Spain – 10 days of Mourning

Today is the first official day of 10 days of mourning for the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic – in Spain. At 12 noon each day, we will all observe a minute of silence wherever we find ourselves, to remember. We are to hang our Spanish flags from our balconies and add a black adornment in their honor.

Outside, each official government building throughout the country, flags will fly at half staff and those in government positions will come out on to the steps and stand as one – regardless of political party. This will include the judiciary, the police, and bureaucrats who have returned to their jobs. And the King and Queen and the palace staff.

‘Weep for so many thousands of compatriots that we have lost in this pandemic. To all of them, together with their families, we owe our memory, our mourning and our affection,” ~ King Felipe VI of Spain

Today, near our apartment, one lane of a large thoroughfare was closed by police cars. At noon, they all stood outside their cars. It was a moving moment. We have our flag out and are participating in a small way., too.

As the premier of the Valencian Community – Ximo Puig said today ‘It is an incomparable pain and collective loss…It could have been any one of us and they will remain in our memory.’

We will overcome this. Of course we will. As a community. As a country. The world. But we also know that life will never be the same for this generation. Jeff and I were talking about it yesterday. The memory and impact will last for the children who have endured this – long after we adults are gone. They have new knowledge that their world can turn on a dime, the world we know is only temporary, and that people we love can leave us in the blink of an eye.

Its all Over

Well, that’s it. The crisis is over. Perhaps you don’t believe me but it’s totally true. And I know this because the yard sticks that measure a pandemic are flashing red. It’s definitely over.

The first sign is that we are down to one roll of toilet paper. I won’t say I was one of those hoarders at the beginning of lock down, but we did have a healthy Costco-sized supply in el baño. And I just put the last roll on the holder. So lock down is pretty much over. It’s the rules. I don’t make the rules.

The next indicator is that the teenagers who have historically gathered on the bench across the street in the evenings are back. Like brightly colored birds returning after the winter – and there are dozens of them. They primp. They preen. There’s a mating dance. And you can tell the girls from the boys, not just by their hair or clothing, but because the boys wear the masks and the girls don’t. It’s weird, but across the board it’s a universal truth. I guess masks just aren’t cute – until a Kardashian or a Cardi B tells them that it is. When they go to depart, the boys take off their masks to double cheek kiss the maskless girls. So the pandemic is completely over because everyone knows that teenager are the best barometers for health and safety.

Vandalism is up – another message scrawled on the wall screaming ‘Let’s get this over with!!’ We watched a group of teenagers completely destroy the Valenbici bikes on the corner (a different group than our usual bench sitters). This group of all boys are ones we have passed on our walks at night. They’re rowdy and they kick cars too. I understand pent up energy after months inside, but destroying public property goes too far.

I saw in the news that historical sites are being spray painted with graffiti. Not something you would have seen before and is alarming to the authorities. When we first got here we noticed there seemed to be a code for ‘street art’. Roll down shutters that weren’t already professionally painted – OK. But rarely on buildings themselves. Never, ever on historical landmarks that define the city. Now that has changed during the crisis and the protests, and a line has been crossed. Graffiti is worse than ever before.

Things will change after this. For us all. But the mood outside seems different now. More fraught. And with the easing of restrictions the police seem to have lost control. As the cafes and bars have opened with terrace tables, the crowded streets have given way to packed tables with no legal social distancing. And diners are not required to wear mask – or so it seems. We can see a cafe just across the tram tracks from our window. Tables for 4 had 10 people each. Those trying to pass on the sidewalk had no where to put their feet to run the gauntlet.

So while we wait for Phase 2 to be approved for next Monday – the citizens of the city have already moved themselves forward. Our R (# of people a single person with the virus can infect) has gone from a .66 three weeks ago to .88 last week. Today it sits at 1.1 – not a good trend. In March it was at 4.33. We’re going in the wrong direction.

Maybe everyone else in Valencia is using the same yard stick we are in El Compartimiento. Maybe they all got down to their last roll of toilet paper and thought ‘What the Hell! Let’s roll the dice. What’s the worst that could happen.’ I guess we’re about to find out.

A Good Long Look

This week, the US will reach 100k official deaths from Covid-19. There are probably many more, as our means of counting has not been consistent. Spain has struggled from this too. But today the NY Times used their front page, and still more space inside, listing names of some of those who have passed from this disease from across the country – pulled from obituaries in hometown newspapers. They each included one line about that person’s life. Who they were to the people whose lives they touched.

