Tag Archives: COVID-19 Madrid

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!

 

 

 

Cancelling summer flights to the US with Iberia

Last week I called Iberia to formally cancel my upcoming direct flights from Madrid to Boston, scheduled for the end of July. It was with a heavy heart that I decided to cancel my trip, but after giving it a lot of thought I decided that the overall stress and risk of the trip just didn’t make sense to be back home for two weeks.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, as you never know with customer service around here, but it was actually pretty smooth. I had purchased three tickets – one for me that I paid for with avios, and one for each of my children. The one that I paid for with avios was refunded very quickly (the cash paid for the taxes and the avios).  As for the tickets that I bought for my children I had two options – cancel right now and receive a voucher for the total amount of the tickets that could be used for up to a year (for anyone, not just for another ticket for them) or wait until closer to the flight date to see if Iberia cancels the flight. In the latter case that would mean that I would automatically be refunded the full ticket price. I was told that I had this option up until right before the actual flight given the Covid situation. Since there’s no real rush I’ve decided to wait closer to the date and see if Iberia cancels the flight, in which case I’d get a full refund.

We’ll see what happens. Hopefully by Christmas things will be better and I can make the trip!

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!

 

 

My COVID-19 experience: complete loss of smell and taste

One day I woke up and had absolutely no sense of smell or taste – nothing. This was just about a month ago, right after Spain officially announced enforced quarantine. This was also before this started showing up across various news sources as a symptom actually related with COVD-19. At first I thought maybe I had a sinus infection, but this just felt different. It felt strange since I had no nasal congestion, and I pretty much felt fine except for this. I did have a deep, dry cough for about the same amount of time, but no other symptoms. About a week prior to this I had one night where I woke up with a fever and chills, but then it was gone the next day.

Screenshot 2020-04-13 at 15.29.24

For almost 7 days I had ZERO sense of smell or taste. I remember holding my kids and trying to smell their little heads, but nothing. Shampoo, perfumes, food… I actually lost my appetite, which for anyone who knows me, knows that that isn’t common. We actually had a box of chocolates that sat in the pantry for a full week.

I called the public health line dedicated to COVID-19 a few days into this, but since I didn’t have a fever or trouble breathing the response was just to stay at home and monitor things. If it got any worse I should go to my public health center.

This article I just read the other day reminded me exactly of what happened to me: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/12/health/smell-taste-coronavirus-pandemic-wellness-intl-gbr/index.html

Little by little the senses came back. Now almost a month later I would say that I’m still at about 85-90% of the norm. In general I can smell and taste everything, but there are some dishes where I know by memory that they should have more intensity, but they just don’t. I wonder how long it will last to go back to the “old normal”. Technically I don’t know if I really did have a weak case of COVID-19, but it all seems to point to that. So, now some more questions pop into my head – does this mean I may have some sort of immunity? Will it go back to 100?

Has anyone else had any experience with this? Thoughts?

 

COVID-19 in Madrid – Lockdown Day 24 – the “new normal”?

It’s been over three weeks now since we’ve been in total quarantine, and realistically, we’re probably looking forward to another 3+ weeks of the same. Fortunately, I have to say that it hasn’t been as crazy (with the kids) as I was assuming at the start. More or less we’ve gotten into a daily routine, although some days seem longer than others. And most importantly, we’re all healthy, which is a lot to say when you watch the news (I try to avoid it in real time; online is easier to digest). This has become my “new normal” these days: home life, home schooling, home.

Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 15.21.29

There is a lot of talk of the “new normal”, speculating various scenarios of the world post COVID-19 crisis. Of course you can look at this from a number of different angles – for example, economically, as the big companies with financial leverage will likely just continue to grow after this. And online is booming. (I say this as I just purchased a fitness mat through Amazon and another Amazon package delivering arts & crafts supplies just arrived. Thank goodness for e-commerce). Here’s an interesting Economist article about this: https://www.economist.com/business/2020/03/26/the-pandemic-shock-will-make-big-powerful-firms-even-mightier

Another angle is related to the government: what role will the government play once all of this is over. In general federal governments are taking on more powerful, imposing roles over local government during this war-like time. Will this continue once COVID passes and what are the repercussions?  Here’s another interesting article about “The new normal” I just read about large-scale global possible changes from McKinsey: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-new-normal

What I find really interesting, apart from these topics, is how this pandemic will change social norms. Once we’re all “released” from quarantine I’m sure there will be a boom of social activity, especially here in Spain where the only way to keep people indoors and from not being social was to add police enforcement (I may be exaggerating slightly, but it is true that Spain is a super social, outdoors kind of place, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m here). I know personally I can’t wait to get out – during the day, at night, you name it. But I wonder how long it will take for everything to really get back to “normal” socially, if that will happen. I remember the first time I had a job interview here and was taken aback by the two-cheek kissing at the start of the meeting. Now, of course, I’m used to this kind of social greeting, but will we lose this in the future? If not, (I don’t think so), how long will it take for us to get back to this state (probably more of my question)? With the boom of online work spaces, apps like House Party and more and more social gatherings remotely, how much of this will stay on as a norm once life goes back to “normal”? Will the new normal still involve virtual hangouts with friends?

