Eileen from Spain

Que sera sera

How has COVID 19 changed me? I have always been a person who loves to plan, who had a full diary and knew exactly what I was going to do with my life.
Now I have learnt that a daily plan is as far as I can go. The future has never been so uncertain.
I am now using the phrase “What will be will be”.
This virus is not going to go away and a vaccine is not expected to be available soon.

This begs the question how do we live our lives in the near future? How can we assess the risk?

I have been invited to a 50th wedding anniversary cocktail party. After much consideration I am going to decline.
I know the people attending have been in strict lockdown and no incidences of infection have happened in our community but it is still a large group and the risk has not gone away.
Will my resolve continue in the future,I do not know?
Many of my friends feel that the sacrifices made during lockdown must be remembered and not squandered.
While others are stretching the rules and showing a confidence, as if it was all over.
We are all in unchartered territory where uncertainty reigns but patience and restraint I am sure will pay off.

However the one thing we can be certain of in Spain is the seasonal food.
Very little fruit and vegetables are imported and we have to eat what is in season.
Now it is asparagus season and the enormous white fresh asparagus available is joyous and delicious.Melons and peaches will be with us soon
All we can do is live for the day and see how our lives pan out.

Eileen from Spain- Learning to adapt to reduced restrictions

Spain has a 4 phase deescalation plan which it is implementing at different rates in each region depending on the statistics of that geographical area.
We in Murcia have proceeded to the next phase as our numbers are low.

The lockdown measures up until now have been well controlled as the level of policing has been high, reinforced by the amount fined for non compliance which is huge. The fines start at €600 to €30 000 and the police have not hesitated to issue these fines at all levels.They mean business.
In some countries these draconian measures would not have been accepted but there has seemingly been no opposition.

Now about half of Spain now has to adapt to the deescalation of restrictions.

This in itself brings new dilemmas. We can have up to 10 visitors at our house, bars and café under restrictions can open and more exercise is allowed.
The responsibility for our safety is falling into our own hands with each new phase.
We need to think and decide what to do.
This limited freedom easily allows us to go back to pre lockdown mode if we are not careful.

It is amazing how quickly we forget the last couple of months.
Adjusting and adapting to the new normal needs more thought and care than you would have realised.
For example meeting friends in public places still requires 2 meters distancing when you want to shake their hand. Visiting cafes allows only outdoor use. So easily do you want to enter to use the bathroom!

The dangers are still there and we have to try to keep vigilant to remain safe but we also need to live.
It will not be easy as old habits die hard or new fears take over.
One way or the other we have to adapted and move on.

From Barbara in Florianopolis, Brazil: No in between, no middle way

10 May: It has been a few weeks since I last wrote a diary entry. Time has passed so fast and yet so slowly. It seems that not only the way we live our life has changed, but also our relationship with and sense of time has been altered. Either we think in terms of the next minute or hour – what activity to do next with the kids, what to get at the supermarket, what to cook for lunch – or in months or years – will we be able to celebrate Christmas with our families, will my sister’s and Josh’s brother’s weddings take place in 2021 as originally planned (two separate weddings I shall clarify!), will we have to shorten our stay in Brazil and comeback to London after a year. But no in-between, no middle way. Next week and next month are not part of our life planning. Could the same be said about distances? We either live very close to our loved ones – locked down in the same house – or very far from them, even if not actually far, because social distancing increases all distances and undermines physical, close contacts.

Thinking ahead about the post-COVID19 life, whenever that will be, I am haunted by one simple question: will it be like before? Or will we have to get used to wearing masks and keeping social distances? Will this become the new normal?

Life has changed around us. People are all wearing masks on the streets and it would feel awkward not to wear one. Before entering a pharmacy or a supermarket, an employee takes our temperature and makes sure that we have washed our hands with a gel sanitiser. Stores, gyms and restaurants operate again to 30% of their customer capacity but schools are still closed. Yesterday we had food delivery and there was a label on the package indicating the temperature of the person who had prepared our order along with a code we could use online to watch retrospectively the recording of the preparation of the meal in the restaurant’s kitchen – so that we could be reassured that all hygiene and prevention measures had been taken. That seemed a bit extreme to us!

In many ways the measures that are in place in Florianopolis go beyond those in European countries even if the situation is much less alarming here. Brazil has now 135,519 cases confirmed and recorded 9,265 deaths due to Covid-19. More than 3/4 of the confirmed cases are in Southeast Brazil. In our State, Santa Catarina, there have been 3,082 cases of Covid-19 confirmed and 63 deaths confirmed.

