It’s the elephant in the room here now. In Valencia, the topic is on everyone’s lips at every coffee, lunch or meeting up for tapas. And now Spain has reported that the first death here from the virus actually occured way back on February 13th, and it was a man here in Valencia who had traveled to Nepal and come home with pneumonia.
We’ve been watching the news and whats been happening back home in Seattle. All of the deaths in the US have come from Western Washington. I reached out to my son near Seattle early this morning to check in. He’s fine. But in the US, they’ve got 400+ million people. And 124 cases. In Spain, we have 46 million people and we’re approaching 200 cases. That’s exponentially more cases per capita than in the US.
You can read the Spanish news about it here:
We’ve not worried too much about it but with Fallas coming everyone we know is now concerned about, not just the large crowds in the city, but the foreigners who might bring something more than their flip flops and tourist spending money with them. And discrimination is inevitable.
I went down to our local El Chino store yesterday. I have some accounting I need to do and I needed new office supplies. There are stores like this all over the city run by those from various Asian countries. They have names like HyperBazaar or Hyper Chino. In my experience, the owners are mostly Chinese, and they speak Spanish much better than I ever will. The one closest to home is run by a guy who gets my Christmas cookies each year and who gives me free beers, cans of olives, and milk when I make a decent sized purchase. So yesterday I went into his store that is usually booming, yet it was a ghost town. It was just me and my Chinese friend.
I wandered around a bit and then brought my purchases to the counter. The proprietor was in full surgical mask and he asked if I had been to Italy lately (where the largest outbreak in Europe rages on). I told him I hadn’t and he took off the mask. Then he proceeded to tell me that everybody here are blaming the Chinese in the city for the virus, and his business has been hit hard. I told him I wasn’t worried about him giving me the coronavirus, any more than anyone else in Valencia.
My purchases were rung up and I went to leave.
‘Fallas is here.’ He told me. ‘I am closing my shutters. I don’t want to catch it from some of these foreigners.’ Then he put his mask back on.
I’m sure the look on my face was odd to him. First, he was lamenting the discrimination he was feeling in his business from the locals who usually frequent his shop, yet view him as a foreigner from the country where it all started. Then he was lamenting actual foreigners who would be coming to Valencia to celebrate Fallas. The math for me didn’t add up so I thanked him and was on my way.
He had advised me to go to the local pharmacy and purchase a box of masks for 2 Euros. I had to fill prescriptions anyway so I headed there on the way home. Turns out – no masks left. Masks don’t help with anything other than reminding you not to touch your nose and mouth. The pharmacist gave me a lecture on hand washing. Then she gladly fulfilled my EpiPen orders – there has been a global shortage with zero available for months – at 35 euros a pop. I’d given my last two to my Mother-in-law in Seattle in early December, so I have been flying without a net for almost 3 months. They cost $800 a piece in the US, and she wasn’t going to buy them for herself. So, while no masks in Valencia, at least now if I eat something I shouldn’t I won’t leave this world via anaphylaxis. There’s always an upside.
Then this week I had to reach out to the dealership who sold us our car. It takes 90 days to get the car title certifying our ownership. But the temporary titles are only good for 30 days at a time. So we have to go back 2 times (every 30 days) to get another one that has a new date 30 days out until our title arrives. Don’t get Jeff started on this topic – it makes him crazy! So I reached out to our salesman and he never responded. Then I did it again. We can’t drive the car without this and the date is fast approaching when the old one expires.
Finally, I just got a WhatsApp message from him – he has been ill and not checking his phone. Because he’s in the hospital with pneumonia. Does he have the virus? I don’t know. But he’s only in his 30’s. And this stopped us in our tracks. I went back and re-read our WhatApp messages. More importantly – the dates of when we were in the dealership.
‘What was the date we picked up the car? Has it been more than 14 days since we last shook his hand picking up that SD card after the purchase?’ Jeff asked me. That’s the supposed incubation period for the virus – although they aren’t really sure.
It’s weird how something like this can change the way you think, on a dime. You don’t want to be that person who is hysterical. Or who backs away from someone, for something that is based more on perception than fact. But in this environment all bets are off. In an information vacuum, humans tend to fill in the blanks themselves. Perhaps it’s time to give Fallas a miss this year and hunker down for a binge watch of something on Amazon Prime or Netflix. Maybe less cafe culture and more kitchen culture this month. We’re heading to Galicia again soon, to continue our house hunt after some disappointments after Christmas. No reported cases up there yet.
In the meantime, we’re keeping a close eye on developments, both here and around the world. Hoping that the virus will reach its peak soon and that the doomsday predictions about the continued pandemic won’t come to fruition.