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!

Vote! I just submitted my absentee ballot – easy!

It was actually much easier than I was expecting to cast my overseas absentee ballot. A few years ago I also voted and had been in touch with the town clerk where I’m registered in Massachusetts. I just emailed her and only had to follow two steps:

1. Email back a scanned Absentee ballot request form

2. Email back the absentee ballot and affidavit form.

That’s all. So don’t think it’s complicated and not vote. Get in touch with your town clerk and vote today! The US needs some intelligence in office.

Absentee ballot
Yep. There they are – the big whigs…

Spanish food is different

I had some delicious home-cooked food today – alubias blancas (white beans) and empanada de morcilla (blood sausage empanada). As I was enjoying this earlier I thought “Wow, this is definitely not something I would be eating in the US!”

One word – delicious!

Two words – and healthy (more or less)

Any interest in the recipes let me know!

Alubias blancas
Empanada de morcilla – so good I had to have a bite before the picture

Discounted Apple products in Madrid @ Costco (and also Halloween pumpkins)

My Airpods have been on the fritz for quite some time now. I’ll admit they’ve also gone through the washing machine a couple times, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with it. After talking to an Apple rep last week I finally gave in that I’m going to have to buy new ones. (Technically I could just use the normal ones, but once you’ve gotten used to the cable-free headphones it’s hard to go back, especially with sports).

Yesterday I went to my beloved Costco, mainly to buy decent-sized pumpkins (and oversized American-brand bulk products and food that I really don’t need)… I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they sell Apple products. I was just about to buy the Airpods at the standard price of 179.00€. At Costco they sell the same ones, second generation, for 144,99€. They also have other Apple products like the new iPhones and some laptops, but as I’m not in the market for those I didn’t look in more detail.

I thought this was might be useful to share. I love Costco! Definitely worth the annual membership fee!

New Airpods from Costco

And one more image. Since I’m writing about Costco, it’s necessary to include an image of the pumpkins there -best ones I’ve found over here!

Covid-19 Madrid – heading for another big lockdown?

I feel like I’m living in a bubble these days. If you watch the news, from the outside, it looks like everything is completely going downhill here in Spain and that we’re headed for another lockdown. Just the other day they announced new restrictions in Madrid, not allowing people to enter or leave 37 most-affected areas in the city. And we’re back to more than 10,000 cases a day…

If you don’t see the news and look at my daily activities, though, it almost feels like nothing is really happening: On one hand my kids started back in school a week ago with some restrictions like mandatory face masks for the older one and shortened schedules, but overall it doesn’t feel so strange. We can go play in the parks, play in the pool (until it closed a few days ago), etc. On another hand with work, my company has made it mandatory for everyone to be back in the office, as if nothing is going on… of course there are a lot of safety measures and we already have some people in quarantine from being Covid-positive or with others that are positive I understand wanting to get back to normal and transmit normalcy, but it just seems odd. A lot of companies like my husband’s for example already have all employees working from home until January 2021. I don’t think it should be so black and white at this stage. Things are changing by the day.

From a social perspective, although you can’t have meetings in groups of more than 10 people (now will be 6 as of Monday), restaurants are still packed every day, terraces are full, and groups bigger than 10 really just translates to more than one table. Maybe this will change with the new restrictions.

To be honest I don’t see how temporarily closing down certain parts of the city with the highest virus concentrations (mainly those that are most impoverished as well which will just be more of a problem for people who can’t work) is really the answer. I understand that the last thing the country wants or needs is a lockdown as this would destroy the economy, and I agree. So, what is the answer? Good question. Hopefully I’m wrong and we’ll see in a few weeks that things are more under control. As I’ve said in previous posts I think there’s such a strong, underlying social component here in Spain that it will be hard to curb social gatherings, especially amongst younger people. However, a government measure to have bars close now at 10pm instead of 1am (1am was a restriction from a while back), for example… Maybe the problem is more the bar itself than the 3 hour shortened window. Last night I went out for dinner at a restaurant that fully complied with the distancing and hygiene measures, etc. Then, taking a walk afterwards we passed by a number of smaller bars that were packed with people on top of each other. As I’ve said in other posts, time will tell.

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!

Yes, I had the coronavirus – the serological test and WIM

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about taking the quick Covid finger prick test only to find out, to my surprise, that I had never had the virus (see post here). Last week I had the serological test (where you have blood taken) and found out that not only had I had Covid and passed it a while back, but that I also now have a high level of antibodies. Go figure. More than anything I had been surprised with the quick test as I was convinced that the symptoms I had back in mid-March were related. I had completely lost my sense of smell/taste and also had a really bad cough for a full week (click here for more about my covid experience).

I’ve learned quite a bit more about the different types of tests and also about the low reliability of the quick tests since then. My recommendation would be to either take the serological test or the PCR if you’re in doubt. In my case my work paid for the test and provided it on-site since it will be a requirement for anyone to go back to the office.

I consider myself a pretty intelligent person, but when I received the test results, it wasn’t very intuitive, and I was surprised that the report didn’t come with any sort of “instructions” to interpret it. Finally I found a guide to understand my IgM (-) and IgG (+) results. So, in case this is helpful, here’s a guide that I used:

 

Click to access Pruebas_disponibles_COVID-19.pdf

 

WIM –  to be honest I’m not exactly sure what my results mean since it’s not at all clear that having antibodies really is an indicator of immunity, but I guess it’s better to have them than not. Also, I’d love to know whether my results mean that I could help others by donating blood. Surprisingly there’s no indicator of this either or any easy way to find out if I could help others. All I know is that being positive for antibodies is a score of 1 or more, and I had 105…

Screenshot 2020-06-16 at 22.39.36

If anyone knows more about this I’d love to hear!