Beyond numbers, people seem quite relaxed around us. Not much stress or anxiety. It is now allowed to go to the beach for a walk and for the first time since we arrived more than two months ago, we took the kids to the beach that is 10-minute walking distance from our place. They had such a wonderful time playing with the sand and seeing infinite blue space after staying inside the condominium for eight weeks. That same week, my uncle Misha in Israel died of cancer. Following the Jewish tradition, the funerals took place less than 48h after he passed away. Over sixty people came from all over the country to attend the funerals but most of them had to turn back. Due to coronavirus and for health protection purposes, the authorities allowed only fifteen of them to be present.

Not only we cannot live our life as freely as we used to, we cannot bury our dead and say goodbye as we wish either.

Eileen from Spain – Possible disappointment

Spain has issued detailed plans for the de-escalation of our coronas virus confinement.

There are  4 phases describing how our restrictions will be reduced.

Timing will of course depend on the statics of deaths and those infected.

Up until now the figures have been reducing and everyone is hopeful.

However yesterday Barcelona reported 400 new cases when the national figures have been in the hundreds. Our region of Murcia published 21.

Catalonia has decided not to proceed to the next phase until numbers come down again.

What does this mean for all of us? We have to wait and see how the government reacts.

Do they allow regions to go at their own pace depending on numbers or will the entire nation go back to increased restrictions?

Spain has closed their borders until the end of the year.

We wait in trepidation.

from Shannon in Seattle: Warming and Warring in America

“I think the beach is a healing place.  I think it’s fine as long as they social distance”

All this sunshine is stirring up problems.  It’s spring in America.  We have a weirdly seasonal life – where much of the country goes indoors from Thanksgiving through Spring – and by Memorial Day School starts to wind down to HOLIDAY SEASON.

In Seattle the blue skies of spring and 60 degree weather are a sign to enjoy parks and run and lose winter fat and shop at the Farmer’s Market.  In other parts of the country people go hunting, to the beach and out to fairs and plant crops and do all kinds of Not Inside The House things. So the Stay at Home Orders are a problem for people, particularly those without much space at home.


On the other side there is tension in the business community. Retail businesses small and large are facing an historic crisis and many want to GO BACK TO WORK.  At the same time Amazon and Microsoft have told office staff as many as can may work from home till October, the grocery and service industry wants to get their employees back right away.

And nobody is making sense.  It’s interesting that states that are pushing to go back (either due to business, political, or (fake?) protest pressure from businesses) are seeing a public loss of confidence in their state governor.  Individual people don’t want to rush to work and spend.  They just want to go to the park and the beach. The pressure is cominn=g from somewhere else.

Trust in Govt

I DID go to the Farmer’s Market this weekend. I preordered 10 lbds of bacon from a family farm. They had it in their truck. As a preorder I got to skip the line and walk straight to the stall to pickup.  The line was very long (70 people) because they limit the number of people who can enter the market at one time, and you can only walk one way and must wear a mask.

The bacon was much appreciated, and I also bought some lovely fresh garlic.

The street is closed and you have to line up 6 feet apart to enter the Farmer’s arket. Everyone is wearing masks. There is a special fast-trak line for online pre-orders.
Here is the line reaching round the blcok at 10.30am.
My mixed-bag of garlic.

From Shannon in Seattle: A visit to the doctor.

Until recently we have been very good.  My car has sat there, and I have read articles about the danger of RATS living in the engine. I’ve shopped infrequently, used delivery services and wiped down delivered groceries.  Then, over the weekend, my son developed an abscess on his ear.

This was a problem because nobody goes to the doctor if you don’t have COVID-19.

I mean, the stats show that people aren’t even having heart attacks anymore, nor strokes.  It’s a miracle how we don’t need doctors except for Coronavirus issues.  Anyway, due to this conception of medical facilities in meltdown and contagion, I didn’t want to take him TO the doctor, especially not an Emergency Room where all the really sick COVID19 people would be.

So we called Telehealth.  This wasn’t easy because he’s just 18 and barely has a doctor.  We tried three services before finding the parent practice of the college health service had a Telemedicine appointment on Sundays.

The doctor was an Italian African.  He was very efficient.  We sent a photo of the abscess.  He asked if he had a fever.  Then wrote a prescription for an antibiotic and told him to see a doctor next week. It took 2 minutes.

We got an appointment at the University Health Clinic on Monday afternoon. It was not the pit of infection I expected.  It looked like this.


They gave us a health screening before we entered the building, and then let us go into a nice socially distant waiting area, wearing masks.

Frost received more attention than usual although the appointment did not allow us to keep a 6 foot distance due to the small exam room, necessity of expelling pus from the boil and the fact my mask had a structural failure (and was put on inside out).

