipad, which used to be something we used once every couple weeks or so, as the daily prize for doing so.
  • Time tables to go outside. If I want to go out and run I know that the latest I can leave is 9am in order to get back by the 10am “curfew”. And when I’m out during this time I feel so thankful to have the time to be outside and do so (after 6 weeks of previously  not being able to leave the house). Stockholm syndrome resemblance? And once noon rolls around I know it’s time that the kids can go out, but only for an hour of course.
  •  Remote work. All the time. While I think overall this is very positive for Spain and a big push forward that this country needed in this area, it’s still a shock to go from 0 to 180. It’s challenging a lot of companies to work in these ways, but it’s also helping companies realize what I already saw back in the US 15 years ago – yes, you can trust employees to work remotely and be responsible! Work by objectives is much more valuable than work by hours. It’s great that we’ve had this push forward, although it will also be nice to get back to the office for a mix. 24 hour sweatpants can get a bit old.
  • Awkward interactions with people. I remember one of the first times I was in a supermarket with my full gear on (face mask, gloves), and I sneezed. It was like a moment out of a movie – everything seemed to go in slow motion as everyone around me looked over in horror, then quickly spread out. As the days go by it’s hard to think how things will be in a few months or even a year’s time. Will we go back to the casual two-cheeked kisses to great people as is so normal and customary here in Spain? Will people be afraid to meet up casually or go to bars and restaurants to meet with people? For now I can definitely say it’s awkward to run into people and not know how to greet them, but I hope this will ease in a few months.

I’ve already succumbed to the reality that my kids won’t go back to school until September and that things will definitely not go back to any sort of normalcy over night. For now we’re just taking it a day at a time and trying to go with the flow.

COVID-19 Madrid Lockdown Day 43 – Finally some news!

Today was the start of the light at the end of the tunnel. After 43 days of being under lock down we were finally able to take the kids outside to get some fresh air. Granted it was an hour limit, and only one parent could go with them, but it was definitely much-appreciated. Although the boys have been quite happy at home with all their toys, TV and both parents and haven’t been asking to leave the house really, they were happy to  go out and bike around for a while. And I was happy to see them get out and get some fresh air – and burn off some energy!

I live in a very residential neighborhood and in general people tend to follow the rules, but I have to say I was surprised to see in about half of the cases both parents out with the kids – specifically against the rules. And then there were endless images on the news of people not respecting the norms. I just hope this doesn’t cause a rebound effect. The rules and slow re-entry to “normal” life are there for a reason…

Next Saturday, assuming everything goes according to plan, we’ll be able to go out and exercise (individually). Finally! While I’ve gotten really addicted to some amazing youtube at-home workout videos, I definitely am missing going out for runs.

T-6. New running shoes ready.

The other news is that I baked the other day. Cookies. Chocolate chip peanut butter cookies to be exact, and they came out delicious.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a sign that this quarantine has gone on for too long. For anyone that knows me I love sweets and eating, but I am not one to ever consider spending a free moment cooking or baking unless it’s out of necessity. Time to get out of the house!

 

 

Madrid COVID-19 quarantine – Day 7

Spain just announced that the official lockdown has been extended until April 12th. So, in the best-case scenario we’re looking at another 3 full weeks inside until things can potentially get back to “normal”. This isn’t surprising – they announced last night that we can only expect the overall situation to get worse in the coming weeks. Hey, if this is what it takes for things to get better and finally get back to “normal” then it’s what we need to do.

Just to clarify, when I say official lockdown I don’t mean the kind where there are recommendations for social distancing and staying at home to flatten the curve. I’m talking about not being allowed to leave our houses. You can get fined by the police if you’re out on the street without a justifiable reason. No complaints here – while we stay healthy and safe I can’t complain.

And on a positive note my sense of smell/taste is finally starting to come back, slowy but surely!

On another positive note there are so many different entertainment options available online these days it seems the real problem is not having enough free time with the kids around to be able to take advantage. Some cool ones I’ve seen so far have been live concerts that artists are putting on from their homes, like Alejandro Sanz, Chris Martin, Bob Sinclair. Not sure about David Guetta but I’d love to see him. For the kids our house has converted into a 24 hour arts and crafts gallery/lego making station. Hey, whatever works.

At night we’re still continuing with our solidarity applauses and cheers at 8pm from our balcony. For the kids its the moment when they get excited to put on their jackets and shoes and go outside to see all the neighbors and lights. I hope this will continue and keep everyone’s spirits up. I just spoke to some friends in Italy who told me that this has kind of died out over there where they are at least (now they’re already on 2 weeks of quarantine),; hopefully we can keep it up here, at least for the kids’ sake, and as a bit of motivation for all.

I’ll leave with this image, drawings my son put up on our terrace this morning to share with the neighbors. #wecanbeatthis:

IMG_3540

 

 

 

COVID-19 Lockdown in Madrid – Day 4

Another day – check! T- ???

Two important things I learned today:

  1. Cardboard boxes (especially if they’re big) are the solution to everything. Next time we have a birthday or occasion for gifts I’m definitely going to think twice about buying anything

IMG_3284

2. 8pm is now one of our favorite times of the day. It started as a spontaneous moment the first day of the official quarantine at 10pm where everyone went out on their terraces to clap in appreciation of the medical staff and support who are working around the clock to fight this. Now this has turned into a nightly 8pm clapping ritual with kids. After the first day it was announced that the following day at 8pm we would repeat so that kids could join. Now it’s a routine, jackets, shoes and all, to go out on the terrace and join our neighbors in clapping. The kids love it. Today someone in an apartment not too far away started playing what sounded like the drums. I’m looking forward to tomorrow!