Jeff first told me about it and I went out to see it for myself. They couldn’t fit all 100k names in their Sunday edition. There isn’t enough paper. But for those that were included, it struck me the power of that one line. And it got us both thinking about how we would hope to be described. How would we want our lives summed up in a paragraph or two? And who would we want to write it?

This moment in history has so many of us taking stock. Rethinking what we do on a daily basis. How we treat ourselves, each other, and the planet. I am still doing my daily meditation and my personal mantras. But this moment – as we all begin to emerge into this new world – is an opportunity to do something different.

So, today I did another exercise that seems a bit creepy, but a necessary one. As I think about how I want to conduct the remainder of my life. Writing my own obituary. If I want to orient myself towards a North Star, I need to truly define it and state it plainly. My abundance meditation has been about attracting what I want. But this is about giving what I want to give out into the world. What will endure after I’m gone – and my part in it? And my own aspirational obituary was an interesting read. If I’m honest, some of what I’d like to be known for isn’t how I’ve been living my life, and some changes need to be made.

So many of us know people who have passed from this virus. The names listed in the NY Times are not exhaustive. But each of these people had something to contribute the world. And many did, in ways big and small. Famous or not. But one is no more important than another. On this Memorial Day weekend in the US, I can think of no better way to honor them, than to look at ourselves and make some much needed adjustments. And there is no time to waste.

Not Business as Usual

Now that we can all leave the house to patronize local small businesses, the view is rapidly changing in the neighborhood. The toy store on the corner is vacating the building today. And there are signs on other businesses that they are permanently closed. This virus killed people and the economy. Where it will end, we don’t have a feel for it yet. We had to venture out today for two reasons.

First – A package at Correos (the postal service) required that import duty be paid in cash before we could take possession. The mail carrier doesn’t have a money belt for these transactions so a visit to the post office is required. Second – I remembered today that I had forgotten I dropped off a lovely rug at the local Tintoreria who does all our dry cleaning. I was supposed to be able to pick it up after 22 March – but we all know what happened the week before. And if businesses are closing down I want to ensure I get my rug back.

Jeff had to come with me to the tintoreria because the rug is huge and I can’t carry it. I have looked everywhere for the slip but couldn’t find it. They know us so I figured I would turn up and we would sort it out. No – that did not happen. And I discovered something I have been sort of oblivious to after being ill. My Spanish has disappeared.

You always read about those amazing stories of people who suffer from some sort of illness, only to awake from a coma speaking German or Nepalese fluently. Never really knowing how they acquired this skill. All this, while their native language completely escapes them. If I had been given a choice – Spanish or Ingles – I would have chosen Spanish all the way. It’s second only to China on the number of people on the planet who speak it as their first language. But that did not happen. And nearly all medical staff have been speaking English to me. I hadn’t really noticed.

The place I used to go to in my brain for my Spanish language skills – yes, they were pretty pitiful skills – has now packed up and taken off for parts unknown. Even simple stuff escapes me. My comprehension is sad too. I know Jeff and I were locked up together for a long time. And we spoke Ingles to each other. But I feel like I am going to have to start over completely. Ugh. And I needed my Spanish today.

At the tintoreria, they didn’t have a record of my giant rug. We went round and round and I gave them every form of ID. Nope. They assured me I never dropped off a rug. I know I forgot a couple of weeks in there but I do remember the day I dropped off that rug. So I went home and tore our apartment to the ground. Every bag, every drawer. Jeff just stood back. And finally – I found the receipt. I held it up like the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

‘You’re not going back there today are you?’ He asked.

I waved the receipt. ‘Oh yes. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.’

I marched back alone. Jeff didn’t want to go with me. He didn’t think I’d get the rug today anyway and also, he sees that guy at our local and wanted to give it a day to settle down. He saw the fire in my eyes. But its Friday. They aren’t open on weekends and my motto is always ‘No time like the present.’

So I went back and showed the guy the receipt. He put on his glasses and read it. Then he re-read it. Studying it longer than I’m sure he has ever studied a small slip of paper in his life. He pecked the keys on his key board. And pecked some more. Then he told me my name was wrong, my ‘client number’ was incorrect. But good news! The phone number was the right one.

I received this information without reacting. These revelations meant nothing to me. His wife had input all the data off my NIE card. I have no control as to what people do with all those names we were stupid enough to mash together when we got married – to form a name that should never naturally existed in the first place. In my next life I will be Pedro Gonzalez. That’s it. First name and last name. Girl or Boy? I don’t really care. It’s a nice name that almost anyone can spell.