Afterwards, we walked through campus. It was beautiful and empty.  The only people there were a few runners and skateboarders.  The Rhododendrons are in full bloom. I might come here and walk the dog later in the week.

This is the famous Quad, known for spring cherry blossoms
The empty paths usually full of students in Spring quarter.
A quiet glad with a monument to Grieg.

Eileen from Spain-The joy of a long walk

What joy to feel free to walk without a purpose or a destination. Everyone you meet from gardeners, dustmen, friends and acquaintances greet you with true joy and happiness. Keeping their two meters apart everyone has time for a chat.

Previously when in lockdown my dear friend who is 88 years of age but acts and looks like 70 found the restrictions of not leaving her house at all, very difficult.

She is use to playing golf 3 times a week and walking most days.

So late one rainy night out of desperation she took  her umbrella and went for a walk down her deserted road.

She forgot that at the end of the road there are cameras. She was spotted by the security guards watching the cameras and on her way home via the golf course a security vehicle came charging up the course with bright flashing lights. She crouched and hid behind a bush for a couple of minutes and when they passed she ran into her house. A few minutes later the guards were searching her garden with torches. She watched through the window laughing. However she did not do that again.

Now we can, like a spring chicken she is out every day walking enjoying every step.

We wait each week in the hope more restrictions on our life might be reduced, but we are still thrilled to able to walk freely.

From Eileen in Spain – Death during the Lockdown

Before the lockdown Spain has always buried their dead very quickly. The time between death and the funeral is usually 48 hours. This tradition maybe due to the 800 year Moorish occupation or that the temperatures in southern Spain can be very high.

Last week my husband passed away during the night. Within 2 hours of death the doctor had confirmed the situation and the undertaker had taken him with away.

The next morning on getting the death certificate the undertaker informed me that they were going to have to cremate him at 4pm the same day and I could come with 3 people and they would deliver the ashes to my home the next morning.

That was another shock.

However, I found the strength to email with the help of others most of his friends and family including nearly everyone living on our resort. We asked everyone at 4pm to stop say a prayer then raise a glass to my husband Alan.

I prepared a table of remembrance with his photo, candle, slippers, wedding ring, railway magazine called “The Oily Rag” and a Fulham Football souvenir. I found on the internet a list of funeral prayers and appropriate funeral music on Youtube. Then crying my eyes out I held the funeral for half an hour.

I did not want this lockdown to prevent me sending off my husband without a prayer and au revoir.

Since then I have encountered so much love from people I know.

As it is very difficult to obtain sympathy cards in Spain I have received about 50 handmade cards expressing sympathy. People went to so much trouble in this time of isolation, hand painting beautiful flowers, with wonderful calligraphy and verses.

This is truly the time when you really miss human contact.

from Barbara P. in Florianópolis, Brazil: Sacha’s birthday …

17 April: Sacha’s birthday was today and this year it looked like no other birthdays. No friends or family around except us and three neighbours that we met a couple of weeks ago. Two days ago, I looked for presents to give him on the part of his grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins. I could only find one small shop that would open on phone request and there was not much inside.

But oh well, having mainly played with plastic bottles and empty yogurt pots for five weeks, surely anything new would have made him happy. And indeed, Sacha was thrilled to discover his presents that we had hidden everywhere in the house as part of a treasure hunt game. He was also so pleased and excited to receive the many messages and videos that our friends and family had sent him. Of course, it was not the same as if they had been here with us, and we missed each and every one of them. 

from Barbara P in Florianópolis, Brazil: mixed messages from government

13 April: Brazil has now 22,720 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 1,270 registered deaths. To put these figures in perspective, it is useful to know that the population of Brazil is just over 210 million people. While no-one can deny the slow increase in the number of infections and deaths due to COVID-19, the country is still far from experiencing the disaster situations in Europe.  

Yet an article was published in the Guardian today entitled ‘Bolsonaro dragging Brazil towards coronavirus calamity, experts fear’. As explained in the article, Brazil may experience a devastating public health crisis similar to those that have hit Italy and New York if Bolsonaro continues to undermine social distancing measures.

At the same time, nearly all 27 governors of Brazil’s states have shown more awareness than their president by calling on the population to stay at home and respect social distancing. Yet more and more people in the big cities like Rio and São Paulo find it difficult to respect these rules, especially given the importance of physical contact in Brazilian way of life. Brazilians are also said to be increasingly confused by mixed messages from government, Bolsonaro ‘s defiance of distancing being highly criticized by his health minister. At the very least, there is a lot of confusion here. 

The best news of the day was that my aunt Sonia came back home after spending two weeks at the hospital. She is still very weak and cannot speak on the phone so I didn’t get to have a direct contact with her, but ooh – what a massive relief and what a joy to imagine her at home!