A week ago, Hilary and I were planning a three-day trip to Extramadura – a part of Spain near the Portuguese border, just 4 hours’ drive from here, to visit some ancient towns and glorious countryside. I remember us discussing the very remote possibility that we might need to cancel due to the Corona Virus. And I recall laughing about such an absurd scenario, thinking this could never happen.
Three days later, we were in full lock-down. Things moved so very quickly, and it’s almost unimaginable that we could have contemplated travelling just one week ago. This blog gives an insight into how it is for us here in el campo, realising that lock-down is a very different experience depending on where you live and personal circumstances.
From partial to full lock-down
Initially, two or three weeks ago, we were given advice by the Spanish government to keep our distance from other people, wash our hands, and all those basic measures to try and slow down the progression of the illness. Subsequently, events got cancelled, and bars and restaurants closed down. Closure of schools and universities followed soon after, but we could still take the car, go out for walks, and many shops were open.
And then, a week ago last Saturday, the Spanish government declared a state of emergency, taking very strong measures for total lock-down and isolation. Good measures, in my view, because they are unambiguous, universally applied, very clear and enforced. Though not always easy to follow! So here we are, Hilary and I, in the middle of el campo, living in splendid isolation.
What does lock-down in Spain mean?
The basic rule is that nobody is allowed to leave their home, with just a few exceptions. So for example, you can go shopping for necessary food, but you can’t do this in groups (and two people is a group!) nor can you have more than one person in a car. If you have a dog, you can take it out, but only to do the necessary, after which you have to return home straight away.
The Guardia Civil and the army are policing everywhere and hand out big fines to anyone breaking the rules. They were even doing a car check in our tiny local hamlet of Fuente del Conde, with no more than 300 inhabitants. We heard that one of our neighbours, who walks 5km every day for health reasons, was stopped and sent back home – even though you can walk for hours around here without meeting anyone.
Personally, during the lock-down I will miss anything that includes being with people. I will miss my regular pilates classes (though my sport school is hosting live-streaming classes, which is great), playing badminton, having a coffee with friends, or simply just taking the car and explore. I hope that my Spanish won’t deteriorate too much, now I no longer can walk with my Spanish friends or talk to our neighbours. And especially I will miss being able to walk freely in the countryside. We are allowed to go into the garden, but can’t go for walks on our local roads or tracks.
And so it’s been strangely and eerily quiet in el campo. Not that it’s ever really lively or very busy on our track. But normally we can hear the distant noise of the nearby road. We can hear people talking and laughing in their gardens or when they are going for a walk in the afternoon. And at night, we normally see planes flying from or towards Malaga, and now there is nothing but the moon and the stars – and certainly much less pollution!
The enforced isolation has brought about some real creativity. Our local tourist office has asked people to take photos from their balconies, gardens and patios and these are posted on their website. It’s been well publicized that in many towns and cities the emergency services and health workers are applauded by people from their balconies or windows. In our local town we saw this in reverse, where the ambulance service and police thanked the public for staying at home and cooperating, by tooting their horns, applauding and sounding their sirens – also a great idea!
My local fitness club has put on streamed sports sessions for children to do from home. A local hotel owner offered his hotels to the health service. The local mayor created a podcast to thank the towns and villages. The Spanish King delivered an excellent speech to the nation – and in beautiful Spanish that was easy to understand! So lots of really heart-warming stories that help us through, when cabin fever takes over.
When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.
– Buddhism Daily
The biggest downside of all is that a number of our friends from USA, UK and Netherlands who were due to visit have had to cancel. Instead, we will stay in touch through regular messaging, lots of Skypes and phone calls. And so, when two days ago our wifi stopped working, we didn’t know what to do.
But our local wifi expert happened to be in, came round within an hour (despite lock-down!) and fixed it for just €20. He could have taken advantage of the situation and asked for five times that amount, but he didn’t and we respect him for it. So wifi fixed, all’s calm again. And it seems that the early panic buying in the supermarkets has calmed down too, and it’s possible to buy all we need, including loo rolls! Our new way of life is settling down and – looking on the bright side – we now have time for all that cleaning, DIY and gardening that has been on our list of things to do for a very long time!