He called his wife over. She put on her glasses and studied the paper and all the words on the screen that I couldn’t see. Then they went back behind all the hanging clothes for completed dry cleaning and had a heated discussion about a bunch of stuff. I’m pretty sure they covered ground that went well beyond just my rug. My Spanish is terrible now, but some part of me translated something like ‘My mother warned me not to marry you!’ But I was like a new born baby watching their parents fight. You have no real idea what they’re saying but you know it isn’t good.

He returned and smiled and asked me my name again. I didn’t take this as a good sign since it was on the receipt (albeit backwards) and also on the paper sitting on the counter where he had asked me to write it the first time I was there with Jeff. More pecking. Then he held up the receipt and told me I had dropped it off on the 3rd of March and since they had been closed since March 14th it would take another week. His math didn’t interest me. My rug wasn’t there. That’s all I really wanted to know – and that it wasn’t lost.

Then a random man walked in and the proprietor excused himself ‘Perdona’ – held up a finger to me and said some rapid fire things to the guy who walked in with a briefcase. The man considered his words silently, nodding, then went behind the door where a bunch of rolled rugs were stacked and came back with one.

‘This is your rug.’ He announced.

Who was this magician or fortune teller? I have no idea. I looked over at the wife and she was smiling at me. Her husband just said. ‘Bien, Kelli?’

I had a rug. It was wrapped up in brown paper and the size seemed right. But it was heavy so I couldn’t get it home alone. I had to get El Jefe down to the shop to help me with a hand truck. He was more than a little surprised that I conjured my rug out of thin air after being told I’d never dropped it off in the first place. But he couldn’t have been more surprised than me. We took it home and wrestled it into the apartment before he asked me. ‘This is the right rug, right? I mean, you checked, right?’

I had not. The truth is, I was too taken aback by the magic man who had produced it out of nothing. If he’d pulled a pigeon from his sleeve I would have just clapped and put a euro in his hat. But I didn’t want to admit I had taken the strangers word for it. Jeff got the scissors and cut the paper back. It was my rug.

‘See. I told you it was there the whole time. You have no faith in people.’ I scolded him as we took it into the guest room – silently thanking the universe because if it was the wrong rug I would have never heard the end of it. ‘My mother warned me not to marry you’ was a little too fresh on my mind.

But the lesson here is that I got lucky, as I usually do. And – I need to start some beginner Spanish lessons again ASAP. Before my brain permanently uses that real estate for something else.

Not Forgotten

Warning if you have a queasy stomach.

No matter your circumstance, you can always find someone who is either better off, or worse off, than you. It’s just how the world works. While Jeff and I had to struggle with our health over this last stretch, we are hearing of people we know who have been very ill and braved sickness alone in quarantine. They were just too afraid to go to a hospital, and I can relate to that. So while our situation was difficult – we had each other for support for most of it.

So many people who live solo have had to manage their health alone. And it’s a scary time when perhaps your decision making isn’t always the most objective. If you take a turn for the worse, there is no one on hand to help or provide perspective.

Our landlord reached out. He said there have been reports in the building of a terrible smell. He asked if we have experienced this and we have. We weren’t sure what it was but it’s gotten worse and worse. I’ve smelled gas leaks in my time – it wasn’t that. Still, I figured we wouldn’t use the barbecue until it went away. But it wasn’t going away.

The weather has gotten warmer, so now that our windows are closed and our AC is on, we only smell it in the common areas going to the elevator or doing laundry on the kitchen balcony. But its not good. So today, they will be going apartment by apartment to check on each resident. The prospect of this and what it means is a bit alarming. It’s clear they believe that someone has passed away – without anyone knowing. And it makes me terribly sad.

They did a great job during our quarantine to sanitize the building on a weekly basis. Each time they certified the decontamination of the premises in the elevator and posted when the next cleaning would be on the front door and in the lobby. It did provide a level of comfort. But as we know, the virus had already wormed it’s way into our walls. So they could pour Clorox all over and it wouldn’t have helped us. But still, it will make me so sad if it claimed more people than we knew in our building.

I guess the one thing that can be considered an upside is that for whomever has died – up to 30 people could now attend their funeral. While they may have been alone when they passed, it will now be possible in Phase 1 to celebrate their life, even in a small way. Only a week ago this wouldn’t have been allowed in Valencia.

It’s such a surreal time. When you think about our daily concerns – and most of ours have returned to the more mundane – they pale when something like this happens. In July, when we reach the new normality, I will head to our local church and light some candles and say a prayer. For those who have suffered and those who have passed, especially alone. So they will know they were not forgotten.