This is what confinement looks like on a beautiful, late November day… not judging (I was there), but interesting to share. Once again, still very thankful for so much nature close by!
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!)
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.
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:
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…
If anyone knows more about this I’d love to hear!
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!
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.
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€:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?
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!