On a personal note I hope that in general things go back to how they were before the lockdown for me. It would be great if this led to some positive changes like companies recognizing the value and possibility of employees working more from home.

From my own perspective a few things will likely change:

  • Time with kids. This lockdown has forced us to spend 24-7 with our kids. Despite all the external chaos, this is something I will always look back on with positive memories, my lockdown of waking up and having my morning coffee every day with my son without rushing around and yelling for them to eat breakfast, get dressed, etc. before rushing out to school/work. I’ve also realized they don’t care as much about going outside. Note for the future when I’m getting antsy after work or on the weekends to rush outside with them so they’re not bored at home.
  • Phone and video calls with friends and family. It took a crisis to realize how important and nice it is to take a few minutes to catch up with family and friends. With so much “time on our hands” people have been connecting virtually, but why not do this in general. We’re all busy, but I think taking a few minutes to catch up has a much longer effect than the actual few minutes “that we never have” to connect.
  • Workout routine. I’m an avid runner. Once the lockdown started this has been impossible. So for about 3 weeks now I’ve been hooked on youtube cardio/Hiit/kickboxing workouts that I’ve been doing on my small terrace (sorry neighbors below, but I think they’ll understand). I love them! I’ve forgotten how much I love these type of workouts that I thought I didn’t have time for anymore. Once everything goes back to the norm I’m going to start mixing up my straight out running routine.
  • Future focus. I’m lucky to be taking an online Women and Leadership course that happens to fall exactly during the timing of this lockdown. This course involves a 360 evaluation, a lot of self-reflection and introspection and plans for the future. One thing this lockdown has given me as well is time to think about what I may want to do differently or focus on once it’s over.

These are just a couple thoughts about changes. However, one thing that will not change is I still know that I could never be an elementary school teacher! Or work full-time from home.

What do you think will be the “new normal”? How long will it take to get there?

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 -Homeschooling what? A few recommended online resources

There’s a reason why I’m not a teacher. And that’s not going to change. However, during times of crisis we all have to deal with things that take us out of our comfort zone, for example, not being able to leave the house with two little kids…

Honestly there are so many online resources, web pages with information, educational sites for kids, etc. that what is most difficult is to find good ones. Or ones that don’t make you pay before you use anything. At my older son’s school they didn’t send us any work this last week to let other people catch up from previous weeks, and next week is Easter “holiday”, so we won’t have anything either. I’ve been scouring the internet myself to try to find things to print out to put together some sort of homework pack for the week.

Although it’s not a long list, here are a few resources that I’ve used that have been helpful:

1. https://www.verywellfamily.com/best-free-educational-websites-for-kids-3129084 This web has a list of 17 web sites with a mix of educational information, games, etc. So far from what I’ve seen there are a lot of interesting things. Some are a bit too old for my 6 year old, but again there’s a good mix:

2. www.pbskids.org Any American will know PBS from when you were little. My 6 year old loves this site. It has a lot of easy, interactive games for little ones and videos.

3. https://www.education.com/home-learning/?cid=10.177 This site is generally pay, but they are offering a lot of great, free resources now. I’ve printed out a lot of the Independent Study Packs and used the worksheets to put together lessons. They have from pre-school to 5th grade and by subject. There are also a few easy, interactive games and guided lessons

4. https://es.ixl.com/math/infantil This one is in Spanish. It’s full of short, interactive exercises that your kids can do on the computer to practice math and reading. So far I’ve used it for basic math.

My last reco isn’t a web site, but we printed out “Happy meal box templates” that we found online and made homemade happy meals, complete with chicken nuggets, french fries and of course a small toy (make sure you have this before starting). There are tons, but here’s just one example:

And here’s how they came out 🙂

I have to say the kids really loved this one. I would definitely recommend it!

Good luck!

COVID-19 Lockdown Day 12: the kids are alright; it’s the parents who aren’t. Two things keeping my sanity.

Cue The Who: The kids are alright. Lots of talk about the poor kids not being able to play outside and memes with kids escaping or having meltdowns. They’re going to be so upset… the truth is that the kids are quite alright! It’s the parents who are going crazy with this lockdown. I’m the one who’s going to be hitting myself in the head with a toy gun soon.

Maybe it’s just in my case – please I’d love to hear feedback from others – but my two little kids don’t seem to be bothered in the least that they’re home playing all day….in fact I think it’s going to be tough to take them out of the quarantine. School? Wait, what’s that?!

For sure the ones that are going crazy being stuck in the house are the parents. From time to time I silently put on my jacket and sneak out to “the outside” to buy bread at the gas station. I feel like a delinquent.

Two things that are keeping me sane during these times:

  1. Exercise. For years now I’ve been an outdoor runner since that’s really the easiest and fastest form of exercise with little kids. Cut to quarantine – I’m becoming a big fan of Hiit/Cardio videos on Youtube. When you’re given lemons, make lemonade. Some of my favorite channels that I’ve found so far, although really there are endless free ones:
  2. Music. The best way I’ve found to take a little breather and zone out mentally is with music. I’ve always liked music, but there’s something about it these days that helps to have that little bit of mental escape. (you can put on your headphones, turn up the volume and tune out screaming kids :)) The best I’ve found so far is this one: every day from 14-15h (Spain time) Bob Sinclar spins a streaming live awesome mix through his facebook channel. It’s great, if you like that kind of music. I’m still waiting for David Guetta to get into the mix. Definitely open to hearing any other suggestions or channels!
Bob Sinclar live session today

Bob Sinclar live session today

Keep calm. The end is near…

Customer Experience during COVID-19 – more important than ever!

If you’ve followed my blog in the past and/or read some of my past entries you’ll know that Customer Experience is something I’m very passionate about. There are two main reasons for this: 1) I used to work on a research team at Forrester Research dedicated to the importance of Customer Experience and showing the real ($$) benefits of companies taking this seriously, and 2) when I moved to Spain I realized how I had really taken customer experience for granted in the US. Spain had a LONG way to go. Fourteen years later the whole Customer Experience “thing” has definitely gained importance over here, but the customer is still not always the priority. In general in Spain I usually go into “Atención al cliente” calls assuming that they will tell me I’m wrong or being the one to blame. Some companies are better than others, but overall it’s still not a priority. You can find a number of past articles in my blog about my experiences.

One thing I’m pretty clear about: customers don’t easily forget bad experiences! Now, as we’re on the brink of a severe economic crisis that is affecting and paralyzing almost all sectors, it’s the best time for companies to show customers that they care about them and give them something memorable. When the COVID-19 crisis is over and things get back to normal (yes they will), I can guarantee that people would be more than likely to do business again with a company that has treated them well and/or showed them care during the crisis than ones that have put their own priorities first or ignored customers during this time of uncertainty.

A couple of my experiences:

  • Hotels. I had 2 different trips that have completely gone out the window (and 2 possible out the windows) with this crisis. In both of the non-salvageable cases I wrote directly to the hotels that I had reserved to cancel. In one case I paid for a non-refundable weekend stay at a hotel in Barcelona. Given the situation I wrote asking to use the already-paid for weekend at a later date, not trying to get my money back. I was very happy to receive a personal note back a few days later saying that this wouldn’t be a problem. In the future if I have to make another trip I will definitely consider booking with Hotel Balmoral again. In the other case I had a hotel reserved in Marrakech with free cancellation; I’m still waiting for them to get back to me to confirm the change.
  • Airlines. This is a big one. The airline industry is being completely destroyed by this epidemic, and there’s not much that can be done with global travel restrictions. However, again, at some point in the future people will start traveling again and airlines will be back up and running. Although loyalty in the airline industry is pretty much limited to gaining points and not any real loyalty to the brand itself, I’m sure that a customer will be more likely to try to fly with an airline that has treated them well with any reservation cancellations or flight changes during this time than one that has not. I’ve spoken with quite a few friends that had trips that have been cancelled, and they’ve had pretty much a lack of response/clear answers from the airlines. Tomorrow I have to call Iberia to cancel a reservation I made with avios; since it’s not completely cancelling a full-cost flight, but rather one booked with points, it should be easier. Still I’ll be interested to see how they handle the call.
  • Online shopping. This is probably one of the few areas that is having an incredible boost these days. All I have to say is thank goodness for Amazon! We may not be able to leave the house, but I’ve been able to order a number of things to keep the kids entertained, and the delay has been minimum.
  • Also, another great experience with Mizuno (not related to the current crisis, but just a great example of customer experience): I bought some new running shoes a few weeks, a new style from Mizuno, a brand I love. Unfortunately for whatever reason the new style just didn’t work for me – I tried running with them 4 or 5 times, but every time afterwards ended up with pain in my legs. (I’m pretty sure I was straining some muscles that I wasn’t used to using.) Anyway, I contacted Mizuno to ask if I could return the shoes even though I had already used them a few times. Their response wasn’t 100% clear, but I tried anyway. If not it would have been 140€ thrown down the drain. After shipping the shoes back to Mizuno (with a pre-paid return label) I was happy to receive an email less than a week later acknowledging their receipt, apologies that I wasn’t 100% satisfied and telling me that a credit was already being processed to my account.

Now, as soon as I can actually leave the house and go outside to run again the first thing I will do is order new running shoes from Mizuno. They will definitely count on my business in the future.

 

 

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